Since the signing of the “end of war” agreement by Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, opposition forces in Armenia, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, have been staging protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for signing the humiliating document that, among other provisions, surrenders Artsakh territory to Azerbaijan, including Shushi.
In its part, the ARF Western U.S. Central Committee issued a strongly-worded statement on Thursday reiterating the call for Pashinyan’s resignation. At the same time, a delegation of ARF leaders met with Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles on Thursday to express the party’s condemnation of the agreement and further drive the message that Pashinyan, who unilaterally signed the accord, must step down.
To provide analysis of the “end of war” agreement and to clarify the ARF’s position, Asbarez conducted an interview, via email, with Garo Madenlian, a member of the ARF Western U.S. Central Committee.
Below is the interview.
Asbarez: It is apparent by now that all Armenians everywhere are upset about the terms of the disastrous agreement signed by Pashinyan, but can you give us some of the specific issues?
Garo Madenlian: In addition to the 7 regions surrounding Artsakh that were at issue during settlement negotiations during the past two decades, this agreement also concedes the southern portions of Artsakh including Hadrut and up to and including Shushi. 2 of those 7 regions establish a new line of contact and border by which Armenia becomes extremely vulnerable to Azeri attacks. Further, it creates a transportation corridor across Armenia from Nakhichevan to Azerbaijan not only allowing unfettered access to for Azerbaijanis but also connecting Turkey to Azerbaijan and via Azerbaijan to the rest of the Turkic peoples east of the Caspian. This is something Turkey and specifically Erdogan, has wanted since the fall of the Ottoman Empire to further its Pan-Turanist agenda. For Armenia, in addition to being surrounded by Turks who continue the policies of genocide, it essentially creates the opportunity for an Azeri-Turkish coalition to seal Armenia’s border with Iran creating a noose around Armenia’s neck they can tighten at any time.
Asbarez: Does this surrender agreement actually secure portions of Artsakh including Stepanakert, Askeran and Martuni, and allow for people to return to their homes?
G.M.: On paper it gives the impression of establishing temporary security but since the final status of Artsakh is not confirmed, all those regions can and most likely be placed under Azerbaijani control. In either case, if this catastrophic agreement is not reversed, it would be next to impossible to imagine the Armenian population return to their homes as they would have to trust peacekeepers to keep Azeri-Turkish forces and Syrian ISIS jihadist mercenaries at bay. They would be surrounded by enemies without Armenian soldiers to protect them. The road to and from Armenia and Stepanakert would also be controlled by those same peacekeepers but remain vulnerable to Azeri forces occupying Shushi. Shushi has always been the key to peace and stability in the region because of its strategic location high above Stepanakert from where, even without their Israeli and Turkish drones, the Azeris can launch large scale offensives and rain missiles on the civilian population of Stepanakert and elsewhere, as they did until Shushi was liberated. And we all know that the Azeris committed war crimes against civilians, churches, schools and hospitals with cluster bombs and missile strikes during this war, all of which is well-documented, and they are more than willing and able to continue doing so. The Prime Minister himself has stated the Azeri-Turkish governments are continuing the Armenian genocide and thus it is unimaginable that he would now suggest Armenians return under these conditions and face such risks.
Further complicating matters is that the agreement calls for a return of displaced persons which includes Azeris who claim to have up to 800,000 prepared to relocate, including to Shushi and the surrounding areas.
Asbarez: How do you view Pashinyan’s assertion that he saved the lives of 25,000 Armenian soldiers by agreeing to these difficult terms?
G.M.: First of all, we can’t rely on the accuracy of the number of soldiers he stated because during one live broadcast alone he announced three different totals, the highest of which was 25,000. In addition. He has a track record of misleading the public in general, and especially during this war when he and the spokespersons for the Ministry of Defense repeatedly stated that we were winning, and then abruptly surrendered Shushi and claimed we’ve been losing all this time. Or by calling for volunteer fighters without enforcing a draft, and then closing the road from Goris to Stepanakert well before he surrendered Shushi. Now, he may also be announcing various numbers to confuse the enemy, but he already signed the agreement capitulating to their terms and called for a military withdrawal. There were many more inconsistencies but a primary indicator of his priorities is his populist agenda to retain his office, which resembles an ad campaign, such as when he made a poster portraying himself as the central character victoriously leading the Armenian nation out of this war while our soldiers were actually fighting and dying on the front lines. We all wish his PR campaign was actually true and that he saved Artsakh, but sadly it was not, and he actually sold us out.
Of course, every Armenian life is precious for us but we are surrounded by enemies and have a military complete with soldiers who serve at great risk and peril to themselves for the purpose of defending our people and our borders.
Asbarez: What can be done to reverse this tragic agreement and to help with the situation?
G.M.: First of all, we must remain strong and united for Artsakh and Armenia, and do everything possible to reverse this agreement that all Armenians find disastrous and should condemn. We need to carry out a multi-pronged approach where Armenia needs to immediately resume talks with Russia which can still play a key role with its military presence and can take concrete steps on the ground to reset negotiations. An important factor to consider here is Azerbaijan’s difficulty reaching Shushi due to limited access because of its location, which also raises questions about Pashinyan’s quick surrender.
Armenia also needs to quickly initiate discussions with France and the United States in line with the ANCA and EAFJD efforts, both of whom have already started parallel campaigns in the U.S. and Europe, and we encourage everyone to join and participate via the action alerts.
All three OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries have their own interests in the region but can align with Armenia to create better terms to a cease fire agreement.
In order to do this and for the future of Artsakh and Armenia, Pashinyan must heed the calls for his resignation and allow for the immediate and peaceful transfer of power; a necessary step to restart negotiations. Only someone other than individual who agreed to give away everything to the Turks can undertake the process to undo this agreement or change its terms.
Of course, we have the humanitarian crisis with over 100,000 displaced persons, wounded soldiers and civilians, and families of our heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the Armenian homeland and people. We have an obligation and a duty to help them secure living arrangements, basic necessities, education, jobs, and medical care.
Asbarez: The ARF in Armenia along with other organizations have already called for Pashinyan’s resignation, is this something the ARF in the Western United States supports?
G.M.: Our announcement that was released yesterday makes it abundantly clear that the ARF Central Committee in the Western United States is in full agreement with the ARF in Armenia and completely supports its initiatives, especially in this regard. Pashinyan is the Prime Minister and commander in Chief of the armed forces and is ultimately responsible for this catastrophic failure, that some would call betrayal, and should be held accountable, without getting into all the other domestic problems and foreign policy issues he has created over the past 2 and ½ years. He entered into the agreement and cannot now restart negotiations by simply stating he changed his mind, nor has he shown any ability to communicate effectively with Moscow, or even France and the U.S.
This is not an endorsement of any of the past regimes who have all had their share of problems, and the calls for his resignation are not to further any internal political agenda, as all that was put aside for the war effort. This is simply to salvage an unimaginable and devastating problem created by the current regime.
Yes, we support ARF Armenia’s position whole heartedly and join in calling call for Pashinyan’s resignation, for the sake of our nation and in order to undo this disastrous agreement.
Let it be known that any Armenian who gives away our lands or puts Artsakh at risk is a traitor. Any Armenian who is complicit in this, or supports such treachery is also a traitor to the Armenian nation and will forever bring shame to their family’s name.
Asbarez: You mentioned that we must all remain united and stand strong with and for Artsakh and Armenia, doesn’t calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation create division instead of fostering unity?
G.M.: No. We are calling for a drastic measure to avoid an inescapable calamity created by the Prime Minister’s acquiescence to an untenable surrender agreement with the enemy.
The Armenian nation rose in defense of our people and our lands, united like never before, and fighting this war on all fronts in the Homeland and the Diaspora and should continue to do so together. We will continue this fight for Artsakh.
We are calling for unity, not merely for the sake of being united, but for our national goals based on our priorities, which today is Artsakh, and not for any single individual. Our call for unity remains engrained in our national agenda; the safety and security of Artsakh and its recognition by the international community, and any Armenian who dares cross this bright line would rightfully be deemed a traitor.
And in order to remain unified in this goal we cannot rally around the individual who misled the people then handed Artsakh, and probably Meghri, over to the enemy, and who currently arrests dissenters and attempts to silence critics instead of dealing with the humanitarian, political and military crisis while still looking for others to blame.
Based on the national agenda and priorities, all Armenians should be united in seeking to replace Armenia’s Prime Minister and overturn the agreement he entered into with the enemy.