YEREVAN—Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pahsinyan said he is ready to sit down with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but said those negotiations would not be effective as long as one of the full parties to the conflict – the Republic of Artsakh – is not participating in the process.
Pashinyan made these remarks Thursday while presenting his government plan to the National Assembly, which approved it by a vote of 62 to 35.
The prime minister said that having Artsakh at the negotiating table was not something novel, but rather a fact that has been forgotten.
The fact that Artsakh is a full-fledged party to the talks was confirmed at the OSCE Budapest summit in 1994, the Prime Minister said, and reminded that negotiations were being conducted in that format up until 1998, after which representatives of Armenia took over negotiating on behalf of Nagorno Karabakh.
“Before coming to Armenia Robert Kocharian was the elected President of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, while Serzh Sarkisian was an organizer of Artsakh’s self-defense movement. Therefore, they could probably have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of Nagorno Karabakh, irrespective of how we see it. I cannot do the same. I cannot retain the right to hold negotiations on behalf of the people of Artsakh., because I have no legal, political or moral bases for it,” said Pashinyan.
“The people of Artsakh do not participate in elections in Armenia, do not participate in the formation of the authorities in Armenia. Instead, they have their own authorities, their own National Assembly, government and president and the people of Artsakh can only be represented by a legitimate representative,” he said.
He noted that every time the issue of Artsakh’s participation in the negotiations comes to the agenda, Azerbaijan insists that representatives of the so-called Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh should participate as a separate party.
“This a false argument, because the political status of Azerbaijanis who once lived in Nagorno-Karabakh has not changed as a result of the conflict. Both before and after the conflict they remain citizens of Azerbaijan, and continue to participate in elections taking place in Azerbaijan, including the presidential elections. This means the President of Azerbaijan participates in the negotiations on the basis of a mandate granted by those people, i.e. they are already involved in the negotiations in the face of the incumbent President,” explained Pashinyan.
The Prime Minister reiterated his government’s readiness to negotiate with Aliyev within the framework of the OSCE Misnk Group co-chair, but feels obliged to do his best to raise the effectiveness of the talks “if we are negotiating to reach a solution rather than for the sake of negotiating.”
Pashinyan stressed the importance of implementing past agreements, because, he said, it will be inconvenient to negotiate new agreements, if the previous ones have not been fulfilled.
Nevertheless, he said “we’ll stick to a constructive approach in the negotiation process on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, thus contributing to the reinforcement of stability and security in the region and the world.”
He stressed that there is no military solution to the Karabakh conflict, but underlined that any military action on the part of Azerbaijan will face a “crushing” response of the Armenian Armed Forces and the entire nation.