Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Wednesday said that he had ordered the withdrawal of Armenian Armed Forces from Syunik back in December in order to avoid military actions.
This revelation comes months after he announced that he had ceded a 13-mile stretch of the Goris-Kapan Highway—located in Syunik—when Azerbaijani forces blocked the road to traffic and later began stopping commercial vehicles from Iran and imposing taxes on their drivers.
Pashinyan made the statement in parliament Wednesday, adding that his order for the troop withdrawal was so Armenia would retain control of the strategic road “at least for some time.”
Azerbaijani forces breached Armenia’s border into the Syunik Province in May and have advanced their positions there as well as in the Gegharkunik Province. While Pashinyan called for the immediate withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces from those areas as a pre-condition for discussions with Baku, he soon backed down and agreed to sit for talks without preconditions.
In asking Pashinyan about the December 18 decision to pull out the troops from Syunik, opposition Armenia faction lawmaker Ana Grigoryan probed Pashinyan about the circumstances of the pull-out, and posted out that surrendering Syunik was not part of the November 9 statement.
“With regards to Syunik, have I ever denied that I am the responsible person for that decision?” asked Pashinyan. “Whether the command was oral or written, everything was done according to procedures. Was there a discussion? Yes, there was, session of the Security Council was not held, but all members of the Security Council, Governor of Syunik participated. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said they were not aware, but the Deputy Minister also participated in the discussion, the discussion took place at the Government. And the decision was made in order to avoid war,’’ said Pashinyan matter of factly, as if the absence of a National Security Council meeting or the foreign minister’s knowledge did not matter.
“If the decision were not made, military operations would have started there. And in Syunik we would have had real problems,” added Pashinyan, saying that there were five or six discussions before the decision was made.
He mentioned that the decision was made with the logic that during the negotiations there was a perception that seven regions were to be surrendered.
”Those territories were handed over because they were part of the seven regions. Why are they part of the seven regions? Even if you don’t like it, it is registered by the Law on Administrative Territorial Division, it is not something new,” Pashinyan added in an attempt to justify his actions.
He, once again, lashed out at the opposition, saying if the opposition to state clearly whether they advocate for the removal of Armenia’s signature from the November 9 statement.
Pashinyan also discussed another contentious Armenian territory, this time the Paylasar region in the Syunik Province. Last week, community leaders in the area said that the entire region has come under the control of Azerbaijani forces.
The prime minister said there have been no changes in the positions of border guards in the Paylasar section and that Armenian border troops are on duty in the same positions where they were deployed since December 2020.
Pashinyan went on to advance his state position about the importance of opening regional transportation links, in an effort to achieve his so-called “regional peace” agenda.