Pashinyan says Armenia ready to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan

By Mark Dovich

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Monday he is prepared to recognize that Azerbaijan’s territory includes Nagorno-Karabakh, provided that guarantees are made for the rights and security of the region’s Armenians.

It is the clearest signal Pashinyan has given yet that his administration is willing to recognize Azerbaijan’s claims to Nagorno-Karabakh as part of a peace deal between the two countries.

“Armenia recognizes Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity of 86,600 square kilometers, assuming that Azerbaijan recognizes Armenia’s territorial integrity as 29,800 square kilometers,” Pashinyan told reporters at a press conference, adding that “86,600 square kilometers also includes Nagorno-Karabakh.”

He reiterated his position that direct talks between Stepanakert and Baku, supported by “international guarantees,” are needed to ensure the “rights and security” of Nagorno-Karabakh’s roughly 120,000 Armenians.

Otherwise, Pashinyan warned, “Azerbaijan will continue its policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians through the use of force.”

In a joint statement last week, Nagorno-Karabakh’s main political parties, together with Armenia’s leading opposition parties, preemptively rejected any peace deal that would see Azerbaijan take control of Nagorno-Karabakh as “devoid of any legal basis.”

The Armenian prime minister “does not have any authority to make such agreements,” they said.

Still, Pashinyan characterized ongoing peace talks with Azerbaijan as “intensive,” noting that “we hope to reach an agreement on the text as soon as possible and sign it,” without giving any concrete timeline.

Pashinyan is set to meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Thursday for their latest round of negotiations.

The meeting comes amid an uptick in diplomacy in the region, though high-level peace talks earlier this month in Washington and Brussels ended without any discernible progress. Pashinyan and Aliyev are also planning to meet next week in the Moldovan capital of Chișinău.

Decades of internationally mediated talks spearheaded by the Minsk Group, a body co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States, have failed to reach a diplomatic solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Minsk Group’s work has largely been frozen since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine early last year, prompting the European Union to take on a more active mediating role, alongside Russia and the United States.

Moscow has responded angrily to the increased role played by Brussels and Washington in the region, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accusing the United States last week of working to “kick the Russians out” of Armenia.

Pashinyan hit back directly at those comments Monday, telling reporters “we are not receiving any signals from the West to break off relations with Russia or to oust Russia.”

At the same time, he refused to rule out the possibility that Armenia may leave the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led military bloc, and condemned Russia for failing to ensure freedom of movement along the Lachin corridor.

In December, self-styled Azerbaijani environmental activists set up a roadblock on the Lachin corridor, the sole overland route linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, cutting the region off from the outside world.
Then last month, Azerbaijani border guards moved to set up a checkpoint on a different section of the road, in effect formalizing the blockade, now past its 160th day. It has led to severe shortages of energy, food, medicine, and other essentials across Nagorno-Karabakh.

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