BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
For the past several days the issue of Armenia’s borders and a need for their clarification—or demarcation—has become a point of discussion. On Tuesday, President Armen Sarkissian asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, “to assist in completing the demarcation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan in order to rule out further tensions and negative developments.”
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan told Parliament that Armenia and Azerbaijan will hold negotiations in the coming weeks—mediated by Russia—to settle the border between the two countries. Avinyan’s made this startling announcement in response to lawmaker questions about the viability of the border in the Syunik Province.
This uncertainty emanates from the November 9 agreement signed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to end the Karabakh war. However, the agreement—the nightmare that keeps on taking—was so vague in its provisions that every day Armenians are waking up to new challenges and to prospects of further losses.
Last week, residents of the Tegh village in Syunik Province found themselves in the awkward—and potentially dangerous—position of negotiating with newly installed Azerbaijani border guards and armed units on the other side of the border, with no official instruction from the government, which sent soldiers of the Armed Forces to monitor the border and fortify the situation.
In his statements to parliament on Wednesday, Avinyan said Armenia has not ceded territory to Azerbaijan. But a proposed meeting with Azerbaijanis on the border demarcation issues raises the questions. According to Avinyan Armenian HAS not ceded territory, but will it?
He said the government is now preparing legal documents regarding the entire length of the border for the upcoming negotiations with Azerbaijan that will likely take place this year under Russian mediation.
“As of this moment I can say that the legal border, as such, between the Republic of Armenia and Azerbaijan has not been finally set [or demarcated],” said Avinyan, without elaborating more on when the border with Azerbaijan became a matter to be negotiated.
He said the government has put together legal documents and maps, which will serve as the basis of these Armenia-Azerbaijan talks.
Avinyan also discussed the issue of the Tegh village, saying while Armenian Armed Forces have been deployed to the areas, a final determination of their positions will be made after these talks, which he said will take place in the coming weeks.
“I want to assure you that from our side of the border of Armenia, nothing was ceded and nothing can be ceded. Nevertheless, I’d like to clarify that the legal border, as such, should be adopted by both sides in the form of a final document as result of negotiations,” he said.
The November 9 agreement does not address the issue of border demarcations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
However, there is that thorny ninth and final point, which calls for all economic and transport links in the region to be unblocked, adding that “the Republic of Armenia shall guarantee the safety of transport links between western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with a view to organizing the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and cargo in both directions.”
“Subject to agreement by the Parties, the construction of new infrastructure linking the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with regions of Azerbaijan shall be carried out,” adds the agreement.
Turkey has already announced plans to build a railway from Kars to Nakhichevan, while Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has called for the construction of a highway liking its “western region” to Nakhichevan.
Furthermore, Aliyev said last month that after all the assessments are done, his government plans to make Armenia pay for what he called “30 years of destruction,” saying Baku will appeal to international judicial bodies to retrieve damages, which he assessed at $50 billion.
Turkish media reports are insisting that Armenia must pay $50 billion as compensation to Azerbaijan or surrender Zangezur—Syunik—in southern Armenia.
Some may criticize this writer for citing Turkish media sources. Well, the same media sources confirmed Ankara’s direct involvement in the drafting of the November 9 agreement (true), as well as Turkey preparing to send its armed forces to Azerbaijan in a base no far from what was once the Artsakh border.
So, frankly, the answer to the question posed in the headline is: We don’t know!