Official Baku has strongly condemned Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s statement made at an August 5 rally in Stepanakert that “Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] is Armenia.”
“Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan. It is our historic and inseparable land,” said Hikmet Haciyev, head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Azerbaijani President’s Administration.
The Azerbaijani official described Pashinian’s statement as provocative, saying that by such rhetoric Armenia’s leadership is bringing the region to the brink of a “serious crisis”.
“Let no one doubt that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. Responsibility for the consequences lies with the Armenian side,” said Haciyev, as quoted by Azerbaijani media.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated region that has been de-facto independent from Baku after a three-year war in the early 1990s, in which an estimated 30,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
Despite a 1994 ceasefire, loss of life has continued in the conflict zone in recurrent border skirmishes and sporadic fighting.
An internationally mediated peace process spearheaded by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group has so far failed to produce a lasting settlement of the conflict.
Pashinian addressed a crowd of several thousand people at Stepanakert’s central Renaissance Square on the eve of the ceremonial opening of the seventh Pan-Armenian Games.
The quadrennial Games held in Yerevan bring together ethnic Armenian athletes from around the world and are designed to foster closer relationships between Armenia and its far-flung Diaspora. This year the Nagorno-Karabakh capital hosts the Games opening ceremony.
In his speech, Pashinian also called for the consolidation of the “pan-Armenian potential” in realizing the nation’s strategic goals.
In the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, the head of the Armenian government said that the goal of negotiations with Azerbaijan should be “the defense of the achievements of the liberation struggle waged for the sovereignty and security of the Karabakh people.”
“Any solution reached as a result of negotiations that will be considered acceptable for the governments of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh can be regarded as such only if it is popularly endorsed by people in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” Pashinian concluded.