To Give Peace A Chance, Armenia Should Follow Ireland’s Example – OpEd


The ending of violent conflict in Northern Ireland with the 1998 Good Friday agreement was assisted by Ireland holding a referendum in May of that year to change its constitution. 94% of Irish participants in the referendum agreed to change the constitutional article so Ireland no longer held territorial claims to British sovereign territory in Ulster. The Irish people dropped their territorial claims to Northern Ireland in favour of peace which ended three decades of violent conflict.

Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan should follow Irelands example by calling a referendum to change the country’s 1995 constitution, revised in 2015, and 2020 national security strategy to drop territorial claims against Azerbaijan and Turkey. Such a step would open the path to the normalisation of Armenian relations with its two neighbours, thereby bringing peace to the South Caucasus. 

It has been nearly four years since the Second Karabakh War ended in Armenia’s defeat and the return of most of the territory that had been occupied in the early 1990s to Azerbaijan. A year ago, the last portion of occupied territory, Karabakh, was returned to Azerbaijan after a very brief conflict. These territories, which accounted for a fifth of Azerbaijan’s territory, were internationally recognised by the United Nations and other international organisations as sovereign Azerbaijani lands.

Since the ceasefire agreement was signed in November 2020 there have been many declarations between Azerbaijani and Armenian heads of state. There have also been many rounds of negotiations with Russia and the European Union as intermediaries. 

These have seemingly led to nowhere. No peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia is on the horizon. And yet, this should be not that difficult, but it is. One side, Azerbaijan, puts forward the case that both countries should follow in the precedent created by thirteen other Soviet republics which recognised republican boundaries in the USSR as international borders. 

With Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a master at saying different things to different audiences it remains unclear whether Armenia recognises its Soviet republican boundary with Azerbaijan as their international borders. Pashinyan’s contradictory messaging is especially evident when he is talking to the Armenian diaspora which, enjoying their comfortable lifestyles in California and Paris, are often more nationalistic than Armenians living in the Republic of Armenia. This was evident in a recent talk given by Pashinyan to the Armenian diaspora in Germany.

This is not completely unusual as most diaspora’s are more radical than their fellow brethren in the homeland where life is less simplistic, and compromises often need to be negotiated. One factor why the Armenian diaspora is highly nationalistic is that many of its descendants are from what they call Western Armenia, an area that has been part of the Turkish Republic since the early 1920s.

One important way relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan could be normalised and a peace treaty signed is by removing any doubts on either side of future territorial revanchism. Armenia’s constitution includes the following text in article 21: ‘The coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia shall depict, in the centre on a shield, Mount Ararat with Noah’s ark and the coats of arms of the four kingdoms of historical Armenia.’

Such statements in the Armenian constitution opens territorial claims to Azerbaijan and Turkey and prevents a normalisation of relations with its two neighbours.

The Republic of Ireland’s constitution also included territorial claims to the northern part of the Ireland, Ulster, which remained part of the United Kingdom since the 1922 Anglo-Irish Treaty. Article two of the Irish constitution stated, ‘The national territory consists of the whole of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas.’

Pashinyan has a difficult challenge. Armenians, like Russians, have identities whereby ‘Armenia’ and ‘Russia’ are imagined as far larger than the borders of the Armenian and Russian Federation republics. There are internationally recognised Armenian and Russian borders and those of ‘historical’ Armenia and Russia which are far bigger. Armenians refer to Mount Ararat as the tallest ‘Armenian’ mountain and yet it lies in Turkey. 

Pashinyan has himself talked of the ‘duality that exists in each of us: historical Armenia and real Armenia’ asking ‘Should the real Armenia serve the historical Armenia, or should the historical Armenia serve the real Armenia?’

Ararat is the mythical birthplace of the Armenian people. Russian nationalists similarly claim Kyiv is the mythical birthplace of the Russian people giving Russia a thousand-year history. Ararat’s place in Armenian history goes as far back as the fifth century when Armenians began to write they were the direct descendants of the biblical Noah through his son Japheth. These legends ‘make Mt. Ararat the national symbol of all Armenians, and the territory around it the Armenian homeland from time immemorial.’ Ararat featured on the coat of arms of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Armenian Republic since 1991. Ararat is found on Armenian passports and on well-known Armenian brandies.

Why this is dangerous can be seen in Ukraine where Russia has claimed that it is ‘liberating’ (not occupying) ‘historical Russian lands’ wrongly included within Ukraine. Armenian nationalists used the same justification when occupying western Azerbaijan from the early 1990s to 2020 by claiming this was ‘historical Armenian land.’ 

Ireland underwent three decades of a brutal conflict between pro-British unionists and pro-Irish republicans seeking unification of Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic. The conflict was ended through negotiations and a willingness by Ireland, the country with territorial claims, to hold a referendum where the Irish people voted to change their constitution. Armenia, in the interests of normalisation of relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, should follow Ireland’s example and change its constitution and other official documents to no longer harbour territorial claims against its neighbours.

Irish soft power and the Irish people brought peace to Ireland. It is in the hands of the Armenian people to bring peace to the South Caucasus. 

Dr. Taras Kuzio

Dr. Taras Kuzio is a professor of political science at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and an associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. He is the author of Genocide and Fascism. Russia’s War Against Ukrainians.

One thought on “To Give Peace A Chance, Armenia Should Follow Ireland’s Example – OpEd

  • March 31, 2024 at 1:27 pm

    Kuzio’s articles are always very partisan and never balanced to the extent that they are cheap propaganda.
    He criticises the Armenian diaspora who originated from Eastern Anatolia , their multi millennial homeland , from where they where dispossessed by Turks and some one million slaughtered during the Genocide. Of course he fails to mention this background lest he irks his sponsors. Yet he has written a book on Genocide in Ukraine , his homeland.
    His analogy with events in the Irish Island is entirely false.
    Britain and Ireland are deeply democratic and respect human life. Both sides are Irish. Azerbaijan and Turkey are not. Azerbaijan recently used inhuman tactics of blockade to remove 100000 Armenians from their ancestral lands. I can go on but nothing will shame a pseudo academic like Kuzio to balance his articles. A case of he who pays the piper chooses the tune.


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