Nikol Pashinyan’s working visit to the French Republic: PM attends Second Paris Peace Forum and 40th Session of UNESCO General Conference
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Accompanied by his spouse Anna Hakobyan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has arrived in France on a working to attend the Second Paris Peace Conference and the 40th UNESCO General Conference.
Late on November 11, Prime Minister Pashinyan arrived in the Champs Elysees, where he attended an official reception hosted on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron in honor of the heads of state and government participating in the Second Paris Peace Forum. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia was met by Emmanuel Macron at the Champs Elysees.
The official reception was attended by UN Secretary General António Guterres, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Félix Tshisekedi, PRC Vice President Wang Qishan, Secretary General of the International Organization of La Francophonie Louise Mushikiwabo, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and others.
On November 12, the Armenian Premier will attend the opening of the Second Paris Peace Forum and a thematic discussion, at which he will deliver a speech. Prime Minister Pashinyan will present a symbolic gift to the Library of the Paris Peace Forum.
As part of his visit to Paris, the Premier will visit the Office of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie to meet with OIF Secretary General Louise Mushikiwabo. The Prime Minister and his spouse are scheduled to call at UNESCO Headquarters to take part in the proceedings of the 40th UNESCO General Conference. Prime Minister Pashinyan will deliver a speech during a panel discussion. The Premier will next meet with UNESCO Secretary General Audrey Azoulay and will give an interview to UNESCO Press Office.
During the visit, the Prime Minister and his spouse will meet with the heads of local Armenian community’s spiritual and secular organizations. An official reception will be held in honor of Nikol Pashinyan and Anna Hakobyan, at which the Prime Minister will deliver a speech.
* * *
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is in France on a working visit, is taking part in the Second Paris Peace Forum, attended by several heads of state and government.
President of France Emmanuel Macron, Vice President of China Wang Qishan, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Félix Tshisekedi and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered opening remarks at the Forum.
The Prime Minister of Armenia handed a symbolic gift to the Paris Peace Forum Library, a book by Hayk Demoyan, entitled “Le Sport,” which tells the story of Armenian sport in the Ottoman Empire.
Introducing the book, the Premier said it is about Armenian sporting clubs and achievements in the Ottoman Empire before the 1915 Genocide. The book features wonderful photos of Armenian athletes - men and women - who used to play sport, as well as advertisements which encouraged women to make exercises and indulge sport. And it happened more than 100 years ago in the Ottoman Empire – society absolutely intolerant to the women’s social and physical activity. Sporting clubs were established among Armenians against all odds and were contributing to the peace and peaceful coexistence between the Christian and the ruling Muslim Communities.
Later on the Prime Minister visited the pavilion of the IDeA Foundation on the sidelines of the Forum where he got acquainted with the exhibits, the Foundation’s activities, including materials about the Aurora Humanitarian Prize. Aurora Prize Laureate, Dr. Tom Catena was in attendance.
* * *
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held private talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the Second Paris Peace Forum.
President Macron thanked the Armenian Premier for accepting the invitation to partake in the Forum. He stressed the great importance he attaches to developing multifaceted cooperation with Armenia. In turn, Prime Minister Pashinyan expressed gratitude for the warm welcome and high-level organization of the Forum. The Prime Minister of Armenia said meetings held on various occasions may add momentum to bilateral relations.
Nikol Pashinyan and Emmanuel Macron referred to issues high on the agenda of Franco-Armenian relations, as well as the prospects for launching visa liberalization talks between Armenia and the European Union.
The parties stressed the importance of reciprocated top-level visits and made an arrangement to that effect.
* * *
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the Office of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and met with OIF Secretary-General Louise Mushikiwabo.
Greeting the Prime Minister of Armenia, Louise Mushikiwabo highly appreciated Armenia’s effective OIF presidency. The OIF Secretary-General noted that as one of the key members of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Armenia has made a valuable contribution to the development of cooperation within her organization.
Louise Mushikiwabo briefed Prime Minister Pashinyan on the planned reforms, including the steps to promote the French language through new high-tech mediated educational programs.
Highlighting the development of close interaction between OIF-member nations, the Armenian Prime Minister assured that our country will back any initiative aimed at raising the Organization’s effectiveness.
Taking the opportunity, Louise Mushikiwabo gave details of the ongoing preparations for the OIF Summit, due next year in Tunis.
At the end of the meeting, Nikol Pashinyan signed in the Golden Book of the OIF. “On the occasion of my visit to the Office of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and as the chair of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, I hereby reaffirm Armenia’s commitment to act for the sake of La Francophonie and promote its values,” Prime Minister Pashinyan wrote.
* * *
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took part in a discussion held in the format of a master class at the Second Paris Peace Forum. The discussion was moderated by New York Times Chief Diplomatic Correspondent for Europe Steven Erlanger.
Introducing the Prime Minister, Steven Erlanger noted that Nikol Pashinyan is an interesting person. Mr. Erlanger stressed that he had a special attitude to the head of the Armenian government, because the latter is an ex-journalist: he had been in prison several times before becoming Prime Minister in his country. “This is a very unusual record. I am a former Moscow correspondent, I was in your country. I want to thank you for being here,” Steven Erlanger said.
Addressing the audience, the Prime Minister thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for such an important initiative and went on to note that the Forum is a solid platform for discussing security threats and developing joint formulas in a bid to defy the emerging challenges.
“What you need to know about the security situation in our country? A very strange circumstance has to be noted here: two of our four borders are closed, while the other two are half-closed. Why half-closed? Because we have a border with Iran in the south, and, as you may know, there is some tension around Iran; our northern border is with Georgia, and the continuing tension between Georgia and Russia have some negative impact.
But the most important security challenge for us is the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh. Frankly speaking, when I became Prime Minister and started to deal with international relations, I was surprised to find out that there is some misunderstanding in the international community concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.
And one more interesting fact: anyone interested in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue should know the reason for this conflict. First of all, the reason was the decision of the Stalin regime to hand over Karabakh to the newly formed Soviet Azerbaijan.
When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1986, he initiated a process of democratic reform and announced the start of “perestroika.” The Armenians who then constituted the overwhelming majority of the population of Karabakh and are so now, enjoyed the status of an autonomous region in Soviet Azerbaijan. The population of Nagorno-Karabakh decided to seize this opportunity and break away from Azerbaijan in accordance with the legislation of the USSR.
The authorities of Soviet Azerbaijan decided to suppress this movement with the use of police force, etc. This is the very first stage of the conflict. Then, as the USSR collapsed, Azerbaijan, like many other Soviet republics, decided to become an independent state. The relevant law of the USSR stated that should a USSR-member republic decide to become independent, then the autonomous regions under its jurisdiction would be entitled to determine their future status.
Thus, Nagorno-Karabakh, too, began a process of independence. And just as Azerbaijan broke away from the USSR, Karabakh withdrew from Azerbaijan. As a result, Azerbaijan decided to use force, and they started a war against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ethnic cleansing began in many areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, and as a result, the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh - about 80-85% of the total population, resorted to self-defense. After all, they managed to do so. They made Azerbaijan come to terms with the situation.
On May 12, 1995, a ceasefire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. After that, and even before that, a negotiation process started, and a format for negotiations was developed. The international mediators decided that three parties should be involved in the negotiations: Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
Thus, the negotiation process started in 1992. For a long time, Nagorno-Karabakh used to be a party in the negotiation process. By the way, meetings were held between the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, as well as between the ministers of defense of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia.
Unfortunately, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still goes unresolved. There are several reasons for that. Firstly, Nagorno-Karabakh was excluded from the negotiation process in 1998. As a result, Azerbaijan refused to negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh. They are even reluctant to negotiate in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs - Russia, France and the United States. However, the MG format implies that there should be three parties to the negotiations - Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the other hand, the Azerbaijani government claims that Nagorno-Karabakh should be part of Azerbaijan. But it seems to be a very strange statement, because it is impossible to understand the Azerbaijani authorities who consider Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, but at the same time, they do not want to start a dialogue with it. Is it not somewhat weird?
Azerbaijani leaders say they want to see Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, but they refuse to negotiate with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. What does this mean? Only one thing: as a matter of fact, the authorities of Azerbaijan do not want to negotiate with the people of Karabakh just because they want to have the territories but not the people. To be more precise: territories, without the people.
The policy of Armenian-phobia extends further. Foreigners visiting Nagorno-Karabakh are on the black list of Azerbaijan. A citizen of any country that has an Armenian surname or is of Armenian descent cannot enter Azerbaijan. This was the case with a US citizen, a Bloomberg journalist, a Turkish orchestra musician, an eight-year-old child, and an eighty-year-old Russian pensioner. Recently, the driver was arrested only for listening to Armenian music in the car.
The most notorious incident occurred with Arsenal player Heinrich Mkhitaryan, who missed the final match of the Europa League in Baku just a few months ago. The Azerbaijani authorities even banned T-shirts with the name of Mkhitaryan, and people passing by in such T-shirts on the streets of Baku were detained by police. What will happen next?
Obviously, a real effort is needed to solve the problem. We have, so to speak, equal opportunities with the leaders of Azerbaijan, the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh to solve the problem.
At the outset of my tenure, I stated that any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be acceptable to the peoples of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
In fact, I was the first Armenian leader to state that any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be acceptable to the Azerbaijani people. The Armenian opposition wonders why Armenia should take care of the interests of the people of Azerbaijan.
My answer is very simple: because I am convinced that if we want to find a lasting solution to the problem, we must take into account the interests of all parties involved. I made this statement in the hope that we might hear a similar statement from the leadership of Azerbaijan, from my counterpart Ilham Aliyev. Should we hear a similar statement on the part of Mr. Aliyev, this would be a real breakthrough in the negotiation process.
From this very important platform (the Paris Peace Forum), I want to urge our partners to make a statement that the solution of the problem should be acceptable to the peoples of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia
Of course, this is not an easy problem, but if we took responsibility for the future of our peoples, which also means for the future of the region, which means for the future of our world, we must make real efforts to achieve real changes,” Prime Minister Pashinyan concluded.
Then, the Prime Minister answered the questions of an Azerbaijani blogger born in Vardenis about the UN resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh, granting Artsakh highest autonomy in Azerbaijan and the entry into Azerbaijan of people with Armenian family names.
“First of all, as for Vardenis, let us recall the times when Armenians lived in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis lived in Armenia. I remember very well those times. The Armenians were killed in Sumgait, later the massacres continued in Baku, and this spread to Karabakh and so on. No Armenians were left in Azerbaijan and they often fled without even taking clothes with them.
And what happened to the Azerbaijanis in Armenia? By the decision of the Government of Armenia, they were provided special buses, the Police saw them as far as the border, and no Azerbaijani was injured during this process. All this gives us a clear idea of the conflict.
You mentioned in your question that Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan. That is not true. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ mission is to broker a final decision on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. After all, why is Azerbaijan involved in the negotiation process, if it finds that Karabakh is already an internationally recognized part of your country? Is it not strange?
I expect to find such a solution to the conflict that would be acceptable to the peoples of Azerbaijan, Karabakh and Armenia. I announced this in Stepanakert, and I have been waiting for a year now for a similar announcement on the part of Azerbaijan’s leadership.
I have personally asked Mr. Aliyev to bring about a breakthrough in the peace process. But unfortunately, he keeps declaring that Zangezur, Syunik, Lake Sevan and capital Yerevan are Azerbaijani territories. No one can talk to us from the position of force. And what did you expect me to say against the background of your leadership’s statements, which claim not only Karabakh, but also Zangezur and Yerevan? We propose peace and we are not threatening anyone in the region; we want to prepare our people to peace,” the Prime Minister of Armenia said.
* * *
Accompanied by his spouse Anna Hakobyan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is paying a working visit to Paris, called at UNESCO headquarters to attend the proceedings of the 40th session of the General Conference of UNESCO.
The Premier and his spouse were welcomed by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay at the entrance to UNESCO headquarters. After a formal photo session, the Armenian Prime Minister participated in a panel discussion, referred to as “Reinventing learning,” which was attended by the leaders of a large number of countries and delegations.
Addressing the audience, Prime Minister Pashinyan referred to the public administration and educational reforms underway in our country. Nikol Pashinyan stressed that improving the quality of education is a strategic issue, and went on to note that his government keeps in the spotlight the development of this sphere.
The Prime Minister emphasized that education is of strategic importance to society and that the Government’s task is to promote progress in the sector and improve infrastructure by means of innovative programs.
In conclusion, the head of the Armenian government gave an interview to the UNESCO Press Service.
* * *
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan today met with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
Nikol Pashinyan highlighted the ongoing cooperation between the Armenian government and UNESCO and reaffirmed our country’s support for humanitarian missions carried out by this organization in different parts of the world. Noting that Armenia is eager to expand the scope of interaction with UNESCO, the Premier hailed the Organization’s sustained focus on the preservation of cultural heritage in our region.
The Prime Minister emphasized that the Republic of Armenia is committed to promoting education as a powerful tool for training young generations in the spirit of peace, dialogue, human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination.
Nikol Pashinyan further said that his government fully supports the Yerevan State University’s proposal to establish a UNESCO Chair on Education and Genocide Prevention. He stressed that education is a powerful tool for preventing the crime of genocide.
Audrey Azoulay thanked Nikol Pashinyan for attending the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference and praised Armenia’s efforts to preserve its rich cultural heritage. The UNESCO Director-General noted that her organization is interested in developing and expanding cooperation with Armenia in the aforementioned areas.
Views were exchanged on cooperation between UNESCO and Armenia, as well as on the Organization’s goals and objectives. The interlocutors specifically talked about the prospects of interaction in science, education and cultural heritage preservation.
Armenian Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport Araik Harutyunyan was in attendance.
* * *
In honor of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Anna Hakobyan, who are in France on a working visit, a reception was held with the participation of spiritual and secular leaders of the Armenian community, French Parliament members of Armenian descent, political and cultural figures, and business community representatives.
Addressing those present, the Prime Minister spoke about his working visit to France, the talks held with President Macron, Armenia’s foreign policy and the Karabakh conflict.
The Prime Minister stated, in part: “It has become a tradition for me to meet with Armenian community representatives in both restricted and enlarged formats during my visits abroad. This is an important record, which reaffirms pan-armenity as a priority and reflects the new policy pursued by the Government of the Republic of Armenia in the context of Armenia-Diaspora relations.
And I would like to say that our new policy is perceived in the same way by our international partners. Both yesterday and today, I met with President Emmanuel Macron of the French Republic, and during our two meetings, the French President spoke specifically about the Armenian community of France.
And I am particularly pleased that the French President sees the Armenian Government, Armenia and the Diaspora as a single body. And in our discussions, my friend Emmanuel stressed the importance, the influence of the Armenian community in France and the role it plays in the life of French society. And it honors me that many people whose names he mentioned are present today at this evening.
This approach highlights the fact that if there is any problem on either side, we must address it through joint efforts. And, to tell the truth, we agreed yesterday and today that all questions on our agenda will be resolved quickly. I would like to thank you for it, because your presence, your notoriety and your capacity make it possible to tackle any problem, and I wish to thank you again for constituting such a fulcrum for us and for France. We must realize that we need to solve all the problems because they are very important to us all.
Indeed, the idea of pan-armenity is very important to us. The basic idea is as follows: There is no border or divide between Armenia and the Diaspora; we are an indivisible whole, and if we act in this spirit, everything will be seen from a different perspective, and all problems will become solvable.
The goal of our government is to create the following situation: the Republic of Armenia represents all Armenians, and this is a decisive factor that should allow real changes in the historical destiny of our nation in order to take our destiny out of the vicious circle of opportunity and bad luck, which provides that when geopolitical conditions are favorable, we have statehood, and when it changes, we lose everything. Our duty is to get out of this cycle, and I can say with confidence that today we are well poised to shake it off step by step.
I would now like to inform you about the following: after a year and a half of activity, I can state that we have already achieved tangible results in the field of foreign policy. In the context of Nagorno-Karabakh, a new approach and a new content is being outlined.
The biggest surprise for me, as Prime Minister, is that the international community has lost the perception of the real essence of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and the issue is widely presented as a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
And I can say that for the past year and a half, we have been endeavoring to reach out to the international community the true content of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, the one we carry in ourselves. Until recently, we had the impression of being lonely in our vision, but I can now state that our approach is being heard and understood by the international community, and this is a success.
Today, I can say that the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have a deeper understanding of our position, and also we can record that the perceptions of Armenia and Artsakh on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem are 100% identical. This has never been the case, we have never had a situation where the perceptions of Armenia and Artsakh were identical until the last nuance, or at least not as identical as they are today. This means that we are approaching the next important stage, namely that there is no debate about Karabakh in the Armenian reality, and we will soon have a situation where the positions of all Armenians on the Karabakh issue are identical.
I want to refer to what we have witnessed in the last eighteen months. There have been pessimistic assessments concerning for example the Armenian-Russian relations. We can say that today both the Armenian and Russian authorities have a complete mutual understanding of our relations, their content, and the present and future strategies. And I hope that the Russian officials’ public statements highlight this reality.
We have not had major problems in our relations with the European Union, and we do not have them today. As for relations between Armenia and Georgia, let me say that they have never been as high as they are now.
We have a mutual understanding with Iran; we have initiated a strategic dialogue with the United States, and there are good indications that we are very close to making a landmark breakthrough in our relations with the United States.”
Referring to Armenia’s internal situation, the Prime Minister emphasized that there is no alternative to democracy, the rule of law, the protection of human rights, freedom of expression, civic freedoms and to the people’s rule in Armenia.
“On many international platforms, and today as well, I noticed that the speakers are talking about the need to curb corruption in their countries. Taking note of their statements, I told myself that this is not we should be striving for just because we should not speak of reducing corruption, but of eradicating it.
And we are following this path with determination, and no official – former, incumbent, or future - can hope to escape this logic. We have had this discussion several times in our closed party meetings, and we all agreed that whoever steals a dime from Armenia or its people is our personal enemy. The rest is already a debate on the future of Armenia, and I am sure it will become more and more meaningful.
I would like to thank all those who come into discussion with us, who criticize us, because they allow us to correct the mistakes. This is how we perceive our work in the future.
I cannot guarantee a lack of mistakes for our government or for myself, but I can guarantee that our people will have the opportunity to correct our mistakes when they see that we are no longer able to correct them on our own. We represent the Government of the Republic of Armenia, we are acting today as a political force in office and, as I said on several occasions, the power in the Republic of Armenia belongs to the proud citizen of the Republic of Armenia, and that in our perception, we are serving the citizen and the nation. And I want to assure you that we will do the best of ourselves. And the citizens will decide the rest.
Long live freedom!
Long live the Republic of Armenia!
Glory to us and to our children who live and will live in a free and happy Armenia!
Long live the Armenians in the Diaspora, whose children will live in Armenia and whose thoughts are with the Homeland today. I am convinced that you all keep in touch with Armenia in your minds, I love you all, I am proud of you all and I bow to you all.”
The Premier then answered the questions of interest to meeting participants, which bore on education, the fight against corruption and the ongoing economic transformations.