RFE/RL Armenian Report – 01/17/2022


Armenian Official Cautious After First Talks With Turkish Envoy

        • Karlen Aslanian
        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia - Deputy speaker Ruben Rubinian at a session of the National Assembly, 
October 5, 2021.

Three days after holding his first meeting with a Turkish diplomat, a senior 
Armenian official on Monday expressed caution about the success of negotiations 
on normalizing Armenia’s relations with Turkey.

Ruben Rubinian, Armenia’s top negotiator, and his Turkish counterpart, Serdar 
Kilic, met in Moscow on Friday. In virtually identical statements, the Turkish 
and Armenian foreign ministries described the talks as “positive and 
constructive.” They said the two envoys agreed to continue the dialogue “without 

“Very substantive issues were not discussed at the first meeting,” Rubinian told 
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in an interview. “We discussed general approaches to 
the process. … It’s still too early to say what kind of approaches Turkey will 

“We must try to achieve peace in the region and our position is sincere,” he 
said. “We expect Turkey to demonstrate a similar position because it’s simply 
impossible for Turkey to pursue a policy in the region without having a 
relationship with Armenia.”

Rubinian, who is a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, said that Yerevan 
hopes that the next round of negotiations will be more “substantive.”

Turkey - Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (right) meets Ambassador Serdar 
Kılıç to discuss normalization talks with Armenia, January 10, 2022.

“We are interested in solving real issues and those include, first of all, the 
opening of the [Turkish-Armenian] border and, secondly, the establishment of 
diplomatic relations,” he explained.

In recent months Turkish leaders have made statements making the normalization 
of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on Armenia agreeing to open a land 
corridor that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave. They have 
also cited Baku’s demands for a formal Armenian recognition of Azerbaijani 
sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Rubinian insisted that he did not discuss these demands with Kilic in Moscow. 
Yerevan continues to stand for an unconditional normalization of 
Turkish-Armenian ties, he said.

Armenian opposition leaders remain unconvinced by such assurances, saying that 
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is ready to accept Turkish preconditions relating 
to not only the Karabakh conflict but also the 1915 Armenian genocide in the 
Ottoman Empire.

Rubinian faced harsh criticism from opposition lawmakers when he chaired a 
session of the National Assembly earlier on Monday. Some of them deplored what 
they see as the secrecy of the Turkish-Armenian dialogue welcomed by Russia, the 
United States and the European Union.

Armenia - Deputies from the opposition Hayastan alliance attend a session of the 
National Assembly, Yerevan, .

“When you say that ‘we learn about everything from Turkey’ … there has not been 
a single development about which our foreign ministry has not informed [the 
public,]” responded Rubinian.

The 31-year-old vice-speaker lost his cool when some deputies from the main 
opposition Hayastan alliance cited the fact that he lived in Istanbul for 
several months in 2017-2018 on a scholarly exchange program to accuse him of 
promoting Turkish interests in Armenia.

“I’ll do whatever I want,” Rubinian shouted before walking off the parliament 
podium and menacingly approaching Hayastan’s parliamentary group.

With the shouting match nearly degenerating into a violent clash between 
pro-government and opposition deputies, Rubinian rushed back to his seat and 
interrupted the parliament session. The deputies continued to argue on the 
parliament floor during the break.

Armenian Task Force To Work On Rail Link With Azerbaijan

        • Robert Zargarian

The Armenian government has set up a task force that will coordinate work on a 
railway that will connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave through 
Armenia’s Syunik province.

The 45-kilometer railway will be part of broader transport links between the two 
countries envisaged by the Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the 2020 war 
in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as follow-up agreements reached by Baku and Yerevan.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev 
reported decisive progress towards establishing the rail link between 
Nakhichevan and the rest of Azerbaijan after face-to-face talks held in Brussels 
in December.

Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the 
construction of its Armenian section will likely cost Yerevan $200 million and 
take about three years. But Grigorian did not say when it will start.

The task force formed by Pashinian’s government late last week is to deal with 
practical modalities of the transport project. It will be headed by Artashes 
Tumanian, Armenia’s former ambassador to Iran, and also comprise nine government 
officials and railway and construction specialists.

Tumanian, who is now an adviser to Pashinian, did not return phone calls at the 

Pashinian insisted last month that the rail link will be beneficial for not only 
Azerbaijan but also Armenia. “Through that railway Armenia will gain access to 
Russia and Iran, while Azerbaijan will get a rail link with Nakhichevan,” he 

Critics of the Armenian prime minister are skeptical about the project’s 
economic benefits for Armenia, however. Suren Parsian, an opposition-linked 
economist, believes that it is first and foremost a political undertaking.

“We often overestimate the significance of this unblocking of transport 
infrastructures,” Parsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “True, Armenia needs 
to have open roads and alternative options. But this must not be presented as a 
miracle cure.”

While apparently reaching an agreement on the rail links, Aliyev and Pashinian 
failed to patch up their differences on the status of a highway that would also 
connect Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan through Syunik.

Aliyev said ahead of their December 14 meeting in Brussels that people and cargo 
passing through that “Zangezur corridor” must be exempt from Armenian border 
controls. Pashinian rejected the demand.

Opposition Lawmakers Absent From Armenian Delegation Visiting U.S.
Հունվար 17, 2022
        • Marine Khachatrian

Armenia -- Former National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsian speaks at 
an opposition rally in Yerevan, November 21, 2020.

Opposition deputies were not included, for different reasons, in a delegation of 
the Armenian parliament that began a working visit to the United States at the 

The delegation headed by speaker Alen Simonian is due to meet in Washington with 
the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and other members of 
the U.S. Congress. Simonian personally decided its composition.

He did not appoint any deputies from the main opposition Hayastan alliance. Nor 
did he ask it to name a representative for the trip to Washington.

Hayastan, which has the second largest group in the National Assembly, said in 
December that it will not join Armenian parliamentary delegations travelling 
abroad until the authorities lift travel bans imposed on 12 of its 29 lawmakers. 
The bans stem from various criminal charges rejected by the bloc as politically 

Simonian’s delegation included instead Artur Vanetsian, a leader of Pativ Unem, 
the other opposition alliance represented in the parliament. However, Vanetsian 
pulled out of the trip at the last minute.

Explaining the decision, A Pativ Unem spokesman, Sos Hakobian, said that just 
hours before the delegation’s departure to Washington Vanetsian was informed 
that he will not be allowed to attend Simonian’s meeting with Pelosi.

The Armenian speaker will be accompanied only by Hayk Konjorian, a senior 
pro-government lawmaker, and Lilit Makunts, the Armenian ambassador to the U.S. 
Makunts is also a political ally of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Hakobian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that Vanetsian’s “undemocratic” 
exclusion from the meeting with Pelosi made his participation in the trip 

“All other meetings and events [in Washington] will be largely ceremonial in 
nature,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Simonian rejected the criticism on Monday, saying that Pelosi 
is scheduled to meet with her Armenian counterpart, rather than the delegation.

“And the chairman of the National Assembly himself decides the composition of 
the delegation,” she added.

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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