Mikael Minasian, a former Armenian ambassador to the Vatican, publicized on Wednesday what he described as a copy of the first page of a draft joint statement by Pashinian and the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia.
The opening paragraph of the hitherto unknown document calls for the creation of an Armenian-Azerbaijani commission on border delimitation and demarcation. The rest of the page posted by Minasian on Facebook is blacked out.
Minasian claimed that if implemented the agreement and a “secret” protocol attached to it will have “disastrous consequences” for Armenia. In particular, he said, it could lead to a handover of major chunks of Armenian territory to Azerbaijan.
Minasian also said Pashinian has made the signing of the deal conditional on the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces from Armenian border areas occupied by them last week.
Pashinian essentially confirmed the existence of such a document when he spoke at a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
“The solutions, preliminary agreements that have been reached with our international partners correspond to Armenia’s national interests by 100 percent … And yes, if Azerbaijan implements those understandings on the conditions that we’ve discussed, I will sign that paper,” he said.
Without mentioning Minasian by name Pashinian accused critics of distorting the essence of the draft deal. This is why the publicized segment of the leaked document was mostly blacked out, he said, branding his detractors “agents of Azerbaijan’s information warfare.”
Minasian, who is also a son-in-law of former President Serzh Sarkisian, responded by challenging Pashinian to make all provisions of the deal public.
The prime minister said he will not do that because the document in question is just a “working paper” that may still be amended.
Still, the draft statement was leaked to the Armlur.am news website and fully published by it later in the day. It says that the commission on the delimitation and demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier shall be formed by May 31 and hold its first meeting by June 30. It makes no references to any Armenian territorial concessions.
Pashinian confirmed the veracity of the document when he spoke at an emergency session of the Armenian parliament on Thursday evening. “I want to assure you that there is and there can be no secret appendices to it,” he told lawmakers.
Pashinian confirmed that Yerevan will agree to the creation of the demarcation commission only if Baku withdraws its forces from the Armenian side of the border. “Our position remains that Azerbaijani troops must leave Armenian territory without preconditions,” he said.
The parliament debate was initiated by the two opposition parties represented in the outgoing National Assembly. Their leaders described Pashinian’s confirmation of the proposed border deal as a worrying development for Armenia’s national security.
“Once again a document has been drafted behind the Armenian people’s back, and neither the parliament deputies nor, I think, most government members know anything about its content,” Edmon Marukian, the leader of the Bright Armenia Party, told reporters before the debate.
Andranik Kocharian, the pro-government chairman of the parliament committee on defense and security, acknowledged that he was not aware of the existence of the drat Armenian-Azerbaijani-Russian statement up until Pashinian’s announcement.
Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, also voiced serious concern over the revelation. He said the government must shed more light on the document “partially published on the Internet yesterday and confirmed at today’s government session.”
Russia proposed the creation of the commission on the delimitation and demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier earlier this week. The proposal came amid a continuing military standoff at several sections of the border where the Azerbaijani forces reportedly advanced several kilometres into Armenian territory on May 12-13.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow is ready to participate in the commission’s activities as a “consultant or mediator.” Armenian officials said Azerbaijani troop withdrawal is a necessary condition for the creation of such a body.