The opposition forces in Armenia’s parliament on Wednesday questioned Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s response to the latest announcement emanating from Baku, especially the insistence by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan that without a land “corridor” through Armenia to Nakhichevan he will not open his country’s border with Azerbaijan.
Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, Pashinyan reiterated that Aliyev’s remarks aimed to derail the peace process, but when asked by an opposition lawmaker about his government’s peace agenda, the prime minister said that Yerevan will continue to pursue it.
Pashinyan said Armenia announced the peace agenda not appease Azerbaijan, but rather based on Yerevan’s conviction for the need for peace in the region, “of course, with the understanding that peace is not a one-sided process.”
“We have not given up on the peace agenda, we are not giving up and we will not give up. This is a very important fact, because this is our political vision, and we will continue,” said Pashinyan.
He explained that if, for example, Azerbaijan retreats from the peace agenda that should not imply that Armenia should also retreat from it.
“On the contrary, perhaps we need to emphasize more, substantiate more deeply and argue more,” the prime minister said.
The prime minister was accused by opposition lawmakers of conceding to Azerbaijan and not responding more firmly to Aliyev’s demands, thus endangering Armenia’s legitimacy.
Pashinyan retorted that legitimacy is the political and diplomatic defense strategy of Armenia.
“Legitimacy is and will remain the strategy of our political and diplomatic defense,” said Pashinyan saying that most important aspect of his government’s plan was to ensure the security of Armenia’s legitimate borders.
He also said that his government would consider providing Azerbaijan a land access to Nakhichevan, if such an access was in line with the sovereign laws of Armenia, bringing the example of an agreement between Azerbaijan and Iran, which governs that Azerbaijanis that pass through Iranian territory are subject to that country’s transport and other laws.
“I share the concerns you raised. Moreover, I hope that the purpose of the statements coming from Baku is not to bring the peace process to a dead end. I myself have noted that Armenia and Azerbaijan speak different diplomatic languages. Our task is to align the diplomatic languages of both Armenia and Azerbaijan with legitimacy,” Pashinyan said.
“Since 1991, Azerbaijan has never been ready to concede, not even for a second,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said this during Wednesday’s question-and-answer session in the National Assembly, addressing the accusations from the opposition lawmaker Anna Grigoryan regarding concessions.
“He said, ‘Do you want me to give the highest autonomy (to the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh)?’ Within the framework of the Madrid principles, an agreement was reached that this autonomy will be Armenian-Azerbaijani autonomy,” Pashinyan explained.
“Armenia is ready to grant passage under the same conditions as Iran. If the passage through the territory of Armenia is 47 kilometers, it is 49 kilometers through the territory of Iran. If inspection functions can be accepted for 49 kilometers, naturally they cannot be unacceptable for 47 kilometers,’’ Pashinyan explained.
Pashinyan had made similar suggestions during a meeting with his Civil Contract party on Saturday, when he also called for signing an arms control agreement with Azerbaijan, in response to Aliyev’s insistence on a land “corridor” through Armenia.
Pashinyan on Saturday accused Azerbaijan of effectively laying claim to Armenian territory and dealing a “serious blow to the peace process.” He also complained that Aliyev has rejected a mutual withdrawal of Armenian and Azerbaijani troops from the border and other confidence-building measures proposed by him earlier.
“I can make another proposal: let’s sign a treaty on arms control so that Armenia and Azerbaijan reach concrete agreements on weapons and are able to verify the implementation of that agreement,” he told members of his Civil Contract party on Saturday.
Artur Khachatryan, a senior member of the main opposition Hayastan Alliance, scoffed at Pashinyan’s remarks on Wednesday, saying that the prime minister simply wants to make Armenians believe that his conciliatory policy on the conflict with Azerbaijan has not been an utter failure.
“Azerbaijan has never accepted any proposal made by Pashinyan,” Khachatryan told Azatutyun.am’s Armenian Service. “It’s illogical to assume that he will agree to formally limit his arsenal of weapons.”
“Just a few months ago, he [Aliyev] bought $1.2 billion worth of new weapons from Israel,” Khachatryan said. “Will Aliyev now agree to let the defeated Pashinyan tell him how many tanks, drones, warplanes or assault rifles he should have? That’s a joke. Who is Pashinian kidding?”