Pashinyan and aides during the June 18, 2020 conference. Official photo

Ilham Aliyev told Nikol Pashinyan to “sit quietly” after the Armenian leader brought up the recent European Court ruling that criticized Azerbaijan’s “racially motivated” policy towards ethnic Armenians. The two sparred during the Eastern Partnership Summit’s hosted by the European Union via video conference.

The undiplomatic remark repeated Pashinyan’s own words to his critics ahead of December 2018 election and betrayed Aliyev’s familiarity with Armenian domestic political debates. Aliyev and Pashinyan already argued about the conflict during their joint public appearance at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year.

During the video conference today, as Aliyev listed his country’s grievances in the Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan weighed in with comments of his own.

According to Aliyev’s official transcript, Pashinyan said: “I am sorry I have to intervene. Recently, the European Court of Human Rights passed a ruling that Azerbaijan pursued a racial policy against Armenians in its territory. A citizen of Azerbaijan who killed a sleeping Armenian with an axe and was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court of a European Union member state was, after being extradited from this country, pardoned by Mr. Aliyev. This person is perceived by everyone in Azerbaijan as a hero. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh have the right to self-defense in order not to be killed by an axe.

“I apologize but I believe that the Eastern Partnership platform is not meant for inciting violence. It is necessary to encourage partnership here. I urge the President of Azerbaijan to return to the constructive course and constructive formula I have proposed, according to which the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be acceptable to the peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

The Armenian prime minister’s press release about the exchange included the following summary:

“During the videoconference, the Prime Minister of Armenia responded to the unfounded and baseless statement issued by the President of Azerbaijan. Nikol Pashinyan underlined the racist policy pursued by that country’s authorities. In particular, he cited the campaign of glorifying Ramil Safarov, who killed with an ax Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan who was asleep in Hungary while attending NATO drills. Nikol Pashinyan stressed that people in Nagorno-Karabakh are determined to build their own future and stand ready to defend their security by responding adequately to any encroachment.

Prime Minister Pashinyan once again called on the President of Azerbaijan to show a constructive approach, and to publicly accept Nikol Pashinyan’s conflict settlement formula, that is, any settlement must be acceptable to the people of Artsakh, to the people of Armenia, and to the people of Azerbaijan.”