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Armenian Parliament To Probe Karabakh War


Armenia - Armenian flags fly by the graves of soldiers killed during the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh, January 28, 2022.

The pro-government majority in the National Assembly has initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the Armenian authorities’ handling of the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as its causes.

Opposition groups have demanded such an inquiry after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the six-week war in November 2020. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s political team has been in no rush to launch it, saying that the matter could be politicized by its political opponents.

The ruling Civil Contract party’s parliamentary group announced on Thursday the establishment of an ad hoc commission that will examine the causes of Armenia’s defeat in the war, assess the Armenian government’s and military’s actions and look into what had been done for national defense before the hostilities.

The commission will have access to classified documents and be able to interview current and former Armenian officials.

“The mission of the commission is to give answers to questions preoccupying us and draw up our country’s future defense strategy accordingly,” said Armen Khachatrian, a senior pro-government parliamentarian.

The parliament majority wants to name seven of its eleven members. The four other commission seats are offered to the two parliamentary opposition blocs holding Pashinian primarily responsible for the outcome of the war that left at least 3,800 Armenian soldiers dead.

Nagorno Karabakh -- An Armenian soldier fires artillery on the front line on October 25, 2020.
Nagorno Karabakh -- An Armenian soldier fires artillery on the front line on October 25, 2020.

One of the blocs, Pativ Unem, was quick to say that it will boycott the commission because it will be controlled by Pashinian’s loyalists.

“Our main concern is that the authorities will try to absolve the highest echelons of power of responsibility [for the defeat] and blame everything on the armed forces, other structures and anyone but the top officials,” said Pativ Unem’s Tigran Abrahamian.

The other, larger opposition force, Hayastan, did not immediately decide whether to participate in the probe. Its parliamentary leader, former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, suggested that Pashinian will use the commission to whitewash his incompetence and mishandling of the disastrous conflict.

“We need to understand the objectives set for the investigative commission,” Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “If they just want to look into what had been done in the past and blame everything on former authorities, that is unacceptable to us.”

“It is the current state apparatus that’s responsible for the war and it’s clear that this state apparatus has not investigated and evaluated itself in the past year,” he said.

Other Hayastan figures said earlier that the commission must be headed by an opposition lawmaker and that Civil Contract and the opposition must be equally represented in it.

ARMENIA -- Police detain a participant of an opposition rally to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian over his handling of the 2020 war with Azerbaijan, April 7, 2021.
ARMENIA -- Police detain a participant of an opposition rally to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian over his handling of the 2020 war with Azerbaijan, April 7, 2021.

The ruling party wants to not only have a majority in the commission but also make sure that representatives of several other parties, not represented in the parliament and largely loyal to Pashinian, also participate in the probe. Civil Contract’s Khachatrian said the commission will decide the format of their participation during its first meeting scheduled for Monday.

As he faced angry street protests last year, Pashinian repeatedly blamed former Presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian, who lead Hayastan and Pativ Unem respectively, for the defeat. He denied ordering in October 2020 an Armenian military counteroffensive in Karabakh that proved disastrous and greatly facilitated Azerbaijan’s subsequent victory.

Pashinian has also held Sarkisian and Kocharian responsible for joint U.S., Russian and French peace plans which he claimed favored the Azerbaijani side.

The ex-presidents and other opposition leaders have brushed aside these claims.

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