Pashinian insisted that his administration has no plans to “surrender” Karabakh through a peace deal with Baku.
“If we were to surrender Artsakh (Karabakh) we would not have spent tens of billions of drams to ensure the return of Artsakh residents to their homes after the 44-day war,” he said at a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
“Our strategy in the short, medium and long terms is as follows: to ensure a situation or solution whereby the people of Artsakh will continue to live in Artsakh … Any solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or any state of affairs in Nagorno-Karabakh that does not ensure and guarantee these conditions is unacceptable to us,” he said.
Pashinian again did not specify the Armenian-populated territory’s future status acceptable to Yerevan. Instead, he attacked his political opponents, saying that a tougher line advocated by them would lead to another war with Azerbaijan and a complete loss of Karabakh.
“Rest assured that we will not allow that to happen,” he said.
Speaking in the Armenian parliament on April 13, the prime minister said the international community is pressing Armenia to “lower a bit the bar on the question of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status” and recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. He signaled Yerevan’s intention to make such concessions to Baku.
The speech fueled more opposition allegations that Pashinian has agreed to help Azerbaijan regain control over Karabakh. Armenia’s leading opposition groups have pledged to stage anti-government rallies in a bid to topple his government and prevent such concessions to Baku.
Pashinian claimed that virtually all peace proposals made by international mediators since the 1990s also called for the Armenian side to “lower the bar” on the status issue.
The prime minister delivered his controversial speech in the National Assembly a week after meeting with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels for talks hosted by European Council President Charles Michel. Michel said after the talks that the two leaders pledged to “move rapidly” towards negotiating an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty meant to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Pashinian has repeatedly said that Baku’s proposals on the key elements of such an accord, including a mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity, are acceptable to Yerevan.
Aliyev emphasized this fact on Friday when he visited the Karabakh town of Shushi (Shusha) captured by Azerbaijani forces during the 2020 war. He said the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministries are already gearing up for official negotiations on the peace treaty.
“The treaty may soon be drawn up and signed,” he said. “Armenia and Azerbaijan may thus establish relations, including diplomatic ones.”
Aliyev also implied that Yerevan’s refusal to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity through the treaty could lead to another Armenian-Azerbaijani war. “Given the outcome of the second Karabakh war, the Armenian side must be conscious of what such a step would lead to,” he warned.