Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov made a Facebook post on November 20, referring to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s statement in Milan about the willingness of Armenian Presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan to hand over the 7 regions of Artsakh and Meghri.
Sharmazanov, in particular, wrote: “Nikol, who called Aliyev “educated and normal”, who has done nothing on any of the most important national agendas except to dismantle, has come to the point where he calls Artsakh heroes Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan persons who wanted to “hand over Meghri”. You, populist, Kocharyan and Sargsyan have liberated Artsakh, and the seven regions you are referring to have also been liberated under their leadership.”
It should be reminded that during Pashinyan’s meeting with the Armenian community in Milan, one of the participants presenting herself as a scientist, stated that she was concerned about the policy of the Armenian government. According to her, there is too much hate speech in Armenia and no strategy on Artsakh.
“They say that we do not have a strategy on Artsakh. What was the strategy of Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan? Was handing over Meghri their strategy, or, as they say, negotiating the return of the seven regions of Azerbaijan in return for peace?“, Pashinyan replied, adding that they are now accusing the current government of handing over lands.
Referring to Pashinyan’s statement, Eduard Sharmazanov noted: “Remember, Kocharyan, Commander Vazgen, and Serzh Sargsyan rejected and threw down your political godfather’s defeatist thesis on Artsakh. We’ve had enough of lies. There will be response. Those who will discredit the heroes of Artsakh have one destination – the landfill of history.”
The Fact Investigation Platform decided to find out whether Pashinyan is really lying and “discrediting” former RA Presidents, and what approaches and statements were used by Sargsyan and Kocharyan on the conflict settlement.
Statements by Armenian Presidents: Territories in return for status
President Serzh Sargsyan’s interview with Syrian daily Al Watan is published on the official website of the president. In an interview in 2010, referring to the concessions acceptable to Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Serzh Sargsyan noted: “… when the people of Karabakh get a real opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination and practical security and development mechanisms are established, the compromise of the Armenian side on Karabakh issue can be the return of those regions around Azerbaijan to Azerbaijan, of course, keeping the corridor connecting Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia.” In fact, Sargsyan announced in 2010 that he was ready to surrender the lands as a “compromise”.
Serzh Sargsyan’s latest statement on conceding territories is three years old. In an interview with Sputnik TV on November 17, 2016, Serzh Sargsyan said: “We met in Mayendorf and signed a document according to which the Nagorno Karabakh conflict should get only a political solution. Then the negotiation process continued, and we were close to signing a document several times, with all these principles clearly reflected. That is, Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia leave the territories that were taken as a security zone, the territories that the Azeris call occupied. We are leaving the territories.” Sargsyan said.
In response to the journalist’s question whether the Armenian side is ready to return to that document and consider it valid, he replied: “We are ready to settle the issue on the basis of these three principles, but only on the basis of those three principles.”
About “Meghri option
Many people have stated about discussions between Robert Kocharyan and Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev on the exchange of the Meghri region with Lachin. They include Vazgen Sargsyan’s brother, former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan, former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan, Karen Demirchyan’s wife Rima Demirchyan, and others. Kocharyan and his supporters deny any discussions on exchange of Meghri region. According to Kocharyan, he discussed with Heydar Aliyev the issue of providing a route to Azerbaijan via Meghri.
Excerpt from Robert Kocharyan’s book “Life and Freedom”
In his 2018 book “Life and Freedom”, Robert Kocharyan writes that the treaty was intended to be signed in Key West in 2001, but at the last moment Azerbaijan refused to sign it. Under the agreement, the liberated territories were also returned to Azerbaijan.
Nevertheless, in another passage of the same book (pp. 380-381), Kocharyan acknowledges that there have been discussions about giving the Meghri region in return for Lachin. He writes that in 1999 Heydar Aliyev offered to recognize Karabakh as Armenian along with the corridor connecting it with Armenia. “But in return, along with the return of the (Armenian-ed.) regions taken by us around Karabakh during the war, he offered to exchange territories. It was about the Meghri region of Armenia, which separates Azerbaijan from Nakhichevan. We considered such an exchange absolutely unacceptable because of the loss of the border with Iran.”
During a meeting with the Armenian community in Glendale in 2000, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian also spoke about a proposal to exchange territories. “Meghri is given to Azerbaijan, Lachin is given to Armenia along with Karabakh. Together wiith Meghri, Armenia is given a sovereign road by which Armenia can have sovereign communication with Iran.” Oskanian added that “there is some logic” in this suggestion and “should be seriously discussed”.
Former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan told that at the Security Council meeting in 1999, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian presented several “Meghri options”. According to the first, the Meghri region, with Meghri town and Agarak settlement, shall be exchanged for the Lachin corridor. The occupied territories of Karabakh shall be returned to Azerbaijan, the independence of Karabakh shall be recognized.
According to the second option, Agarak becomes a point zero. The status issue will be decided later by a referendum. Armenia loses its border with Iran.
The third option, according to Aram Sargsyan, was that the point zero was moving to the mountain pass where there was no population. The Azeris were allowed to cross through the point, Armenians could pass through the control of the border troops. The status issue would be resolved in a phased manner.
Thus, given the above facts, we can state that the Meghri exchange option has been the subject of discussion. And Kocharyan himself has confirmed his readiness to give way to Azerbaijan via Meghri.
Was Kocharyan handing over lands?
In June 2019, Robert Kocharyan took a different stance on the aforementioned territories, declaring that he was not a surrenderer of land but an occupant of land. “During my leadership in Karabakh, we liberated seven regions and joined them to Karabakh, creating a security zone. And today these territories are an extremely important component of Karabakh’s security”. Kocharyan said.
This statement contradicts Kocharyan’s statements made during his presidency.
Thus, in November 1998, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group presented the “Common State” settlement proposal.
(1) Armenian forces outside the territory of the Republic of Armenia shall be withdrawn and stationed within its borders.
(2) The NKR forces shall be stationed at the NKAO borderline as of 1988, except for Lachin region until an uninterrupted communication agreement between NK and Armenia is reached.
Official Yerevan, led by President Robert Kocharyan, agreed to accept this settlement document as the basis for negotiations.
In September 2006, second President Robert Kocharyan spoke of his readiness to cede territories. In an interview with Al Jazeera TV, he said: “There are lands outside the administrative borders of Karabakh occupied by Armenian forces. We have said many times that except for the narrow Lachin strip between Armenia and Karabakh, we are ready to discuss the conditions for returning the territories to Azerbaijan.”
The first president of Armenia, who was accused by the two successive presidents of pursuing a “loser policy,” wrote in his famous article “War or Peace? Time to Become Serious” published on November 1, 1997: “As a result of the negotiations, the phased settlement option is signed, but it is implemented after clarifying the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. By doing so, Karabakh proves to the international community its constructiveness, shows that it has no intention of keeping the occupied territories, and on the other hand, that there is a serious breakthrough in the settlement process, and that the negotiations that have been interrupted for about a year resume.”
Thus, all three leaders of Armenia have repeatedly stated that they are ready to give back the liberated territories in return for a status for Artsakh or, so to speak, for “peace”. And Nikol Pashinyan’s statements above are true.