Are Sarkissian and Homeland Salvation reaching around Pashinyan?

By | Rachel Brooks

March 7, 2021_

Commentary 

Image credit: “Armen Sarkissian, President of Armenia, speaking to the Horasis delegates” by Horasis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Within the Armenian government, discussion continues regarding the path out of the Armenian political crisis.

 

The Russian-government-owned media agency TASS news stated on March 7 that the Armenian President Armen Sarkissian held a meeting with an executive member of the Armenian Republican Party Vahram Baghdasaryan to discuss pathways out of the crisis. Vahram Baghdasrayan is the representative of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement. The president’s office announced the meeting in a statement that was published on March 7. 

 

TASS stated that the Armenian political crisis that sparked at the pause of the Second Karabakh War in November escalated on February 25. Radio Free Europe reported on February 26 that the Armenian opposition had marched in Yerevan to demand Prime Minister Pashinyan’s resignation. 

 

The solutions discussed within the Armenian government may not lead to a long-term solution toward political stability with neighboring nations. Daily Sabah, a Turkish publication, reported on March 6 that, through the wires, the Turkish press has learned the situation within Armenia. 

 

Due to the continued animosity between Turkey and Armenia over the Ottoman pogroms that targeted Armenians in 1915, Turkey and Armenia continue to have inflamed relations. The Turkish press states that Armenia is not a safe country for them to venture into. Nevertheless, they learned via correspondence that Prime Minister Pashinyan decided to fight the Karabakh war of 2020. Pashinyan’s fight for what Daily Sabah reporters called the “red apple” of the Armenian government agenda was ultimately a failure. Pashinyan brought humiliation in this way to his government and pitted him against Sarkissian and the military. Fueling the animosity, Pashinyan blamed his failed military campaign on Russian missile systems that were destroyed by Turkish armed drones. This sparked the military’s reaction to Pashinyan, as they called for his resignation, which Pashinyan referred to as a “coup attempt.”   

Daily Sabah commented on the stance that nations took to condemn the military’s actions against Pashinyan. Western nations adopted an indirect call for calm between two sides without a direct stance. Nations and organizations who took this position included the United Nations, NATO, France, Russia, and the European Union. Even Iran appeared to call for calm without taking a clear side in the post-escalation within Armenia.

 

The United States refused to call the situation a “coup attempt” but reminded the Armenian military of their position in a democratic structured government. Turkey, however, did refer to the military’s actions as a coup attempt and opposed it. Turkey issued a statement that adopted a clear stance against the actions of the Armenian military. Daily Sabah reported this is Turkey’s cooperation with Pashinyan, who is not a member of the traditional Armenian political elite. Pashinyan’s stance as a non-elite politician gives him greater access to the outside world, and Daily Sabah reported that Turkey sees Pashinyan’s pro-Western stance as a factor in creating regional peace. 

Because Pashinyan’s stance is more favorable to international relations, the Turkish countries, Turkey and Azerbaijan especially, appear to be more open to cooperating with Pashinyan than his political counterparts. Sarkissian and the Homeland Salvation Party’s cooperation in “de-escalating” the internal conflict might signal an end of an era of influence for Pashinyan and a reach around. 

Asbarez Armenia commented on Pashinyan’s floundering stance toward deescalating the country’s internal crisis. He appears to cling to power, and reportedly “backtracked” on snap elections at his rally on March 1. The Homeland Salvation Movement is demanding Pashinyan’s resignation, despite his unwillingness to cave to them. Sarkissian’s meeting with the executive leader of this movement appears to signal a political reach around, though it is being reported by both TASS agency and Public Radio Armenia as an effort to deescalate the internal crisis in Armenia. 

 

In the meantime, Pashinyan continues to reach out to the international community for support. Asbarez stated on March 6 that Pashinyan discussed the status of Karabakh with U.S.Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Pashinyan demanded the return of POWs from Karabakh. Blinken stressed the importance of rule of law, as well as the importance of a developing U.S. partnership with Armenia. 

As foreign entities continue to appear to favor Pashinyan’s leadership in Armenia, it is unclear if foreign powers will take a more direct stance regarding Armenia’s domestic upheaval. Modern Diplomacy reported that the creation of the Zangazur corridor through the signing of the November agreements on the Karabakh conflict have promise for all nations of the surrounding region, and will “add a new artery” to the transportation of Eurasia. The health and stability of Zangazur through a continuation of the Russian-brokered agreement will likely be in foreign interests and would be a potential motivation for foreign powers to take a more direct stance against coup and political “reach around” attempts.