The Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinián, assured this Monday that his government is willing to recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno Karabagh in exchange for security guarantees for the Armenians living in this enclave, a focus of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This recognition is proposed as a way to reach a definitive peace treaty between the two countries that puts an end to the successive wars that have been waged in the last three and a half decades, and which have caused more than 30,000 deaths in this area of the Caucasus.
“Armenia is ready to recognize the territorial integrity of the 86,600 square kilometers of Azerbaijan. […] Those 86,600 square kilometers include Nagorno Karabakh,” Pashinián said during a press conference on Monday in statements collected by the Armenpress agency. “And we understand that Azerbaijan is ready to recognize the territorial integrity of the 29,800 square kilometers of Armenia,” he went on to add.
However, Pashinyan stressed that the pact must include the protection of the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh and that this must be negotiated “directly” between the de facto government in Stepanakert (the capital of the enclave) and that of Azerbaijan, although with “international guarantees”. ”. Baku maintains that what it does in Nagorno Karabakh is a matter of internal politics, since it is an internationally recognized territory as Azerbaijani: “The Armenians living in Karabakh have to either accept Azerbaijani nationality, or find another place where live,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev warned last month.
Without these guarantees, the Armenian president said on Monday, the issue “will fall into oblivion” and “Azerbaijan will continue with its policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.” In fact, the Armenians in the enclave have been denouncing for months that the Azerbaijani government is trying to provoke their forced emigration by imposing a blockade on the area and establishing their own access checkpoints in contravention of the agreements reached in recent years.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Monday. KAREN MINASYAN (AFP)
In his appearance this Monday, Pashinián reiterated that the basis for the delimitation of the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan must be a 1975 map of the Soviet military command, something that Moscow also supports and that has been discussed in peace talks under mediation. european.
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In fact, several decades later and thousands of deaths, the conflict between the two countries seems to have returned to the starting point. In the late 1980s, spurred by the open atmosphere advocated by the Soviet authorities from Moscow, the Armenians of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast—part of the Azerbaijan SSR—began to demand its annexation to the neighboring Azerbaijan SSR. Armenia. According to Soviet censuses, Armenians represented 75% of the oblast’s population, compared to just over 20% of Azerbaijanis. Ethnic tensions rose until, with the collapse of the USSR, the confrontation turned into open warfare between the newly independent states of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia won, which also occupied the surrounding Azerbaijani provinces, from which it expelled the Azeri population.
In 2020, enriched after years of hydrocarbons boom and without the successive rounds of negotiations having produced results, Azerbaijan unleashed a new war, which ended, this time, with the Armenian defeat and its withdrawal from all Karabakh territory. According to the ceasefire agreement reached with the mediation of Moscow, an enclave smaller than the former Soviet oblast was reserved for the local Armenian population (about 100,000 people) under the supervision of Russian peacekeepers.
Since then, the Pashinyan government has been trying to negotiate a definitive peace agreement that guarantees the survival of the Republic of Armenia, whose borders both to the east (Azerbaijan) and to the west (Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan) remain blocked. But the conflict around Nagorno Karabagh – with the blockade imposed at the end of last year – and the continuous skirmishes on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan – including the military occupation of mountains and strips of Armenian territory by the Azerbaijani military – make it difficult to achievement of a treaty.
The most nationalist Armenian sectors accuse Pashinyan of humiliating himself before Baku and of selling out the Armenians of Nagorno Karabagh. They give as an example that the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, grown by the 2020 military victory, has put one condition after another as Armenia bowed to his demands. In fact, in March, Aliyev linked the guarantees that the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh may eventually receive to the fact that Armenia treats the nearly 200,000 Azeris expelled from Armenia in the same way at the end of the 1980s. However, he made no mention of the 300,000 Armenians expelled from Azerbaijan at the same time, in many cases after horrible pogroms like those in Sumgait or Kirovabad (present-day Ganya).
Despite the difficulties, Russia and the European Union — each on their own — are trying to diplomatically broker a deal. In fact, Pashinyan and Aliyev will meet in Moscow on Thursday and, a day later, their foreign ministers will meet to negotiate in the Russian capital. This appointment comes after the leaders of both countries met in Brussels on May 14 and reiterated their “unequivocal commitment” to respect the territorial integrity of both States. They also plan to negotiate on June 1, this time in Moldova, at a summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
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