According to Armenia’s PM, he must give back disputed territories to Azerbaijan or risk war

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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned in a video released on Tuesday that if Armenia does not make concessions to Baku and give back four Azerbaijani villages that it has controlled since the early 1990s, it may go to war with Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan was speaking on Monday at a gathering with people who live near a series of abandoned Azerbaijani villages that Yerevan has controlled since the early 1990s. The meeting is located in the Tavush region of northern Armenia.

The four villages are strategically important to Armenia since they are situated on the main road that connects Yerevan to the Georgian border, even though they have been abandoned for more than 30 years.

Declaring that the return of its lands—which include a few small enclaves completely encircled by Armenian territory—is an essential prerequisite for a peace agreement that would put an end to the thirty years of hostilities over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Baku’s soldiers recaptured last September.

Pashinyan was cited by Russia’s TASS state news agency as warning locals in the video recording released by his government that war with Azerbaijan could break out “by the end of the week” if no settlement was reached over the disputed communities.

He went on, “I know how such a war would end.”

When Baku’s soldiers launched a quick offensive to retake Nagorno-Karabakh in September, Yerevan suffered a huge setback that forced the estimated 100,000 ethnic Armenians living there to escape to Armenia.

Even though Karabakh is officially recognized as part of Azerbaijan, since the early 1990s, ethnic Armenians in the region have enjoyed de facto independence from Baku.

Peace Treaty

The official peace treaty that Baku and Yerevan have expressed their desire to sign has been stymied by disagreements over how to draw the boundaries of their shared 1,000 km (620 mile) border, which is still heavily militarized and closed.

In recent weeks, Pashinyan has indicated that he is prepared to return to Azerbaijani territory that Armenia controls and that Armenia’s road system should be rerouted to avoid passing through Azerbaijani territory.

Areas officially recognized as belonging to Christian Armenia are yet under the authority of primarily Muslim Azerbaijan.

Following discussions with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Baku, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan declared on Sunday that his nation was “closer than ever” to achieving peace with Armenia.

Tuesday saw Stoltenberg meet with Pashinyan in Armenia, a country that is officially an ally of Russia but has seen a decline in relations with Moscow in recent months due to Yerevan’s accusations that Moscow has failed to defend it against Azerbaijan.

To Moscow’s dismay, Armenia has shifted its foreign policy in favor of the West, with top officials speculating that the country may eventually file to join the EU.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova implied that Armenia had to make concessions to Azerbaijan because of Yerevan’s strengthening connections with the West in a message published on the messaging app Telegram on Tuesday.