By Lillian Avedian
Armenia and Azerbaijan still disagree about the parameters of a peace agreement, Armenian officials said in the days following a meeting between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Pashinyan and Aliyev agreed to “step up substantive work” on a peace treaty during their fourth trilateral meeting in Brussels hosted by European Council President Charles Michel on August 31. The leaders decided to task their Foreign Ministers to meet within one month to work on draft texts, according to a statement released by Michel.
Civil Contract Party MP Arman Yeghoyan told reporters on September 6 that Armenia and Azerbaijan have not reached a consensus on “cornerstone points.”
“Agreement on cornerstone points has not yet been reached,” the head of the parliamentary committee on European integration told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The primary point of disagreement is Azerbaijan’s refusal to address the status of Artsakh and the rights and security of its Armenian population in a peace agreement.
“They do not want to talk about that at all,” Yeghoyan said.
However, “if some tangible and steady progress is made on guarantees for protecting the rights of the Karabakh Armenians,” he said a peace agreement could be finalized within the coming months.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry accused Aliyev of misrepresenting the negotiation process after he told reporters that Armenia has delayed the finalization of a peace agreement.
Aliyev said a peace deal could be signed within several months if Armenia demonstrates the “same will” as Azerbaijan.
“I think this is realistic if the Armenian side expresses the same will, because we introduced five basic principles on which the peace agreement should be based, and Armenia accepted them,” Aliyev said while speaking with reporters on September 2.
The five points submitted by Azerbaijan in March include the mutual recognition of each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. While accepting the proposal, the Armenian side responded that guaranteeing the security and rights of the Armenians of Artsakh and determining the final status of Artsakh should be part of a peace deal.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said on Saturday in response to Aliyev that while Armenia accepts the five points, “these proposals do not address all issues of the Armenia-Azerbaijan comprehensive peace agenda,” in reference to the status of Artsakh and the security of its Armenian population.
“Not listening or trying not to listen to this position gives the Armenian side a reason to question the sincerity of Azerbaijan’s intention in achieving peace,” Mirzoyan said in written comments. “Moreover, the continued arbitrary, false interpretations of the negotiations and the avoidance to implement the agreements make an impression that Azerbaijan intends to undermine the peace process and continue its policy of ethnic cleansing through the use of force.”
Three days after Aliyev’s interview, an Armenian soldier was killed by Azerbaijani fire. Arman Gagik Sargsyan, born 2002, was shot and killed on September 5 while stationed at an Armenian border post in the Gegharkunik province.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense of Armenia denied reports released by the MoD of Azerbaijan every day between September 2-6 that the Armenian armed forces had fired on Azerbaijani positions along Armenia’s eastern border with Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan said that the discussion with Aliyev was “not easy” during a cabinet meeting the day after the leaders met in Brussels.
“The discussion was not easy, but I also want to record that our goals continue to remain and must continue to remain those I have announced in my public speeches: the government of Armenia has adopted the peace agenda, and here too we need determination to bring that agenda to life. We all need to understand that it is not easy and simple, and the possible solutions are not obvious,” Pashinyan said.
“I also believe that it is necessary, and it is the people’s wish that a lasting and comprehensive peace be established in our region as soon as possible. And we should focus more and more on solving this problem,” he continued.
The political opposition announced a change in its tactics to unseat Pashinyan from power during a rally on Friday in Yerevan organized in response to the meeting in Brussels.
“Having essentially accepted the enemy’s latest orders, Nikol continues to talk about the so-called peace agenda,” opposition leader Ishkhan Saghatelyan said in a Facebook post announcing the protest.
The Armenia Alliance and the I Have Honor Alliance, the two opposition parliamentary factions, organized six weeks of nearly daily protests starting on April 25 to demand Pashinyan’s resignation, in response to what they saw as his readiness to cede Artsakh to Azerbaijan. The protests ended after the movement failed to reach its objective.
“One of our main failings was that we did not manage to present the dangers facing our country to our public,” Ishkhan Saghatelyan said during the rally. “Our struggle was often regarded as a struggle for power, a struggle for the former rulers’ return.”
“We must start presenting our vision, strategy and programs about Armenia after Nikol. We must present our program, strategy for all areas and directions so that people see that there is a way out and there is no chance with Nikol,” Saghatelyan continued.
To that end, the opposition plans to launch consultations with analysts and other political forces.