A notion introduced by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who suggested to separate the Karabakh conflict settlement issue from the effort to normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, was revived on Friday when Armenia’s National Security chief Armen Grigoryan proposing that such an approach must be “actively discussed.”
“We have repeatedly said that the Karabakh issue is not a territorial issue for us. In that sense, the security and rights of Karabakh Armenians are fundamental for us,” Grigoryan told Armenpress in an interview published Friday. “In one of his speeches in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Pashinyan mentioned that there is an idea to separate the Nagorno-Karabakh issue from Armenia-Azerbaijan relations. We must now actively discuss that option and decide how to proceed.”
Grigoryan invoked the government’s stated “peace agenda” policy as a strategy, and claimed that an opportunity to normalize relations with Azerbaijan exists.
“That possibility becomes even more grounded when we consider that the Armenian government—the political majority—is taking responsibility for the implementation of the peace agenda, realizing that it is not an easy way. I think the commitment of the Armenian government and the political majority to the peace agenda is an important factor for the assessments coming from different international platforms,” Grigoryan told Armenpress.
Grigoryan’s interview is another sign of the government’s ongoing effort to distance itself from Artsakh, constantly invoking the November 9, 2020 agreement, which ended the military aggression but saw Armenian territorial concession to Azerbaijan. Earlier this month, the government announced that by September the Armenian Armed Forces would completely pull out from Artsakh.
The National Security chief was opaque when asked about the fate of Artsakh and its Armenian residents, saying that there was a possibility that a peace agreement would be signed with Azerbaijan, without a final status determination for Karabakh.
As for security guarantees for Artsakh Armenians, Grigoryan claimed that there were “international guarantees” in place to ensure the security of Artsakh residents, which he said “is the presence of the peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation. We need to work on the further improvement of that guarantee, but the demilitarization of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is an important idea.”
Grigoryan said that the government is following a roadmap to advance normalization of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations. That so-called roadmap includes the processes of delimitation of borders, as well as the opening of transit routes being ironed out by two separate commissions. He announced that the delimitation commission will hold another meeting in mid-August in Moscow.
However, he did acknowledge that Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of delaying the opening of the transit links, but added that Armenia has expressed its willingness to open regional communications.
When asked about whether the so-called peace treaty would include Armenia recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, Grigoryan said that in 1991 Armenia already passed legislation to that end.
“We have said many times that Armenia and Azerbaijan have recognized each other’s territorial integrity and inviolability of borders by the agreement on the formation of the CIS signed in 1991 and later ratified. And this is part of the legislation of both Armenia and Azerbaijan today. It should be expressed at the bilateral level as well. And as we said, there is nothing unacceptable for us in such a perspective, and Armenia, yes, has no territorial claims from Azerbaijan,” said Grigoryan.
He also touched on the humanitarian toll of the 2020 war saying that resolving those issues “is a necessary component of peace. Including issues of preservation of cultural heritage.”
“All those questions, of course, need to be addressed. By the way, in the last two years, Armenia has transferred 130 bodies of Azerbaijanis missing since the first Karabakh war to Azerbaijan. We are ready to cooperate actively on this issue as well and we expect the same from Azerbaijan. The Armenian side has more than 770 missing persons since the first Karabakh war. The number of our missing persons in the 44-day war is 203,” announced Grigoryan.
As for the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, Grigoryan reflected on the agreements reached on July 1 between the special envoys, who decided that the land border between the two countries would open to third country citizens and air cargo transportation will also commence.
“It is clear that we will remain committed to those agreements, especially given that Russia, the United States, France, Iran, Georgia, and the EU support the process of normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations,” said Grigoryan.