Speaking at a July 25 news conference in Yerevan, Pashinian said that the European Union and especially the United States have played lately the leading role in international efforts to end the Karabakh conflict. He said that because of “the events in Ukraine” the Russians cannot invest as much “energy and time” in conflict mediation as they did before.
Pashinian also suggested that a “productive” dialogue between the Azerbaijani government and Karabakh’s leadership could lead to the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping contingent from the Armenian-populated region.
The Russian Foreign Ministry bristled at Pashinian’s remarks, saying that they are “devoid of any factual basis.” Its spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, argued, in particular, that in recent months Moscow has organized “a whole series” of high-level Armenian-Azerbaijani talks, including Pashinian’s May 25 meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We have been and remain fully interested in furthering the process of normalizing Armenian-Azerbaijani relations,” she told a news conference. “We are doing everything to achieve a lasting peace and stability in the region.”
Zakharova also denounced Pashinian’s “incomprehensible” comment on the possible end of the Russian military presence in Karabakh.
“Is this a wish?” she said. “I don’t understand Mr. Pashinian. What is he talking about?”
“Does the leadership of Armenia think that [the peacekeepers’] activity is not necessary and desirable and wants to end it?” Zakharova went on. “They need to set the record straight.
“Unfortunately, we can see that often times representatives of Armenia’s leadership adopt an equivocal, so to speak, position on a number of key issues. We therefore very much want to see no ambiguity on this score because juggling with words does not end well.”
“And generally speaking, after the Armenian leadership recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory, any complains about Russia not making enough efforts look all the more inappropriate,” added Zakharova.
The Armenian government did not immediately react to the criticism highlighting growing friction between Armenia and Russia that raises questions about the future of their traditionally close relationship. The tensions have been fuelled by what Yerevan sees as a lack of Russian support for Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan. In particular, Pashinian and other Armenian leaders have criticized the Russian peacekeepers for not ending Azerbaijan’s crippling blockade of the Lachin corridor.
Pashinian’s administration has also angered Moscow with its plans to ratify the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that issued an arrest warrant for Putin earlier this year. A senior Russian lawmaker warned late last month that the ratification by the Armenian parliament of the so-called Rome Statue would cause “significant damage to Russian-Armenian relations.”