‘Risk of new aggression by Azerbaijan remains very high,’ Pashinyan warns at UN

By Mark Dovich

Azerbaijan’s “official narrative and other sources of information suggest that Azerbaijan intends to occupy more territories of Armenia, which needs to be prevented. I want to stress that the risk of new aggression by Azerbaijan remains very high,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a major address Thursday at this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement the same day that “the Armenian military-political leadership bears the entire responsibility for the next escalation on the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border.”

In his speech, Pashinyan referred to last week’s unprecedented attacks by Azerbaijan on broad swaths of eastern and southern Armenia as “unprovoked and unjustified military aggression” and “a direct, undeniable attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Armenia.”

“This was not a border clash,” he stressed.

Pashnyan accused Azerbaijani forces of “deliberately targeting (Armenia’s) civilian population and vital civilian infrastructure” and noted “there is evidence of cases of torture, mutilation of captured or killed servicemen, numerous instances of extrajudicial killings, ill treatment of Armenian prisoners of war, and degrading treatment of bodies.”

These are “gruesome war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he told the General Assembly, adding that they are “a direct result of the (Azerbaijani) political leadership’s decadeslong policy of sowing anti-Armenian hatred and animosity in Azerbaijani society.”

Despite last week’s unprecedented assault by Azerbaijani forces on three dozen municipalities in Armenia proper, Pashinyan said he remains “determined to build peace in our region” and “believes in the possibility of establishing long-term stability, security, and peace” in the South Caucasus.

He repeatedly accused Azerbaijan of dragging its feet and hampering ongoing normalization efforts in order to make territorial claims against Armenia, even while “trying to pose as a country seeking peace.” Azerbaijan’s failure to repatriate all Armenian prisoners of war and detainees held in the country is “reprehensible,” he said.

Armenia remains ready to reach an agreement with Azerbaijan for mutual recognition of territorial integrity, delimit the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, and open regional transport connections, Pashinyan stressed, while reiterating that his administration has no intention to provide an “extraterritorial corridor” to connect mainland Azerbaijan with the Nakhichevan exclave.

In addition, Pashinyan argued that reaching a “comprehensive settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where the rights and security of the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh are addressed and guaranteed” must serve as “one of the crucial factors of regional stability.”

“We are determined to defend our democracy, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity by all means. I want to underscore that diplomatic solutions are an absolute priority for us, and the full engagement and support of the international community is crucial,” Pashinyan concluded.

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