YEREVAN — Armenia expects Russia to prevent Azerbaijan from starting another war for Nagorno-Karabakh, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Friday.
“We know that our strategic partner, our centuries-old friend and our brother Russia has all the capacity and the levers to prevent Azerbaijan from resorting to a provocation in both the short and long terms,” he told journalists. “And I can’t believe that Russia will not use those levers.”
Pashinian insisted in that regard that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will not act on his regular threats of a military solution to the Karabakh conflict in the absence of appropriate “geopolitical conditions.” “In any case, we must be prepared for defending our homeland at any moment,” he said.
“The war is not over. Only its first phase has ended,” Aliyev said during a military parade in Baku on June 26. He threatened military strikes against “strategic” Armenian targets.
Pashinian’s remarks were construed by Stepan Grigorian, a Yerevan-based analyst, as a “preventive” message addressed to Russia. “He is saying: ‘We know that you are influential, so warn them,’” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Another analyst, Hakob Badalian, claimed that the Russians could have prevented the April 2016 hostilities around Karabakh which nearly degenerated into an all-out war. He said Pashinian was therefore right to send the message to them.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and his recently appointed Armenian counterpart, Zohrab Mnatsakanian, met in Brussels last week in a bid to kick-start the Karabakh peace process. They began the talks in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
The mediators said afterwards that Mammadyarov and Mnatsakanian discussed “a range of possible confidence-building measures” in the conflict zone. “The Ministers agreed to meet again in the near future under the auspices of the Co-Chairs,” they added in a joint statement.
Pashinian on Friday questioned Baku’s commitment to a peaceful settlement that would involve mutual concessions by the warring sides. “When we get a message that Azerbaijan is ready for a compromise we will discuss that,” he said. “And we will discuss our limits of the compromise not at the government level but in a nationwide format, so to speak.”
“I can rule out a resolution of the Karabakh conflict that would be unacceptable to our people,” he added.
Pashinian again did not clarify his view on a framework peace accord that has been advanced by United States, Russia and France for more than a decade. It calls for a phased settlement that would start with the liberation of virtually all seven districts around Karabakh which were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces during the 1991-1994 war. In return, Karabakh’s predominantly ethnic Armenian population would eventually determine the territory’s internationally recognized status in a referendum.
Former President Serzh Sarkisian’s government said all along that this compromise peace formula is largely acceptable to Yerevan.