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New war with Azerbaijan ‘very likely’: Armenian prime minister tells AFP

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gives exclusive interview to AFP

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Friday warned of the danger of a new war with Azerbaijan and accused Baku of “genocide” in the separatist Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Baku and Yerevan have fought two wars over mountainous enclaves and the prospect of a peace treaty remains distant.

Negotiations under the auspices of the European Union, the United States and, separately, Russia have yielded little progress.

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“Unless a peace treaty is signed and the parliaments of both countries ratify such a treaty, there is of course a very high probability of a (new) war (with Azerbaijan),” Pashinyan told AFP.

Tensions rose in early July when Azerbaijan temporarily closed the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

The shutdown has raised concerns over a humanitarian crisis in the region, which is suffering from shortages of food, medicine and electricity.

Referring to the Karabakh crisis, Pashinyan said, “We are not talking about the preparation of genocide, but about the ongoing genocidal process.”

The Azerbaijani army said it had “created a ghetto” in Karabakh.

AFP news agency last week spoke to locals in Stepanakert, a major city in the rebel area, reporting serious problems with food shortages and access to medical services.

Growing diplomatic engagement between the European Union and the United States in the Caucasus region has irritated Russia, a traditional mediator of regional power.

– “Red Line” –

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia has relied on Russia for military and economic assistance.

Yerevan accused Moscow, bogged down in the war with Ukraine, of failing to play a peacekeeping role in Karabakh under the 2020 Moscow-brokered ceasefire.

Pashinyan said both the West and Russia needed to step up pressure on Baku to lift the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, after the latest peace talks in Brussels on July 15 failed to yield a breakthrough.

“According to some Western logic, if Russia is not living up to our expectations because it has not fulfilled its obligations, Russia will likewise tell us[the same]about the West,” he said.

Pashinyan said progress in the talks was hampered by “Azerbaijan’s continued aggressive rhetoric and hate speech against Armenians” and accused Baku of promoting “ethnic cleansing”.

After six weeks of fighting ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire in autumn 2020, deadly border clashes between former Soviet states continued, after which Azerbaijan occupied parts of Armenia.

Pashinyan said in his talks with Baku that “Armenia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, rights and security of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh” were “a red line” in Yerevan.

– International Witness –

Nagorno-Karabakh has been at the center of a decades-long conflict between the two countries, which fought two wars for control of the region in the 1990s and 2020, claiming thousands of lives on both sides.

Armenia ceded part of the territory it had ruled for almost 30 years in a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia.

Moscow sent peacekeepers to the Rachin Corridor to ensure free passage between Armenia and Karabakh.

“Armenian lawsuits are difficult because Armenian interest in the process is perceived and interpreted by Azerbaijan as a so-called violation of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” Pashinyan said.

In May, in Western-brokered talks, Yerevan agreed to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, but called for an international mechanism to protect the rights and security of the region’s Armenian population.

Baku argues that such guarantees should be provided at the national level and rejects any international formalism.

The Karabakh-Azerbaijan dialogue “should take place within an international mechanism where we can have witnesses, and the international community will be witnesses,” Pashinyan said.


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https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/new-war-with-azerbaijan-very-likely-armenia-pm-to-afp/news-story/aa888ba7e8e41bf84cb1db9afd96a57d New war with Azerbaijan ‘very likely’: Armenian prime minister tells AFP

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