YEREVAN — The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova who claimed that the situation in the Lachin corridor is a consequence of the fact that referring to the Alma-Ata Declaration, in Prague, October 2022 Armenia recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.
The Armenian foreign ministry said that Zakharova’s comments cause “confusion and disappointment.”
Zakharova said on Wednesday that the blockade and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Karabakh are a “consequence of Armenia’s recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the territory of Azerbaijan.” She pointed to joint statements to that effect that were adopted by Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at their talks organized by the European Union in October 2022 and May 2023.
The statement issued as a result of the 2022 summit in Prague upheld a December 1991 declaration in which Armenia, Azerbaijan and other newly independent Soviet republics recognized each other’s Soviet-era borders.
In an extensive written response to Moscow, Zakharova’s Armenian opposite number, Ani Badalyan, insisted that “nothing new was decided at Prague” as Aliyev and Pashinyan simply reaffirmed their countries’ compliance with the Almaty Declaration.
Badalyan said Russia itself has “repeatedly recognized Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.” She also repeated Yerevan’s complains about the Russian peacekeepers’ failure to stop Azerbaijan from blocking traffic through the Lachin corridor
Pashinyan likewise hit out at the peacekeepers as he opened a weekly session of his cabinet in Yerevan on Thursday. He said that Azerbaijan is continuing its “genocidal policy” against Karabakh’s population “in the presence of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.”
The bitter recriminations underscore Russia’s deepening rift with Armenia resulting in large measure from lack of Russian support in the conflict with Azerbaijan.
Badalyan pointed out that Moscow ignored an Armenian request for military assistance made when Azerbaijan launched offensive military operations along Armenia’s borders last September. The Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the Azerbaijani aggression began just days after Baku rejected a Russian peace plan that would indefinitely delay agreement on Karabakh’s status. Yerevan backed that plan in August 2022, according to her.
Below is the full statement by Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ani Badalyan:
“Another comment by the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia of similar content claiming that the situation unfolded in the Lachin corridor is a consequence of the fact that referring to the Alma-Ata Declaration, in Prague, October 2022 Armenia recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, and after that, the task of the Russian peacekeepers became the possible influence on the issues of rights and security of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, causes confusion and disappointment.
We are compelled to recall the following, already well-known chronology and important circumstances.
-The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has never been a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In essence, it has always been and remains an issue of the rights and security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
-In August 2022, Armenia agreed to Russia’s draft proposal on the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to which the discussion of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh was supposed to be postponed for an indefinite period. Azerbaijan rejected the proposal, simultaneously announcing (as it did on August 31 in Brussels) that it is not going to discuss anything related to Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, and days later, on September 13, it launched military aggression against the sovereign territory of Armenia.
-Russia not only did not pursue its proposal after Azerbaijan’s refusal, but also showed absolute indifference to the aggression against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, leaving Armenia’s official letter to support the Republic of Armenia on the basis of the bilateral legal framework unanswered. Moreover, Russia conditioned the lack of stating the fact of the attack on Armenia and the resulting inaction under the false excuse that the interstate border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not delimited. By this approach it either intentionally or not supports the obviously false and extremely dangerous thesis which claims that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, therefore, attacking the border and the invasion into the territory of Armenia are difficult to verify. With the same mindset, Armenia’s similar application in the framework of the CSTO did not receive a proper response either.
-Under these conditions, on October 6, 2022, in Prague, Armenia and Azerbaijan reaffirmed their loyalty to the Alma-Ata Declaration, which was signed back in 1991 by the former Soviet republics, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, who recognized each other’s territorial integrity along the former administrative borders of the Soviet states. Therefore, nothing new was decided in Prague: as of October 2022, the Alma-Ata Declaration had been in force for about 31 years. The agreements in Prague did not change anything in the text of the Trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, either. The only novelty was that, based on the results of the Prague meeting, the EU decided to deploy a monitoring mission on the Armenian side of the interstate border between Armenia and Azerbaijan to contribute to the stability at the border.
-The Russian Federation recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan multiple times, including after the signing of the Trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, and the most recent and perhaps most significant one: it stated that it recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the document on establishing strategic relations with Azerbaijan.
-On December 12, 2022, the Lachin corridor was blocked, under the false pretext of protests organized by the authorities of Azerbaijan in the area of the control of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Already in April 2023, in the presence of Russian peacekeepers, Azerbaijan installed an illegal checkpoint in the Lachin corridor. Although these actions were a clear and gross violation of the Trilateral statement, the Russian Federation took no counteractions. Instead, Russian peacekeepers on June 15, 2023, actively supported the attempt to raise the Azerbaijani flag on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, which is outside the scope of their mission and geographical area of responsibility. This was immediately followed by the total blockade of the Lachin corridor, bringing the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh closer to a true humanitarian catastrophe.
-In the conditions of such arbitrariness in the presence of Russian peacekeepers, the Azerbaijani side resorts to steps such as the abduction of residents of Nagorno-Karabakh at the illegal checkpoint in the Lachin corridor: the case of abduction of Vagif Khachatryan on July 29, followed by the case of three students on August 28.
-Unfortunately, such practices of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh are nothing new. On December 11, 2020, the violation of the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh, the illegal occupation of Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher villages, the capture and transfer of 60 Armenian servicemen to Baku took place in Nagorno-Karabakh with the presence and permission of representatives of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. At that time, the agreements of October 6, 2022, were not reached. The same applies to the events of Parukh on March 24, 2022, and Saribab on August 1, 2022, when Azerbaijan again violated the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh. The logical continuation of this are the shootings by Azerbaijani armed forces in the presence of Russian peacekeepers towards people carrying out agricultural works, one of which ended with the killing of a tractor driver from Martakert; the intimidation of the Nagorno-Karabakh population with night lights and loudspeakers again in the presence of Russian peacekeepers; the thousands of violations of the ceasefire regime by the Azerbaijani armed forces again in the presence of Russian peacekeepers.
-We advise the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry to refrain from maneuvering the circumstances of the situation and thereby further complicating it in the absence of actions from Russian peacekeepers towards the prevention of the blockade of the Lachin corridor or its opening afterwards.
-We also reiterate that the Republic of Armenia is faithful to its commitment towards establishing stability in the region on the basis of mutual recognition of territorial integrity and borders. At the same time, we consider imperative for lasting peace the reopening of the Lachin corridor in accordance with the Trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, and in line with the Orders of the International Court of Justice, the prevention of a humanitarian catastrophe in Nagorno-Karabakh and addressing of all existing problems through the Baku-Stepanakert dialogue under international auspices.”