Harut Sassounian: Pashinyan’s surrender of Artsakh to Azerbaijan is null and void

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has hinted repeatedly since the 2020 Artsakh War that Artsakh is a part of Azerbaijan. This has been his position for years. As a journalist, long before coming to power, he thought that Artsakh is a burden on Armenia.

 Pashinyan told the Armenian Parliament in April 2022 that the international community urged Armenia to lower the bar on the status of Artsakh. Earlier this year, a Parliament member of Pashinyan’s party made the following defeatist statement: we cannot risk three million Armenians for 120,000 people in Artsakh.

On May 14, 2023, European Council President Charles Michel announced, after meeting with Pashinyan and Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan in Brussels, that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan “confirmed their unequivocal commitment to … the respective territorial integrity of Armenia (29,800 square kilometers) and Azerbaijan (86,600 square kilometers).”

Finally, during his 4.5-hour-long rambling press conference in Yerevan on May 22, 2023, Pashinyan clearly confirmed that his recognition of the territory of Azerbaijan includes Artsakh. This is the same man who stood in front of the people of Artsakh in Stepanakert, the Capital of Artsakh, on August 5, 2019 and said: “Artsakh is Armenia, period!” He also led the crowd in chants of ‘miyatsoum’ or ‘unification.’ To make matters worse, Pashinyan also conceded that the enclaves (previously Azeri-inhabited villages located inside Armenia), are not included in his 29,800 square kilometers of Armenia.

After deciding to give away Artsakh, Pashinyan tried to explain that his recognition of the territory of Azerbaijan, which includes Artsakh, is with the understanding that Azerbaijan in return recognizes Armenia’s territory (29,800 square kilometers) and that the “rights and security issues of the people of Artsakh must be discussed by Baku and Stepanakert.”

There are several serious problems with Pashinyan’s statement:

1) Pashinyan is wrong to recognize Artsakh as a part of the territory of Azerbaijan. Artsakh was not historically a part of Azerbaijan. Whereas Artsakh has been a part of Armenia for thousands of years, Azerbaijan has been in existence for a little over 100 years. Pashinyan could have recognized the territory of Azerbaijan without acknowledging that it includes Artsakh.

2) While Pashinyan is recognizing the territory of Azerbaijan, Pres. Aliyev has never acknowledged Armenia’s territorial integrity. On the contrary, Aliyev repeatedly claims that all of Armenia is part of historic Western Azerbaijan!

3) To cover up his misguided recognition of Artsakh as a part of Azerbaijan, Pashinyan is misleading the Armenian public by saying that he wants to defend the ‘rights and security’ of Artsakh Armenians within Azerbaijan. In reality, Artsakh Armenians will not be able to live a single day under Azerbaijani rule. An example of how Azerbaijan treats Artsakh Armenians is the six-month blockade of the Lachin Corridor, depriving the local Armenian population of food and medicines. Once they fall under Azeri rule, their mistreatment will get much worse.

4) Pashinyan keeps dangling a carrot in front of Artsakh Armenians by saying that he is seeking ‘international guarantees’ to safeguard their well-being under Azeri rule. During his press conference, Pashinyan claimed that he is relying “not only on the pressures of the international community, but on constructive negotiations with Azerbaijan, and on Baku-Stepanakert institutional dialogue.” No international guarantees can safeguard the well-being of Artsakhtsis under Azerbaijan’s brutal rule. Aliyev will ignore all external pressures, since he frequently states: “no matter what the international community says, I will do what I want.”

5) Pashinyan is throwing Artsakhtsis to the wolf telling them to make their separate arrangements with Azerbaijan. He is washing his hands from the Artsakhtsis who are citizens of Armenia! Without any backing from Armenia, how can tiny Artsakh battle the Goliath Azerbaijan? If Armenia will not defend the rights of its own citizens in Artsakh, how can Pashinyan expect others to guarantee their security?

6) Pashinyan is not only violating the interests of Armenia and Artsakh, but also the earlier decision of Armenia’s Parliament. Legally, Pashinyan has no right to give away Artsakh to Azerbaijan. He does not own Artsakh. He also does not have the approval of the Parliament or the Constitutional Court.

7) While Pashinyan is recklessly risking the lives of Artsakh Armenians by planning to place them under Azerbaijani rule, he is ironically acknowledging that Azerbaijan is pursuing a policy of “ethnic cleansing and genocide” against the people of Artsakh.

8) Despite all the indications that he is playing with fire, Pashinyan is hell-bent on signing a peace treaty with a brutal enemy who intends to chop Armenians to pieces, not make peace.

9) Pashinyan’s concessions to Azerbaijan encouraged Pres. Aliyev, a week later, to make further demands and threaten both Armenia and Artsakh.

This is what happens when an inexperienced, incompetent and defeated person like Pashinyan leads a country and refuses to resign.

Pashinyan should know that whatever meaningless piece of paper he signs with Azerbaijan, giving away Artsakh and ‘making peace’ with Azerbaijan, the Armenian people consider his illegal decisions null and void and categorically reject them. As soon as a new nationalist government comes to power in Armenia, it will cancel and reverse on day one all of Pashinyan’s defeatist and anti-Armenian decisions.

This is not just my opinion. During the past week, several major Armenian institutions from Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora issued statements condemning Pashinyan’s unacceptable surrender of Artsakh. The list includes, the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, Armenian General Benevolent Union, all 33 members of Artsakh Parliament’s unanimous resolution, and dozens of other Armenian organizations!

Armenia’s population should form a common front against Pashinyan, have 100,000 or more Armenians gather in front of his office in Yerevan and demand his immediate resignation. Unless such a joint and massive show of force is organized, Pashinyan will remain in office until he destroys both Artsakh and Armenia!

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier