Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took another step towards restoring Azerbaijan’s control over Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) during his weekend talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the Armenian opposition claimed on Monday.
The four-hour talks hosted by European Union head Charles Michel in Brussels focused on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty sought by Baku.
“The leaders confirmed their unequivocal commitment to the 1991 Almaty Declaration and respective territorial integrity of Armenia (29,800 square kilometers) and Azerbaijan (89,600 square kilometers),” Michel said after the meeting.
Azerbaijan’s total Soviet-era area cited by Michel includes Karabakh. This is a further indication that Pashinyan’s administration is ready to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over the Armenian-populated territory.
Not surprisingly Baku seemed satisfied with the outcome of the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani summit. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry emphasized “Armenia’s acceptance of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territorial integrity.”
Tigran Abrahamian, a senior Armenian lawmaker representing the opposition Pativ Unem alliance, said this is consistent with Pashinyan’s statements on the Karabakh conflict made over the past year.
Pashinyan stopped invoking the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination a year ago. Since then, he has spoken instead of the need to protect their “rights and security.”
Abrahamian described his rhetoric as a smokescreen for “surrendering Artsakh to Azerbaijan as smoothly as possible.” The Brussels meeting only highlighted this policy, he said.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a key member of the main opposition Hayastan bloc, expressed serious concern over Michel’s statement. In a statement, the party’s leadership accused Pashinyan of helping Baku regain full control over Karabakh and force its residents to flee their homeland.
The statement argued that Armenia had signed the 1991 declaration cited by the EU chief with reservations relating to Karabakh. It also pointed to a 1992 parliamentary act that bans Armenia’s governments from signing any document that would recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh.
Any Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement running counter to that decision would therefore be “null and void,” warned Dashnaktsutyun.
“It is obvious that we are entering the final phase of surrendering Artsakh,” claimed Vartan Oskanian, who served as Armenia’s foreign minister from 1998-2008.
“If Pashinyan’s hand is to be grabbed so that he does not sign such a document, then now is the time to do that. Otherwise it will be too late,” he wrote.
Andranik Kocharian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on defense and security, downplayed Michel’s remarks on the Aliyev-Pashinyan meeting.
“Armenia always recognized Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity … but Artsakh has its own territory and status,” Kocharian told reporters.
“Today Artsakh is probably the most independent state in the world; [it will remain so] for the next three or four years,” he claimed. “We’ll see what happens after that.”
In recent months Pashinyan has publicly encouraged Karabakh’s leaders to negotiate with Azerbaijan while accusing Baku of planning to commit “genocide” in the region. The authorities in Stepanakert have repeatedly denounced his public pronouncements on the conflict.