YEREVAN—Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan voiced concerns during a January 23 news conference regarding Azerbaijan’s unexpected backtrack in the ongoing peace talks with Armenia.
While the December 8 Armenia-Azerbaijan prisoner exchange suggested a positive development, Mirzoyan highlighted Azerbaijan’s failure to maintain a constructive stance since then. This shift was evident in Azerbaijan’s recent proposals on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty and President Ilham Aliyev’s latest interview on January 10, marking a significant regression in the peace process on crucial issues.
“Unfortunately, after this positive step of December 8, we saw that Azerbaijan is not continuing with its constructive stance, to say the least,” Mirzoyan said. “That manifested itself through both the seventh Azerbaijani proposals on the treaty and the Azerbaijani president’s latest interview. There was a significant regression and even a blow to the peace process on a number of key issues.”
During a January 19 discussion in Croatia, Mirzoyan emphasized Armenia’s conscientious commitment to fostering lasting peace in the region. While acknowledging challenges arising from Azerbaijan’s lack of reciprocity, Mirzoyan highlighted Armenia’s active participation in negotiations, supported by the European Union and other stakeholders. However, he lamented Azerbaijan’s reluctance to resume talks on existing platforms.
Mirzoyan stressed the foundational principles guiding the negotiations, including territorial integrity, recognition, indivisibility of borders and mutual acknowledgment of sovereignty. He said these principles form the bedrock for a comprehensive peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Armenia remains steadfast in its pursuit of a negotiated settlement that respects these principles.
Mirzoyan previously raised concerns on January 10 regarding the latest Azerbaijani proposals on a peace treaty, which he said show Azerbaijan’s reluctance to explicitly recognize Armenia’s borders. In response, during a January 10 interview, President Aliyev reiterated demands for Armenia to open an extraterritorial corridor to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave and insisted on Armenian withdrawal from “eight Azerbaijani villages.” Aliyev also dismissed Yerevan’s use of the most recent Soviet maps for border delimitation.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan rejected Aliyev’s demands, characterizing them as territorial claims. Mirzoyan reiterated on January 23 that Azerbaijan seeks to redraw its long border with Armenia, emphasizing that no one has the authority to unilaterally establish a new border. He affirmed Armenia’s commitment to reproducing borders drawn on legal grounds before the Soviet Union’s dissolution.
Despite the perceived risk of an Azerbaijani invasion of Armenia, Mirzoyan asserted that Pashinyan’s government remains dedicated to its “peace agenda.” On January 22, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressed serious concern about Azerbaijan’s latest territorial claims against Armenia.
“The latest territorial claims by President Aliyev are very concerning. And any violation of Armenia’s territorial integrity will be unacceptable and will have severe consequences for our relations with Azerbaijan,” Borrell said during a news conference.
In response, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry swiftly rejected Borrell’s criticism, accusing him of distorting Aliyev’s statements and inciting an aggressive policy against Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani relations with the West have recently deteriorated, as Azerbaijan has accused the West of bias in favor of Armenia. Azerbaijan has proposed bilateral negotiations without mediators, a proposition that Armenia rejects. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that while Azerbaijan is willing to sign a peace agreement on Russian territory, Armenia’s readiness remains uncertain.
The situation suggests a potential failure in the preparation of a peace agreement, with leaders of both countries evaluating the peace prospects differently. Russian expert Sergey Markedonov argued that while Baku leans towards a contained agreement without international guarantors, Yerevan insists on active external involvement in the peace project. With Brussels, Washington and Moscow distracted with other regions, a deadlock has emerged, hindering progress in various directions, including the formulation of the peace treaty’s text.
Amid the potential deterioration of the ongoing peace negotiations, PM Pashinyan has introduced a new perspective on a potential treaty with Azerbaijan. Speaking before members of his ruling Civil Contract party on January 19, Pashinyan said that Armenia needs a new constitution to reflect the “new geopolitical environment” in the region. “We must have a constitution that will make Armenia more competitive and viable in the new geopolitical and regional environment,” Pashinyan said.
Central to this discussion is the argument made by Pashinyan that constitutional reforms are imperative for any meaningful peace treaty with Azerbaijan. This perspective was articulated back in September 2022, when Pashinyan emphasized the need to revisit the declaration of independence. Pashinyan argued that changes to the constitution, including the annulment of the declaration of independence and a joint decision dating back to December 1, 1989, are essential.
Pashinyan’s call for a new constitution has come under criticism from the opposition, which says that Pashinyan is submitting to a demand from Azerbaijan. On January 19, five members of the opposition Armenia Alliance released a joint statement accusing Pashinyan of “preparing the ground for meeting another of the nonstop Turkish-Azerbaijani demands.” They said that Pashinyan aims to remove the preamble of the constitution, which refers to the 1989 unification act adopted by Armenia and Artsakh and calls for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
During his January 23 news conference, Foreign Minister Mirzoyan admitted that while Azerbaijan takes issue with Armenia’s constitution, Armenia also has objections to parts of Azerbaijan’s constitution. “To say that the Armenia-Azerbaijan settlement process is the reason for the change of the constitution would be a gross exaggeration,” Mirzoyan said.
Armenian journalist Nairi Hokhikyan argued that manipulating the upcoming referendum in favor of constitutional changes is a pivotal move for Pashinyan’s political agenda. Hokhikyan said that Pashinyan faces a significant challenge in the upcoming elections. The ruling party has allegedly used strategies including changing governors and orchestrating local revolutions in communities to secure influence.
However, concerns persist about the risks associated with combining the referendum with parliamentary elections. Hokhikyan argued that the key to victory for the ruling party lies in a low turnout, which may be compromised by the simultaneous occurrence of a referendum. He added that organizing elections shortly after the referendum, when the electorate may be fatigued, could serve Pashinyan’s interests more reliably.
In the event that the opposition manages to sway public sentiment against Pashinyan’s proposed constitutional changes, the Prime Minister’s political standing could face significant challenges, Hokhikyan continued. The geopolitical dimension is also brought into focus, with contrasting expectations from Western nations and the Russian Federation regarding Pashinyan’s leadership and his alignment with regional partners.
The unfolding political landscape in Armenia remains under scrutiny as these strategic maneuvers continue to shape the country’s future.