This past week an unprecedented meeting took place in the capital city of Artsakh Republic, Stepanakert. The National Security Councils of the two Armenian Republics convened in a joint session with the participation of the leaders of Armenia and Artsakh and heads of security structures in both states. This session has followed the statement by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, which was meant to present a framework for negotiations before the expected meeting between the prime minister of Armenia Nigol Pashinyan and the president of Azerbajan Ilham Aliyev. The Minsk Group’s statement touched upon some principles including the return of territories around Artsakh to Azerbaijan’s control. The statement also contained a rejection of Armenia’s proposal to change the format of the negotiations, to bring back the representatives of the Artsakh Republic to the table.
Such an extraordinary meeting in the capital of Artsakh was meant to convey clear messages on many fronts and for different audiences. By seating next to each other on the head of the table, Prime Minister Pashinyan and Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan were telling the world community that Armenia and Artsakh are equal partners with whom they should negotiate separately, if they are looking for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Moreover, Pashinyan in his introductory written remarks explained in details, why he is not authorized to negotiate on behalf the people of Artsakh and why he does not have such a mandate. Without making a precondition, Armenia was telling the Minsk Group members, that whatever they may think about changing the format, still the return of Artsakh to the negotiating table is inevitable, and the issue should be resolved sooner or later.
The second clear message sent to the international community was, that the principles accepted by the previous Armenian governments in 2007 and beyond, could not meet the expectations of the present Armenian government. Pashinyan stressed that those principles need to be clarified in the definitions contained therein. In short, Yerevan rejects these principles as presented in the statement, due to the ambiguities they contain.
Pashinyan also sent a clear message to his detractors in Armenia itself, who accuse him of willingness to return Armenian land to Azerbaijan, which has become the mantra of the opposition since he came to power in a peaceful revolution. The principles proposed by the Minsk Group were adopted by them, when they were in power for twenty plus years. Also, Artsakh was removed from negotiating table because of an unwise decision of the former president Robert Kocharian, who at the time declared that he could negotiate on behalf of both Republics.
Yerevan has inherited the Minsk Group principles from the old regime, but in Stepanakert it was maid clear to everyone that for the New Armenia, everything must start from scratch.