Pashinyan Accepting Azerbaijan’s Demands for New Armenian Constitution, Says Opposition

Pashinyan Accepting Azerbaijan’s Demands for New Armenian Constitution, Says Opposition

Opposition leaders and other critics of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claim that he is seeking to enact a new constitution for Armenia at the behest of Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan declared late last week that Armenia must adopt a constitution reflecting the “new geopolitical environment” in the region. He emphasized that in that context the country’s “external security” and “internationally recognized sovereign territory”.

Critics were quick to assert that he wants to get rid of a preamble to the current Armenian constitution enacted in 1995. The preamble makes an indirect reference to a 1989 declaration on Armenia’s unification with Nagorno-Karabakh and calls for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

Five lawmakers representing the main opposition Hayastan alliance issued on January 19 a joint statement accusing Pashinyan of “preparing the ground for meeting another of the nonstop Turkish-Azerbaijani demands.”

One of those deputies, Gegham Manukian, insisted on Tuesday that the main purpose of the planned constitutional change is to remove the preamble in question. Pashinyan’s initiative would thus “tear down the pillars of modern Armenian statehood,” Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Tatevik Hayrapetian, an expert on Azerbaijan and a former parliamentarian critical of the Armenian government, echoed those claims on Wednesday. Hayrapetian pointed out that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev openly demanded constitutional changes from Yerevan in 2021. Baku, she said, now wants to make sure that “in the future Armenia will refrain from claiming its rights to Nagorno-Karabakh under any government.”

Aliyev said in early December that an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty would not be enough to preclude another war between the two countries. He said Azerbaijan also needs safeguards against Armenian “revanchism.”

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan acknowledged on Tuesday that Baku voiced objections to the Armenian constitution during peace talks with Yerevan. But he downplayed this fact, saying that the Armenian side also has a problem with some provisions of Azerbaijan’s constitution.

“To say that the Armenia-Azerbaijan settlement process is the reason for the change of the constitution would be a gross exaggeration,” Mirzoyan told a news conference.

Mirzoyan, who is a leading member of Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party, noted at the same time that the existing constitution inevitably has an impact on Armenian foreign policy.

The plans for the new Armenian constitution were announced after Pashinyan and Mirzoyan complained about a toughening of Baku’s position on the peace treaty discussed by the two sides.

Manukian and three other opposition lawmakers were recently allowed by the Armenian Foreign Ministry to read recent Azerbaijani proposals regarding the treaty. They said afterwards that Aliyev is seeking the kind of agreement that would leave the door open to future territorial claims to Armenia.

“It is very obvious that the points and provisions contained in that document are directly related to the demand for the change of the constitution,” said Manukian.