‘It is not the best time to raise the issue of Nagorno Karabakh status as a priority subject. It should be left to the future,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference. In his words, the issue of status is within the responsibilities of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship that have resumed the contacts with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Lavrov highlighted the importance of restoring the peaceful co-existence of the ethnic and religious communities which will allegedly facilitate a solution on the Nagorno Karabakh’s status.
Lavrov called the possibility of including Nagorno Karabakh in the Russian Federation ‘exotic’, adding that Nagorno Karabakh has not been recognized by any country, including Armenia. He added that those issues should be resolved between Armenia and Azerbaijan to maintain security in the region.
Connection between Armenia and Karabakh should be ensured through the land
In response to the question about Armenia’s Foreign Minister’s official visit to Karabakh, Lavrov said that the connection between Karabakh and Armenia has never been debated.
After Armenia’s Foreign Minister’s meetings with the officials of Nagorno Karabakh earlier in January, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev warned Armenia to stop the visits and threatened by war.
In Lavrov’s words, the connection between Armenia and Karabakh should be ensured through the land, including the Lachin corridor controlled by Russian peacekeepers, showcasing the absence of any attempts to cut Karabakh from Armenia. ‘I see no reason to obstruct the contacts at that level,’ Lavrov said adding that Armenian officials are involved in solving humanitarian issues in Karabakh which does not cause any negative feelings in Baku. Meanwhile, according to Lavrov, the Armenian officials, need to refrain from making political statements that will create tensions as it was before the war.
Pashinyan and Aliyev discussed the issue of PoWs in detail
Speaking about the return of PoWs, Lavrov said that the issue was comprehensively discussed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders during the January 11 meeting in Moscow. In Minister's words, the list of missing persons was submitted first by Azerbaijan, while Armenia presented an incomplete list later on.
Lavrov argued that the Armenian PoWs, who were captured during the war, have been returned, as agreed with the truce statement. However, as he explained, after the truce, 62 more Armenian servicemen were reported captured. In Minister’s words, the issue of those servicemen should be considered separately, since they were captured after the November 9 truce statement. Lavrov added, that he discussed this issue with the Armenian Foreign Minister and was updated that the number of the PoWs is more than 62. ‘Our military is dealing with the issue, in cooperation with Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues, to verify the missing serviceman.’
Armenian Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan has sent an official letter to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office over the issue of the return of Armenian PoWs captured by Azerbaijan and the protection of their rights.
In his letter, the Ombudsman notes that the return of PoWs should be viewed exclusively within human rights or humanitarian processes implying the immediate return of PoWs after the end of military operations. Not following this requirement means the Azerbaijani side violated international humanitarian law, including the third Geneva Convention of 1949.
Tatoyan reminded that Provision 8 of the November 9 truce statement between Armenian, Azerbaijan, and Russia provides for the return of PoWs and should not be conditioned on the other points of the statement.
According to Tatoyan, investigations confirmed the fact that Azerbaijan artificially delays the return of the PoWs and other detained persons and misreports the real numbers of the captives which goes against the international humanitarian law and violates the rights of the family members of the captives. The Ombudsman added that Azerbaijan is abusing legal proceedings and started prosecution against the PoWs using detention as a punishment.
The parliament voted against the inclusion of opposition Bright Armenia’s action plan for overcoming the situation in Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian service reports. Following the party leader Edmon Marukyan’s 20-minute discussion with ruling My Step, the head of the ruling party group Lilit Makunts announced that My Step will vote against the bill, arguing that My Step has already published a roadmap where the political forces can have their contribution if they are willing to do so.
According to Makunts, the opposition’s mistrust over the legitimacy of the ruling party can be solved by having discussions about snap elections, otherwise, as she noted, those steps will bring to further escalation of the tension. In response, Marukyan accused the ruling My Step of derailing the Constitutional processes.
Naira Zohrabyan, MP from the opposition Prosperous Armenia, in turn, said that one gets the impression that the ‘My step’ block lives in a parallel reality ‘that does not intersect with ours,’ Arminfo.am reports. The MP stressed that the Pashinyan’s My Step alliance is trying to convince the people that Armenia will benefit from the trade with Azerbaijan. ‘But as long as our prisoners are there, there can be no talk of any trade,’ opposition MP said adding that the sooner the ruling My Step realizes that Pashinyan must resign, the better.
Arpy Davoyan, MO from ruling my Step faction countered saying that the representatives of the opposition are the people who are exploiting the post-war situation, the issue of the captured Armenians, security of Syunik, and manipulating the situation all the time. ‘We have serious issues, and the name of these issues is opposition,’ said the MP.
Photo: RFE/RL's Armenian service