By Emilio Luciano Cricchio
During a campaign event in Armenia’s northern town of Berd on June 11, Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan referred to speculation that Armenia and Azerbaijan could return to Soviet era borders in future, and exchange enclaves.
“The Artsvashen enclave (is ours) but is under the rule of Azerbaijan. Our logic is that the (formerly Armenian) enclave should be exchanged for a (formerly Azerbaijani) enclaves,” Pashinyan stated.
After the collapse of the USSR, three Soviet Azerbaijani enclaves – Voskepar and Barkhudarly in Armenia’s northeast and Karki in the south – remained under the control of Armenia. Meanwhile, Soviet Armenia’s Artsvashen enclave came under Azerbaijani control.
Voskepar and Karki are of strategic importance for Armenia: vital interstate highways connecting Armenia with Georgia and Iran pass through these territories.
Pashinyan mentioned that during the negotiation stage in the run up to the November 9 ceasefire agreement, which ended the 2020 Karabakh war, there was concern over the topic of the enclaves.
According to the acting prime minister, the topic of enclaves has always been on the agenda of Armenia-Azerbaijan talks since 1999, and Azerbaijan has brought up the issue from time to time.
Pashinyan suggested that if Azerbaijani enclaves were to be given, they would have to be exchanged for Artsvashen, the formerly Armenian SSR controlled enclave.
He went on to say however that “What is under our control should remain under our control.”
On May 21, Pashinyan stated during an extraordinary parliamentary session that Armenia and Azerbaijan are beginning a process of border demarcation, after Azerbaijani forces committed incursions in Armenia’s Syunik and Gegharkunik regions on May 12-13.
Pashinyan went on to say that, “We can fix the existing situation by a state border,” implying that Azerbaijani enclaves inside Armenia remain in Armenia and Armenian enclaves inside Azerbaijan remain there. This would solve Armenia’s transportation issue to Georgia and Iran.
Armenia and Azerbaijan did not demarcate their borders after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. In Soviet times, these borders were internal and thus did not have to be defined.
On May 21, Armenia’s Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan said that a new Armenia-Azerbaijan-Russia trilateral working group will be created, which will finally determine the country’s borders. Grigoryan did not rule out a return to Soviet era borders, but stressed that everything will be resolved through negotiations.