Staunton, November 13 – Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says that the ceasefire declaration the Kremlin brokered “is not a political document for the resolution of the conflict,” that it does not define key terms or resolve many disputes, and that in the end it may be “torn up and thrown away.”
His remarks on Armenian public television challenge both the Kremlin’s more expansive claims about the November 10 declaration and suggest that he does not believe that the sides are all that close to an agreement, whatever Moscow thinks (vestikavkaza.ru/news/pasinan-trehstoronnee-zaavlenie-po-karabahu-mozno-porvat–i-vykinut.html).
Some may be inclined to think that this is an act of desperation designed to win time against a domestic opposition which views him as a traitor who has overseen a major national defeat, but even if that is partially the case, Pashinyan’s words highlight just how far the declaration is from a peace settlement, however much many may think otherwise.
On the one hand, the prime minister said he agreed to the ceasefire declaration because after the fall of Shusha, there was a great danger than tens of thousands of Armenian troops around Stepanakert would be at risk of encirclement and even destruction. Saving them for the future was his prime consideration.
And on the other, the accord does not define the status of Karabakh which after all is what the fighting since the late 1980s has been about. Unless that happens, Pashinyan says, the conflict will continue. The ceasefire may make talks about that and other issues possible. Indeed, such talks are possible only with a ceasefire.
But a ceasefire in and of itself is not a peace, and the talks needed to resolve such fundamental issues are going to be difficult and last a long time. Those who think otherwise are being naïve, the Armenian leader suggests.
If Pashinyan is forced out of office, it is possible that his successor will treat the November 10 declaration differently. But it is unlikely because Armenian public opinion views that document as an act of betrayal, and any leader who tried to make it into the peace agreement Moscow has presented it as being would find it difficult if not impossible to build authority.
Consequently, in one way or another, this ceasefire may prove to be a step toward the resolution of these underlying problems; but it isn’t going to end concerns about them in Armenia. And that in turn means that both Russia and Azerbaijan almost certainly will have to engage with Pashinyan or his successor about them.