The news about the deal early on November 10 triggered street disturbances in Yerevan, with angry mobs breaking into the government and parliament buildings.
The unrest unfolded amid calls of a number of opposition parties for the resignation of Pashinian whom they accuse of signing an “act of surrender” and criticize for keeping the public in the dark on the planned agreement.
“The document was signed at the moment when Shushi (Shusha) had already fallen and Stepanakert was under direct threat, and it was quite problematic to find resources,” Pashinian explained in a live broadcast on Facebook on Wednesday.
“The biggest guilt attributed to me is signing the document that says that I agree to hand over three districts – Aghdam, Lachin and Kelbajar – to Azerbaijan. It may sound odd, but that was not about withdrawing, but about keeping [territories], because in that period when Shushi had fallen, the General Staff of the Republic of Armenia Armed Forces was reporting to me that resources were in a rather problematic state. To put it mildly, the political leadership of Artsakh [the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh] also shared that opinion,” the Armenian prime minister said. “What were the prospects if that document had not been signed at that moment? In reality, that document gave us what, according to military and non-military assessments, we would not be able to keep in that situation.”
Pashinian stressed that if military operations continued, Azerbaijan would very likely capture Martuni, Stepanakert and Askeran, after which Armenian defensive areas with thousands of soldiers would be encircled and the defense would complete collapse.
“At that moment we had a situation when Stepanakert was under direct threat. The assessment of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the president of Artsakh was that Stepanakert was very weakly defended or was symbolically defended. And if Stepanakert fell, that would leave thousands of our soldiers encircled and as a result we would lose everything that is fixed in this document. This is the whole truth,” Pashinian said.
The prime minister also brushed aside conspiracy theories about the battle of Shushi earlier this month that arose after conflicting accounts of the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides about who controls the strategic Nagorno-Karabakh town.
“After the fall of Shushi there were two attempts to recapture it. One attempt failed completely, the other detachment managed to enter Shushi. And the conflicting reports in the media about who controls the town were due to that,” Pashinian explained.