MOSCOW: Armenia is ready to recognise the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave as part of Azerbaijan if Baku guarantees the security of its ethnic Armenian population, the Russian state news agency TASS and the Russian news outlet Ostorozhno, Novosti quoted Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as saying on Monday.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been a source of conflict between the two Caucasus neighbours since the years leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and between ethnic Armenians and Turkic Azeris for well over a century.
In 2020, Azerbaijan seized control of areas that had been controlled by ethnic Armenians in and around the mountain enclave, and since then it has periodically closed the only access road linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, on which the enclave relies for financial and military support.
The 86,600 sq km of Azerbaijan’s territory includes Nagorno-Karabakh, Pashinyan told a news conference, according to Ostorozhno, Novosti (Caution, News).
“If we understand each other correctly, then Armenia recognises the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within the named limits, and Baku — the territorial integrity of Armenia at 29,800 sq km.”
The outlet quoted him as saying he was prepared to do this — in effect accept Azerbaijan’s internationally recognised borders — if the rights of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh were guaranteed. He said the issue should be discussed in talks between the two countries.
“Armenia remains committed to the peace agenda in the region. And we hope that in the near future, we will come to an agreement on the text of the peace treaty and be able to sign it,” he said, according to TASS.
‘Not ruling out’
On Monday, Pashinyan said that his country could withdraw from Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), in a fresh show of discontent over the lack of support from its ally Russia.
Yerevan has grown increasingly frustrated over what it calls Russia’s failure to protect Armenia in the face of military threats from Azerbaijan.
“I am not ruling out that Armenia will take a decision to withdraw from the CSTO,” if the bloc fails to respect its treaty obligations, he told a news conference in Yerevan.
Pashinyan’s remarks came ahead of the talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to be hosted by the Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Moscow.
Locked in a decades-long territorial conflict, the Caucasus neighbours have been seeking to negotiate a peace agreement with the help of the European Union and United States.
The West’s diplomatic engagement in the Caucasus has irked traditional regional power broker Russia.
“We began discussing security issues with our Western partners because we see that the security system in the region is not working,” Pashinyan said.
Yerevan’s concerns have grown after Azerbaijani activists blocked in December Karabakh’s only land link to Armenia. In April, Azerbaijan set up a checkpoint manned by border guards along the route.
Last year, Yerevan also accused Azerbaijan of occupying a pocket of its land, in what it has said amounted to military aggression and demanded military help from the CSTO, which has never materialised.
With Russia bogged down in Ukraine and unwilling to strain ties with Azerbaijan’s key ally Turkiye, the United States and European Union have sought to repair ties between the Caucasus rivals.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2023