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Armenian Speaker Reticent About Karabakh’s Status


Armenia - Speaker Alen Simonian chairs a session of the National Assembly, Yerevan, September 13, 2021.

Parliament speaker Alen Simonian on Tuesday pointedly declined to say whether Armenia will champion Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination in negotiations on a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.

Responding to Azerbaijani proposals to negotiate such a treaty, the Armenian government has said that the question of Karabakh’s status must also be on the agenda of the talks. But it has not publicly clarified its position on the status or a mechanism for determining it.

Simonian, who is a key political ally of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, was similarly reticent about the issue when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Asked whether Pashinian’s administration could recognize Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan, he said: “As head of the legislative branch, I cannot be involved in the negotiating process or somehow predetermine it. The foreign minister, the head of the government will answer this question.”

Simonian also would not be drawn on the reason for Yerevan’s failure to mention the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination it its written proposals on the peace talks communicated to Baku.

“The Armenian proposal is a proposal regarding the status, but that proposal regarding the status is a subject of discussions,” he said vaguely.

Speaking in the Armenian parliament on April 13, Pashinian said that 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, drawing strong criticism from his political opponents and Karabakh’s leadership.

The authorities in Stepanakert made clear that the Karabakh Armenians will never agree to live under Azerbaijani rule. Armenian opposition leaders charged, for their part, that Pashinian has agreed to Azerbaijani control over the disputed territory.

ARMENIA - Police officers detain opposition supporters who attempted to block streets in the capital Yerevan on May 17, 2022.
ARMENIA - Police officers detain opposition supporters who attempted to block streets in the capital Yerevan on May 17, 2022.

The opposition went on to launch daily street protests in Yerevan aimed at forcing Pashinian to step down.

“You must quit in order for Artsakh (Karabakh) to remain Armenian,” Ishkhan Saghatelian, one of the protest leaders, appealed to the prime minister as thousands of opposition supporters again marched through Yerevan on Tuesday.

Pashinian and his political allies have rejected the opposition demands.

Simonian said the ruling political team won a popular mandate to govern Armenia for the next five years in parliamentary elections held last June. He also rejected the opposition criticism of the government’s Karabakh policy.

“What does the opposition propose? Nothing,” said the speaker.

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