MOSCOW (Reuters) – Armenia needs to be “free of conflict” for the sake of its independence, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told his compatriots on Thursday, after their ethnic kin in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region surrendered this week to Azerbaijan.
The fall of Karabakh, a region that the ethnic Armenian separatists had controlled for three decades with Yerevan’s support, has stoked calls in Armenia for Pashinyan’s resignation.
“Today we are living in difficult times, suffering untold physical and psychological suffering,” Pashinyan said in a televised address marking Armenia’s national independence day in which he made no direct reference to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia has benefited from democracy, the rule of law and a principled anti-corruption policy, but it also needs peace, Pashinyan said.
“Peace is a factor that ensures and guarantees security as well as independence and sovereignty,” he said.
“(Armenia) must take this path for the sake of independence, for the sake of statehood, for the sake of the future”, he added.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Wednesday he valued the fact that Armenia – which had few options – had not tried to interfere in Baku’s lightning offensive. Aliyev said this would remove an obstacle to wider peace negotiations between the two Caucasus neighbours.
Pashinyan in 2020 presided over a war in which a newly confident and better-armed Azerbaijan seized control of swathes of territory previously controlled by the separatists, laying the groundwork for this week’s capture of the entire region.
Pashinyan nonetheless won re-election in Armenia a few months later.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Gareth Jones)