Introductory remarks delivered by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at press conference
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“Good afternoon, dear colleagues. I am glad to see you. As far as I can remember, this is our third press conference, a meeting held in this format. In the meantime, I avoided as much as possible answering questions so that our meeting had been more demanded. Before proceeding to your questions, I would like to take two short notes and share with you the piece of news that I got earlier today.
In February, 2019, as compared to the same period last year, mortgage lending increased by 100% in the Republic of Armenia. Mortgage lending available in the framework of our government programs rose 145% this February as compared to last February. In general, the mortgage portfolio of our country is 30% up; experts say that this is a huge increase.
I would like to describe the chain through which these figures may actually improve our life. This means that we will have greater market demand in construction in the near future. In turn, this will trigger new jobs not only in the field of construction, but also in the field of construction materials, in the tertiary sector and so on. I think this is an important indicator, which in turn may help us curb unemployment.
I would also like to inform you that there are currently USD 2.7 billion-worth 89 investment projects at least being discussed with the Government of the Republic of Armenia. 42 out these 89 projects to a total cost of USD774 million are actually being implemented, while others are in process of active discussion. This means that investment interest for Armenia has seen a tangible increase recently.
The next thing I would like to dwell on in my introductory remarks is the nationwide clean-up day of March 23. I hope that all of us will take part in the forthcoming clean-up day. I myself will join the campaign in a settlement the name of which I will not disclose. I hope our citizens will be active, too. I mean that visually the biggest problem in the country is the problem of garbage tolerance.
I once happened to declare at a Cabinet meeting that we would not be entitled to state that really revolutionary changes have occurred in the country – and this is only the visible side of the problem which has many aspects - unless we manage to free our country from garbage and waste. I am now happy to usher in the beginning of this process.
We will have an opportunity to address the details of government activities in the near future during the upcoming National Assembly hearings of the progress report on government program implementation. That is why I will not address other details today, and am happy for this occasion.
I have come here to answer all of your questions and I hope that all kinds of questions will possibly be heard in here. I mean that sometimes we can see various topics trigger great tides and storms on social networks, while for reasons as of yet unknown to me they fail to be treated during news conferences.
I hope you ask me all possible questions relevant to foreign and domestic policies, personal, non-personal affairs, because the main purpose of my press conferences is to ensure that the government, all of us, including me and my family, are 100 percent transparent and accountable to the public in our activities.
I assure you that there are no such questions that I am reluctant or unable to answer. So, do not worry about asking me tricky questions. Thank you in advance.”
Then Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered journalists’ questions.
Later Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered journalists’ questions, including regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process.
Tert.am news website, Tigranuhi Martirosyan - My question is about the settlement of the Artsakh issue. Soon you will meet with Ilham Aliyev under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. Will it be a meeting or a negotiation? After your well-known announcement that Artsakh should return to the negotiation table, your opponents are talking very much about the fact that you refuse responsibility, while others welcome your position that you cannot negotiate on behalf of Artsakh. After all, how long can Armenia wait? There not yet positive signals from Azerbaijan.What will Armenia do if Azerbaijan does not agree to Artsakh’s return to the table of negotiations?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - There is no need to wait: we should work consistently in the diplomatic process. What is being publicly said is not news for either the Minsk Group Co-Chairs or our Azeri counterparts. The agenda is the same. It was formulated in May, 2018. And we continue to serve that agenda.
And I want to record a delicate issue. As I already stated in Stepanakert, this is neither a whim nor a precondition on our part. We will continue discussions on this topic with our partners and we will try to uphold the discussion in the field of argumentation.
Anyway, Armenia has shown its ability to listen to the other, trying to understand the opposite side, and we expect the same from them. Where our partners consider that our position is overly rigid, we can mitigate this position, but we must have the same expectations from our partners as the conversation will not take place otherwise. By the way, the first such statement I made in the National Assembly as a candidate for the prime minister in May 2018, and the next day after my election as prime minister in Stepanakert, I made the same statement.
This series of statements is not a challenge; it is an invitation to dialogue, a dialogue, and that dialogue has not just begun. The dialogue started in Dushanbe, in St. Petersburg, Davos. And we do not understand the situation where one of the parties is avoiding a dialogue. It will not be a logical approach, naturally we will not give up on the dialogue. During this dialogue we will set forth our arguments on the table and listen carefully to the counter-arguments of our colleagues. And I think that a constructive and effective solution or continuation should be within this logic.
Azg, Marietta Khachatryan - I would like to ask for some clarification on the issue of Artsakh. If Aliyev keeps stating that they do not accept your provision in advance, noting that Artsakh’s return is a change in the format of negotiations, will you continue to insist on your counterargument?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The most typical and misinterpretation of the issue is that I have suggested changing the negotiation format. Aliyev is not the only one to state that; there are some people who say that in Armenia as well. And I want to make it clear that it is not a proposal for a negotiation format change, it is a proposal for restitution of the negotiation format, and I want to present one or two facts. When the OSCE Minsk Group was being formed in 1992 as a potential participant in the document adopted by the European Security and Peace Commission, which was later renamed into OSCE, the relevant document clearly stipulated that selected and other representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh should be invited to the conference as stakeholders. This is still the embryonic state of the negotiation process.
Next, in May, 1994, the ceasefire agreement as signed by three parties - Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Mamedov, Armenian Defense Minister Sargsyan and NKR Army Commander Babayan - very clearly stated that it was signed by the parties to the conflict. In other words, the Azerbaijani Defense Minister signed a document with the Defense Minister of Armenia and Commander of the NKR Defense Army.
By the way, when I said in an interview or at a meeting after being elected prime minister that the parties to the conflict were Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Republicans raised a noise, stating that Armenia could not be considered as a party to the conflict, while the document clearly stipulated that Armenia was a party to the conflict. Note that the paper was signed by the leader of their political party.
Next, the Declaration of the OSCE Budapest summit was adopted on December 21, 1994. One of the sub-chapters of Chapter 2 was dedicated to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and in this paragraph the participating States welcomed the ceasefire agreement by the conflicting parties. In other words, the OSCE thereby accepted that very document as a basis for further action.
Next, the OSCE Budapest document was followed by the summary statement issued on the part of OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Mr. Mazlo Kovac. It was adopted by the OSCE Council of Ministers in 1995 as the outcome of the meeting, held on March 31, 1995 in Prague. The following is said in the relevant paragraph: Taking note of the previous OSCE resolutions on the situation in the conflict, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office reaffirms the participation of the two parties to the conflict and the other side (Nagorno Karabakh’s participation in the negotiation process and the Minsk Conference). In other words, this is what we should have as the negotiation format, which has been internationally agreed and recognized. And therefore, those who call my proposal as a change in the negotiation format are not well-informed about the negotiation format.
Zhoghovurd daily, Naira Hovhannisyan – I would like to follow up on the Karabakh conflict: at the joint session of Security Councils, you mentioned that in the near future the most important goal should be to clarify the three main principles and six elements. How do you imagine, and now, in this situation, to what extent are these principles acceptable or are acceptable, in general.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – This is what I just mean. In order to understand our attitude to these principles, we must understand what they mean because we have a text and we have dozens of comments on the text, and these comments are made at a state level. In my speech, I said that it is very important to understand what interpretation will be based on the subsequent negotiations, because the comments voiced on the part of Azerbaijan are unacceptable to us. Indeed, we can make our own comments, but we do not go that way, because our problem is not stingy.
We want that the Co-Chairs, the representatives of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Karabakh could understand what these principles actually mean. For example, Azerbaijan interprets these principles in the following way: Karabakh should be part of Azerbaijan. This is an interpretation, but there can also be another interpretation, namely that Karabakh should be an independent state. Let alone that there can be a comment that Karabakh should be part of Armenia and so on.
That is to say, as long as we have not agreed upon the possible scope of the conversation or what we are talking about, we will not understand each other. By the way, you may wonder why I did not formulate my points in May, 2018. I failed to do so for a very simple reason: the necessity arose during my discussions with Azerbaijan’s President, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and other international partners. There are various comments, some of which are public, and some are non-public.
Yes, there are international partners. I cannot just refer to them now as they say that these principles mean that Karabakh cannot be part of Azerbaijan. Someone else says no, they mean that it cannot be outside of Azerbaijan, and so on. I am a new person in the negotiations and I want to understand who is right and who’s wrong.
I am going to disclose a secret: after being elected Prime Minister, I asked former Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to give us some relevant information because do not want to resume the talks from a specific point without having an accurate idea of what is going on. Yes, there are people who say that I do not need to go into the details, but I must understand every single word, every stage of the ongoing negotiations. This is not a whim, but a necessity. I have been given a lot of information, but this huge amount of information highlights the need for extra information because this is a very complicated process. When someone wants to get involved in negotiations, he must have all the necessary information and understand the whole delicacy of that process.
Ilham Aliyev has been the negotiation process for several years, the co-chairs are doing their job, I am the only person who is new. I think nobody expects me to come and say, I am not interested in anything.
The purpose of the dialogue is to clarify issues and the forthcoming meeting, of course, at least in our perception, will be devoted to such a series of clarifications already formally stated because there is so much contradictory information as to what happened in Kazan, in Vienna, and later on. There are several comments and interpretations that need to be clarified.
As a new person to the negotiation process, I must have the answers to all these questions, and I hope our partners will help me get the answers to them.