Armenia’s Shifting Expectations of the Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Deal
Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia Ara Ayvazyan | Source: Arm.info
Less than one month after the signing of a trilateral peace agreement to end the hostilities of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, the Armenian government is hinting at a new position on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh.
A political crisis rift erupted in Armenia following the signing of the agreement with Azerbaijan and Russia. Several government ministers and members of the Prime Minister’s own political party have stated that they were not informed of Nikol Pashinyan’s decision to capitulate to Azerbaijan. A statement issued by the Office of Armen Sarkissian, the President of the Republic of Armenia, supported this claim, as Sarkissian noted that he had not participated in any negotiations. “I learned about the conditions for ending the war from the press as well,” he added.
Another high-level resignation was that of Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Mnatsakanyan played an active role in Armenia’s diplomacy during the war, participating in numerous international meetings including with the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Following his resignation, Ara Ayvazian, a career diplomat, was appointed to the position.
Within a few weeks of signing the ceasefire, the Ministerial Council of the OSCE, composed of the Foreign Ministers of the 57 OSCE member countries, gathered in Tirana, Albania for annual dialogue on security issues within the OSCE area. As the new Foreign Minister, Ayvazian provided Armenia’s address in the session.
In his remarks, Ayvazian made numerous allegations and hinted at a shift in the viewpoint of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh from what Armenia had agreed to in the agreement of November 9. The Foreign Minister echoed criticisms from France, accusing Azerbaijan of recruiting foreign fighters with the assistance of Turkey. However, there are numerous documented cases of diaspora Armenians from other countries fighting on the side of Armenia. According to International Humanitarian Law, “foreign fighters may fulfil ‘mercenary’ definitions contained in national legislations prohibiting mercenarism.”
Ayvazian also announced several claims that are contrary to the norms and laws established by international organizations. For example, the Foreign Minister referred to Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territories as ‘occupied by Azerbaijan’ when in fact, four United Nations Security Council resolutions established that these territories are part of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Adding onto this, Ayvazian provided an explanation on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which many have since interpreted as conflicting with the recently signed agreement. Speaking before the OSCE member countries, the Foreign Minister claimed that, “reality clearly attests to the fact that Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be placed under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan.”
Ayvazian continued, stating that a comprehensive resolution of the conflict that would lead to lasting peace must include, “status of Artsakh [the name of the de facto state within the internationally-recognized territory of Azerbaijan] based on realization of the right of self-determination,” “de-occupation by Azerbaijan of the territories of Nagorno-Karabakh,” “safe and dignified return to their homes of the recently displaced population of Artsakh” , and “preservation of Armenian cultural and religious heritage on the territories.”
This list of requirements indicates that Armenia should have control over all of Nagorno-Karabakh, or the territory that fell within the boundaries of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast during Soviet times. The sixth clause of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Agreement states that Azerbaijan will retain control of Shusha. Based on Ayvazian’s claims, Shusha would need to be in the hands of Armenia, thus directly countering what was settled with the agreement from November 9.
It is also important to note that regarding the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has affirmed that there will no special status for the region, as indicated in a national address held on November 10. Aliyev repeated this message in an address on November 17, adding that, “there is a single Azerbaijan: multinational and multi-confessional.”
The support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan was echoed by Russian officials. Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, recently stated that, “the belonging of this territory is determined by the relevant resolutions of the Security Council,” adding that “President Putin said that Karabakh itself was not recognized.”
With protesters calling for Prime Minister Pashinyan to step down, it’s unclear if these assertions by Ayvazian are in line with the government’s official stance, or if this rhetoric is being used to quell discontent and preserve Pashinyan’s position instead.
Widespread public discontent signals that the war isn’t over. From the Armenian perspective, the peace agreement is seen as unjust. The peace agreement itself has several critical omissions, so it is certainly possible for Armenia to use these weaknesses or lack of clear terms in conjunction with its close relations with Moscow to advocate for changes in the implementation of the solution.