In an extensive article published by the Sputnik news agency on Tuesday, Sarkisian claimed that he tried unsuccessfully to extend his decade-long rule three years ago because he saw an opportunity achieve a compromise solution to the conflict.
He claimed that Pashinian torpedoed such a settlement proposed by the United States, Russia and France after coming to power in the “velvet revolution” of April-May 2018.
“From May 2018 onwards, as a result of the new Armenian authorities’ grave diplomatic blunders and reckless statements and actions, the situation began to change not in favor of Yerevan which the international community began to regard as an unconstructive party to the negotiating process,” he wrote. “Baku got what it had for decades failed to achieve: accuse Armenia of abandoning negotiations as a casus belli (occasion for war).”
A senior member of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, Ruben Rubinian, dismissed Sarkisian’s claims on Wednesday. Rubinian accused the ex-president of lying about the reason for his attempt to hold on to power after completing his second and final term in office and effectively justifying Azerbaijan’s decision to start the war in September 2020.
Speaking to RFE/RL’ Armenian Service, Rubinian said Sarkisian himself stated shortly before his resignation that the Karabakh peace process is in deadlock because of Baku’s continuing rejection of peace proposals made by the U.S., Russian and French mediators.
Sarkisian already denounced Pashinian’s handling of the peace process during the recent parliamentary election campaign. He publicized Pashinian’s secretly recorded comments on a peace plan proposed by the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Groups.
Pashinian says in the leaked audio that he rejected the plan because it would not immediately formalize Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan and determine the territory’s internationally recognized status.
The prime minster downplayed the pre-election leak and insisted that the proposed settlement favored Azerbaijan. “The international community, on which we pinned our hopes for many years, pressed us to return territories in return for nothing,” he said.
Pashinian made similar statements in the immediate aftermath of the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered agreement in November. He denied critics’ assertions that he could have prevented the disastrous hostilities, which left at least 3,700 Armenian soldiers dead, by accepting the mediators’ peace proposals.
In January, Igor Popov, the Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, accused Pashinian of misrepresenting those proposals. Popov specifically denied his claims that the mediators offered the Armenians nothing in return for their withdrawal from districts around Karabakh occupied by them in the early 1990s.
The envoy insisted that under the Minsk Group plan Karabakh’s population would be able to determine the disputed territory’s status in a future legally binding referendum.