By Harut Sassounian,
On Nov. 10, 2020, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, and President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a ceasefire agreement in the Artsakh War.
Ceasefires usually signify that the warring sides stop the fighting wherever they had reached until then. Oddly, in the case of the 2020 ceasefire agreement, Armenia surrendered to Azerbaijan large swaths of land where no Azeri soldier had set foot on, such as the Agdam, Kalbajar and Lachin districts, but not the Corridor.
Therefore, the 2020 agreement was more of a capitulation than a ceasefire for Armenia. Here are the resulting problems:
1) Prime Minister Pashinyan had no reason to sign a ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan since the war was between Azerbaijan and Artsakh, not Armenia. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan had declared war against each other.
2) Pashinyan had no authorization to turn over to Azerbaijan territories that belonged to Artsakh, not Armenia.
3) The 2020 agreement set deadlines for Armenia, but not for Azerbaijan, to carry out various obligations, such as the evacuation of territories and exchange of prisoners of war. Unwisely, the Armenian government handed over all the Azeri prisoners right away, while Azerbaijan released only a small number of Armenian prisoners. Three years later, dozens of Armenian prisoners are still languishing in Baku jails. Pashinyan is not only making no efforts to return these prisoners but does not even talk about them.
4) Under the 2020 agreement, the Lachin Corridor — the only road that connected Artsakh to Armenia — was forcefully and illegally taken over by Azerbaijan on Dec. 12, 2022, even though Russian Peacekeepers were supposed to control it.
5) The 2020 agreement mandated that “all economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked.” This means that both Armenia and Azerbaijan would be able to cross each other’s territories. Pashinyan expressed his readiness to allow Azeris to travel through Armenia from the eastern part of Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhichevan, but never mentioned that such access was to be reciprocal. Contrary to the 2020 agreement, Azerbaijan demanded not just a passage, but a ‘corridor’ which means that the road through Armenia would belong to Azerbaijan. Pres. Aliyev never once mentioned that he will in turn allow Armenians to cross Azerbaijan’s border. To make matters worse, Turkey has been falsely demanding that Armenia accept the ‘Zangezur Corridor’ before it would agree to open the Armenia-Turkey border.
6) Pashinyan has repeatedly talked about his plan to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan. There is no need to sign such a peace treaty since Armenia was not at war with Azerbaijan. Peace treaties are signed between warring parties. Azerbaijan was at war with Artsakh, not Armenia.
7) Contrary to the 2020 agreement, which mandated that Russian Peacekeepers would remain in Artsakh until 2025, Azerbaijan violated that provision by invading and occupying the remainder of Artsakh last month, forcing its 120,000 inhabitants to flee to Armenia.
8) Azerbaijan’s occupation of Artsakh in September 2023 made the role of the Russian Peacekeepers unnecessary, which means that the Russian soldiers would have to leave what is now Azeri territory.
9) While there are good reasons to blame Russia for its inaction in protecting Artsakh Armenians, there is an equally good reason to blame Pashinyan for conceding that Artsakh is part of Azerbaijan. It is clear that despite Russia’s alliance with Armenia, given its involvement in the Ukraine War, Pres. Putin has decided that Turkey (the only NATO member that has not sanctioned Russia) and its junior brother Azerbaijan are much more important to Russia’s national interests than Armenia or Artsakh. Meanwhile, the West has not been of much help to Armenia either, except for issuing supportive statements, but no action.
10) After the 2020 War, when Azerbaijan’s army entered and occupied the eastern territory of Armenia, Pashinyan not only makes no effort to dislodge the enemy from Armenia’s sovereign territory but does not even talk about Azerbaijan’s illegal presence there.
11) Pashinyan’s long list of mistakes includes acknowledging that the Soviet-era Azeri inhabited enclaves inside Armenia are part of Azerbaijan. There was no reason for Pashinyan to offer to Azerbaijan these enclaves, especially since Aliyev had made no such demands.
12) Pashinyan unilaterally recognized Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity without any reciprocal recognition by Aliyev.
Given Pashinyan’s mishandling of the above 12 critical issues, refusal to resign and turn over his seat to a competent leader, the only option left for him is to declare that the 2020 agreement is null and void since Azerbaijan has violated most of its provisions.
Pashinyan should refuse to sit at the negotiating table with Aliyev until he releases all Armenian prisoners of war and withdraws his troops from Armenia’s territory. Aliyev should first honor his previous commitments before Armenians can trust him to abide by future agreements.
Fortunately, the 2020 agreement can easily be discarded because it was not ratified by the Parliaments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia as an international treaty. It was simply signed by Pashinyan without consulting anyone. The next leader of Armenia, on his first day in office, should nullify the 2020 agreement.