Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s statements about a future, conflict-free Nagorno-Karabakh shared by Armenians and Azerbaijanis left a bad taste in the mouths of Armenian opposition figures and Nagorno-Karabakh officials.
Armenian opposition figures and Nagorno-Karabakh officials criticised Pashinyan for statements he made regarding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh in a 24 December press conference.
Pashinyan dedicated a good portion of his two-hour online conference to discuss the conflict surrounding the disputed region. He claimed that after coming to power, he was given a ‘heritage of negotiations’ that made it impossible to solve the conflict and have Nagorno-Karabakh remain under Armenian control.
Pashinyan also spoke about the former Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh, saying the issue of the rights of the Azerbaijanis living in the region ‘has never been disputed by any government or negotiator’.
He recalled that Armenia’s third president, Serzh Sargsyan, would say ‘Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] will never be a part of Azerbaijan’, but he did not say that ‘his negotiations were about the fact that Artsakh needs to remain Armenian’ — implying that the end of the conflict meant Armenians and Azerbaijanis would live in the territories of the former Soviet Oblast together.
‘I will go on and say that I don’t agree with that either because Artsakh couldn’t have been a completely Armenian land’, Pashinyan said.
The Prime Minister posited that legislation and referendums in Nagorno-Karabakh would take into account quotas representing Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
‘In that context, could the Azerbaijanis of Nagorno-Karabakh, in turn, increase their right to self-determination? And in this case, what kind of relations could have arisen?’ Pashinyan asked.
According to Pashinyan, dramatic changes in the negotiation process occurred in 2016 — before and after the April Four Day War. He said that the final resolution suggested at the time was the transfer of the conflict’s file from the OSCE Minsk Group — Russia, France, and the United States — into the hands of the United Nations Security Council, which recognised Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan in its 1993 resolutions.
A change of heart?
The PMs statements came in stark contrast to his actions before the 2020 war. In a 2019 visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian Prime Minister stated that ‘Artsakh is Armenia, and that’s it’ — and yet, Pashinyan did not pay any visit to the region since the end of the Second War in late 2020.
Waves of criticism and accusations from prominent Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh political figures followed his latest statements.
‘Only the authorities of Artsakh are allowed to speak on behalf of the population of Artsakh’, Nagorno-Karabakh President Arayik Harutyunyan wrote in a Facebook post the same day.
Harutyunyan said the ‘full recognition of the right of the Armenians of Artsakh to self-determination’ was Nagorno-Karabakh’s main ‘benchmark’ and ‘is not subject to reservation and concession’.
‘If any Armenian wants to support Artsakh, they must take into account the will and goals of the Artsakh Armenians. Otherwise, they should just not hinder.’
On 27 December, the Nagorno-Karabakh Parliament held a special session in which they described Pashinyan’s statements as ‘worrying and dangerous’ and dismissive of the ‘Armenian origin of Artsakh’.
‘The fate of Artsakh has never been, and will never be, the monopoly of any political force’, parliament said.
The parliament called back to the 1992 decision by the Supreme Council of Armenia, which defines Armenia’s attitude towards Nagorno-Karabakh, and stresses Armenia’s duty to ‘support’ and ‘protect’ the Nagorno-Karabakh, and to ‘consider any international or domestic document, where the Nagorno Karabakh Republic is mentioned as part of Azerbaijan to be unacceptable’.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.