We are not going to repeat the 1938 “Czechoslovakia” concessions to anyone: Nikol Pashinyan
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered several questions asked by reputable European and American media outlets: The Telegraph (Great Britain), European Post (Brussels), Foreign Policy (USA), Tageblatt (Austria) and Il Giornale (Italy). Below is the transcript of questions and answers.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you first of all for receiving us all here. This war started exactly one month ago. At what point are we now in this war?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - First of all, let us summarize what is going on and who is fighting against Nagorno-Karabakh. And let us state that Turkey was the main instigator behind this war. Turkey transported mercenaries, terrorists from Syria, and transferred part of its armed forces to Azerbaijan, including military equipment, armed groups from Pakistan, which have set a goal to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh by means of a blitzkrieg. According to their calculations the war was supposed to last maximum a week to ten days, but the people of Nagorno-Karabakh stood up and they will continue to fight for their rights, because this is not actually a territorial dispute; it is a legal dispute, because the Armenians have lived in Nagorno-Karabakh for several millennia; they have been a majority for all that time. There is a huge Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh: a 5th-century church, 8th, 10th, 13th-century Armenian churches.
The first Armenian school was founded in Nagorno-Karabakh. And the war, in fact, recorded the resistance of Nagorno-Karabakh at the moment, recorded Turkey’s imperial policy, since I consider it important to state that the issue has now gone beyond the logic and framework of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Turkey came here not only to support Azerbaijan in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but to continue its imperialistic policy. And what is happening here is a continuation of the policy that Turkey has been pursuing in the Mediterranean with regard to Greece, Cyprus, Libya, Syria and Iraq. And again my recollection is that it is an imperial policy, because in fact the Armenians in the South Caucasus are the last obstacle in the way of Turkey’s ambition to expand its imperialistic policy to the north, east and south-east. My view remains the same. If Western societies fail to adequately assess Turkey’s actions, they will have to meet Turkey in Vienna in the near future.
Question: What can you really expect from the European Union, knowing that some European countries are not in favour of imposing sanctions on Turkey?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We’ve pinned our hopes on our own resources as well as those countries which are bound by reciprocated commitments with Armenia. You asked me what is happening. What I mean is that the European Union should take action for itself. It is up to you to make the relevant decision. My responsibility is to ensure the security of Yerevan, Armenia and the Armenian people; Vienna’s security is not in my working portfolio. I can only warn you against the imminent threat.
This war started earlier in Europe, and it is going on every day. The fact that long-range artillery is not being deployed over there does not mean that the war has not started yet. That war is going on. There are forces that know the following: Europe has been living in prosperity for about 60 years, and prosperity prevents them from noticing the war that is taking place in Europe today, because a prosperous person tends to be guided by a “wishful thinking logic” until bombs explode in the courtyards, houses. This opens up a vast field for many dark forces.
Question: What do you mean?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Look at what happened in France, look at the tone in which the Turkish President speaks of the French President. Could you ever conceive of any country’s official representative possibly speaking about the President of France such a tone? Who could have conceived it 15 years ago?
Even during the Cold War, I do not know of any case where a Soviet official said things like that about the French leader or any other European leader. What is it if not war? The point is whether you wish to ignore the war, or not. If you continue to ignore the ongoing war, it will become more and more visible over time.
Yes, people are being beheaded on the streets of Europe; people are happy that they have not yet been decapitated. I call it the mechanics of genocide. If this time your head is not cut off––sorry, not yours, but someone else’s––it does not mean that the same thing will not happen next time. And that’s it. Based on the reactions, we can clearly see the center of energy from which all this is being encouraged.
Question–Back to the war, you recently said there is no diplomatic solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at least at this stage. Has your position changed?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – I did not say “at this stage,” I said at the moment, bearing in mind that the leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing nations - the presidents of Russia, France and the United States - took turns to broker a ceasefire, yet the ceasefire failed to come into effect.
Is it possible to talk about a diplomatic solution when the two countries’ top diplomats through the mediation of the global powers reach a ceasefire agreement, which is not being enforced? In this case no diplomatic arrangement is implemented. How serious is it to hope that bigger diplomatic agreements can be reached in these conditions? That is, the diplomatic solution is the hundredth step on our way to the settlement; I mean that we will have to take that step before reaching a resolution. If we cannot make the first move, how can we reach the final stage?
Question: This conflict has not been really frozen for a long time, but it flared up after you came to power. Is there anything you could do better?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––The situation has not really changed since 2011, since the problem is that the issue can only be resolved through compromise remains the same. What is the situation we’ve had since 2011? Naturally, compromise means agreeing to something that is not at first acceptable to you, and we’ve had such dynamics since 2011.
What becomes acceptable to Armenia as a result of a specific concession becomes unacceptable for Azerbaijan from that moment on. And Azerbaijan expects the Armenian side, Karabakh, to make more concessions. This is the reason for the outbreak of aggression you say. Because, of course, there is a compromise, but on the one hand, we cannot afford unlimited concessions, when the other side is not prepared for a compromise just because it has more money to buy more weapons.
And I can answer your question: what else could I have done to prevent this war? I could give up defending the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia all together. But would that have prevented the war? No, because no matter what we were prepared to concede, Azerbaijan should have demanded more.
I recently made a parallel between the Munich Agreement and our situation. Before the outbreak of World War II, the European powers thought that by ceding Czechoslovakia to Hitler they could satisfy his appetite and avoid war in Europe. And what happened as a result: Hitler swallowed Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, and as the other saying goes, eating only arouses one’s appetite.
If the European leaders had not surrendered the Czech Republic, and a war started, journalists like you would say, “Is there anything you could have done better? For instance, why did you not surrender the Czech Republic? While the questioned leaders would say, yes, we should have been a little more flexible in the case of the Czech Republic. They turned out to be more flexible, and what is the outcome?
Question: What is the compromise you are ready for politically, territorially?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We are not going to repeat the Czechoslovakia concessions to anyone
Question: Are you going to apply to Moscow to intervene on a humanitarian-military level to solve the problem?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The issue of Moscow’s intervention must be viewed in several ways. There is Moscow as an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair, and there is Moscow––Armenia’s strategic partner. Moscow, the co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, is a mediator; it must act in the logic of balancing, which is understandable. And I said that I am for the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the conflict zone. But the problem is that the deployment of Russian peacekeepers has to be acceptable to all parties to the conflict.
In fact, it is acceptable for Armenia, for Karabakh, and it can happen, as our Russian colleagues stated, if Azerbaijan agrees to it, too. And in general, any peacekeeper can be deployed with the consent of the parties. As far as Armenia’s strategic partner is concerned, Moscow will fulfill its commitments in the event of a real threat to Armenia’s territorial integrity, including through military means.
Question: Which other country has offered to send foreign peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––No other country thus far, but this topic has always been raised in the negotiation process; But we believe that the optimal solution is the deployment of Russian peacekeepers.
Question: Has the shelling of civilian targets in Ganja weakened Armenia’s position to protect its people?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––No. Because the question is why Ganja was shelled. And why was Stepanakert being shelled for 10 days, and even longer? Why were Martakert, Askeran, Martuni and Shushi bombed?
Why was the St. Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi shelled? Moreover, if it had only been hit by a single projectile, we could have considered it an accident. But the Armenian church in Shushi was bombed twice. Why was it bombed?
Question: By answering in the same way, do you not weaken your position before the international community?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––The Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army had identified legitimate military targets in Ganja and only hit military targets. Perhaps civilian infrastructure has also been affected in the shelling. But there is no military target in Shushi’s St. Ghazanchetsots Church.
Question: Do you keep in touch with the Iranian leadership? What are your expectations from Iran?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––Iran remains our neighbour and a friendly country. I recently had a phone conversation with the President of Iran, our Minister of Foreign Affairs is in contact with his Iranian counterpart; other Armenian state agencies are cooperating with Iranian partners in an effort to analyze and assess the situation. After all, we have a common border, and our border guards are cooperating, too.
Question: You mentioned 3 ceasefires. The first was agreed upon through Russia, the second by France, and the third by the United States. All three, as you mentioned, were broken within minutes. Are you not worried that there are no other options now to resolve the conflict peacefully?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––Well, now, it is you who is saying that a diplomatic solution is not possible at the moment.
Question: I am just asking.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––Your question is clear. But now you are actually answering what you are asking me. I can also ask you, why do you say that the options are running out and what happened to the diplomatic solution?
Question: I do not think there are no other options. Three superpowers such as Russia, France, and the United States brokered ceasefires, which were soon violated, what can be done?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––Czechoslovakia must be able to defend itself. It must do everything to protect itself.
Question: We journalists have arrived from different countries. What is your message to the world about this war?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––My main message is as follows. Unfortunately, at some moment in our past––it was around the 2000s––international media began characterising the Nagorno-Karabakh issue as a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In fact, the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is by no means a territorial dispute. The Karabakh movement, which took off 10 or 12 years earlier, was considered to be the forerunner of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, because the Karabakh movement came as an expression of democratization in the Soviet Union.
The Armenians of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, who, as always, accounted for 80 percent of the local population, decided to defend their rights in the context of the democratization of the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev was opening up and rebuilding the Soviet Union.
And what right was violated? In the early 20th century, when the Soviet Union was being formed, the South Caucasus became part of the Soviet Union and soviet republics were being declared. As a result of Stalin’s arbitrary decision, with its Armenian population of 80% Nagorno-Karabakh was handed over to Soviet Azerbaijan and not to Soviet Armenia.
In 1988 the Supreme Council of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, the parliament, decided to initiate an absolutely peaceful process to correct that historical grievance, to which the Soviet Union and later Azerbaijan responded through force, in particular by organizing massacres of Armenians in the cities of Sumgait, Baku, and then in the immediate vicinity of Nagorno-Karabakh. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan declared independence from the Soviet Union. And according to the Soviet laws, when a republic decided to break away from the Soviet Union, its affiliates, including the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, could decide on their own status.
And the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region decided to be independent. And just as Soviet Azerbaijan became independent from the Soviet Union, so the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region became independent from Soviet Azerbaijan. In this respect, the two of them enjoyed equal rights under Soviet law.
Many say that the international community has not recognized Nagorno-Karabakh’s Independence, and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are just struggling for the international recognition of their rights. Especially today as Nagorno-Karabakh has become in fact the frontline of the global anti-terrorist war, the need for acknowledging that right has become more acute.
And we think that the principle of “remedial secession” should be applied to Nagorno-Karabakh, because being left within Azerbaijan means ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. As far as I know, you have been to Karabakh, you have seen the rocket fire. That is the answer to that question.
Can anyone explain why Stepanakert is being shelled? For one simple reason; to make its residents give up the idea of living there. This is a very important formula for ethnic cleansing and genocide. And our main message is that Nagorno-Karabakh needs “remedial secession.”
Question: Do you take seriously the scenario in which Armenia can come under direct attack in this war?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––We have already come under attack.
Question: Do you mean the military base?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan––Yes, we have already seen such attacks, and that scenario cannot be ruled out.