YEREVAN/BAKU/JAN. 8 (The Bulletin) — Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are due to meet in Moscow for the first time since a war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year, media reported (Jan. 8).
Neither side has confirmed or denied the media reports that the two rivals will meet in the Kremlin on Jan. 11 to discuss a peace deal, policed by Russian soldiers, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The meeting will be an especially tense affair for Mr Pashinyan who has been under major pressure since he signed the deal that ended the six-week war in November and handed swathes of the region back to Azerbaijan.
Thousands of people have regularly protested in Yerevan against Mr Pashinyan, calling the deal a humiliation and calling on him to resign. Mr Pashinyan has resisted these calls but has conceded that a parliamentary election should take place this year.
“I can leave the position of Prime Minister only by the decision of the people,” Mr Pashinyan wrote on his Facebook page on Dec. 25. “There is only one way to get the answer to all these questions: holding extraordinary parliamentary elections.”
Mr Pashinyan, who was propelled into the PM’s position after a revolution in 2018, has cut an increasingly diminished figure since the war. Senior ministers have resigned and, as well as regular protests in Yerevan attended by thousands of people, protesters have stormed the Armenian parliament and blocked a government motorcade from reaching Stepanakert, the only remaining Armenia-held town in Nagorno-Karabakh. All this is a humiliation for Mr Pashinyan, who has always seen himself as a man of the people.
By contrast, Mr Aliyev secured his legacy with his swift victory over Armenia in the war.
He has reclaimed land that Azerbaijan lost to Armenian in the first war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s and has also secured Turkey’s involvement in the South Caucasus, a reliable ally that Mr Aliyev hopes to use to counterbalance Russia.
— This story was first published in issue 467 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin
— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021