YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan suggested on Wednesday that Russian peacekeeping forces will likely remain in Nagorno-Karabakh for more than five years envisioned by a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war on November 10.
The nearly 2,000 Russian soldiers are deployed along the current Karabakh “line of contact” and a road connecting the enclave to Armenia. The ceasefire agreement says that the peacekeeping operation can be repeatedly extended by five more years if Armenia and Azerbaijan do not object to that.
“Guarantees of security and stability in the region have to be created during the five-year period. But the Karabakh conflict is a prolonged one, so I do not believe that the presence of Russian peacekeepers will be confined to one five-year period,” Pashinyan told the Russian TASS news agency in an interview.
“The five-year period is the beginning of a process and … the possibility of its automatic extension is envisaged,” he said. “The main thing at the moment is to ensure stability in Nagorno-Karabakh and the security of Nagorno-Karabakh’s citizens, and I think and hope that the Russian peacekeepers will manage to accomplish this mission.”
The truce accord, which formalized significant territorial gains made by Azerbaijan during the six-week war, says nothing about Karabakh’s future status, the main bone of contention. This is expected to be a key focus of Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations which Russia, France and the United States hope will resume soon.
Pashinyan made clear that Armenia’s position on Karabakh’s international recognition has not changed after the war. Successive Armenian governments have maintained that the Karabakh’s Armenian population should be able to fully exercise its right to self-determination.
By contrast, Azerbaijan insists on a full restoration of its control over Karabakh. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said earlier this month that Baku will not even agree to grant Karabakh an autonomous status.
Aliyev’s foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, praised Russian mediation efforts in an interview with the French weekly Le Point published on Wednesday. Bayramov also emphasized the fact that the Russian peacekeepers were deployed to Karabakh with Baku’s consent.