RFE/RL Armenian Service – 02/19/2024


Armenian PM Admits ‘Tensions’ With Iran

Iran - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets Armenia's Deputy Prime Minister 
Mher Grigorian, Tehran, February 15, 2024.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian appears to have acknowledged that Armenia’s 
deepening ties with the European Union and the United States are causing unease 
in neighboring Iran.

“Our relations with Iran are deep and Armenia remains committed to those 
relations,” Pashinian said during a weekend visit to Germany. “But this is one 
of those cases where not everything is clear.”

“Our good relations with Iran are causing tensions in some places, while our 
good relations with other countries are causing tensions in Iran,” he added 
without elaborating.

In recent months, Iranian leaders have repeatedly told their Armenian 
counterparts that Tehran strongly opposes the geopolitical presence of 
“extra-regional countries” in the South Caucasus. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi 
conveyed the same message to Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian as 
recently as on February 15. Any intervention of “outsiders” in regional disputes 
could only exacerbate, rather than resolve, them, Raisi said in a clear 
reference to the U.S. and the EU.

This was construed by some Armenian commentators as a fresh warning to Yerevan 
which has been seeking closer security ties with the Western powers amid its 
unprecedented tensions with Russia. The latter has openly denounced Western 
efforts to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal, saying that their main aim 
is to drive Moscow out of the region.

Germany - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Armenia's Prime Minister 
Nikol Pashinian meet in Municհ, February 17, 2024.

Both Russia and Iran have criticized Armenia for hosting a U.S.-Armenian 
military exercise last September. The Islamic Republic is also believed to share 
Russian concerns about the EU’s monitoring mission along Armenia’s border with 
Azerbaijan launched a year ago.

Pashinian and his political team say they are “diversifying” Armenia’s 
traditional foreign and security policy in response to what they see Russia’s 
failure to meet its security commitments to its South Caucasus ally.

Armenian opposition groups say Tehran’s stance is another reason why Yerevan 
should exercise caution in its dealings with the West. They argue that unlike 
the West, Iran could intervene militarily to prevent Azerbaijan from opening an 
extraterritorial corridor to its Nakhichevan exclave through Syunik, the only 
Armenian region bordering the Islamic Republic.

Iran regularly warns against attempts to strip it of the common border and 
transport links with Armenia.

Russia, Armenia Also Disagree On Ukraine

Ukraine - In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry , 
Russian soldiers eliminate the mine danger in the city of Avdiivka captured by 
Russian forces.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian openly criticized Russia at the weekend for 
occupying and annexing Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory, 
underscoring the Armenian government’s deepening rift with Moscow.

Pashinian voiced the criticism at the end of a visit to Munich during which he 
attended an annual conference on international security and met with German 
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British 
intelligence chief Richard Moore. He cited a December 1991 declaration in which 
Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and other newly independent Soviet republics recognized 
each other’s Soviet-era borders.

“On the question of Ukraine, our position is that the Almaty declaration is the 
basis for recognition of our independence and territorial integrity,” Pashinian 
told members of the Armenian community in the southern German city. “Our logic 
is also valid in the case of Ukraine because that document applies to all of us. 
And if we demolish that, then we will also demolish everything.”

“I said a long time ago that Armenia is not Russia's ally on the issue of 
Ukraine, and this is our sincere position,” he said.

Russia reacted cautiously to Pashinian’s remarks.

“Indeed, we have diametrically opposed points of view regarding what is 
happening in Ukraine and the conflict around Ukraine,” said Kremlin spokesman 
Dmitry Peskov. “This is not a secret, this is the well-known position of our 
Armenian friends. We do not agree with them on this and will persistently 
continue to explain that we are right.”

Beglium - Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Ukrainian 
counterpart Dmytro Kuleba meet in Brussels, December 11, 2023.

Armenian leaders were until now careful not to criticize Russia’s 2022 invasion 
of Ukraine and subsequent annexation of more Ukrainian territory. Armenia has 
repeatedly abstained from UN General Assembly resolutions denouncing Moscow’s 

Pashinian’s administration appears to have begun changing its stance on the 
conflict in Ukraine last year amid its mounting tensions with Moscow. Pashinian 
made a point of talking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a 
European Union summit in Spain last October.

A couple of weeks later, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen 
Grigorian, attended multilateral peace talks in Malta initiated by Ukraine and 
sponsored by Western powers. The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the 
“demonstrative anti-Russian gesture of official Yerevan.” That did not stop 
Grigorian from participating in the next round of the talks held in Switzerland 
last month.

Pashinian embarked on the apparent rapprochement with Ukraine despite the 
latter’s strong support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In 
particular, Kyiv was quick to condemn the September 9 election by Karabakh 
lawmakers of the region’s new president, saying that it is “contrary to the 
rules and principles of international law.” The election came ten days before 
the Azerbaijani military offensive that forced Karabakh’s practically entire 
population to flee to Armenia.

Baku Raps Pashinian After Munich Summit

Germany - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hosts talks between the leaders of 
Armenia and Azerbaijan, Munich, February 17, 2024.

Azerbaijan criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and again demanded major 
legislative changes in Armenia on Monday two days after his talks with 
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in 

The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders sounded satisfied with the results of the 
talks, with Aliyev calling them “constructive and useful.” Meeting with members 
of the Armenian community in Munich on Sunday, Pashinian confirmed that the 
foreign ministers of the two South Caucasus states will meet soon for further 
discussions on a bilateral peace treaty.

He also said that both sides remain committed to their understandings on the 
basic parameters of that treaty reached during their earlier contacts organized 
by the European Union. Earlier this year, Yerevan accused Baku of walking away 
from those understandings and laying claim to Armenian territory.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on Monday that Armenia itself has 
territorial claims to Azerbaijan. The ministry spokesman, Aykhan Hajizade, 
pointed to Pashinian’s Sunday remark that “Karabakh’s right to 
self-determination is not supported by the international community.” He said 
Pashinian should have said instead that the Armenian “claims to Azerbaijan's 
territory are groundless.”

“This once again indirectly proves that the demands of the Armenian side are 
continuing,” added Hajizade. “In this regard, the claims to our territorial 
integrity and sovereignty reflected in the Armenian constitution and legislative 
acts should be removed.”

Aliyev said on February 1 that Armenia should remove from its constitution a 
reference to its 1990 declaration of independence which in turn mentions a 1989 
unification act adopted by the legislative bodies of Soviet Armenia and the then 
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. He reiterated on February 14 that he will 
not sign the peace treaty “if Armenia does not bring its legislation to a normal 

Pashinian rejected those demands the following day. The Armenian premier himself 
declared last month, before Aliyev’s statements on the issue, that Armenia needs 
a new constitution reflecting the “new geopolitical environment” in the region. 
He went on to criticize the 1990 declaration.

His political foes and other critics say that he wants to enact a new 
constitution under Azerbaijani pressure. Pashinian denies this.

Another Armenian Bank Set To Change Hands

Armenia - A view of an office building in Yerevan housing the headquarters of 

A leading Georgian bank announced on Monday a $303.6 million deal to buy 
Armenia’s Ameriabank partly owned by Ruben Vardanyan, an Armenian billionaire 
jailed in Azerbaijan along with several other former leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The deal requires the approval of the Bank of Georgia’s multiple shareholders 
and the Central Bank of Armenia. In a statement, the bank’s British-registered 
parent company, Bank of Georgia Group (BOGG), said it would “significantly 
enhance the Group's presence and growth opportunities within a fast-growing and 
attractive market.”

"This transaction is a significant milestone for the Group and a new chapter in 
our strategic development,” the BOGG chairman, Mel Carvill, was quoted as saying.

“Ameriabank has a well-regarded and experienced management team, and I am 
delighted that they will stay on after the transaction is closed,” added Carvill.

Ameriabank is one of Armenia’s largest banks with total assets worth $3.4 
billion, compared with $11.7 billion held by the Bank of Georgia. Vardanyan 
owns, through a trust fund, almost 49 percent of Ameriabank, making him its 
biggest shareholder.

The tycoon, who had made his fortune in Russia, briefly served as Karabakh’s 
premier in late 2022 and early 2023. He and seven other former political and 
military leaders of Karabakh were arrested by Azerbaijani security services last 
September during the mass exodus of the region’s ethnic Armenian population 
which followed an Azerbaijani military offensive. They remain imprisoned there 
on serious charges. Armenia has demanded their immediate release.

Nagorno-Karabakh - Ruben Vardanyan leads a cabinet meeting in Stepanakert, 
January 3, 2023.

“Ruben Vardanyan has nothing to do with the possible sale of the bank,” Mesrop 
Arakelian, an Armenian opposition figure linked to him, wrote on Facebook.

Arakelian said takeover talks between BOGG and Ameriabank began in 2022. But he 
did not clarify whether Vardanyan approved the resulting acquisition of his bank.

Ameriabank is the second Armenian bank which will likely change hands in the 
coming weeks or months. Two weeks ago, HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, announced 
the sale of its Armenian subsidiary to Ardshinbank, the largest in Armenia.

HSBC said the deal, also subject to Armenian regulatory approvals, stems from 
its “strategy to redeploy capital from less strategic or low-connectivity 
businesses into higher-growth opportunities globally.” Reuters reported last May 
that the British bank is considering a possible exit from as many as a dozen 
countries after earlier announcements about selling off parts or all of its 
activities in France, Canada, Russia and Greece.

Established in 1996, HSBC Armenia is the only local commercial bank controlled 
by a major Western banking group.

The 18 banks operating in Armenia nearly tripled their combined profits, to a 
record 253 billion drams ($626 million), in 2022 amid a dramatic increase in 
cash flows from Russia resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The 
figure reportedly fell by 9 percent in 2023.

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