Interviews and press conferences

Euronews interview with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan


Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gave an interview to Euronews TV. The interview is presented below.

Euronews - Nagorno Karabakh has been the stage of most violent episodes in the South Caucasus recent history. And tensions have not gone away since the 2020 peace deal. To what do you attribute the constant hostility?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - First of all, the document signed on November 9, 2020 is not a peace treaty or peace deal as you said, in its legal sense. But not so much de jure as de facto, a number of its provisions are grossly violated. I agree with you that it can be and it is a certain concept of future peace architecture.

But unfortunately, many provisions are regularly violated by Azerbaijan. You see you mentioned Nagorno Karabakh in your question, and everyone understands that. But Azerbaijan continues to claim there is no Nagorno Karabakh, although the November 9 trilateral statement defines the existence of Nagorno Karabakh as an entity, and the President of Azerbaijan signed hat statement. Moreover, he agreed that there is a line of contact in Nagorno Karabakh, and Nagorno Karabakh has a territory that is the defined paragraph 7 of the trilateral statement. Moreover, paragraph 7 of the statement provides that refugees and internally displaces persons shall return to the territory of Nagorno Karabakh and the adjacent districts under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Unfortunately, to date Azerbaijan has not secured this right. Moreover, they are carrying out constructions in a number of villages that the Armenian population was forced to flee from during the war, and Azerbaijan declares that it will resettle these territories with Azerbaijanis.

Let alone that until now, contrary to paragraph 8 of the trilateral statement, the prisoners of war, captives, hostages, other detained persons have not been returned. Until recently, there were 33 prisoners, and recently two persons were abducted.

Now, turning to the Lachin Corridor, which is mentioned in the trilateral statement, to which you referred, and which is signed by the President of Azerbaijan, the purpose of which is to ensure a link between Nagorno Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia, that corridor must be under the control of Russian peacekeepers. By the way, Lachin Corridor, is not just a road, I want to draw your attention, it’s 5-km wide space, which is currently illegally blocked by Azerbaijan.

Euronews – We will get to the Lachin Corridor later. I want to ask you about the peace negotiations. You have just been back from Brussels, where you met the President of Azerbaijan, you have met several times, including with the mediation of the EU. These peace talks have been filling many people with hope of lasting peace in this region> Can there be peace and what can you tell us about these talks in Brussels?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Not only there can, but also must be peace. This is my belief, my position, this is what I believe in. But for this to happen, it is also very important for the international community to be aware of important nuances, to be clear why there isn’t progress at a sufficient pace.

Let me go back to our penultimate meeting in Brussels, when we agreed, reached an agreement with the President of Azerbaijan in the presence of European Council President Charles Michel, that Armenia and Azerbaijan mutually recognize each other’s territorial integrity with 29.800 in the case of Armenia and 86.600 in the case of Azerbaijan. After that, Charles Michel made a statement about that, after which when an Armenian journalist asked me about it, I publicly confirmed that fact. Up to this point the President of Azerbaijan has not publicly confirmed that agreement. He has not denied it either, but this is a subtlety that creates a certain lack of trust.

And we also have an understanding that there should be a dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert, the capital and main city of Nagorno Karabakh, about the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh in the framework of an international mechanism. And this dialogue has not taken place so far either. But we need to follow up for this, we need to work for this, nobody promised that it was going to be easy to reach peace. If it were easy, it would have been long ago been achieved.

Euronews – What about the mediation of the EU? Many international actors have attempted to mediate this crisis, Russia, the USA, and now the European Union has been playing a bigger role. What do they bring to the negotiating table?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – I would like to start by emphasizing that the advantages of mediation have long been known to everyone, but all mediations come with certain shortcomings, they all have shortcomings, and each mediation has its peculiar shortcoming. If you allow me, I will speak about the shortcoming.

Look, for the Brussels platform, the problem we see and it has been a continuous problem is that around the table we reach a certain understanding, and we do this in the presence of the President of the European Council. And if one of the sides does not address, fulfill that agreement, this is not followed even by specific assessments. Here is an example: in my presence and the presence of the European Council President, back at the end of last year the President of Azerbaijan promised and undertook that within 15 days, they would let free 10 prisoners. They have not fulfilled that commitment so far. On the other hand, I assume that the effective mediation is when the failure to fulfill an agreement would be followed by at least a show of political attitude towards the one that fails to fulfill that commitment. In the Brussels platform we are not seeing this, I keep raising this issue.

Let me reveal a secret. We have even prepared a document that we called an “audit”, where we list the understandings that were reached at the Brussels platform but were subsequently not fulfilled. That’s quite a thick package, which is alarming.

Euronews – You are saying that Brussels is not following up when it comes to the shortcomings of either side?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – If without diplomacy, then yes.

Euronews – Do you think that the fact the West has been playing a bigger role here, the United States and Europe, has antagonized a more traditional regional power broker, Russia, or the other way around, the fact that Russia is more involved in Ukraine has given more space for other players to come and try to help you and Azerbaijan to find a common ground.

Prime Minister NIkol Pashinyan – Those episodes do occur, when we witness, so to speak, scenes of geopolitical jealousy. But I am glad to say that now the emphasis seems to have changed somewhat, and that change is that we hear from different sides statements that any platform that is going to be favorable for the peace process, they would welcome such platforms. And this is very important.

Let me remind you that this international competition seems to not be linked to us directly, because you know the platform of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs was active and it was created for addressing the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. But since February 24, 2021, the Co-chairs simply stopped interacting, some of them decided they do not want to interact with the others. What you say or what I call geopolitical jealousy emerged after that date. Before that such a genre did not exist. But on the other hand, it would of course be more productive if the international partners bring together their efforts. There have recently been signs that, nevertheless, they are somewhat interested in this latter logic.

Euronews – President Vladimir Putin has invited you and the President of Azerbaijan for another round of talks in Moscow. What would you say about Russia’s influence in this region today?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – As for the invitation, I have to emphasize that I have not received any invitation yet. As to Russia’s presence, of course, by virtue of the events in Ukraine, the interest of not just Russia, but also other geopolitical actors towards our region has been declining, because in practice the whole international attention is focused on Ukraine. And that is a factor.

But Russia is present in our region, in Nagorno Karabakh, in the Republic of Armenia, but the EU is also present. The EU civilian mission on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is a new factor. The mission was supposed to be on both sides, initially that was the understanding, which was reached in Prague on October 6, 2022, during the quadrilateral statement. That was when the EU mission first came to this region. Initially it seemed that we had agreement to have the EU mission present on both sides of the border, but for whatever reasons Azerbaijan withdrew from it.

Euronews – Let’s talk about the situation on the ground. You mentioned the Lachin Corridor. The International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the US, the European Union have all demanded guarantees over the freedom of movement in the Lachin Corridor. What do you know about what’s happening there, which is a crucial gateway for the people inside of Nagorno Karabakh.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Regarding the International Court of Justice. I want to view it separately from the other factors you listed, because the decision of the International Court of Justice is legally binding, that is the highest international Court, the decisions of which have the highest legal force. Based on Armenia’s application, on 22 February 2023 it decided that Azerbaijan must do everything within its reach to ensure the free movement of vehicles, goods and citizens in both directions through the Lachin Corridor. And on July 6 the court reiterated, confirmed its decision.

This is very important for the logic of the international legal order because the decision of the highest international court is nor followed. In terms of law and legality, I think this is a bad message, it’s a food for thought for the international community. Anyway, we will be raising this issue in international instances.

Now about what’s happening in Nagorno Karabakh. There is a humanitarian catastrophe in Nagorno Karabakh. What is a humanitarian catastrophe? No food is being supplied to Nagorno Karabakh. There is no external supply of food. A number of essential commodities are not being supplied, baby food is not supplied, medication is not available, no hygiene supplies, no other essential goods are there, natural gas supply to Nagorno Karabakh was interrupted by Azerbaijan, electricity supply to Nagorno Karabakh was interrupted by Azerbaijan, the supply of fuel was interrupted by Azerbaijan. So in this sense, there is a real threat of hunger, we are facing there as well as health problems, and so on and so forth.

Euronews – Azerbaijan keeps denying they are doing any of them, keeping insisting that the Aghdam road is accessible.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – I don’t know what you are referring to, because I am speaking about the document that I signed, which has the status of an international document. It reads clearly that the Lachin Corridor, which is under the control of the Russian peacekeepers, and that’s not just a road but a 5-km wide area, must be out of Azerbaijan’s control and it must ensure a link between Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia.

In principle, it may sound absurd, but the road from the moon to Nagorno Karabakh is open too, but I cannot refer to institutions unknown to me. I am speaking about what is documented. And that road is now closed, if anyone doubts, he can right now take a trip and try to reach Nagorno Karabakh. By the way, the ICRC announced yesterday that it is no longer able to deliver humanitarian relief to Nagorno Karabakh because of the Lachin Corridor being closed. What does this mean? This means that the ICRC officially declared that humanitarian aid needs to be delivered to Nagorno Karabakh, otherwise they wouldn’t say they are unable to do that, secondly, it accepts that they cannot do it because the Lachin Corridor is closed. This was followed, if I am not mistaken, the announcement of “Freedom House”, saying it’s necessary to ensure access of humanitarian goods to Nagorno Karabakh.

Yesterday the Government of Armenia decided and today this relief is on-route, 400 tons of humanitarian goods are currently on-route to Karabakh. Let’s see if this reaches Nagorno Karabakh. Ander the trilateral statement and the International Court’s decision, that aid must reach them. Let’s see if it reaches Nagorno Karabakh.

Going back to the humanitarian crisis, of course in Nagorno Karabakh, especially in this season, there are some agricultural activities, however, the Azerbaijani army are shooting at farmers and equipment. After 2020, we have had cases of a tractor driver being killed by an Azerbaijani sniper while carrying out agricultural work. But there are no longer tractors operating, because there is no fuel. And because of the absence of fuel, people cannot harvest the crop, if by some miracle they harvest the crop, grains for instance, this harvest cannot reach, cannot be transported to flour mills because of the absence of fuel, if by some miracle they turn it into flour, then because of the absence of fuel, it cannot be delivered to bakeries to bake bread. Because there is no electricity or gas, if by some miracle the flour reaches the bakeries, they cannot bake bread at industrial volumes. If somehow some bread is baked, again because of the absence of transportation, that bread is hard or impossible to delivered to the shops. If it gets delivered to the shops, there is no public transport, and there is no private transport, again because of the absence of fuel, for the people to go and buy that bread from the shop. If somehow they manage to get to the shop, because of this blockade, all enterprises have shut down, all people have lost their jobs and people do not have income to buy bread in the shop. If by some miracle they have income to buy bread, the queues are so long and the goods are so scarce that if by some miracle you reach the shop, that miracle after miracle, after this chain of miracles, if they reach the shop, they may never get to buy that limited goods.

Think of baby food. Imagine, young mothers cannot feed babies with baby food. Many of them may have not breastfed from the beginning, they started with formula, and one day baby food just disappeared.

Euronews – I have spoken to a journalist inside Stepanakert, who described pretty much the same you are saying. I want to ask you about 2020. Thousand of people have lost their lives, soldiers, and civilians, I was here, in Armenia, and I went to Nagorno Karabakh during that time. I spoke to mothers of fallen soldiers. O also witnessed the pain and devastation of the other side trough the work of my colleagues in Azerbaijan. But I remember this one mother in Armenia, who told me she blames the death of her son on politicians, who were trained in the art of diplomacy, but were still falling in the traps of war. Do you think that your mission is to win a war or to negotiate peace?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – You know in any case war is wrong. If there is war, somebody somewhere did something wrong, or several people in several places did something wrong. But from the other side, what’s the cause of war? The cause of war is the impossibility of reaching durable reach or maintaining peace, and another question is if that impossibility genuine, is it real, is that authentic.

You spoke about a parent, a mother, who spoke about politicians. Of course, I understand I accept, I am in no way contesting anything a fallen soldier’s mother, wife, child says. But we forget a circumstance – a politician is a human too. It’s not like they are a special genetic breed. My son was in the war as well, my wife was in the war as well. And now you are asking a question, which is a very serious question, very legitimate question, but I think there are so much depths to it.

Throughout our existence humanity have spoken about the need to avoid wars, about the need to reach peace. And let’s assume this is the building where the politicians were bad, are bad, but what about the thousands buildings around the world? That would be an easy explanation - there are people and there are politicians. So it’s because of these bad politicians who are not allowing good people to get on well with their lives. Which is by and large true, but with one misunderstanding. In the next minute, especially in a democratic society, they can switch places, a politician can become human and a human can become a politician, a government official. And the problem is that this cycle has been going on for millennia.

Euronews – You mentioned something very important. In a way there seems to be in this region a very particular and tragic cycle, where the triumph of one side can be only achieved through the capitulation of the other side. Today I spoke to a young Armenian, who told me she is of a generation of independence, and she said back when she was very young there used to be talks mediated, organized I guess by Georgia between Azeri and Armenian kids. And she says she remembers that very fondly, because they could actually talk, kids could actually talk. Do you think peace, if it is brought up by politicians, signing a peace deal, can be implemented amid so much pain and heartbreak, or instead it should be built from the bottom up.

Prime Minister NIkol Pashinyan – Yes, of course I believe. To continue what I said, let me pay attention to one nuance. Politicians really create, they generate the public mood, but they also bear the public mood, and they influence the public mood, and they are influenced by public mood. This is a very complex system, but you spoke about young people. I do remember in 2018 I proposed such an idea. I could see in the social media, Armenian and Azerbaijani users engaging in a very aggressive exchange of views and in a public press conference, I urged the Armenian Azerbaijani users of the social media, and this was mostly happening in YouTube, this is where they encountered one another, they would leave comments under videos, to use that platform for speaking, for dialogue, instead of cursing each other. So I made an appeal at that time, but later it turned out the appeal did not have sufficient results of maybe we did not work consistently enough for that.

And regarding the war logic, we should never forget, conditionally speaking, the factor of the first blood shed, because whenever there is bloodshed, there is a victim, there is a casualty, this is a profound social-psychological, political and public moment. That’s very hard for both the public and the politicians. In the reality there is no such division. I reiterate, politicians do influence the public mood, but they are also influenced the public mood. So it’s very hard sometimes to opt for solutions, concessions and decision which profoundly might mean that those who dies in the past, dies for no reason. That’s a problem everywhere.

You spoke about the mother of the soldier who died. Imagine what an important factor it is that you have now made it a subject to discuss. But before that, or after that even, a question may come up. If you now make these concessions or mutual concessions, what about our children, what did they die for? Nobody has the answer to that question, nobody can give an answer to that question. And you should know that this question lies on the table of any politician. Even if a person understands that it’s important not to have any future casualties, they always know that they also have to get the answer to the second question: what about those who died in the past? what did they die for? was that sacrifice for no reason? Again, the politicians will be accused of taking those people away and getting them killed. What would be then the purpose, the meaning, the mission of all that happening? It’s very hard to explain to people that you know your son or your brother died for the future peace. How can you explain someone that you can die for peace, if peace is our whole purpose?

Euronews – Do you loose sleep over what happened to your country three years ago, all those deaths of civilians and soldiers?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Obviously and naturally yes. It’s very hard to set these thoughts aside for a second and continue doing daily work.

Euronews - Mr. Prime Minister, one final question to you. I want to know if you have a message to the other side, but not the political leaders and the politicians that you meet in these talks, but the people of Azerbaijan. Do you have a message to those who maybe watching us right now?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – You know I think it’s not a good genre because when two politicians are speaking with one another, it’s the two peoples speaking to one another, because on the one side is the person elected by those people, and on the other side is the person elected by the other people. So, therefore, everything that I said now this is an international platform, this is also addressed to that people, but if there is something to communicate, I would say what I have been saying from the start, Everything I said is also addressed to the people of Azerbaijan. But in those cases sentences that people normally say – oh, we have long lived here and we will be long living here. I think all the words have already been said.

By the way, there is perhaps something which I would address to the public of Armenia and the public of Azerbaijan, because the publics of Armenia and Azerbaijan both must demand peace from their governments, it should be defined as a public demand and also peace, flexibility and skill to meet that demand.

Euronews - Thank you for your time. I hope it will be possible to achieve peace.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Thank you.

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