Staunton, Dec. 24 – In a Facebook post, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says he has never agreed with former Armenian presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, both of whom had close ties with Karabakh that that region must “never be part of Azerbaijan and must be only Armenian in population.”
This is the clearest declaration yet that Pashinyan is prepared to accept certain realities that his predecessors and that much of the Armenian population did not and do not. But for that reason, it is especially important to note precisely what he said – and equally what he did not say (vestikavkaza.ru/articles/pasinan-sovet-bezopasnosti-priznal-karabah-territoriej-azerbajdzana.html).
Pashinyan said that the UN Security Council has made clear that Karabakh is “an inalienable part of Azerbaijan,” something that makes it difficult for anyone including an Armenian to insist on something else. But at the same time, he noted that the OSCE Minsk Group has been talking about its final status, something that would imply that the UN finding is not the end of the story.
And the Armenian prime minister said that before 1991, Karabakh had had many ethnic Azerbaijani residents, although they were a minority in the autonomy, and he added that they should participate in any decision-making, including apparently a possible referendum, on what they would like to see in the future.
On the one hand, Pashinyan is simply recognizing reality: Karabakh had both Armenian and Azerbaijani residents and would have more Azerbaijanis if the peace declarations are realized and they are able to return to their homes from which many fled during the fighting in the early 1990s.
But on the other, in his latest statement, Pashinyan is strongly implying that the residents of Karabakh should have the last word about their future. In that event, the region which has long had an Armenian majority would likely vote for a settlement that would require far more concessions from Baku than Baku is likely to make.
In short, the Armenian leader has advanced another negotiating position, one that includes both genuine concessions and ideas that only appear to be such. As a result, his words on this occasion can be welcomed as a possible opening to an agreement; but they also highlight just how far apart even Pashinyan is from the leadership in Azerbaijan.