As Armenians are trying to come to terms with the imposed peace deal following the Artsakh War, thousands of people took to the streets in Yerevan demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government. Updates to be provided as they develop.
Nov. 12, 12:45 a.m.: Statement by the My Step faction of the Republic of Armenia’s National Assembly
Bowing our heads to the glorious memory of the soldiers, volunteers and people who took part in the military operations;
Sharing the grief of the families, friends and relatives of the victims with deep sorrow;
Taking into account the internal political events in Armenia and Artsakh following the hostilities and the ceasefire;
The “My Step” faction of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia announces:
– The current analysis of the hostilities provide a foundation to register that the Armenian people, with united efforts, in essence were fighting against not only Azerbaijan, but against one of the largest military forces in the world, with state-of-the-art weapons and an army with unlimited human resources, mercenary terrorists and special forces recruited from different countries;
– During the 45-day war, along the entire length of the front line, there were incredible acts of heroism, which made it possible to prevent the crime of genocide that the enemy had unleashed against the Armenian nation.
– The entire pan-Armenian potential was invested in protecting the “rearguard” of the Armed Forces during the military operations.
– We note that the military operations coincided with major geopolitical developments that were charged with security challenges. As a result, all international efforts, including the multiple attempts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, to establish a ceasefire failed.
– Given the historical-political situation, accepting the conditions offered was the only way to avoid the complete loss of Artsakh and thousands of human losses.
– The My Step faction is certain that the public will receive the answers to all the questions of concern. At the same time, the faction does not intend to take part in any session that aims to destabilize the situation in Armenia and jeopardize the front line and the lives of the people holding it.
At the same time, before discussing the legitimacy of the agreement ending the war, we suggest that the opposition clearly state to the Armenian people and the world that:
1- They support the cancellation of Russia’s mediation.
2- They support the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the Line of Contact.
3- They support the resumption of war.
After making this statement, the opposition forces are obliged to also present the roadmap to victory in the proposed resumption of war.
11 p.m.: Mane Gevorgyan, spokesperson of Armenia’s Prime Minister issued the following statement:
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan presented the situation both on the front line as well as the course of diplomatic discussions during a meeting with the parliamentary opposition forces, the sitting of the Security Council, which was also attended by the representatives of the parliamentary opposition and the two meetings with the extra-parliamentary political forces. He also presented the possible political solutions which would be conditioned by the developments on the front line.
All the political forces that today state that they were not aware of the developments on the front line, the technical capacity of the armed forces, issues related to replenishing the army ranks, the discussions regarding a political settlement, including the details of negotiations brokered by the Russian President, are not being honest with the public to say the least.
Moreover, today these people have brought the country to the brink of civil tension for the sake of their narrow political and material interests.
10:20 p.m.: Vahram Poghosyan, the spokesperson of the President of Artsakh wrote the following on his Facebook Page:
Dear residents of the regions of Kashatagh and Shahumyan, I ask that you do not rush to remove your belongings from your homes.
The issues of territorial concessions and in that context, the terms announced have not been discussed with the Artsakh authorities yet. When these discussions take place and relevant clarifications are made, the Government of the Republic of Artsakh will make the relevant statement.
8:30 p.m.: U.S. Senator Bob Menendez on the Russia-negotiated agreement to cease fighting in the South Caucasus region.
UN Experts: Mercenaries In and Around the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Zone Must be Withdrawn
Today, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the following statement:
UN human rights experts noted the agreement reached on 9 November to put an end to hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and hope that it will lead to sustained peace in the region. They are nonetheless concerned by the use of mercenaries in and around the conflict zone until this agreement was reached, and expressed alarm at the devastating consequences for the civilian population, with little prospects of accountability.
The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries said there were widespread reports that the Government of Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s assistance, relied on Syrian fighters to shore-up and sustain its military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, including on the frontline. The fighters appeared to be motivated primarily by private gain, given the dire economic situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the UN experts said. In case of death, their relatives were reportedly promised financial compensation and Turkish nationality.
The way in which these individuals were recruited, transported and used in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone appeared consistent with the definition of a mercenary, as set out by relevant international legal instruments, including the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, to which Azerbaijan is a party, said Chris Kwaja, who chairs the Working Group.
Moreover, reports indicate that Turkey engaged in large-scale recruitment and transfer of Syrian men to Azerbaijan through armed factions, some of which are affiliated with the Syrian National Army. “The alleged role of Turkey is all the more concerning given the similar allegations addressed earlier this year by the Working Group in relation its role in recruiting, deploying and financing such fighters to take part in the conflict in Libya,” Kwaja added.
The Working Group also received reports indicating that Armenia has been involved in the deployment of foreign nationals to fight in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The experts are looking into these reports to ascertain possible links to mercenary-related activities, such as the context in which these actors operate and their possible motivations. The Working Group will continue to monitor any use of mercenary-related actors by the sides.
Since the resumption of hostilities on 27 September 2020 and up to the latest ceasefire, the Working Group has been increasingly concerned about repeated reports of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks in populated areas in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, as well as other areas away from the fighting, which has led to a mounting number of civilian casualties, including children. Considerable damage to civilian property and infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, has also been widely reported; as well as incidents involving journalists.
“In this context, it is even more worrisome that the Syrian fighters deployed to Azerbaijan are allegedly affiliated with armed groups and individuals that, in some cases, have been accused of war crimes and serious human rights abuses during the conflict in Syria, thus seemingly perpetuating a cycle of impunity and risking further abuses of international law,” they added.
“We call strongly on the sides, and the States supporting them, to immediately withdraw any mercenaries and related actors and not to engage in further recruitment, funding and deployment,” the experts said.
The experts have also conveyed their concerns about the above allegations directly to the Governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey, and informed the Syrian Arab Republic.
9 p.m.: A Special Session of Parliament was to be held to demand the cancellation of the trilateral agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to by the three leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. The two opposition factions in parliament, Bright Armenia and Prosperous Armenia initiated the process for the special session, however, they could not secure a quorum.
President Arayik Harutyunyan of Artsakh in a Facebook Live
7 p.m.: Arayik Harutyunyan, the President of Artsakh spoke about who are the real traitors and who sold territories. He reminded that, when on October 3 the adversary took control of Mataghis and Talish and when the northern part of the front line was endangered, there was not enough human capital to protect the rear of the soldiers in Yeghnikner. On the same day, Harutyunyan left for the front line because some of the soldiers and volunteers standing on the front line were in panic. Harutyunyan noted that the elite subdivisions of the National Security Service of Armenia and Artsakh refused to go to the front line along with him and left the President alone. He went on to say that a small number eventually joined and that it is due to their efforts that Yeghnikner is completely under the control of the Defense Army.
The President said that he addressed the nation three times, calling them to join the Armed Forces since they are in need of human resources. “You left the army alone. You left 18 year old soldiers alone.” Some of the volunteer detachments stayed until the last day to fulfill their task, others left within the first few days. Harutyunyan noted that two battalions that came from Armenia and were supposed to participate in an operation in Shushi refused to participate before getting to the military positions. “Who sold the land? We sold it as a nation. We betrayed our 18-20 year old soldiers, our children. All of us together betrayed them. Stop looking for betrayers.”
“The politicians who are trying to find traitors today, let them present information about their participation, the participation of their children and relatives. You should have been at the front line.” He stressed that an agreement was signed to save the remaining soldiers from a blockade. The agreement was made when almost no one was left to defend Stepanakert. “Where were the volunteers? Where was the civilian militia? Where were the residents of Stepanakert who today are trying to find traitors?” Several hundred people were left in Stepanakert in front of a 6,000-member army. If Stepanakert was captured, then the units that were only a few kilometers away would end up in a blockade. “We evacuated Stepanakert in time, we had to avoid having thousands of civilian casualties.” Harutyunyan noted that it was impossible to fight against seven-eight countries with 18-20 year old soldiers. “I bow before all those who were martyred. I bow before all those 18-20 year old soldiers who continue protecting the borders of our Homeland.”
“The place of the President of the country is not at the front line, it is not in the city of Hadrut. Between 1,000 to 1,500 people were fleeing when only several dozen saboteurs were before them. I had to go to Hadrut and convince others to come with me.” Harutyunyan stressed that he has to say all of this because of the current disunity.
“The men who left Stepanakert and hid in Yerevan are traitors. It’s enough. I can open many brackets, but know that we have all betrayed our soldiers by not standing next to them.”
The President called on everyone from Artsakh to stay away from political uprisings and to not participate in such processes on the streets of Yerevan; it is not appropriate for the people of Artsakh. He said that all of their problems will be solved and that they do not need to worry. Harutyunyan called on the residents of Karabakh to return to Karabakh. Infrastructural social issues will be solved within the next few days. Harutyunyan assured everyone that they have all the resources to address those problems and that all roads will be protected.
“Today, we promise to do everything so that there are no social problems. Today, we are ready to provide the minimum living conditions in Yerevan in the first stage, then in Artsakh, and later also in a radical way. We do not have the final decision on what we are going to do; we do not have the final political map. Be sure that we will live better in Artsakh than anywhere else, because no one else is waiting for us.”
Erdogan: Russian Delegation to Travel To Turkey to Discuss Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabak
5 p.m.: According to RIA Novosti, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that a Russian delegation will visit Turkey for talks on overseeing the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Turkish leader, Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum on a center to control the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, and they will take part in a joint peacekeeping mission in this region. “As the Russians take part in the work to control the ceasefire, our groups will also be engaged in this. The Russian military began to deploy there at certain points… our foreign ministers are also conducting negotiations,” Erdogan told reporters.
2:50 p.m.: Armenian Unified Infocenter: A hotline has been set up by the Defense Ministry for those family members who want information about servicemen who are in Azerbaijani captivity, those missing in action and others from Artsakh. Hotline numbers: 8135, 012288980.
2:30 p.m.: Former President Serzh Sargsyan’s Office reported that Sargsyan was invited to the National Security Service (NSS) and that he will be there at 4 p.m.
Protests in Yerevan
1 p.m.: Seventeen political parties that had issued a joint statement just prior to the announcement of the ceasefire agreement calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government and the urgent creation of a new executive body with the ability to make a breakthrough in the situation, held a rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. Meanwhile, Armenia’s police issued a statement that, under martial law, rallies were prohibited. Before the protest began, a large number of security forces began detaining a number of people, including representatives of these parties. Several thousand people in the square were chanting “Nikol traitor” and demanding his resignation.They then moved to the Government building and from there to the National Assembly.
12:20 p.m.: The Artsakh Defense Army reported that the President of Artsakh Arayik Harutyunyan held a consultation at the Defense Ministry, attended by the military brass of the Ministry, led by Defense Army Commander Lieutenant General Mikayel Arzumanyan. During the meeting, issues related to the current military-political situation were discussed.
11:30 a.m.: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the following in a statement:
“Announcements were made last night by Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian authorities regarding the implementation of a ceasefire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh. We have taken note of the agreement and are examining its terms and implications. Clarifications are expected in order to assess their impact,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
“The cessation of fighting is crucial. The parties had made this commitment several times over the last few weeks and we have been, and remain, strongly committed to this priority within the framework of the co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group. We therefore expect Azerbaijan to strictly uphold the commitments that it has made and to put an immediate end to its offensive. In this context, we call on Turkey not to do anything that goes against this key priority.” he added.
“At this difficult time, France reaffirms its wholehearted friendship with the Armenian people in light of our close human, cultural and historic ties with Armenia. In these tragic circumstances, we stand alongside it. In particular, we will work to lend it all the humanitarian support it needs. Indeed, the situation on the ground, with displaced populations and fighting in urban centers, has resulted in serious humanitarian consequences,” the Foreign Minister stated.
“France has mobilized its efforts in recent weeks through a very large number of civil society initiatives. The French authorities are contributing to these initiatives, providing medical assistance, which arrived late last week in Yerevan and included teams of surgeons specialized in treating conflict victims. Other initiatives will be taken in the coming days to provide Armenia with the help it will need,” he added.
Finally, the Foreign Minister said the resumption of negotiations between the parties on a lasting settlement of the conflict remains necessary beyond the announced ceasefire.
“As co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, France will be an active participant in this effort. Discussions between the two parties must resume without delay. They must allow for the return of people displaced by the conflict in recent weeks, and for the definition of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Jean-Yves Le Drian concluded.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan Facebook Live
10:20 a.m.: In a Facebook Live, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke about the trilateral agreement he signed with the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia: “The biggest sin attributed to me is that I have agreed to hand over three territories, Aghdam, Lachin and Kelbajar to Azerbaijan.” He noted that it wasn’t about handing over territories but rather keeping some. According to Pashinyan, the document was signed under conditions when Shushi had already fallen and when the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces reported to him about issues with resources. The political leadership of Artsakh shared that viewpoint. Pashinyan clarified what would have happened if the November 10 document was not signed.
Pashinyan noted that the Armenian side agreed to hand over territories that would have been impossible to hold. In a situation where Stepanakert was left unprotected and if military operations continued, there was a serious threat that Stepanakert, Martuni and Askeran would be captured. After that, Artsakh’s second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth buffer zones would be under a blockade and thousands of soldiers would be cut off. According to Pashinyan, this would have resulted in a total collapse. It was based on this assessment that the decision was made. He went on to say that it is not a coincidence that many soldiers who are currently on the front line sent video messages defending the decision that was made, because they are on the ground and can accurately assess the situation. “This is the whole truth and I hope I was able to explain it,” he said.
Speaking about the fall of Shushi and conspiracy theories around Shushi, Pashinyan noted that the Armenian side lost control over the city of Shushi and attempted twice to gain it back. One of those attempts failed completely. During the second, one Armenian detachment was able to enter the city.
PM Pashinyan also spoke about the statement by Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party, who said that on October 28 when Shushi was still under the control of the Armenian forces, Russia was ready to bring in peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh but the Prime Minister did not agree. He noted that this is complete nonsense. During an interview with Interfax on October 22, Pashinyan announced that he was in favor of the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh. He reiterated that position on October 25 in an interview with the Indian WION TV channel. He did not oppose the deployment of Russian peacekeepers on October 28.
Pashinyan also noted that, after being released from pretrial detention, Tsarukyan announced that he plans to form a volunteer detachment that he would personally lead. One of the reasons that Shushi is no longer under the control of Armenian forces, is because the detachment led by Tsarukyan was not there fighting along with the others.
Getting from Ceasefire to Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
Statement by the International Crisis Group:
After six weeks of bloody armed conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Russia has brokered a full ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, signed by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia and Armenia’s prime minister. In contrast to three prior failed humanitarian ceasefires successively negotiated with the aid of Russia, France and the United States, this one appears to be holding. Its success reflects battlefield realities: Azerbaijan was winning militarily and Armenia faced a crushing defeat. But humiliation cannot be a strong basis for sustained peace. The parties and foreign stakeholders must ensure that the ceasefire holds; they also should take steps to ensure that the new regional order has benefits for all involved.
Yerevan had little choice but to agree to terms under which it gave up everything it had gained from the war that followed Nagorno-Karabakh’s declaration of its desire to separate from Azerbaijan back in the late 1980s. That war ended with a ceasefire in 1994 and left Nagorno-Karabakh de facto independent, if heavily reliant on Armenia, with a self-proclaimed government based in Stepanakert. When fighting stopped, Armenian forces also held seven Azerbaijani regions adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, the two sides have maintained a tense coexistence, with occasional skirmishes and flare-ups at the Line of Contact and, periodically, the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
That uneasy balance broke down on September 27, with renewed clashes followed by an Azerbaijani offensive. In fighting that killed thousands of soldiers and hundreds of civilians on both sides and displaced tens of thousands, the majority among them ethnic Armenians, Azerbaijani troops recaptured most of the adjacent areas as well as southern and parts of northeastern Nagorno-Karabakh. On November 9, they announced victory in Shusha (called Shushi by Armenians), one of Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest cities and a site of cultural and historical significance to both Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
The deal brokered by Moscow has ended the fighting but leaves the region short of a clear and stable peace. The parties agreed to a full ceasefire, in effect as of midnight [Moscow Time] November 9-10. The agreement’s other provisions, also now being implemented, include a phased withdrawal of the Armenian military from territory outside its internationally recognized borders. This territory includes Nagorno-Karabakh itself, but also Lachin, Kelbajar and Aghdam, the three adjacent areas where Armenians still held land. Some 2,000 Russian armed peacekeepers are deploying to Nagorno-Karabakh, excepting those areas of the enclave under Azerbaijani control. A corridor, patrolled by Russian peacekeepers, will connect Armenia to Stepanakert. Russian border police will also secure a new transit route between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan, through Armenian territory. The Russian mission is envisioned as a series of self-renewing five-year terms; renewal will not occur if any party so notifies six months prior to a scheduled extension.
The deal has some clear winners. Azerbaijanis are celebrating: their country has recaptured much of the territory it lost almost 30 years ago, and it has not had to offer any sort of autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh, as envisioned in past peace negotiations. True, Baku did not get all it wanted: it would have preferred clear, direct control over all of Nagorno-Karabakh; as things stand, the region’s status remains in limbo. Moreover, the deployment of Russian peacekeepers puts an end to one of Baku’s points of pride – the absence of a Russian military presence on its soil since it became independent. But the gains clearly outweigh any putative loss.
Moscow, too, has reason to be satisfied. It not only has demonstrated that it is the only outside party able to deliver peace, but it is also now assured of substantial long-term leverage over both Armenia and Azerbaijan, with its forces in the region for the foreseeable future. Turkey is neither signatory to, nor mentioned in the deal, but Ankara also contributed to Azerbaijan’s victory with both diplomatic and military backing for Baku.
For Armenia, however, the agreement is a bitter pill to swallow – one that risks throwing the country deep into turmoil. For most Armenians, it amounts to a surrender, both of territory seen as intrinsically Armenian, central to the nation’s history and culture, and of pride in the victories of three decades ago. Thousands of people took to Yerevan’s streets in the early hours after the ceasefire agreement was announced. Protesters beat the speaker of the Armenian Parliament, who is now hospitalized, accusing him of being an accessory to treason. Angry Armenians, including the country’s president, have questioned the prime minister’s legal standing to sign the agreement without broader consultation and opposition leaders have demanded that he resign. Riot police are guarding government buildings in Yerevan. It is hard to see how the Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, remains in office.
Beyond the situation in Yerevan, the safety of thousands of ethnic Armenians remaining in the region is a serious concern. An end to fighting reduces some of the risk to civilians, but the deal makes no provision for safe evacuation of the ethnic Armenians who want to leave Nagorno-Karabakh or the adjacent territories. While those in Stepanakert may be able to depart via the Russian-patrolled corridor, those in other parts of Nagorno-Karabakh or of Lachin that are not contiguous with the corridor, as well as those in Kelbajar, will need guarantees of safe passage if they choose to leave and of protection if any decide to stay. According to the deal, Armenia must hand over control of Kelbajar and Lachin, two of the adjacent areas, by November 15 and December 1, respectively.
The deal also calls for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to return to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories with support from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (although this body was reportedly not consulted as the deal was negotiated). This provision in theory refers to both ethnic Azerbaijanis – displaced by the fighting in the early 1990s – and ethnic Armenians displaced in recent months. Too, the establishment of a corridor between Armenia and Stepanakert would seem to imply that the signatories envisioned a continued ethnic Armenian presence in that city (albeit not in Shusha or other parts of the region now held by Baku, which will be bypassed by a new connecting road that the parties are to build within the next three years). But although Russian peacekeepers will be in Nagorno-Karabakh, it is not clear what specific provisions will be made for ethnic Armenians who want to remain or return, particularly as there may well be competing property claims between them and returning Azerbaijanis and given the high levels of antipathy between the populations, now reinforced by the brutality of recent weeks.
A deal that Armenians view as capitulation will not be a reliable foundation for more sustained peace. While it will be hard for them to accept it, steps should be taken to mitigate the blow and to prevent Azerbaijani overreach. That means in particular ensuring Armenians can return to, leave or remain in Nagorno-Karabakh safely. Responsibility in this matter lies first and foremost with Russia, which should both cement and clarify the agreement. If Nagorno-Karabakh, or part of it, is to become a de facto Russian protectorate, it will be up to Moscow to negotiate a viable governance and security plan with both Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
In pursuing these efforts, Russia should seek broader international support. It could turn back to the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, which oversaw peace negotiations for the past three decades, to help find a way forward for Nagorno-Karabakh itself. It could also work with other UN Security Council members to pass a resolution endorsing the ceasefire, asking the parties to eschew reprisals and protect civilians, and calling on them to negotiate a formal peace treaty. The UN, or potentially the OSCE, which had previously led mediation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, could also consider deploying an international civilian mission to monitor the treatment of civilians and the return of IDPs and refugees.
International donors also have a role to play. They should commit to assist Armenia and Azerbaijan with the costs of resettling people displaced by the conflict and rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by it. Despite its reservations up to now, Armenia should be open to such assistance, which has been on offer for several weeks, and can help the tens of thousands of displaced people who fled Nagorno-Karabakh. Their needs will only grow with the onset of cold weather and the continuing rapid spread of COVID-19 through the hotels and other temporary housing facilities in which they are staying. For their part, Turkey and Azerbaijan should lift their blockade on Armenia and restart trade, as called for in the ceasefire deal.
An imposed peace that leaves a generation of Armenians resentful is no recipe for peace; in a way, it would be a mere mirror image of the reality with which Azerbaijanis have lived for the last three decades. Coupled with the accusations of war crimes coming from both sides, which will also emanate for years to come, it could plant the seeds of the next stage of conflict. At a minimum, a more sustainable settlement will require a deal in which refugees and IDPs are treated fairly, people have access to their homes and economic development benefits all involved.
Josep Borrell on Cessation of Hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh
The following is a statement by the High Representative/Vice-President of the EU Josep Borrell on the cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh:
I welcome the cessation of hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian-brokered ceasefire that has been agreed on Monday between Armenia and Azerbaijan will help to prevent the further loss of life and is hopefully a first step towards a comprehensive settlement.
Negotiations will now need to ensure that any settlement is sustainable.
The European Union continues to support the established, OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs led, format and stands ready to contribute to these efforts and to the implementation of agreements for a peaceful and prosperous development of the entire South Caucasus region.