Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s press conference in Stepanakert
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan holds press conference in Stepanakert during his working visit to Artsakh.
During the press conference, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered a number of questions concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process. Below is the transcript of the question-and-answer session.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Dear journalists, thank you for your interest. I want to say that we had a very busy day today. We first marched with the Artsakh Republic President and other representatives of the Republic of Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia to the Memorial to the Great Patriotic War and the Victims of the Artsakh War. We paid tribute to the victims, and then we went to Shushi and held a discussion, which was quite effective.
We attach great importance to the relations between the Republic of Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia, and there is no doubt that these relations will develop in the wake of today’s visit and will have ever new manifestations. As a result of these relations, of course, the international positions of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh will definitely strengthen, and I hope that a new breath will be given, a new impetus to the international recognition of the Artsakh Republic.
Thank you. I will be glad to answer your questions.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, the main concerns voiced by the Republican Party after your first election had to do with security and the Karabakh issue. Did you get such concerns at the meeting with Bako Sahakyan, or perhaps you were given assurances. Also, I would like to know if there were meetings with Defense Army Generals. Please tell us their opinion on the aforementioned issues.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think that as a result of today’s discussions, we have all been convinced that there will be effective cooperation between the Republic of Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia, and these issues will be the focus of the government’s attention.
Yes, we met with the Defense Army’s top commanders, as well as separately with the Chief Commander of the Defense Army and the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia. I heard their reports, got the necessary information, and we agreed on what to do next.
Question: That is, there were no concerns.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I have already said that, as a result of today’s discussions, we are all convinced that our cooperation and the activities of the new government in the field of security and the development of the Armed Forces will be effective.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, just before the meeting with Bako Sahakyan, you sent two very important messages: the first related to the fact that you are going to make every effort to return Karabakh to the negotiation table, and secondly, you said that the use of force should be ruled out in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
Therefore, first of all, what steps should be taken in order to return Karabakh to the negotiation table? Second, as regards the use of force, do you think that Azerbaijan is capable of solving the problem through negotiations? As a matter of fact, we can say that the negotiations have been in a deadlock for a long time, and there is no progress in this durection.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We need to make it clear whether or not we want to resolve the problem. If the international community, including Azerbaijan, wants to solve the Karabakh issue, it is illogical that it is being discussed in a format which cannot tackle the problem.
How can this format solve the question as one of the key stakeholders is not at the negotiation table at all? That is not a problem of emotions, this is a pragmatic issue. Do we want to solve the problem or not?
Only the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh can speak on behalf of the Republic of Artsakh, as the Republic of Armenia can speak on behalf of the Republic of Armenia. The Republic of Armenia is a party to the conflict and will speak for itself on its behalf. The government of the Republic of Artsakh should speak on behalf of the Republic of Artsakh.
As for the peaceful settlement, the Armenian side has always supported the peaceful settlement, and the fact is that Azerbaijan continuously resorts to bellicose rhetoric, which rules out the peaceful settlement, because there cannot be a settlement when one of the sides declares its intention to destroy the other side.
Under these conditions, we have two things to do: first, strengthen the security level of the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh, and second, call on the international community to bring Azerbaijan to a constructive field.
And I think that both Azerbaijan and the international community should clearly state that Armenia and Artsakh will not give in to Azerbaijan’s bellicose rhetoric, especially now when our nation us united more than ever. So, the problem is as follows: do we want to solve the problem or do not want to solve the problem? The most important component of the problem is the right format of negotiations.
Question: And what is that format?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I have already said that one of the parties to the conflict, the Republic of Artsakh, should be a full-fledged negotiator.
Question: Please tell us your vision.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – A regards my vision, I am ready to negotiate fully on behalf of the Republic of Armenia, but the Artsakh authorities should negotiate on behalf of the Republic of Artsakh in the person of the President of the Artsakh Republic.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, during your speech at the National Assembly yesterday, you mentioned that stereotypes should be broken in terms of the settlement of the Karabakh issue. What did you mean by saying this and your point of view in terms of compromises?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - In terms of compromises, I have already expressed my viewpoint and said the following: as long as Azerbaijan uses bellicose rhetoric, voicing its intention to take Stepanakert, Yerevan, Zangezur and Sevan, there is no use in talking about any compromise.
We can speak about compromises only when we receive from Azerbaijan a very clear message that Baku is prepared to recognize Artsakh people’s right to self-determination. As regards the stereotypes, we mean the stereotype around the negotiation format, and also mean that yes, we say that the issue should be settled through negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, which does not prevent us from making serious efforts toward the international recognition of Artsakh.
And I consider it necessary to emphasize that the international community must clearly state that in essence, the Artsakh issue is the issue of human rights because the Artsakh problem originated when Azerbaijan proved unable to ensure the minimum rights the Armenian population in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, but even created a direct threat to their life and security, to their right to self-determination, to the right of themselves, that is, a threat to the existence of the Artsakh people, and these threats were not mere words: they eventually were translated into concrete actions, namely a military campaign against civilians.
Question: On the first day of your term in office, you decided to come to Artsakh from Yerevan and assured that such visits would be paid on a regular basis. How do you keep these two ideas in balance and the next question whether you actively support the resumption of the peace process with Azerbaijan for this region? Are there any red lines for you?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - First of all, I would like to answer your last question, I just said that the issue is not about the territory, that is, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is not a territorial conflict. The Karabakh conflict arose when the Armenians of Artsakh decided to protect their fundamental rights, namely the right to life, the right to self-determination since the Soviet Azerbaijan threatened their rights.
I have already said that of course, we are ready to continue the peace talks, and we think that any use of force should be ruled out at all. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan keeps using force and threats of use of force, belligerent rhetoric, and they are even threatening to seize the capital of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan.
A peaceful settlement is impossible under these conditions, and we call the international community, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to bring Azerbaijan to a constructive field in a bid to solve the problem peacefully. We are and have always been ready to do so.
As regards the change, in fact, my statements contain serious news on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the most serious is as follows: I am ready to negotiate with the President of Azerbaijan on behalf of the Republic of Armenia, but the President of the Republic of Artsakh is the one to negotiate on behalf of the Republic of Artsakh with Azerbaijan and the international community.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, let us go back to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. You said that you are ready to negotiate on behalf of Armenia, but not on behalf of Artsakh. Can this make it possible for Armenia to recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh in the near future? Azerbaijan’s military rhetoric has so far been tolerated by the international community. Why should the situation change now?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think that it would be right to repeat exactly what I said. I said that I am ready and, in general, the Republic of Armenia is ready to negotiate on its behalf, and the Artsakh authorities should negotiate on behalf of the Republic of Artsakh in the person of its President, that is, there is no negative element in my formulation, I consider it very important. How can two sides decide the fate of a third entity in its absence? This is a simple logic.
As to the fact that the international community has so far been tolerating Azerbaijan’s bellicose rhetoric, frankly, I do not think that way. I think there have been reactions on this issue at the diplomatic level through diplomatic channels, and I think the time has come for the international community to react to said war rhetoric in a more practical and outspoken manner.
Question: If Artsakh’s engagement in the talks is not endorsed by others, do you think the talks will come to a deadlock?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The negotiations have come to a deadlock already. In fact, I offer a way out of the deadlock.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, my first question is whether the negotiation process is possible with regard to the principles and documents. I am referring to the Madrid Principles. My second question is about Artsakh’s cooperation with different European and non-governmental organizations. First of all, will you try to make that cooperation more effective by means of Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - On the second issue, I consider it very important for international NGOs to engage in active cooperation with civil society in Artsakh, as otherwise it would be impossible to understand the essence of the Karabakh issue. In essence, sometimes I have an impression that those international organizations dealing with civil society development are unwillingly involved in the blockade of Artsakh, which has a negative impact, because ultimately the organizations dealing with human rights and similar issues should defend Artsakh people’s rights, inter alia by encouraging civil societies and the public at large to get actively engaged in a dialogue. I consider this a very important direction. As for the negotiation format, I expressed my position on this issue and I do not think there is anything to add.
Question: More specifically, is it possible to reconsider the Madrid Principles?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - In essence, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have expressed readiness to negotiate on this basis, but as I have already stated in the National Assembly, we should not be guided by stereotypes, but we must understand that the goal is not the negotiation itself: the goal is to solve the problem. We should be able to look for and find effective tools for solving the problem.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, you spoke about the international recognition of Artsakh. Please clarify what are the steps to take ahead. What should be done to make international recognition more active?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think one of the best ways is to present the essence of the Artsakh issue to the international community. We have so far believed that the international community is already aware of the problem of Artsakh, but it seems that we need to present the essence of the issue. I think that new efforts should be made to present the essence of the problem to the international community, especially after the April war when the Azerbaijani armed forces resorted to appalling atrocities. And this is not just some of the manifestations of a period. The very essence of the Karabakh issue is expressed in these atrocities.
The conflict started when the people of Nagorno-Karabakh were compelled to defend themselves from such atrocities. This is the essence of the problem, and the area has nothing to do with it at all.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan: How do you view the negotiation process in the format of the Minsk Group? Do you see any other format? I mean that Azerbaijan is constantly complaining about that? Is there any other format acceptable to you, this is the most effective way to do it?
The second question has to do with Armenia-Turkey relationship because Turkey keeps associating it with the Karabakh issue. How do you see the future of that relationship?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I have already said that I imagine the negotiations in the OSCE Minsk co-chairing format. And, moreover, I would like to remind that Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as a full-fledged party to the conflict by the 1992 mandate of the Minsk Group.
Therefore, I consider that the negotiations should take place in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing format, in its full capacity, because I do believe that the absence of Karabakh at the negotiation table is not envisaged by the mandate of the OSCE Minsk Group, which was agreed upon as early as in 1992.
As regards the Armenian-Turkish relations, Armenia is open for establishing relations without any preconditions. And you know that Turkey is setting strange preconditions because it is illogical to associate the relations with a third country with the establishment of relations between the two countries.
And we remain committed to this position and are ready to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey without preconditions, at the same time adhering to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide because I think that, as I said in my speech, the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide has to do with the global imperative of preventing genocides rather than with Armenian-Turkish relations.
The question bore on the implementation of the agreements reached on the establishment of investigation mechanisms on the line of contact, as well as the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you for the question. I think we need to separate these two questions because during the meeting held in Vienna in 2016, an agreement was reached on the establishment of a mechanism for investigation on the Line of Contact, the essence of which is the following: you may know that each time a ceasefire violation happens, a wrangle begins as to who fired first, and who initiated the violation of the cease-fire regime.
A mechanism of probes into ceasefire violations at the line of contact has been agreed upon in order to make it clear to the international community who is to be blamed for destructive actions. As a matter of fact, Azerbaijan has so far been reluctant to allow such probes in the OSCE Minsk Group framework. Armenia is ready to make efforts to develop such mechanisms. And I am convinced that it will be an important step on the way to ensuring stability in the region.
As for the formation and deployment of peacekeeping forces, I do not think there is such a question on the agenda.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, in your speech you mentioned that you will talk about compromises only after receipt of Azerbaijan’s recognition of Artsakh. In your opinion, what are the compromises the Armenian side can make?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, since Azerbaijan does not have a clear message at this point that they are ready to recognize the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination, I consider the discussion of this issue senseless as I already said. As long as there is no message from there, I consider any discussion of compromise senseless.
Question: I just want to learn your opinion.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I consider that discussing a compromise is senseless as long as we have not heard a clear message from Azerbaijan to the effect that they are ready to acknowledge the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination. Let us not go into pointless discussions.
Question: In any case, Mr. Pashinyan, when can we hear from Azerbaijan that they are ready to recognize Artsakh’s right to self-determination and ultimately bring it to life.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I express our position, the position of the Republic of Armenia. My opinion is the same, as I have already said, as long as we have not heard such a message, our task is to continuously and consistently upgrade Armenia’s national security level, develop the military-industrial complex, raise our troops’ fighting spirit and keep up the spirit of our people.
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, your first official visit was paid to Artsakh and not to a super power or a power center, as it is usually the case. What does this mean?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - And why do you think that Artsakh is not a superpower?
Question: Mr. Pashinyan, when will the Artsakh people’s dream come true, I mean the desire to reunite with Armenia? Please tell us your point of view, your steps in that direction. When the ceasefire regime is violated at the border of Artsakh, we believe it is due to the fact that Artsakh is a non-recognized country, but Armenia’s borders are being violated the same way. As prime minister, what is your attitude with regard to continued violations?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - My attitude to such actions will be tough. As regards the reunification of the Republic of Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia, I think that the international recognition of Artsakh is one of its ways and when the Artsakh Republic will be an internationally recognized state, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh will express their position on their future fate as expressed by their peoples.
Question: Will you go to the talks only with the President of Artsakh, or will you negotiate as Armenia’s representative?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I have already said that I am ready to for talks, but Artsakh’s authorities should negotiate on behalf of the Republic of Artsakh, that is, we do not give up the ongoing talks with Azerbaijan, but we clearly state that we can only represent the Republic of Armenia in the negotiations, while the Republic of Artsakh should be represented by its authorities in the person of its President.