Armenia PM rules out diplomatic solution to Karabakh conflict

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Wednesday ruled out a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, dealing a fresh blow to efforts by world powers to secure a sustainable truce.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged in fierce fighting for almost a month over Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan controlled by Armenian separatists in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The flare-up of the conflict has left hundreds dead, with world powers so far unable to persuade either side to stop fighting. 

The Karabakh conflict “has not… and will not have a diplomatic solution for a long time,” Pashinyan said in a video message on Facebook.

He called on Armenians to volunteer for fighting at the front, acknowledging that his country faces “a difficult situation” on the battlefield.

“There is victory and there is defeat, there is no middle ground,” he added.

“To win, we must all form volunteer units and operate under the control of the commander-in-chief.”

He indicated that negotiations on the status of Karabakh were for now pointless, accusing Baku of not wanting to compromise.

“Experience has shown that everything acceptable for the Armenian side… is no longer acceptable for Azerbaijan.

“What we agree with, Azerbaijan no longer agrees with. This shows that it is generally meaningless to talk about any diplomatic solution, at least at this stage,” Pashinyan added.

– Moscow talks –

Azerbaijan and the Armenian separatists who control Karabakh have been locked in a bitter impasse over the fate of the mountainous province since a war in the 1990s that left 30,000 people dead.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has said there can only be a ceasefire when Armenia pulls out from Karabakh and all the surrounding regions of Azerbaijan held by Armenian forces.

However Pashinyan has repeatedly urged international recognition of Karabakh, claiming its inhabitants would not be safe under Azerbaijani rule. 

His comments came as Russia hosted the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan for separate talks on Wednesday in a new bid to find a lasting truce.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan were also due to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday. However no trilateral meetings are taking place. 

A truce was agreed in Moscow earlier this month after 11 hours of talks, but the accord had next to no impact on the ground.

A second ceasefire agreed on Saturday fell apart almost immediately.

Yerevan says more than 800 Armenian soldiers and 36 civilians have been killed in the flare-up of fighting.

Baku has reported 63 civilian casualties but has yet to disclose military losses.

Analysts have said while Azerbaijan has made some gains on the ground it will not be able to swing the balance in the conflict by military means alone.

– ‘Not going to wait’ –

With no let-up in the fighting, a statement by the Azerbaijan defence ministry claimed that the Azerbaijani army “is in control of the operation situation along the entire frontline”.

Pashinyan said that Azerbaijan was throwing its “last resources” into the conflict while admitting that the hydrocarbon-rich state had “big resources”.

“Our heroes will inflict irreversible losses on them,” he said.

Fears remain of the conflict broadening, with Turkey strongly backing its ally Azerbaijan even as Ankara rejects claims it has sent in both Turkish military personnel and Syria militia members to help Baku.

“We are ready to stop the military advancement of our troops, only with one condition: that the Armenian forces have to leave the territory of Azerbaijan,” ambassador Vaqif Sadiqov, permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the UN in Geneva, told reporters.

“We have to understand and look realistically: We are not going to wait another 30 years for this to happen,” he added.

by Mariam HARUTYUNYAN