Unyielding Borders: A Detailed Account of Armenia’s Parliamentary Struggle and Broader Armenian-Azerbaijani Relations


In the halls of the Armenian parliament, a significant political maneuver unfolded, reflecting the deep-seated tensions and complexities surrounding the delimitation and demarcation of borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This recent episode is not just a matter of parliamentary procedure but is deeply entwined with the historical, geopolitical, and social fabric of the region.

On a recent day, the Armenian parliament witnessed a pivotal vote that underscored the ongoing discord concerning the border issues with Azerbaijan. The opposition “Armenia” faction submitted a draft statement aimed at addressing the delimitation and demarcation of the border. However, the ruling majority refused to discuss the draft, leading to a significant parliamentary decision.

The voting outcome was clear: 27 members of parliament supported including the draft in the session agenda, while 51 opposed it. Armenian Parliament Vice President Ruben Rubinyan presented these results, highlighting the parliament’s reluctance to move forward with the proposed statement. This decision reflects deeper political dynamics and the intricate balance of power within the Armenian legislative body.

Artur Khachatryan, a prominent member of the “Armenia” faction, criticized the current government’s approach to border management, emphasizing legal and constitutional frameworks. He argued that, according to Armenian law, the Prime Minister can only form consultative bodies and that significant changes like border adjustments should be subject to a national referendum. Khachatryan’s stance points to a significant contention: the role of public consensus and legal mandates in territorial decisions.

The draft statement proposed by the opposition called for the border demarcation to adhere to international standards and documents, including the United Nations Charter, the Vienna Convention, and the Helsinki Final Act. The opposition faction underscored the importance of aligning the demarcation with the borders as of September 24, 1993—the date when Azerbaijan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This date is pivotal as it marks a historical point of reference that both nations recognize.

Furthermore, the statement emphasized the necessity of unblocking roads and communications while ensuring the sovereignty of Armenia is maintained. This aspect of the proposal highlights the pragmatic need to facilitate transportation and economic activities, which are crucial for the region’s stability and development.

In contrast, the “Civil Contract” faction, which holds the majority in the parliament and supports the current government, voted against the motion. They argued that the proposed statement contradicted the Armenian government’s declared peace process and did not align with the state interests of Armenia. This reveals a fundamental divergence in views on how to handle the delicate issue of border negotiations with Azerbaijan.

The background to these parliamentary events is deeply rooted in the tumultuous history of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, particularly concerning the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan have engaged in intermittent conflicts over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but with a majority ethnic Armenian population.

The latest escalation in 2023 resulted in Azerbaijani forces taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to a mass exodus of the Armenian population from the region to Armenia. This shift significantly altered the geopolitical landscape and added urgency to the border delimitation talks between the two nations.

In response to these pressures, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in March, expressed readiness to transfer several villages—remnants of the Soviet-era Azerbaijani territory within Armenia—to Azerbaijan. This decision aimed to mitigate security risks and prevent potential hostilities. However, this move has not been without controversy within Armenia, sparking protests and public dissent.

Since April 20, there have been widespread protests in Armenia, with demonstrators blocking critical highways to neighboring Georgia and Iran. Protesters demand a halt to the delimitation process and the transfer of border territories to Azerbaijan, signaling deep-seated fears and mistrust among the Armenian public regarding the concessions being made.

Moreover, the eighth meeting of the commissions on border delimitation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, held on April 19, marked a tentative agreement on part of the border. This agreement included the transfer of four villages previously under Armenian control since the early 1990s. The placement of the first boundary marker symbolizes a tangible step towards defining the contentious border, yet it also encapsulates the complexities and sensitivities involved.

The refusal of the Armenian parliament to discuss the opposition’s draft statement on border delimitation and the broader context of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations encapsulate a critical juncture for Armenia. The decision reflects not only domestic political dynamics but also the broader geopolitical, historical, and social complexities that continue to shape the fragile peace and stability in the region. As Armenia navigates these turbulent waters, the path forward remains fraught with challenges and uncertainties, reflecting the enduring complexities of post-Soviet territorial disputes and national sovereignty.

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