New dawn in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations

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Nikol Pashinyan, Armenian, Armenian-Azerbaijani

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s recent statement in parliament marked a significant shift in the nation’s stance on its historical grievances and territorial claims. In a bold and unprecedented move, Pashinyan urged Armenians to stop dwelling on the lost territories and focus on building a sovereign and independent Armenia. This pragmatic approach signals a potential new era in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, aiming to foster peace and stability in the region.

Armenia’s history is a tapestry of glory, struggle, and resilience. The Kingdom of Armenia flourished under Tigranes the Great in the first century B.C., and in the early fourth century, it became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion. This milestone cemented Armenia’s cultural and religious identity, which endured through subsequent conquests by the Byzantines, Sassanids, and various Muslim powers. The Bagratid Kingdom briefly restored Armenian independence in the 880s, but it too eventually succumbed to external forces.

In the medieval period, an Armenian principality, and later a kingdom, emerged on the Mediterranean coast, lasting until the 14th century. These historical cycles of rise and decline have deeply influenced the Armenian psyche, fueling a persistent yearning for past glories and lost territories. However, Pashinyan’s recent statements indicate a strategic departure from this historical narrative towards a more pragmatic and future-oriented approach.

In his parliamentary speech, Pashinyan stated unequivocally that dreaming of historical Armenia’s lost lands, such as Mount Ararat now in Turkey, is futile. “We cannot go anywhere,” he asserted, “if we continue to look out of the window and dream.” Instead, he proposed that Armenia should focus on its current sovereignty and independence. This shift in rhetoric highlights a critical reassessment of national priorities, steering away from irredentist aspirations towards constructive state-building.

The enduring controversy between Turkey and Armenia over the 1915 forced relocations remains a sensitive and polarizing issue. During World War I, the Ottoman government ordered the mass deportation of Armenians from eastern Anatolia to Syria, resulting in extensive loss of life. Estimates of the death toll vary widely, with some reports from 1916 suggesting that as many as 600,000 Armenians perished due to violence, starvation, and disease.

Turkey has historically downplayed these events, framing them as wartime necessities rather than genocide. However, recent years have seen a more conciliatory tone from Ankara. This year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed condolences to the descendants of Ottoman Armenians, calling for a mutual understanding of shared historical suffering. Such gestures, though controversial, represent a potential opening for reconciliation.

Pashinyan’s pragmatic approach extends to Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan. The two countries have been locked in a protracted conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has seen periodic flare-ups and significant casualties. In a move signaling a potential thaw, Pashinyan’s government agreed to transfer four villages-Baghanis Ayrum, Ashaghi Askipara, Kheirimli, and Ghizilhajili-to Azerbaijan. This decision, based on Russian maps for border demarcation, underscores Armenia’s commitment to resolving territorial disputes through negotiation rather than conflict.

The construction of a new road in Tavush, described by Pashinyan as “a path from historic Armenia to real,” symbolizes this new direction. By focusing on infrastructure and connectivity, Armenia aims to foster economic development and regional integration, moving beyond historical grievances.

While Pashinyan’s statements have been hailed by some as a pragmatic step forward, they have also faced criticism. The Lemkin Institute in the US condemned his remarks during the 1915 commemoration, arguing that they undermine the Armenian cause. Such reactions highlight the delicate balance Pashinyan must maintain between addressing international expectations and satisfying domestic sentiments.

Pashinyan’s vision extends beyond Armenia’s borders, recognizing the potential of the Armenian diaspora in contributing to the nation’s development. Historically, Armenian businessmen have earned a reputation for their integrity and business acumen. In Turkey and other countries, Armenian entrepreneurs have thrived, building bridges of trust and cooperation. Pashinyan’s call to harness this diaspora potential is a strategic move to bolster Armenia’s economic resilience and global connections.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s recent address marks a watershed moment in Armenian politics. By advocating for a focus on present realities over historical grievances, he is steering Armenia towards a more pragmatic and constructive path. This approach emphasizes sovereignty, independence, and reconciliation, aiming to foster a peaceful and prosperous future for Armenia and its neighbors.

As Armenia navigates this transformative period, the international community’s support will be crucial. Encouraging dialogue, promoting economic cooperation, and acknowledging shared historical sufferings are essential steps toward lasting peace. Pashinyan’s vision of moving from “historic Armenia to real” is not a defeat but a strategic reorientation, laying the foundation for a stable and thriving Armenia in a volatile region.

In conclusion, Pashinyan’s pragmatic approach offers a new dawn for Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. By addressing historical wounds with wisdom and foresight, Armenia can build a future that honors its past while embracing the opportunities of the present. This balanced and forward-looking strategy is the key to unlocking Armenia’s potential and ensuring a peaceful and prosperous future for all its citizens.

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