In presenting his government’s action plan for 2021-2026 in the National Assembly, Pashinian spoke about opportunities of ending Armenia’s transport blockade that has lasted for three decades due to a protracted conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
One of the provisions of the November 9, 2020 trilateral statement of the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia that put an end to six weeks of deadly fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh mostly on Baku’s terms commits the sides to unblocking all economic and transport links in the region. The document specifically refers to a link between mainland Azerbaijan and its western exclave of Nakhichevan.
Azerbaijan has interpreted this provision as an opportunity to get a corridor via Armenia’s southern Syunik region to Nakhichevan and farther to Turkey. Armenia has insisted, however, that no transport link should have the status of a corridor.
“This is a serious opportunity to break the blockade of the Republic of Armenia that has been going on for about 30 years. This is not a simple process; it is aggravated by the provocative statements of the Azerbaijani side about corridors,” Pashinian said in parliament, again emphasizing that neither the November 9, 2020 nor the January 11, 2021 trilateral statements contain any expression, reference or wording about a corridor through the territory of Armenia.
“It is about something else. Just as Armenia should get a road through Azerbaijan to be linked with Russia and Iran, so Azerbaijan should get a road through Armenia as a transport link between its western regions and Nakhichevan,” the Armenian prime minister said.
Pashinian acknowledged that opening up regional transport links contains certain risks for Armenia’s interests.
“That is why we have mentioned in the government’s program that while this unblocking should be one of the priorities of Armenia’s foreign policy, the process should not take place at the expense of the security and vital interests of Armenia and Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh),” Pashinian said. “If we want to create a favorable regional environment around Armenia, we ought to make Armenia a favorable environment for the region, but on the principle of reciprocity -- no more, no less. This is our strategic security challenge.”
The Armenian premier said that stability and peace in the region are his government’s long-term strategy, while the deepening and normalization of relations with neighboring countries will be one of the major directions of its foreign policy.
“The deepening of hostility is a threat to the stability and security of the region. Overcoming hostility can become an axis of the regional foreign policy agenda,” Pashinian said.
Pashinian also said that it is necessary to start the process of border delimitation and demarcation with Azerbaijan as soon as possible, for which purpose he again called for a mutual withdrawal of Armenian and Azerbaijani forces from areas near the Sotk-Khoznavar section of the border.