Former head of the National Security Service David Shahnazaryan referred to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process and made a number of statements during an appearance on ArmNews TV.
In particular, he stated that “the creation of joint settlement zones for Armenians and Azeris in Nagorno Karabakh” is discussed at the negotiation table, and according to the current Constitution of Artsakh, “Armenia is the guarantor of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Artsakh”.
The Fact Investigation Platform has verified the authenticity of these and other statements by David Shahnazaryan.
Double denial by the Foreign Ministry
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia held an 11-hour discussion in Geneva on January 28-30, after which the former head of the NSS David Shahnazaryan made some controversial statements about the negotiation process. In particular, Shahnazaryan insisted in an interview with 168.am that substantial negotiations were under way on the political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “One of the key issues is the creation of joint settlements between Armenians and Azeris in Nagorno Karabakh, first of all the Shushi issue is negotiated, as well as the intensification of substantive negotiations” Shahnazaryan said.
In response, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan refuted Davit Shahnazaryan’s comments, saying they did not correspond to the reality.
On ArmNews, however, Davit Shahnazaryan insisted that the refutation of the Foreign Ministry was not related to the information he provided. “The Foreign Ministry has not refuted me at all. I have given three pieces of information. They confirmed two of them, and I insist that the third is correct” David Shahnazaryan said in the interview.
He called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare that within the framework of the Minsk Group co-chairmanship the issue of creation of joint settlements between Armenians and Azerbaijanis was not negotiated. “This is the truth, the Foreign Ministry does not even try to deny it” David Shahnazaryan stated.
Speaking to the Fact Investigation Platform, MFA spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan once again denied Shahnazaryan’s statement. “David Shahnazaryan’s comments have nothing to do with today’s reality. The issue of joint settlement of Armenians and Azerbaijanis was not discussed during the meeting” Anna Naghdalyan said.
And David Shahnazaryan’s assertion that the other two pieces of information he presented, namely discussion of broader issues and intensification of the negotiation process, have been confirmed by the Foreign Ministry since they are contained in the text of the statement does not correspond to the reality either. The statement noted that over three days of intensive discussions, the Co-Chairs and the Ministers discussed the following agenda items: implementation of agreements and proposals discussed in 2019 and possible next steps to prepare the populations for peace; principles and elements forming the basis of a future settlement; and timing and agenda for advancing the settlement process.
The statement does not contain references to the intensification of negotiations and a discussion of a wide range of issues mentioned by David Shahnazaryan.
What is wrong with the MFA translation?
During the interview Shahnazaryan also touched upon the Armenian text of the statement issued by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the Foreign Ministers of the two countries. The former head of the NSS said that the MFA is making wrong translations and misleading the public for political reasons.
“The word settlement […] was used twice in the statement, which Mr. Mnatsakanyan did not translate properly. And if you search in Google what settlement means in a diplomatic sense, it means an official agreement on conflict or dispute” Shahnazaryan says.
The word settlement is explained in the Cambridge University Dictionary as “official agreement that finishes an argument“. The word in Armenian is translated as solution, settlement, and agreement.
Who is the guarantor of the security and territorial integrity of Artsakh?
Speaking about the Artsakh issue, David Shahnazaryan noted that although Pashinyan would disagree, the international community should know: “Armenia is not only the guarantor of the security of Artsakh, but also the guarantor of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Artsakh according to their constitution.”
This statement is not true either. Article 94 of the Constitution of the Artsakh Republic clearly states that the President of the Republic of Artsakh is the guarantor of the country’s security and territorial integrity. There is no mention of Armenia as a guarantor of Artsakh’s territorial integrity in the Constitution.
And Armenia has assumed the assurance of the security of the Artsakh Republic in the “Military Doctrine of the Republic of Armenia” approved in 2007. “The Republic of Armenia is the guarantor and supporter of the security of the people of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and the path of development they have chosen,” the document says, but there is no reference here to being a guarantor of the country’s territorial integrity.
The issue of international recognition of Artsakh and it being part of Azerbaijan
The former NSS chief said that Nikol Pashinyan had never said that Artsakh should not be part of Azerbaijan. “Pashinyan is afraid to speak about international recognition of Artsakh” Davit Shahnazaryan said in the interview.
PM Pashinyan addressed the issue of Artsakh not being part of Azerbaijan during his speech at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly on 26 September. “Thus, it becomes clear that the intention of the Azerbaijani leadership is to cleanse Karabakh of the Armenians, as it happened in Nakhichevan. This gives Nagorno-Karabakh the right to say that being part of Azerbaijan will mean a complete annihilation for the population of Karabakh. Consequently, Karabakh should not be part of Azerbaijan unless one wants to allow a new genocide of the Armenian people” Pashinyan said.
As for the international recognition of Artsakh, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia have repeatedly touched upon the position Armenia holds. During his first visit to Artsakh in May 2018, Pashinyan spoke about the steps necessary for the international recognition of Artsakh, noting that the main precondition for the reunification of Armenia and Artsakh is the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh. During a pre-election debate in December of the same year, referring to the Artsakh issue, Nikol Pashinyan emphasized that the negotiations were conducted in two directions: the recognition of Artsakh’s self-determination and ensuring the security of the people. “We state that it is necessary to resolve the issue through the international recognition of Artsakh” Pashinyan said.
Is Pashinyan going to appoint the president of Artsakh?
During the interview Shahnazaryan also spoke about the presidential elections in Artsakh, noting that Pashinyan had noted that he should have his appointed leader in Artsakh.
Nevertheless, in fact Nikol Pashinyan has not spoken about having a president chosen by him in Artsakh. Moreover, he has repeatedly stated that the presidential elections in Artsakh should be free and the Armenian government will support it. He confirmed his position at a press conference in March last year and then at a meeting with presidential candidates in December, during which Pashinyan stressed the importance of holding free and competitive elections. Davit Shahnazaryan’s statement, therefore, contradicts the content of Nikol Pashinyan’s speeches and does not correspond to the reality.