Armenia’s Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan, who has become a loose cannon with his statements that often contradict official Yerevan, told reporters on Tuesday that the “Artsakh Issue” does not exist for Armenia.
He explained that by recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity that includes Baku’s sovereignty over Artsakh, that the self-determination for the people of Artsakh was no longer an issue for Armenia.
“We have already said this eight times in the last year or two. What else needs to be said?” the parliament speaker lashed out at reporters.
Simonyan’s comments came days before the 32nd anniversary of a referendum in Artsakh by which the declaration of independence was ratified by the majority of Artsakh citizens.
He said, currently, Armenia’s main objective is to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, emphasizing that the Artsakh issue was resolved in 2016, presumably referring to the Four-Day war in April of that year.
However, just last week, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safaryan said that the issue of the rights of Artsakh Armenians is “on the agenda” of Yerevan’s dealings with Baku and international mediators. This sentiment has also been expressed by Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, who has been pushing this matter in his diplomatic discussions with world leaders.
Simonyan said that Armenia is ready to sign a peace treaty based on international norms.
“The ball is now in Azerbaijan’s court. And if Azerbaijan declares at the presidential level that they are ready, the peace treaty is ready. The international partners who had a meeting with the president of Azerbaijan said, at the meeting with me, that he also said that 80 percent [of the peace treaty] is ready. If desired, the peace treaty can be signed within the next 15 days if the government of Azerbaijan really shows political will,” Simonyan declared.
Last month, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan insisted and claimed, during talks with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, that Armenia is occupying eight Azerbaijani villages and demanded their immediate return. This announcement sparked long-dormant issue of the so-called enclaves that exist within both republics since the 1990s.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan cautiously addressed that issue by bringing up the Artsvashen region of Armenia, which has been under Azerbaijani control since the 1990s. Foreign Minister Mirzoyan and other diplomats have not made Yerevan’s official position clear. They have only insisted that Azerbaijan also recognize Armenia’s territorial integrity.
Yet, Speaker Simonyan, on Tuesday declared that Armenia was ready to “return” any so-called enclaves to Azerbaijan.
“We [Armenia] are ready to return their [Azerbaijanis] enclaves, and they must return our Artsvashen. I do not rule out that we will find some solution and, for example, what is on this side of the border will stay here, what is on the other side of the border will stay there. For example, the area of Artsvashen is much larger than the two or three enclaves that Azerbaijan is talking about,” Simonyan told reporters.
“If there is peace, Armenia will be able to oversee and provide with its own forces those few small territories that can become an exclave from Armenia. Azerbaijan should do the same. We do everything in the logic of equality,” added Simonyan.
A time will come when Armenians and Azerbaijanis must live side by side, Simonyan said. “We hope for it and will do everything to that end.”
“Armenians and Azerbaijanis need to be able to conduct trade, I do not rule out that some [Armenian] people will return to their homes in the territory of Azerbaijan, I do not rule out that after some time Azerbaijanis will come and settle here,” Simonyan added.
When asked whether such a clause is included in the peace agreement being worked out with Azerbaijan, the speaker of the Armenian legislature responded that he had not come upon such a clause.