The administration of recently reelected Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has adopted a five-year Government Action Plan outlining the regime’s national security, foreign policy and socioeconomic goals.
The plan, which will endure from 2021-2026, was adopted by the RA National Assembly on August 26 with 70 votes in favor. Parliament’s two opposition alliances, the Armenia Alliance and I Have Honor Alliance, abstained from voting, citing concerns that the document was being unilaterally enforced by the ruling party.
The Government Action Plan endorses the resumption of the negotiation process for a peaceful settlement of the Artsakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States. The plan does not include specifications on the status of the Republic of Artsakh or the future of the Russian peacekeeping mission, which is scheduled to end five years after the signature of the November 9, 2020 trilateral ceasefire agreement.
The plan additionally envisions the end of the 30-year blockade of Armenia through the opening of regional economic and transport routes. “Peace and stability in the region is our long-term strategy,” the plan notes regarding the administration’s foreign policy. “Deepening or normalizing relations with neighboring countries will be one of the important directions of the government’s foreign policy.”
In recent weeks, the leaders of Armenia and Turkey have made public statements signaling a willingness to restore diplomacy between the two countries. During a cabinet meeting on September 8, Pashinyan noted that he sees within Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements “an opportunity to speak about the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations and re-launching the Armenian-Turkish railway and roads.”
“We are ready for such a conversation,” he said. “By and large, this is about transforming our region into a crossroads linking the West with East and North with South.”
On August 27, Pashinyan referenced “positive public signals from Turkey,” noting that Armenia might “respond to the positive signals with a positive signal.” In response Erdogan told reporters that Turkey might be prepared to gradually normalize relations with Armenia, on the basis of respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty.
“I wish success to the new government of Armenia. Our region needs a constructive approach,” said Erdogan.
In response to Erdogan’s reference to “respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty,” which presumably alludes to the settlement of the Artsakh conflict, chairman of the committee on foreign relations Eduard Aghajanyan insisted that Armenia would not accept preconditions to the normalization of relations with Turkey. “We certainly welcome positive rhetoric whenever it comes from Azerbaijan and Turkey,” he said in an interview. “But unfortunately, Erdogan’s statement contained points resembling preconditions, which do not help to launch that process at all.”
Opposition politicians have denounced reconciliation efforts, accusing the government of making broad concessions to Turkey in regards to the Artsakh conflict. Opponents additionally claim that Armenia might abandon its campaign for greater international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
During his August 24 speech to the National Assembly outlining the government plan, PM Pashinyan assured that the promotion of regional cooperation “cannot take place at the expense of other security and vital interests of Armenia and Artsakh.”
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in support of its ally Azerbaijan in the first Artsakh War. The nations neared a rapprochement in 2009 with the Zurich Protocols, which were signed yet never ratified after Turkey introduced a new set of preconditions insisting on a resolution to the Artsakh conflict.
Russia has vocalized its support for Armenian-Turkish reconciliation. The Russian Foreign Ministry has indicated on multiple occasions within the past week that it would be willing to mediate normalization efforts.
The government plan additionally foresees military reforms, including technological modernization of the army, increased benefits for military service, the deployment of border troops instead of army units and the larger involvement of women in combat units. Pashinyan has also promised the creation of a foreign intelligence agency within the next five years.
According to a recent survey conducted in Armenia, 56-percent of respondents believe that solving security issues should be the top priority for the new government, convened after the June snap parliamentary elections, to address. The second most popular choice, endorsed by nine-percent of respondents, was strengthening the army. The survey, overseen by the International Republican Institute based in the United States, was carried out through phone interviews with 1,504 permanent residents of Armenia older than the age of 18 collected between July 21 and July 30, 2021.
Finally, the plan includes the possibility of granting a special status to the Western Armenian language standard in Armenia. Educational programming would aim to strengthen knowledge of the standard and preserve its transmission.
According to the RA Constitution, the state language of the Republic of Armenia is Armenian. While the Constitution does not specify whether Armenian refers to Western or Eastern Armenian, the latter predominates in government documents and sessions. The Constitution also stipulates that Armenia shall “contribute to the preservation of the Armenian language.”
The previous government plan announced in 2019 noted that the government should encourage “the dissemination of the Armenian language and strengthen the knowledge of Armenian (including Western Armenian) in Armenia and the diaspora.” Yet it did not go so far as to establish a special status for Western Armenian within the country.
UNESCO categorizes Western Armenian as “definitely endangered,” meaning that “children no longer learn the language as a ‘mother tongue’ in the home.”