Armenia’s proposal for Nagorno-Karabakh’s full engagement in negotiations with Azerbaijan is no challenge, but an invitation to dialogue, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Tuesday, stressing that Yerevan is ready to listen attentively to Baku’s counterarguments.
At a press conference in Yerevan, Pashinian repeated what he already told senior Armenian and Karabakh security aides in Stepanakert a week ago that Nagorno-Karabakh’s becoming a full party to the peace talks “is not a whim or a precondition” on the part of Armenia, but a necessity for an effective settlement process.
Azerbaijan has opposed Nagorno-Karabakh’s participation in the talks as a separate party, insisting that the region is “occupied” by Armenia and negotiations should be held only directly with official Yerevan.
Last week, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev rejected the latest Armenian proposal on the change in the format of the talks by way of involving Nagorno-Karabakh as a party to the process.
“It is unacceptable, and it is an attempt to block the negotiations process,” Aliyev said at a forum in Baku on March 14, again calling on Armenia to withdraw its forces from the region.
Pashinian today insisted that his statements on the need for Stepanakert’s engagement in the talks that he has repeatedly made since being first elected prime minister in May 2018 “are not a challenge, but an invitation to dialogue.” He further argued that he had already raised the issue during his informal meetings with Aliyev on the sidelines of different international events during the past months.
Earlier this month the American, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, an international format set up to mediate a solution to the conflict, announced that Pashinian and Aliyev had agreed to have their first formal talks soon under the umbrella of the international mediators.
No date and venue of such possible talks have been announced yet.
Ahead of his possible talks with the Azerbaijani president Pashinian said: “We will continue discussions on this subject with our partners and will try to continue this discussion in the field of arguments, because negotiations are negotiations only when we listen to each other. At least Armenia has shown its ability to listen to its opponent, try to understand the other side, and we expect the same from them. Where our partners consider that our position can be viewed as excessively tough, we can soften this position, but we would expect the same from our partners, because otherwise no conversation will take place.”
The Armenian leader said that “we do not imagine a regime when one of the parties to the talks says that it refuses to have a dialogue.”
“It will not be a logical approach. Naturally, we will not refuse to have a dialogue and during this dialogue we will put on the table our arguments and will attentively listen to the counterarguments of our partners. I think that a constructive and effective solution or continuation should be within the framework of this logic,” Pashinian said.
Asked whether a possible exchange of prisoners between Armenia and Azerbaijan could be discussed at his upcoming meeting with Aliyev, Pashinian said: “The Armenian side is ready to exchange Azerbaijani citizens who strayed into Armenian territory with Armenians who strayed into Azerbaijani territory.”
The Armenian leader stressed, however, that such an exchange cannot concern Azerbaijanis who penetrated into Armenian or Karabakh territory and committed murders.