YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—The Azerbaijani government has cited a statement by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to reject Armenian and Western criticism of its military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh that displaced a large part of the region’s population.
Pashinyan insisted on Thursday that “there is no direct threat to the civilian population of Karabakh” after two days of heavy fighting that left dozens of Karabakh civilians dead and caused thousands of others to flee their homes. His statement sharply contrasted with what Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said during an emergency session of the UN Security Council just a few hours later.
Mirzoyan accused Azerbaijani forces of committing atrocities as part of “ethnic cleansing” in Karabakh planned by Baku. He pointed to “shocking” reports of children killed and unaccounted for and thousands of families displaced as a result of the offensive. The Karabakh Armenians are facing growing death threats made on Azerbaijani social media accounts, he said.
Addressing the Security Council, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her French counterpart Catherine Colonna also condemned the Azerbaijani assault, citing its grave humanitarian consequences. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressed serious concern over the safety of Karabakh’s residents in a statement issued ahead of the council meeting.
“Forced displacement of the civilian population through military or other means will be met with a strong response by the EU,” warned Borrell.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Baku shortly after start of the Azerbaijani offensive, saying that it is “worsening an already dire humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov seized upon Pashinyan’s statement in his speech at the Security Council meeting.
“I want to bring the council’s attention to the fact that just a few hours ago the Armenian prime minister refuted these accusations, publicly admitting that there is no direct threat to civilians in Karabakh,” said Bayramov.
A senior aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev likewise pointed to Pashinyan’s statement when he tweeted: “The unverified and unserious statements by the European Union, France and Germany are incomprehensible.”
Pashinyan on Friday stood by his claim strongly condemned by his political opponents. His press secretary, Nazeli Baghdasarian, denied any contradiction between the claim and Mirzoyan’s UN speech.
Two retired Armenian diplomats hit out at Pashinyan, portraying his remarks as further proof of his chaotic and incompetent rule.