Tens of thousands of people rallied in Stepanakert on Sunday as Nagorno-Karabakh’s political leaders again rejected Azerbaijani control over the Armenian-populated territory and appealed for continued Russian military presence there.
In a statement, the Karabakh parliament also said that Armenia’s government must be careful about recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity through a bilateral peace treaty that has been discussed by Yerevan and Baku in recent weeks.
The statement was unanimously approved at an emergency session broadcast live to a massive crowd that gathered in Stepanakert’s main square. It was one of the biggest ever rallies held in Karabakh.
The legislature appealed to Russia to “continue its commitment to ensure the security of the people of Artsakh (Karabakh)” and “put in place additional political and military mechanisms” for that purpose. It did not specify those mechanisms.
Russia deployed 2,000 peacekeeping troops in Karabakh after brokering the ceasefire that stopped the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Karabakh leaders said last week that Russian peace proposals made recently are far more beneficial for the Karabakh Armenians than an Armenian-Azerbaijani deal promoted by the West. They claimed that Moscow wants to indefinitely delay an agreement on Karabakh’s status while the Western powers favor the restoration of Azerbaijani control over Karabakh.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made the same claim afterwards. He spoke of a “Washington variant” of the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty that would commit Yerevan to recognizing Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan.
The U.S. State Department responded by accusing Putin of spreading “disinformation.” But it did not say whether Washington has indeed drafted any peace agreements.
“Our only intent is to help these countries achieve for themselves an end to the violence and a lasting and a comprehensive peace that the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan so desperately want,” the department spokesman, Ned Price, told a news briefing in Washington.
The United States and the European Union have organized a series of high-level Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations since the September 13-14 fighting on the border between the two South Caucasus states. The peace treaty sought by Baku was reportedly the main focus of those talks.
Armen Grigorian, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, said on October 12 that Yerevan and Baku are planning to sign such a deal and delimit their border before the end of this year. Grigorian and a senior Azerbaijani official met Washington in late September for talks hosted by U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Saturday that Russia and the West have different “perceptions” of an Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement. He did not elaborate.
“Armenia agreed to the Russian perception in principle in January 2021,” he said, adding that he is ready to sign a relevant document at his trilateral meeting with Putin and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev slated for Monday.