The decision was announced last Thursday just hours after an emergency meeting of the country’s Security Council which discussed mounting tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Speaking at the meeting, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called for the deployment of international observers along contested portions of the frontier where Armenian and Azerbaijani troops have been facing off against each other for almost three weeks. Some opposition figures and other critics of Pashinian denounced the proposal, accusing him of failing to defend the country against foreign aggression.
Ayvazian made his first public comments on his resignation at a farewell meeting with the Armenian Foreign Ministry staff.
“The reason for my decision to resign was to make sure that there are never any suspicions that this ministry could take some steps or agree to some ideas, initiatives going against our statehood and national interests,” he said in a speech greeted with rapturous applause.
“In general, diplomats are perceived as conformist and adaptable individuals keen to avoid conflicts,” he said. “I believe that in these difficult times we do not have a right to do that, and I am confident that there will be principled diplomats among us who will become role models for our society.”
Ayvazian did not comment on concrete government policies and decisions.
Pashinian was quick to respond to the outgoing foreign minister’s remarks through his press secretary, Mane Gevorgian.
“While we thank Mr. Ayvazian for his work, we believe our national and state interests require Mr. Ayvazian to publicly explain who, where and how was going to take some steps or to make decisions contradicting our country’s national and state interests,” Gevorgian told the Armenpress news agency.
For her part, Lilit Makunts, the parliamentary leader of Armenia’s ruling My Step bloc, insisted that shortly before the Security Council meeting Pashinian informed Ayvazian about his intention to seek an international observation mission and that the minister did not object to it.
“I cannot say anything about other [possible] reasons [for Ayvazian’s resignation] because I don’t know them,” Makunts told reporters.
Later in the day, President Armen Sarkissian formally relieved Ayvazian of his duties in a decree initiated by Pashinian.
Pashinian appointed Ayvazian as foreign minister on November 18 as part of a cabinet reshuffle that followed Armenia’s defeat in a war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The 52-year-old career diplomat had previously worked as Armenian ambassador to Mexico and various European countries.
The Yerevan newspaper “Hraparak” reported on May 21 that Ayvazian has decided to resign because he disagrees with Pashinian’s handling of the border crisis. Following his resignation, this and other media outlets claimed that at least two of Armenia’s deputy foreign ministers have also decided to step down. The Foreign Ministry did not confirm or deny the claims.
The crisis began after Azerbaijani troops advanced several kilometers into Armenia’s Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces on May 12-14. The Armenian military responded by sending reinforcements to those areas.
Pashinian said on May 27 that both sides should withdraw their troops from the disputed border areas and let Russia and/or the United States and France, the two other countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, deploy observers there. He said that should be followed by a process of “ascertaining border points” supervised by the international community.
In a joint statement issued the following day, the French, Russian and U.S. diplomats co-heading the Minsk Group backed the proposed troop disengagement. But they did not specify whether their countries are ready to send observers.
Azerbaijan has not reacted to Pashinian’s proposal so far. Baku maintains that its troops did not cross into Armenia.