Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s surrender of Aghdam, Lachin, Kelbajar and Shushi to Azerbaijan on November 10 sent shockwaves to Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. Here was a leader who put the entire fate of Artsakh in his own hands and signed a deal without consulting any other representatives of his people including the President of Armenia and the numerous Diaspora organizations that have been working around the clock to send aid and even men to fight against Azerbaijan’s tyranny.
When Pashinyan handed over the lands, he also surrendered the 6,000 Armenian soldiers who fought and died bravely in the first and second wars. He also discarded the outpour of diaspora funds that has, for 30 years, constructed highways, schools, homes, agriculture and renovated churches and monuments. Worst of all, he signed over the parents who have lost their children to the wars and live daily with the torture of loss.
What happened in Shushi on November 9 and 10 before Pashinyan signed the armistice agreement remains a big mystery. We do know that a number of Armenian soldiers took to social media with videos proving that Shushi was still under Armenian control right around the time when Pashinyan signed the document. We also know that Azeri soldiers were circulating videos and selfies that showed their victory but were later proven to be fake.
As civil unrest began in Yerevan on Tuesday morning, Pashinyan went live on Facebook several times not to offer assurance for his people but rather to blame past leaderships for the deal he was ‘forced’ to sign with Russia and Azerbaijan. There was a common theme in his statements and from his supporters on social media that the surrender was a result of past leaders’ agreements to hand over 7 regions of the buffer zone surrounding Artsakh. This is simply exaggerated fake news. While there were verbal agreements between past Armenian leaders and Russia, none of them actually signed a declaration that would surrender Artsakh’s fate to Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan needs to stop blaming past prime ministers and the general populace that doesn’t adhere to his decisions. No one is denying that there was massive corruption before he came into office, but he knew exactly what he was getting himself into. If there was a moment that he couldn’t handle his governance especially at the last minutes before signing the treacherous agreement, Pashinyan had a chance to resign and perhaps save Artsakh.
This is not the first time Pashinyan played the blame game. He has blamed not only past administrations but also the diaspora for not doing enough. Worst of all, Pashinyan’s blow to the vital Armenia-Russia alliance gave Putin the reason to see him as a traitor that was sold to the West.
The agreements in the armistice that Pashinyan signed has baffled Armenians around the world for a reason. After 30 years of Armenian stronghold of Artsakh, there is absolutely nothing in the agreement that benefits Artsakh or Armenia. On the contrary, it gives Azerbaijan even more than it ever anticipated.
The worst part of the agreement for Armenians is the ability for Azeri refugees to populate areas of Artsakh. Armenia is also required to build a highway that connects Azerbaijan-proper to Nakhichevan. This is nothing short of a huge blow to the integrities of Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora.
In 1949, when Israel signed an armistice with Arab States to “promote the return of permanent peace in Palestine,” neither side adhered to the agreements even up to this day. And of course, the Treaty of Sèvres signed after the Armenian Genocide that guaranteed parts of Western Armenia to Armenians, was lost in the pages of history. Today, as Russian peacemakers make their way to Artsakh, it’s perhaps vital for an immediate shift of power in Armenia and non-adherence to the agreement signed by the three parties.