Pashinyan is incorrect that Armenia had agreed to exchange Meghri for Artsakh

Arax River passing through the mountains of Meghri (Photo Nanar Avedessian)

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attempted last month to distract attention from Armenia’s current tragic situation by blaming former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. This is a routine ploy used by Armenia’s current leader to cover up his defeat in the Artsakh War and failure to protect the country’s national interests.

This does not mean that the former leaders were faultless. They made plenty of mistakes, and I repeatedly criticized them at the time while sitting in front of them in the presidential palace. Those who describe my criticisms of Pashinyan as defending the former leaders are totally mistaken. 

Here is what Pashinyan said last month while testifying in a parliamentary committee investigating the circumstances of the 2020 Artsakh War: “On June 2, 2000, Aravot newspaper [in Armenia] published the following article: Vartan Oskanian, the Foreign Minister, on April 25, 2000, during his meeting with the Armenian community of Glendale [California], described by him as ‘very private, unofficial remarks,’ announced the following: ‘Meghri is being given to Azerbaijan, Lachin [Corridor] along with Artsakh is being given to Armenia. Through Meghri, Armenia is being given a sovereign road with which Armenia would be able to have a sovereign contact to enter Iran.’” Pashinyan added: “His [Oskanian’s] remarks were published in The California Courier weekly newspaper [in 2000] which also quoted Oskanian’s words that the above mentioned proposal has ‘some logic and needs serious consideration…’”

Since Prime Minister Pashinyan was referring to an editorial I wrote in The California Courier on May 25, 2000, a few lines of which were reprinted in Aravot, I would like to set the record straight by quoting from what I wrote 23 years ago, titled: “Exchanging Meghri with Karabagh: Good Idea or Political Suicide?” 

What Pashinyan is referring to was a 1992 proposal by Paul Goble, special advisor to Secretary of State James Baker, to exchange Meghri, the strategically important southern region of Armenia, for Artsakh. This idea was rejected by then-Pres. Robert Kocharyan and subsequently by Azerbaijan’s then-Pres. Heydar Aliyev. 

Pashinyan is partially distorting what Oskanian said in Glendale. In my editorial of 2000, I quoted Oskanian as saying: “There are many rumors about the resolution of the Karabagh conflict. There are criticisms alleging that the Armenian authorities want to give Meghri to Azerbaijan. In fact, there is a small degree of truth in those rumors. Such a proposal on the exchange of territories has been made to the Armenian Republic, to the President of Armenia. But, such a proposal was rejected. Armenia did not accept it as a basis of negotiations.” Oskanian repeatedly stated that this proposal was rejected by the Armenian government. The proof is that Meghri was not exchanged for Artsakh.

However, Oskanian continued his remarks, raising questions about his assertion that Armenia rejected the Goble plan. Pashinyan is now capitalizing on Oskanian’s supplementary statement. 

Here is what Oskanian said in his additional statement which I reported in my 2000 article: “But let me say the following: I don’t want you to misunderstand me. It’s been rejected, it will be rejected and it’s not a plan that can be realized. Nevertheless, this is such a proposal that is worth thinking about. It’s not happening. It won’t happen, but when people say it’s treasonous to even think about it, that’s what I would like to respond to: Let’s think a little deeply about it. This proposal has certain logic. To simply dismiss such a proposal on a purely emotional basis is wrong. We have done that. We must seriously analyze it. I wonder, maybe we are wrong in saying no. What are we afraid of? Why are we not analyzing it? Is it a taboo? Let’s make a checklist. Let’s analyze it in newspapers. It has pluses and minuses. What I’m calling for is that it’s possible to have a very healthy debate and a dialog on this issue, because this proposal is worth thinking about.” 

I don’t know why Oskanian, after repeatedly rejecting the exchange proposal, went on to say that it is “worth thinking about.” In my opinion, there was nothing to think about. It was clearly an unacceptable proposal, suggesting that Armenia exchange one Armenian territory, Artsakh, for another Armenian territory, Meghri. Oskanian’s speculative words gave Pashinyan a reason to blame him for even considering such a bad idea.

I concluded my editorial in 2000 with the following words: “Armenia has nothing to gain and much to lose from such an exchange.” I am still of the same opinion.

Finally, for those who think that since Armenia lost most of Artsakh in the 2020 war, maybe Oskanian was correct about considering the exchange of Meghri for Artsakh, I must say that Azerbaijan’s insatiable appetite is not satisfied by the conquest of Artsakh or even Meghri. Azerbaijan’s imperialistic ambitions extend to the takeover of the entirety of Armenia. The more Armenia’s leaders make territorial concessions, the more Azerbaijan will be encouraged to demand further Armenian territories. The only solution is to arm Armenia’s military with modern lethal weapons and defend its territory from further Azeri incursions.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.