Interviews and press conferences
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Interview with Nver Mnatsakanyan
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gave an interview to Nver Mnatsakanyan. The interview was broadcast live on 1in.am. Below is the full transcript of the interview.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Good afternoon, we are now in the Armenian government. This interview is being held in a special mode, our interlocutor is Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Good afternoon, Mr. Prime Minister, how are you?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you, well.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - More than three months have elapsed since the war ended. Can we say whether our urgent problem is inside Armenia or in the developments around Armenia?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - In fact, we are dealing with the aftermath of the war. And, of course, there are consequences that are insurmountable. I mean our fallen brothers, our martyrs, who unfortunately cannot be returned. And, of course, we are facing internal and external challenges today.
In my opinion, both the internal and external challenges are related to the security situation. And this is the reason why, immediately after the end of the war, I set the agenda of ensuring security in Armenia and around Armenia as a priority. We cannot say that this problem is 100% solved, but it seems that we are taking confident steps in that direction.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Are we talking about a new security system, considering that the former one has failed?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - When we say security system, we must clarify what we mean. What do you mean?
Nver Mnatsakanyan - I mean the protection of our borders, our relations with our immediate neighbors.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We find ourselves in the same system of external security as before, in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. I have stated on many occasions that we had some misunderstanding of our commitments to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, at least at the social level. For example, many say why the Collective Security Treaty Organization did not intervene in the Karabakh war. The answer is simple, because the CSTO commitments are formulated within the internationally recognized borders of Armenia.
Apart from that, in fact, those obligations are not formalized. And, of course, we have had security challenges inside Armenia. The mechanisms applicable in the Collective Security Treaty Organization have played a specific role in that respect. And it must be admitted.
As for our overall regional security system, we must, of course, undertake army reforms - structural reforms, substantive reforms, in particular as regards armaments, in particular, and the strategic component, in general.
In addition, we must assess the regional situation. We must reassess our role and our significance in the region, including the relations that we have in the region. We need to redefine our long-term strategic agenda in the region and with the regional players. This is one of the most important things to do.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Do we have an unsolvable problem in Syunik?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – What do you mean?
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Line of Contact with the enemy or neighbor, borders, settlements…
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think we do not have an unsolvable problem. This does not mean that we do not have problems. But I think that there is a system of security guarantees in Syunik. It is clear that the environment has changed; there is some tension due to the change in environment. But I am convinced that the tensions will ease over time, especially since we intend to implement large-scale socio-economic infrastructure projects in Syunik. And in general, our task is to create and develop the most favorable environment around Armenia and Artsakh. This is a daily task we are working on.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Will the unblocking of transport communications affect Syunik?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think that any change in the environment inevitably leads to specific concerns in general. As for the opening of communications, I think that a constructive, mutually beneficial solution to this problem is one of the factors that can bring long-lasting peace to our region. In addition to lasting peace, it can also result in economic benefits, which does not mean at all that there are no challenges that need to be managed. In general, anything may imply challenges, but again it is a matter of strategic choice. And I think that communications are the vessels connecting us to the region, they connect the region to us, they make the region matter to us, and they enhance our importance in the region.
We must formulate this agenda, we must understand the threats that may arise from these environmental changes, the challenges, we must formulate the methods by which we must manage them.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Since we touched upon the topic of unblocking, who is the most interested party in this case?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think if we look back at what is happening in the region, we will see that everyone is interested, without exception, everyone. Russia is interested, Georgia is interested, the Islamic Republic of Iran is interested, Azerbaijan is interested, Turkey is interested, the Republic of Armenia is interested. The point is that interests may have commonalities and differences.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - In other words, we have to get our share in here.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - And this is where, as a result of back-to-back discussions, we should be able to mitigate differences of opinion and emphasize commonalities. We can see that the discussion on the re-commissioning of the Abkhazian railway have intensified following the January 11 statement, which is quite positive. The discussion on the railway connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea has intensified, and this makes the topic more exciting. I repeat, this does not mean that there are no challenges. At the same time, let us state that it does not mean at all that there are no opportunities. Armenia needs to correctly position itself in strategic terms.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Are there any preconditions for prisoners?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is trying to make the issue of captives a subject of negotiations, which is not appropriate due to the simple fact that the November 9 statement stipulates a clear obligation to return prisoners, hostages or other detainees.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – All for all…
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes, and I want to repeat it again, because after the incident in Khtsaberd, we could witness controversial interpretations as to whether our soldiers were prisoners of war, or not. Comments like that are inappropriate, since the November 9 statement refers not only to the prisoners of war, but also to captives, hostages and other detainees.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Why did the leader of Azerbaijan choose that phrase?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I want to emphasize that this is a trilateral statement, the obligations formulated by that statement are shared by all three parties that signed the statement. And we are working hard to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - We seem to be perfectly abiding by the clauses specified in the agreement. The other side violates the agreement. Why do we keep on honoring the agreements without setting a condition, namely by declaring that we cannot move forward as long as that problem – I mean Paragraph 8, in particular - is not complied with.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - First of all, I think that everything should be done so that the process does not run into a deadlock. We continue to work on the topic and the agenda as long as we see that there is a real opportunity to solve the problem. And there is a real opportunity to have concrete results. Once we see that there is no such opportunity, we will step back, of course.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - In other words, there is a real opportunity.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Of course, there is a real opportunity, the conversation is about that topic. We keep in close touch with the President of the Russian Federation, contacts are being held between Armenia and Azerbaijan on this issue. And, of course, there is hope and conviction that these problems will be solved over time. It seems to be obvious that every minute, not every day but every minute, is crucial here. I mean first of all the families of our captive and missing brothers. But I want to assure you that every minute is just as much important for the government and for me, and we are bound by duty to live up to the task.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - In other words, there are some deadlines beyond which it would be impossible to defer this issue.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - As long as we see real possibilities for resolving the issue – note that 69 prisoners have already been returned - we must continue to work until the last captive has been returned.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Now let us talk about the state of affairs in Armenia. Is there an internal political crisis, in your view?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - When we say internal political crisis, we must understand its parameters. There is a government, there is a parliamentary majority; the government and the parliamentary majority are stable. Of course, many questions arose in the post-war period, and those questions need to be addressed.
Indeed, the government understands its commitment to find the answers in the sense of being constructive, and we are, of course, prepared to do so. You know that late last year I came up with, first of all, a proposal to hold early parliamentary elections in 2021. But that proposal was rejected. It was obvious that we saw the early parliamentary elections as a tool to defuse the tension and change the atmosphere that was established in Armenia after the war, but unfortunately, we saw that there were forces seeking the opposite.
Some intend to use the reluctance to hold parliamentary elections, which they themselves rejected, as a possibility for resorting to radical action, which in turn may aggravate the security environment inside the country, but it is more likely that external security challenges will probably increase as well, which is fraught with unpredictable consequences. That is why, in fact, after receiving a rejection from the parliamentary opposition, the opposition in general, we decided to return to the normal implementation of the Roadmap I published on November 18. And as we agreed, the Roadmap will be completed by June. We will summarize the results in June and make a decision on what to do next.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - In other words, the probability of elections remains.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Look, we did not say, no, there must be mandatory elections. In the same way we cannot say, no, there should be no elections. After all, why not make a unilateral decision to hold early parliamentary elections in the format of parliamentary majority-government, but if the majority of political forces or the opposition rejects that agenda, the imperative of holding early elections simply disappears because our proposal was to address the people in the manner provided by the Constitution and the laws. Apparently, those political forces that are addressing the people with the insulting remarks just realize that it is not a favorable scenario for them, and therefore, they tend to radicalize the situation. When we see that there is an opportunity to reach a consensus on dealing with the post-war political crisis, we, of course, will not insist on the same position.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Do you see any other tool to unwind this atmosphere?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, the next tool to defuse this atmosphere is the effective implementation of the Roadmap. And I can state that the Roadmap published by me on November 18 is being implemented quite successfully.
We have so far implemented some 17 programs, and I consider it important to state that we have implemented a project worth about 23 billion drams in Artsakh, covering several spheres, including the social sector and the support of state institutions in Artsakh. The package currently adopted will be implemented in Artsakh to a total cost of about 50 billion drams. Also, we are implementing a number of programs in Armenia, in Syunik Marz. The assistance program for the war-affected households is extremely important.
I make a point of implementing programs to support our disabled and wounded servicemen. I mean the program to reimburse tuition fees for one semester for those who participated in the war or for their family members. We are currently looking at the possibility of adopting a large-scale mortgage program in Artsakh and in the border settlement of Armenia. I also prioritize the judiciary reform, which we are implementing resolutely.
In fact, look at what is going on: the economy is responding to the steps we have taken. According to statistics concerning the first twenty days of this February, the home trade turnover exceeded by about 44 billion drams or 13% the index of the first twenty days of February, 2020.
Please note that the pandemic did not have a negative economic impact in February last year. In turn, tangible growth was recorded in the same period as compared to February, 2019, which was marked by a very serious economic growth.
As for the political situation, I think there is no other way than dialogue, discussions, formulation of a general and strategic agenda, which is an inseparable part of our roadmap. In the meantime, we had political discussions and consultations, and indeed we must continue that way.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Is it not a bit strange that the political radicalism you mentioned is manifested especially by forces that were once rejected by the Revolution? To be more specific, it seems that this segment of the opposition will be led by the former presidents, the second and the third Presidents.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I would like to draw your attention to one fact. The attitude to the government as manifested by the aforementioned forces did change neither before, nor after the war. That is, if we look at what they said before the war, we will see that they keep stating the same things after the war. Perhaps, the wording has somewhat changed, but by and large the attitude has not changed at all. The same attitude was in place in 2018, 2019, 2020, before the war. After all, we can see political forces demanding the resignation of the government that did so in June and in July, 2018.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - When the second president says that if I were the head of state, we would not have suffered this defeat, what is the reason for that?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - It may seem a bit ridiculous, but anyone who was not the leader of Armenia in September, October and November, 2020, can say so. And no one can prove the opposite. Shall we ask? Anyone, regardless of biography or name, can say that if it were me, Azerbaijan would not dare to attack. We would not be defeated, and so on. But we must really understand the deep origins of defeat. All right, if it was a defeat that had matured over the past couple of years or two months, let us record it and prove it.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - By the way, about proving. What is the likelihood of revealing and exposing the truth about the war?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - That process is underway at this point of time. Analytical work is being done both at the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces, which is very important. You may be aware that there are more than 1000 criminal proceedings instituted so far. This does not mean that all those 1000 cases will go to court, and that there will be verdicts issued thereon. But I mean that this is just a process that is already going on.
Back to the previous question, I should say for example that that are facts we can consider. For instance, for the first time in 2019, unlike the previous year, our government presented a state budget bill, which provided that defense and military spending should increase by about 23%, or by about 50 billion drams in the Republic of Armenia. One of our first actions was to increase the combat effectiveness of the Armed Forces.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Because you knew that there was an imminent threat of war?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, today we can look back and see, for example, what the “rejected person” said in April, 2018. In fact, he said that the negotiation process was stalled, that we should not hope that Azerbaijan would not try to resolve the issue by military means. In other words, the negotiation process had reached a deadlock, and one should not hope that Azerbaijan would not attack. In other words, one could still hope to the last. But after that you cannot hope for anything else… In general, let us look back at the Karabakh peace process and see what stages we have gone through.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Sorry, let us not forget a nuance here. The Third President also said that there was a plan to purchase UAVs in the military budget. I do not remember the exact number of drones to be procured. That was news to me. Is it so for you, too?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - No changes had been made to the armament procurement plan. Those who claimed that such a change had taken place publicly denied what they had said. But it is important to record what the former Chief of General Staff said? All right, when we say that we have to buy armament, we should see who could sell us quality equipment? This is an important question. Then political and diplomatic steps are being taken to get the needed armament, which may not be unequivocally accepted by our allies, friends, etc., and so on.
Now let us understand the steps I have taken to reform the army and the armed forces since I was elected Prime Minister. I became prime minister through a revolution. I pursued the most conservative policy with regard to the Armed Forces. I appointed to the post of Defense Minister a person who used to be First Deputy Minister of Defense for many years during the reign of the “rejected” person. He was the only one who had the status of a minister in 2018 as part of the “rejected” person’s government and continued to hold that status in my government.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - The conservatism you mentioned is not welcomed by many today.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - No, but at least in the field of the Armed Forces...
Nver Mnatsakanyan - What made you take that step?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – I did so because I thought that making revolutionary interventions in the army in the given military-political situation could lead to negative consequences. I mean, the army that we had in 2020 was the same army that we had in 2018, with the difference that the salaries of officers and privates were increased, and military spending rose by 20%.
In one year, military spending increased by more than 20 percent. And we solved many issues, from everyday needs to weapons, and so on. And my presumption was that there should be no political-revolutionary interventions at all in the Armed Forces.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Here is where the trajectory goes. You have an adviser to the Minister of Defense arrested on corruption charges.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – I would like to remind that criminal proceedings on similar charges were initiated in 2018 as well. Today many say that we have not made revolutionary changes. But we did not make revolutionary changes since we refrained from doing so in the field of armament supplies amid harsh criticism.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Do you still believe that you were right to refrain from making drastic changes in that field?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Look, there were numerous unfulfilled contracts in 2018. If we arrested them all, the fate of those tens of billions would remain unknown. We set a task to enforce the deliveries. And second, you cannot shut up a bad supply channel for weaponry deliveries unless you have at least a better one, because no one can guarantee that the war will not start during the period of “emptiness?”
Nver Mnatsakanyan - But at least you could bar the way to corruption.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Dozens of criminal cases have been filed since 2018 in connection with corruption mechanisms in the army, the purpose of which was to address the situation. By the way, there were problems in the army that should not have happened. For example, soldiers were not paid for leave; they used to be told that a car would come and take them home. In other words, there were such problems which had a significant impact on the atmosphere in the army. I have repeatedly stated that the army has an indisputable authority in society, and our task is to equate the authority of military service with the authority of the army.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Since we are talking about the army, Serzh Sargsyan says he was surprised why Iskander did not fire on the third or fourth day of the war. Is this hint addressed to you?
Nikol Pashinyan - This hint might be addressed to me, but I think that the “rejected” person should know the answers to many questions, and not ask questions, the answers to which he knows. Or maybe they will answer why the fired Iskander did not explode or exploded, for example, by 10%.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – May it happen that way too?
Nikol Pashinyan - I do not know.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - This is something new. This is interesting news.
Nikol Pashinyan - Maybe it was a weapon of the 80s?
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Serzh Sargsyan also says that he did not transfer power to Nikol Pashinyan; he handed it over to Karen Karapetyan.
Nikol Pashinyan - The rejected one could not transfer power to someone else? He was not the one to decide the matter, was he? The people decided who was to take over.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – He also says he was nominated for the third time to implement Lavrov’s plan. Either this is an interesting observation.
Nikol Pashinyan - What prevented him from doing that before?
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Well, they tried, but it did not work.
Nikol Pashinyan - And where is the guarantee that he would try again and succeed, or what prevented him from announcing about it from the rostrum of the National Assembly? Instead, a completely different thing was announced, namely that there was no hope from the negotiation process, and the war could start any time. And also, how many shells were there in the arsenal of our army in the spring of 2018?
He could have said that if he continued in office three more days, he would have solved the Karabakh issue. But there is history, and we know the background story, which took place in front of everyone’s eyes. When these people came to power in 1998, they said that any kind of phased solution, any transfer of territories was unacceptable.
Even after 1998 there was no such negotiated option which failed to clearly stipulate the return of 7 territories to Azerbaijan. This is was a minimum condition. And all the documents were formulated in such a way that the issue should be settled after the return of 7 regions to Azerbaijan. There was also talk about the status of Artsakh, but what was the prospect? This is the most important question.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - As for the status, Serzh Sargsyan also says that if the April four-day war had lasted longer, they would have unequivocally recognized the independence of Artsakh, and he wonders why this was not done during the 44-day war.
Nikol Pashinyan - How much longer? Maybe 4 days of war was too long for 2016. We need to understand whether this step would improve the situation or worsen it? Theoretically, the status could be acknowledged at any time. This discourse has been active for the past 10-15 years. Some think it should have been recognized during the war, some believe that it should have been recognized before the war, and some say it should have been recognized after the war. The question is not whether Armenia will recognize Artsakh’s independence or not. The question is whether the international community may recognize Artsakh’s independence or not.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - And finally, please comment on “the revolution was an anti-Karabakh movement” phrase.
Nikol Pashinyan - If someone said that the revolution was too pro-Karabakh and that there was so much affection for Artsakh in our revolution, which prevented us from considering many issues, so to speak, more soberly, then it would be possible to discuss this. Let us see what kind of programs we implemented and planned for Artsakh after 2018, what infrastructure projects we have prepared for implementation in Artsakh. I repeat, if our political team had been blamed for loving Artsakh too much, so that it was impermissible for the political force in office, perhaps such criticism could be called justified and objective.
Nver Mnatsakanian - How do you assess the events that took place on the night of November 9? Was it a mass riot, as many from the opposition camp call it, or an attempted coup d’etat?
Nikol Pashinyan - The investigation of the case is going on, and dozens of people are wanted by the law enforcement authorities. The fact that many political figures were involved there, and if we look back, even the rhetoric they use today, and what happened to NA Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, in fact, the assassination attempt leads us to believe that it was an attempt to physically eliminate the leadership of Armenia. And its aim was not only to solve the issue of power, but also to destroy forever the possibility of revealing the truth about the Karabakh issue. And this truth exists, of course, in the form of state secrets, but it exists, and they will not succeed in destroying it.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Are there any detainees in the case of these riots?
Nikol Pashinyan - Of course, there are detained and arrested persons. As far as I know, some of those cases are in court already. To be honest, I do not know the details, but I know that the first case on this incident is already in court.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Do you know at least where the political trajectory of these events leads?
Nikol Pashinyan - Everyone knows that. The NSS prepared and published a video about this. Both the actors and those behind the riot are known.
Nver Mnatsakanian - And now we can witness calls for a lightning revolt. The government’s response to that appeal seems inadequate. I wonder where you got the confidence that this is impossible.
Nikol Pashinyan - First of all, let us note two things. The government responds within the limits of the law, which may not be accepted because of the well known circumstances in Armenia. But the authorities respond within the framework of the law and legality. And as far as I know, criminal proceedings have been launched in connection with the aforementioned statement, and a probe will be held to that effect.
But I want us not to confuse direct political statements with illegal statements, and measure everyone and everything with one yardstick, because, after all, democracy is important for our country and the steps taken by the government or the law enforcement system should not be objectively characterized as political or personal persecution. This, in my opinion, is unacceptable. That there are cases when the law enforcement system reacts accurately, but the reaction of the judicial system at least raises questions.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Nevertheless, the public opinion is that the power of visible or even invisible capital is stronger than your political power in Armenia.
Nikol Pashinyan - Money has always been part of power in Armenia. The peculiarity of our government is that we have legitimate power; we do not have money in the individual or group sense of the word. And this fact may raise a lot of questions. For example, we did not organize mass events with money neither when we were in opposition nor when we were in power, not only because we did not have or do not have money, but because it contradicts our system of values in general.
We cannot imagine how one can urge people to go to a rally, threatening to fire them if they do not do so. But, of course, I agree with you that our law enforcement agencies must find more effective ways to respond to these cases, because there has never been such a tradition in Armenia that, for example, an employer was held accountable for forcibly sending employees to the meeting.
This used to be deemed as a normal phenomenon, including from the perspective of the law enforcement system. Our law enforcement agencies have no practice of persecuting an employer for forcing an employee to participate in a rally. But such a practice needs to be introduced indeed.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - I remembered another accusation: the main reason for our failures is the populist government in Armenia.
Nikol Pashinyan - What is meant by populist government? Does it mean that the key to success in Armenia is the existence of a corrupt government? Let us talk a little more straightforwardly; I might have spoken about it in public, but unfortunately, there was only one well-formed institution in Armenia, and it was the institution of corruption. We came after the revolution and we destroyed the institution of systemic corruption in Armenia.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - And stopped…
Nikol Pashinyan - And sorry for the word, they fell into a stupor, since nothing worked in Armenia without corruption. This is an objective accusation: when we came to power in 2018, we destroyed the only institution that was in our country - corruption. And now let us look back... There is a lot of talk about the judicial system... Everything slowed down and stagnated, including the issuance of construction permits. Why, because the driving force behind all this, the only established institution has been destroyed?
It turned out that the other institutions were not established well enough to function without corruption, because those in the system of public administration responsible for signing a transaction worth millions get a salary of 120 thousand drams, and they cannot get more money for that since they will probably be arrested…
Nver Mnatsakanyan - It is obvious, but it is unacceptable to be at standstill for three years in a row.
Nikol Pashinyan - No, we have not been in a state of stagnation for three years.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Where is the revolutionary agenda today?
Nikol Pashinyan - The revolutionary agenda is in place. Look at the radical changes taking place in the judicial system.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - In three years...
Nikol Pashinyan - Changes and reforms should be well thought out, because there is always the possibility that instead of being useful, you can do a disservice.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - But at the same time we should not wonder why the power of capital goes strengthening.
Nikol Pashinyan - The power of capital goes up and down; we saw different situations during this time, but we are abiding by the principle of consistent and continued reforms. After all, look at the drastic changes that took place in terms of curbing monopolies. No outsider could enter a commodity market before the Revolution, while today people are free to import what they wish and export what they want. In this sense, perhaps we can say that the reforms were not implemented too quickly, but by citing the example of the army, I tried to give the reasons because there has always been a fear of facing a vacuum in the security environment. But now we are facing other realities, and we must propel and reinvigorate the reform process. The current situation, and above all, the economic downturn is caused not only by the war, but also by the global pandemic.
Look, there was a revolution in May 2018, and there was a government without a parliamentary majority, and the parliamentary system constantly torpedoed the government. Our government had one full year without force majeure - 2019. Let us look at what happened in 2019: unprecedented economic growth in the last decade. The pandemic came in March, 2020.
Let us remember how strongly our government was criticized for its measures aimed at countering the pandemic. Every day, several times a day we were blamed for not following the example of other countries. We then said that our forecasts showed that sooner or later all countries would come to the same situation. And the countries that had been cited as an example today find themselves in a catastrophic state in terms of COVID-19, and no one remembers what we told them in July, in August 2020…
Nver Mnatsakanyan - I would not put the evil eye…
Nikol Pashinyan - Of course, I completely agree, because this is an epidemic, after all, and it is impossible to predict its development, but I think the Armenian government handled the epidemic better than anyone else. Yes, we have over 3,000 coronavirus-caused deaths, but it is the case in many countries. Yes, there were countries comparable to ours that had 10 times fewer deaths than ours in July, for example, but today they are far ahead of Armenia in terms of the death toll and infection incidences. Of course, I regret to give such examples.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Has the post-war situation changed the attitude towards Amulsar?
Nikol Pashinyan - My attitude has not changed, because I abide by the same opinion as a year ago. By the way, I would like to remind you that I considered the security component very important in connection with Amulsar, saying that we actually were in a state of war, and when the war starts, the flow of tourists would discontinue and we might face currency shortages. In the current situation, it is the mining industry that can guarantee currency flows for the country. Time has proved this. But on the other hand, I can state that we also managed the financial market properly, which in January resulted in the most successful issue of Eurobonds in the history of the Republic of Armenia.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – So, Amulsar is likely to be exploited?
Nikol Pashinyan - It is likely, and yes, we can say that there is high probability.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Doesn’t the court case on March 1 events surprise you?
Nikol Pashinyan - Of course, it surprises me, and not only the March 1st case.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - It is the most vivid one.
Nikol Pashinyan - We have court cases, which, for example, have been in court for many months, but have not entered the stage of trial. What is the stage of the trial so that the meaning of this term can be presented to the public? This is when the evidence begins to be examined as to how well-founded the accusation is. We have a lot of such cases, including those involving many famous people, who do not go into the stage of trial. The trial has been going on for several months, but the criminal case was never opened to see what is written in them after all.
Nver Mnatsakanyan – Who should ask the court why it happens?
Nikol Pashinyan - I think there is something for the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Judicial Council and, finally, the National Assembly to deal with.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - And the tool of vetting, which, unfortunately, was not applied.
Nikol Pashinyan – The vetting tool that could have been used under the Constitution of Armenia is being applied in practice. The Corruption Prevention Commission today has initiated and will continue to inspect the property of high-ranking officials, including judges. At the same time, in order to make it more effective, we gave the Corruption Prevention Commission access to bank secrecy on a legislative level. We cannot assert that all judges are corrupt without exception. But if any judge is corrupt, there needs to be some sort of property trail. Bank secrecy is a mechanism for tracing down property and a tool to screen the assets.
We have provided these tools to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, and if more tools are needed, we will make them available as well. I am not even talking about the fact that this procedure is carried out twice or three times as more vigorously with regard to newly appointed judges, persons receiving the status of new judges. And why is this procedure not applied three times as more vigorously with regard to others? Because there is a constitutional barrier. But this does not mean that there is no possibility of legal implementation of this process in alternative ways. I am sure this opportunity will be used.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - And the last question: March 1 is approaching; is there a decision adopted in this connection?
Nikol Pashinyan - As always, we will pay homage to the victims of the March 1 events.
Nver Mnatsakanyan - Thank you for answering my questions.
Nikol Pashinyan – Thank you.