Official Yerevan on Tuesday seemed to reassure Azerbaijan when it announced that it would withdraw all Armenian troops from Artsakh by September.
Armenia’s National Security Chief Armen Grigoryan told Armenpress in an interview on Tuesday that soldiers from Armenia will not longer be deployed to serve in Artsakh military, which he said would do its own call to service in Artsakh.
This announcement comes days after President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan complained about the presence of Armenian armed forces personnel in Artsakh, accusing Armenia of violating the provisions of the November 9, 2020 agreement.
According to Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry, this issue was brought up Saturday when the top diplomats of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov met in Tbilisi. According to Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry Bayramov called for the implementation of all agreement and especially emphasized “the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijani territory.”
The Armenia foreign ministry’s readout of the same meeting did not contain that point, yet referred to Mirzoyan’s insistence that a comprehensive settlement of the Karabakh conflict be ironed out before any discussion of a peace deal with Azerbaijan.
“Let me clarify. Because of the war, a number of units of the Armed Forces of Armenia entered Nagorno-Karabakh to help the Defense Army. After the establishment of the ceasefire they are returning to the Republic of Armenia. This process is nearing completion and will end in September,” said Grigoryan, Armenia’s National Security Chief, who reassured that the Artsakh Defense Army “has been and continues to be in Nagorno Karabakh.”
Grigoryan also emphasized that that contract soldiers from Armenia are and will not be deployed to Artsakh, adding that the Artsakh authorities will hire contract soldiers on an as needed basis.
Armenia’s security chief countered criticism that Yerevan was kowtowing to Baku and essentially leaving Artsakh defenseless by saying that after the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces, the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Artsakh “is logical.” He explained that prior to the war, Artsakh’s Defense Army defended that country’s security. “And nothing is being changed to that end,” said Grigoryan.
Before the war, soldiers conscripted to Armenia’s Armed Forces did serve in Artsakh. In fact, upon coming to power in Armenia, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan boasted on his son serving in Artsakh and took several trips there to “visit” his son and take ample photos to show the public that his son was not evading military service.
Grigoryan said the the Russian peacekeeping forces were deployed to provide security guarantees.
In late March, Azerbaijani forces breached the line-of-contact in Artsakh and invaded the village of Parukh in Artsakh’s Askeran region, advancing their forces to the strategic Karaglukh heights. Azerbaijani forces still remain in the breached area, according to Artsakh authorities, despite the fact that the line-of-contact and that area was under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
“The events in Parukh were a gross violation of the November 9 2020 trilateral statement and applicable international law,” Grigoryan told Armenpress. “The Azerbaijani Armed Forces invaded the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno Karabakh.”
He said Russia had assured Yerevan that “the invading Azerbaijani forces must withdraw, and we hope that the Russian peacekeeping forces will ensure the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani units that have illegally invaded into the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno Karabakh.”
“The presence of the Russian peacekeeping forces in itself shows Russia’s accepting the fact that there is a real existential threat for the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and the peacekeeping forces have a key significance in guaranteeing the security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Grigoryan told Armenpress.