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New Armenian PM Ruffles Baku’s Feathers

Nikol Pashinyan takes hard line on Karabakh, says could meet Putin next week.

10 May 2018

On his first full day in office, which was yesterday, Armenia’s new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (pictured) traveled to the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh.

 

In what The Associated Press calls “a provocative move toward Azerbaijan,” Pashinyan praised the leadership of the unrecognized territory, which Armenian-backed forces seized from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, and said they should be included in talks to end the conflict.

 

"How can this negotiation format solve an issue when one of its key participants is missing from the negotiation table? This is not an issue to be approached with emotion but rather with pragmatism," he said.

 

Armenia’s parliament elected Pashinyan prime minister Tuesday, capping a remarkable month that witnessed the resignation of the country’s long-serving leader Serzh Sargsyan, whose decision to switch jobs from president to premier fueled huge protests, led by Pashinyan, against a government seen as both ridden with corruption and weak on Karabakh.

 

Pashinyan’s swift rise to power owed as much to his role as a prominent government gadfly for many years as to his official position as leader of a small opposition coalition.

 

Deutsche Welle cites analysts as saying Pashinyan may be forced to call snap elections to try and hamstring Sargsyan’s Republican Party, which still controls a majority in parliament.

 

Although Russia is the country’s most important trade and security ally, Pashinyan’s Yelk (Exit) coalition has called for closer ties with the European Union and mulled the prospect of leaving the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. Relations with Moscow will remain unchanged, Pashinyan has said, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate him on becoming prime minister.

 

Pashinyan told Russian news agency TASS that he hopes to meet Putin at next week’s Eurasian Union summit in Sochi, The Moscow Times reports.

 

 

  • A spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry suggested Pashinyan would do better to address Armenia’s “daunting social-economic problems” instead of issuing “controversial statements” on the Nagorno Karabakh negotiation process, Azer News reports.

 

  • Azerbaijani political analyst Hikmet Gadjizade said Pashinyan’s honeymoon will be brief. “[T]he euphoria will fade away quickly, heavy days will begin, and then he will find himself in the difficult political labyrinth. He still has to clarify relations with Russia," Gadjizade told Caucasian Knot.

 

  • Pashinyan is likely to return to the position of previous Armenian leaders, who "refrained from unilateral recognition of the independence of Nagorno Karabakh, fearing for the international diplomatic consequences of such a step," Gadjizade said.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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