Official Yerevan on Thursday hit back at Moscow’s assertion that the actions of the Armenian government, and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, are to be blamed for Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Artsakh.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a press briefing on Thursday that Pashinyan’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity that supposes Baku’s sovereignty over Artsakh has resulted in the current situation in Artsakh.
“I would like to remind that the current situation in the Lachin corridor is a consequence of Armenia’s recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the territory of Azerbaijan,” Zakharova said. “This was formalized as a result of summits attended by the leaders of the two countries under the aegis of the European Union in October 2022 and May 2023.”
“We believe that placing the blame in this context on the Russian peacekeeping contingent is inappropriate, wrong and unjustified,” Zakharova told a news briefing.
Armenia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Ani Badalyan on Thursday said that Moscow’s statement has caused “confusion and disappointment” for Yerevan, asserting that Russia itself has, on numerous occasions, recognized Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan.
Below is Badalyan’s complete statement.
Remarks by the official representative of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who yet again, claimed that the situation unfolding in the Lachin corridor is a consequence of the fact that Armenia’s recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan in October 2022 during a meeting in Prague based on the Alma Ata declaration has altered the mission of the Russian peacekeepers to that of ensuring the rights and security of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh has caused confusion and disappointment.
We are compelled to recall the following, already well-known chronology and important circumstances.
- The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has never been a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In essence, it has always been and remains an issue of the rights and security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- In August 2022, Armenia agreed to Russia’s draft proposal on the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to which the discussion of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh was supposed to be postponed for an indefinite period. Azerbaijan rejected the proposal, simultaneously announcing (as it did on August 31 in Brussels) that it is not going to discuss anything related to Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, and days later, on September 13, it launched military aggression against the sovereign territory of Armenia.
- Russia not only did not pursue its proposal after Azerbaijan’s refusal, but also showed absolute indifference to the aggression against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, leaving Armenia’s official letter to support the Republic of Armenia on the basis of the bilateral legal framework unanswered. Moreover, Russia conditioned the lack of stating the fact of the attack on Armenia and the resulting inaction under the false excuse that the interstate border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not delimited. By this approach it either intentionally or not supports the obviously false and extremely dangerous thesis which claims that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, therefore, attacking the border and the invasion into the territory of Armenia are difficult to verify. With the same mindset, Armenia’s similar application in the framework of the CSTO did not receive a proper response either.
- Under these circumstances, on October 6, 2022, in Prague, Armenia and Azerbaijan reaffirmed their support of the Alma-Ata Declaration, which was signed back in 1991 by the former Soviet republics, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, who recognized each other’s territorial integrity along the former administrative borders of the Soviet states. Therefore, nothing new was decided in Prague: as of October 2022, the Alma-Ata Declaration had been in force for about 31 years. The agreements in Prague did not change anything in the context of the Trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, either. The only new development was that, based on the results of the Prague meeting, the EU decided to deploy a monitoring mission on the Armenian side of the interstate border between Armenia and Azerbaijan to contribute to the stability at the border.
- The Russian Federation has recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan multiple times, including after the signing of the Trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, and the most recent and perhaps most significant instance was when it stated that it recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the document on establishing strategic relations with Azerbaijan.
- On December 12, 2022, the Lachin corridor was blocked, under the false pretext of protests organized by the authorities of Azerbaijan in the area of the control of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Already in April 2023, in the presence of Russian peacekeepers, Azerbaijan installed an illegal checkpoint in the Lachin corridor. Although these actions were a clear and gross violation of the Trilateral statement, the Russian Federation took no counteractions. Instead, Russian peacekeepers on June 15, 2023, actively supported the attempt to raise the Azerbaijani flag on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, which is outside the scope of their mission and geographical area of responsibility. This was immediately followed by the total blockade of the Lachin corridor, bringing the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh closer to a true humanitarian catastrophe.
- In circumstances of such arbitrariness in the presence of Russian peacekeepers, the Azerbaijani side has resorted to steps such as the abduction of residents of Nagorno-Karabakh at the illegal checkpoint in the Lachin corridor: the case of abduction of Vagif Khachatryan on July 29, followed by the case of three students on August 28.
- Unfortunately, such practices of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh are nothing new. On December 11, 2020, the violation of the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh, the illegal occupation of Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher villages, the capture and transfer of 60 Armenian servicemen to Baku took place in Nagorno-Karabakh with the presence and permission of representatives of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. At that time, the agreements of October 6, 2022, were not reached. The same applies to the events of Parukh on March 24, 2022, and Saribab on August 1, 2022, when Azerbaijan again violated the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh. The logical continuation of this are the shootings by Azerbaijani armed forces in the presence of Russian peacekeepers towards people carrying out agricultural works, one of which ended with the killing of a tractor driver from Martakert; the intimidation of the Nagorno-Karabakh population with night lights and loudspeakers again in the presence of Russian peacekeepers; the thousands of violations of the ceasefire regime by the Azerbaijani armed forces again in the presence of Russian peacekeepers.
We advise that the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry refrain from maneuvering the circumstances of the situation and thereby further complicating it in the absence of actions from Russian peacekeepers toward the prevention of the blockade of the Lachin corridor or its opening afterward.
We also reiterate that the Republic of Armenia is faithful to its commitment towards establishing stability in the region on the basis of mutual recognition of territorial integrity and borders. At the same time, we consider imperative for lasting peace the reopening of the Lachin corridor in accordance with the Trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, and in line with the Orders of the International Court of Justice, the prevention of a humanitarian catastrophe in Nagorno-Karabakh and addressing of all existing problems through the Baku-Stepanakert dialogue under international auspices.