Episode 240 | Recorded: March 20, 2023
On Tuesday, Pashinyan held a 4.5 hour press-conference. He covered a range of topics from the 44 day war, to the potential so-called “peace treaty”, to Armenia’s relations with Russia, and more.
Regarding Pashinyan’s comments about Artsakh, he responded to a joint call by Artsakh’s parliamentary parties for Armenia to honor its own laws and not take illegal decisions to predetermine Artsakh’s fate. He said that Artsakh’s “Rights & Security” are “key goal” for his administration, but he declined to endorse the right for Artsakh to self-determination. In fact he said that through 30 years of negotiations, the so-called “international community” has always regarded Nagorno Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan.
Again, Pashinyan shirked responsibility for Artsakh’s “rights and security” upon the Russians, and said that it’s up to Artsakh to negotiate on its own behalf with Baku. Thus he washed his hands of it.
Speaking on democracy and corruption, Armenia has been on the receiving end of slight international criticism in various reports about human rights and democracy, including corruption. Pashinyan, as if it’s magic, seemed to wave away criticism of corruption and repeated the claim that there is no systemic corruption in Armenia.
Interestingly, on the same day as the press-conference, Aravot was to release an expose of corruption within the Civil Contract party of Armenia. They posted the trailer to their documentary and their Youtube page was immediately hacked.
As far as negotiations with Azerbaijan go, Pashinyan repeated several times that the current times of war are very turbulent. He talked about the difficulties in negotiating with Azerbaijan and its dishonest approach, and warned of the alarming likelihood of Azerbaijani attacks on Artsakh and Armenia.
Curiously, he put himself in a very illogical spot: He said he’s negotiating with a dishonest partner, and also said that a “peace treaty” would not guarantee peace, or even non-aggression!
Coming to relations with Russia, Pashinyan’s line was that, and his writers must have had a lot of fun with this: “Armenia is not leaving the CSTO, the CSTO is leaving Armenia”. Russian MFA spox Maria Zakharova laughed it off. Also, earlier in the week, Pashinyan called Putin to express concern about Azerbaijan’s aggressive movements.
Our take here is that after very seriously damaging its relations with Russia, Pashinyan & team are finding that their expectations are not being met by The West, the EU and the US, from the perspective of holding Azerbaijan accountable for weaseling out of just about every point of all agreements they’ve co-signed since 2020.
Azerbaijan has not returned Armenian POWs, they have not stayed on the Nov. 2020 line of contact, they’ve invaded Armenia proper, they murder Armenian civilians, today is the 99th day of the Artsakh Blockade, which was bindingly ruled by the Hague to be illegal and must be removed, and yet there’s almost no effort to make Azerbaijan do anything except demand more. If anything, the US has said that no sanctions are being considered against Azerbaijan, and the EU has said through its multiple diplomats that they can not “save” Armenia from Azeri aggression.
So we’re deducing that Pashinyan is now trying to mend its relations with Moscow because otherwise, if and when Azerbaijan attacks, in the absence of any real investment and rearming of the Armenian armed forces, there is no alternative to the Russians.
While Pashinyan was busy selling his “agenda of peace” to Armenians, Aliyev was busy clarifying his further designs.
Aliyev continued with explicit claims on what he calls “West Zangezur”, which is basically Syunik and parts of Gegharkunik.
He ruled out any “international format” in negotiations with authorities of Artsakh, and invited them to Baku to discuss “integrations into Azerbaijan”.
Aliyev also said that “for Armenia to live peacefully on the territory of [its] 29,000 square kilometers, there is one condition: they need to accept our conditions, officially recognize Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan, carry out delimitation work based on our conditions."
This seems to be a direct response to Pashinyan’s question posed on September 14, 2022, where Pashinyan said that he wants to sign any agreement which would ensure that Armenians could live in peace on 29,800 sq. km.
Taguhi Tovmasyan, the head of the Armenian parliament’s Human rights committee, warns of a build-up of Azerbaijani troops as reported to her by citizens and her contacts, all across the border with Artsakh, Gegharkunik and Tavush.
And lastly, just today, Azerbaijani press carried reports of a shootout near the border with Nerqin Hand (which is surrounded on three sides) and haqqin.az, one of the main propaganda channels, ran a ridiculous editorial saying that Armenia is starting a new war. The Armenian side denied the allegations of a shootout.
When it comes to war, we can’t take anything lightly or for granted. And of course, for Azerbaijani press, it would be surprising not to see an unfounded accusation from government sources and instances of disinformation, or manipulations on a daily level. But this recent level of propaganda seems out of control, even when compared with its past levels of ridiculous falsehoods.
And today Ararat Mirzoyan made an official visit to Moscow to meet his counterpart Sergey Lavrov. If this was not an ad-hoc meeting, then it seems to have been kept under wraps since it was only announced last week. If we remember, the last time Mirzoyan was scheduled to visit Moscow was December 22, for a trilateral meeting that included Azerbaijan, which Mirzoyan boycotted.
Overall, despite specific points, Lavrov’s tone and speech did not indicate any tensions during the discussions, which Lavrov said were comprehensive. The two foreign ministers even signed a package of deals.
As it was widely expected, and predicted openly in the media in the weeks prior, Hrachya Sargsyan, the Civil Contract mayor of Yerevan since December 2021, resigned. He said he will continue to support the Civil Contract party.
Since Hayk Marutyan’s ouster, it has been public knowledge that Pashinyan wants to install Tigran Avinyan as the mayor of Yerevan.
We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.
Tevan Poghosyan is president of the International Center for Human Development. Mr. Poghosyan was an MP in the National Assembly between 2012 and 2017 from the Heritage party. From 1997 to 1999 he served as the Nagorno-Karabakh Public Affairs Office Director in Washington, D.C.
Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.
Asbed is founder of Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.