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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan Testifies at Parliament on 2020 Artsakh War

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan

In a significant development, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan testified before the parliamentary committee investigating the causes and course of the 2020 Second Artsakh War. The session, which took place on June 20, marked the first open session of the committee, as all previous sessions were held behind closed doors. The committee's inquiry aims to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the 44-day war that Azerbaijan unleashed on the Armenians of Artsakh.

The Armenian Prime Minister expressed his willingness for the testimony to be broadcast live at an open session, a stance that was met with opposition factions boycotting the hearing.

Pashinyan Clarifies the Trilateral Agreement to End the War

During his testimony, Prime Minister Pashinyan elaborated on the factors that led to the signing of the trilateral declaration to end the war on November 9, 2020. He highlighted the pivotal role played by the fall of Shushi, a strategic city in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), in the decision-making process.

Pashinyan revealed that there were five attempts to stop the war before the trilateral agreement was reached. One such attempt was made on Russian President Vladimir Putin's birthday, during which the Armenian Prime Minister congratulated Putin, and the Russian President expressed his willingness to mediate. However, the Azerbaijani President rejected the idea of a ceasefire at that time.

Azerbaijan proposed preconditions for establishing a ceasefire on October 8, 2020, which were deemed unacceptable by the Armenian side. The preconditions included the surrender of the Fizuli region without a battle, Armenian forces retreating along the Araks River to the Khodaferin Reservoir, and the return of Azerbaijani prisoners. Pashinyan expressed concerns that agreeing to these conditions would not guarantee an end to the conflict and may lead to further attacks during the troop withdrawal.

Missed Opportunity with Shushi Under Armenian Control

One of the most debated episodes after November 9, 2020, was the possibility of ending the war with Shushi remaining under Armenian control, but this opportunity was missed.

"On October 19, 2020, the President of the Russian Federation told me that the Azerbaijani side has one more condition, he expects guarantees that the Azerbaijani refugees, who, according to the Azerbaijani side, made up 90 percent of the population of Shushi before the conflict, return to Shushi. For the Russian side, this was an understandable proposal, because they said that the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to Nagorno-Karabakh was always included in the settlement plan of the Karabakh conflict, which was on the table many years ago. This is the reason why after November 9, I announced in the national Assembly that the Shushi issue was always on the negotiation agenda, because if it is said that Azerbaijanis should return to Nagorno-Karabakh, there is a need to clarify that they should return to the settlements where they lived before. I was accused of saying that if I agreed that the Azerbaijanis would return to Shushi, it would remain under Armenian control, and even if inhabited by Azerbaijanis, it would be Armenian", said the Prime Minister.

Pashinyan stated that he agreed to the wording but made efforts to clarify the nature of the guarantees. However, the Azerbaijani side rejected this proposal, insisting on control over Shushi. The city's strategic importance and the potential risks associated with its fall led Pashinyan to resist the idea of handing over Shushi to Azerbaijan.

Peacekeepers and Meghri Corridor - Red Lines for Pashinyan

The Armenian Prime Minister also revealed that on October 19, 2020, a new idea was proposed as an additional condition for ending the war - the deployment of peacekeepers not only in Artsakh but also in Meghri, a region in Armenia. Pashinyan opposed this, as it would have meant creating a corridor through Armenian territory that would not be under Armenia's control.

Pashinyan stressed that these conditions were unacceptable, including the return of all seven regions under Azerbaijani control, the uncertain status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the creation of the Lachin Corridor. These conditions, along with the fall of Shushi, intensified the challenges in reaching a resolution.

Negotiations with Russian and French Presidents

Pashinyan provided insights into the negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron during the conflict. He engaged in numerous discussions with Putin, and on October 16, the Russian President proposed the idea of ending the war in exchange for the return of five regions without clarifying Nagorno-Karabakh's status.

On October 17, President Macron informed Pashinyan that Azerbaijan was ready to establish a ceasefire without preconditions from October 18. However, Azerbaijan did not confirm the ceasefire, leading to further diplomatic efforts to end the war.

On October 19, President Putin offered a Russian plan to end the war under the "5+2" format, which involved the return of seven regions, the creation of the Lachin Corridor, the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, and an undefined status for Nagorno-Karabakh. Negotiations continued, and after multiple revisions, the trilateral declaration was eventually signed on November 9, 2020.

Challenges in Keeping Shushi and Concluding the War

The Prime Minister recounted the challenges faced in maintaining control over Shushi, especially as the city came under increasing attack. He emphasized that preserving Shushi became a critical objective for the Armenian forces, given its strategic significance in the conflict.

Ultimately, the failure to retain Shushi became a turning point in the negotiations, and the subsequent trilateral agreement was perceived as less favorable than an earlier version, but it was better than the alternatives that involved concessions like the Meghri Corridor or the return of enclaves.

The parliamentary committee's investigation continues, aiming to provide a comprehensive understanding of the 2020 Second Artsakh War's events and decisions. As Prime Minister Pashinyan's testimony shed light on crucial aspects of the conflict, it is expected to be a significant contribution to the inquiry's findings.


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