Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan published an article in French Le Monde
newspaper on July 24, 2023. Below is the English version of Pashinyan’s article.
Le Monde, July 24, 2023, by Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia
On July 15, I met with European Council President Charles Michel and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. It is the latest in a series of meetings I have held with Azerbaijan's President over the last four months in different forms and capitals. Armenia has proven by its deeds that there is a genuine will on the part of the government and people of Armenia to develop a lasting peace in the region.
We firmly believe that lasting peace in the South Caucasus could bring significant global benefits. Over the last years, Armenia has become a stable democratic country in a difficult region. Geographically we sit at a crossroads. If we succeed in achieving progress in our peace agenda, normalize relations with our neighbors, and establish solid transport and energy infrastructure, it will bring increased prosperity, build bridges between Asia and Europe, and could be a significant boon for global commerce and international stability.
Although the contours of a peace agreement are forming, there remain significant barriers to making it a reality. Overcoming these decade long hurdles will only be possible with robust support from partners, who truly believe in peace in the South Caucasus.
Right now, the biggest obstacle to peace are the aggressive and illegal actions of Azerbaijan around Nagorno-Karabakh, particularly in the Lachin corridor but also within Armenia’s borders. The Lachin corridor is the only road linking the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh with the outside world. Since December, access to the corridor was severely restricted by Azerbaijan, under the false pretext of an environmental protest.
Now, Baku has gone further, installing a border checkpoint at the entrance to the corridor, even impeding access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This means the supply of food, medicine, and basic necessities are severely disrupted. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, and other influential institutions have warned of an unfolding humanitarian crisis.
As well as blocking access to people and vehicles, Azerbaijan is deliberately disrupting gas and electricity supply to Nagorno-Karabakh. These actions have coincided with increasingly aggressive rhetoric, propaganda, and even Azerbaijani forces opening fire on local farmers. The aim is clear: to make life as difficult as possible for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, and ultimately force them to leave their homes. It is a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. If the international community does not react, it will be another failure of humanity.
The international community should undertake bold steps to stop the Sarajevo-style siege of Nagorno-Karabakh. The blockade is a violation by Azerbaijan of its legally binding commitments and most importantly of numerous unequivocal decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In February, the ICJ declared Azerbaijan must “take all measures necessary to guarantee the uninterrupted movement of citizens, vehicles, and cargo in both directions through the Lachin Corridor in both directions”. However, five months have passed, and the situation has deteriorated further.
The European Union has been clear that Azerbaijan’s actions are unacceptable. Now it must use its leverage as a significant energy partner to pressure Baku to implement the ICJ’s binding decision without delay. The European Parliament and various national parliaments in EU member states have adopted decisions pushing the EU to do just this.
The current crisis highlights why ensuring the rights and security of the 120,000 Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh is central to a sustainable peace in the South Caucasus. The European Union and other international partners have a vital role to play. There needs to be a formal dialogue between Baku and the democratically elected authorities in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. To be effective this requires the establishment of an international mechanism and guarantees from international partners to bring security and ensure obligations are fulfilled.
The rights and security of the people living in Nagorno-Karabakh is a key question that must be addressed to reach a dignified and durable peace in our region. Other issues must also be addressed: Azerbaijan still refuses to recognize internationally accepted borders, occupies parts of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, and holds prisoners of war that they committed to return in 2020. The authorities in Baku use force, and the threat of further military escalation, to achieve their irredentist aims. This should not be tolerated; the consistent torpedoing of the peace process must have consequences. Otherwise, the Azerbaijani forces that have encircled Nagorno-Karabakh will believe they are free to act with impunity.
Armenia deeply values the mediation and facilitation efforts by the EU, particularly the establishment of the EU mission in Armenia. This is performing a vital task in monitoring our international border with Azerbaijan, increasing stability on the ground, and helping build confidence with those living in border areas.
Strengthening relations with the European Union is among the main foreign policy goals of my government. The EU was founded on the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. These are principles that are core to Armenia’s identity. The Armenian government and people have consciously pursued a path of political and institutional reforms to safeguard human rights, reinforce the rule of law, media freedom, and combat corruption. The progress of Armenia in international rankings reflect our achievements and determination, and the EU’s support in these processes is very much appreciated.
This unwavering commitment to a democratic future has helped the Armenian people persevere through challenging times. It will continue to do so as we seek to forge a lasting peace in the region. Right now, there is a window of opportunity to reach such an agreement. The government of Armenia is committed to this process and has taken significant steps to achieve it. We now need the support of Europe and partners around the world to ensure that Azerbaijan also lives up to its commitments and legal obligations. If we succeed, a sustainable peace agreement can bring truly global benefits.