Pashinyan Continues to Decline Supporting Artsakh’s Independence from Azerbaijan

Pashinyan Continues to Decline Supporting Artsakh’s Independence from Azerbaijan

Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday pointedly declined to back Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) residents’ right to self-determination, highlighting a major change in Armenia’s traditional policy on the conflict with Azerbaijan.

Successive Armenian governments for decades championed that right in peace talks mediated by the United States, Russia and France.

A year ago, Pashinyan and other senior Armenian officials stopped making references to the principle of self-determination it in their public statements. They have since spoken instead of the need to ensure “the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh,” fueling opposition allegations that Yerevan is now ready to agree to Azerbaijani control over the Armenian-populated region.

Pashinyan stuck to that line during news conference in Yerevan.

“We have said and keep saying that the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s rights and security is extremely important to us,” he said. “That is one of our key goals.”

“It’s up to the people and the government of Nagorno-Karabakh to decide the framework of the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s rights and security,” added Pashinyan.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s office said on Monday that it is inviting “representatives of Karabakh’s Armenian community” to visit Baku for further talks on Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan. The authorities in Stepanakert rejected the offer, saying that the talks should take place at the Karabakh headquarters of Russian peacekeepers and focus on “humanitarian, technical and humanitarian issues.”

Karabakh’s five leading political groups issued late on Monday a joint statement demanding that Yerevan refrain from calling into question “the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination.” They said Pashinyan’s administration must comply with a 1992 parliamentary act that bans Armenia’s government from signing any document that would recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh.

Pashinyan did not clarify whether he could sign such a document. He again called for a direct dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert.

The prime minister charged at the same time that Baku is seeking a “mandate to perpetrate genocide or ethnic cleansing in Karabakh.”

Pashinyan stated in January that the international community has always regarded Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. The claim was denounced by the Armenian opposition and Karabakh’s leadership.