Interviews and press conferences

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's interview with France 24 TV


France 24, Marc Perelman - We are on the platform of France 24. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan is our guest. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, you participated in the reburial ceremony of Missak Manouchian and his wife Mélinée. They were communists, resisters, they were also Armenians. What did you feel, what were your feelings?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - It was a very exciting event, and I must say that it got a very wide response in Armenia as well, the Public Television of Armenia broadcast it live and received a great response from our public. Of course, the feeling of pride and the feeling that the Armenian people made a very significant and serious contribution to the fight against fascism not only on the eastern front, but also on the western front. It is very important.

France 24, Mark Perelman - I want to refer to the situation in Armenia. After Azerbaijan's seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh last September, as well as a few days ago, there were incidents again. You met Mr. Aliyev in Munich, and he described that meeting as constructive and useful. Can you tell that there is hope and progress in your relationship? What do you think about this?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Unfortunately, during this period there were instances when a lot of things were constructive and useful in the negotiation room, but in the future we don't always see their implementation. I hope it will not be so this time. We are talking about the three basic principles that were agreed in Prague, that were also agreed in Brussels, that Armenia and Azerbaijan recognize each other's territorial integrity on the basis of the 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration, which means that Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan are precisely the modern Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Alma-Ata Declaration should become the political basis for the delimitation between the two countries, which means that there is no need to create a new border between our countries, it is just necessary to reflect on the ground the borders that existed at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. And thirdly, regional communications should be opened on the basis of the principle of sovereignty and jurisdiction of countries, within the framework of equality and reciprocity. We have concentrated and expressed these principles in the "Crossroads of Peace" project. If Azerbaijan reaffirms its commitments in all these directions in practice, we will not have many obstacles on the way to peace.

France 24, Mark Perelman – Do you think, Mr. Prime Minister, peace agreement is possible soon? I recently read your statements regarding the events of February 14. Do you think Ilham Aliyev is preparing a new full-scale war against Armenia?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The main problem is that the three principles that were announced and, in fact, published within the framework of the agreements reached on international platforms, we have the task to reflect these principles in the peace treaty. In other words, our problem is on this road.

As for the possible escalation, analyzing these problems and also analyzing the statements coming from Azerbaijan, official Baku, we come to the conclusion that, yes, an attack on Armenia is very likely. Why? Because, for example, statements about "Western Azerbaijan" are very often heard from official Baku, and statements about "Western Azerbaijan" mean, in short, that the Republic of Armenia, in fact, its entire territory, is "Western Azerbaijan", meaning that most of the territories of the Republic of Armenia are Azerbaijani.

When they practically do not recognize our territorial integrity and the inviolability of our borders, that is where these analyzes come from. I mean, at the diplomatic level, Azerbaijan assures that it has no intention of attack, but where do these predictions about the possible attack come from? For two things, the first is that while expressing the already publicly agreed principles in the text of the peace treaty, we see that Azerbaijan is initiating certain difficulties, the second is the public narrative, the rhetoric that sounds at the highest level, which, if I briefly present it, is expressed in calling the Republic of Armenia "Western Azerbaijan", as well as borderline aggressiveness.

The last incident, when we had 4 victims, that incident is not justified in any way. They announced that one of their soldiers was wounded, and we announced that we will conduct an investigation, because there is an order not to carry out any action in an unjustified manner, and if it turns out that there is a violation of that order, there will be consequences provided by law. Despite these statements, Azerbaijan took advantage of the situation to carry out aggression. It is the combination of these facts that brings many Armenian and international experts to the opinion that Azerbaijan is preparing a new attack against Armenia.

France 24, Mark Perelman - Therefore, when you meet Ilham Aliyev, the conclusion is that you cannot trust him?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think that the history of our relations is itself the basis of deep mistrust. I think it makes no sense to ask the leader of Azerbaijan or me whether we trust each other or not. Obviously not. But the issue is not about that, the issue is about the following: are we going to build trust in small steps? It is in the process of building trust that we face difficulties.

France 24, Marc Perelman - And you think he's not ready for it? When he says he is ready for peace, is he preparing for war in reality? Is this what you mean?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – This is what I want to say, yes, there is such an impression, but also to be objective, I assume that if you ask them, they will also say that they do not trust us, but it is not about that. It is about something else: are we mutually preparing step by step, with small steps, if it is possible with bigger steps, to build trust, so that we could believe each other? I say again, during the diplomatic contacts, the leader of Azerbaijan says that they have no intention of attack. And the problem, I reiterate, is the public narrative, the practical work that followed it, and the events happening on the ground are what give many analysts the basis to draw such conclusions. Sometimes it is very difficult to counter and give a counter-argument as to why things will not develop in that direction.

France 24, Mark Perelman - You already have military aid from France in the form of radars. For example, Mr. Macron has also promised other weapons, particularly defensive ones. Baku is taking advantage of this, saying it will launch a new attack. Does this mean that Armenia should arm itself more because Azerbaijan is actually stronger on the ground militarily?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yesterday, during the joint statement with President Macron, I also touched on this issue, because every time Azerbaijan makes noise about any of our new contract and cooperation in any of military-technical fields, but Azerbaijan does not say that it has been buying weapons worth billions for years. This is an important fact to note.

On the other hand, why is Azerbaijan worried about the reforms of the Armenian army in the conditions when it keeps the sovereign territories of Armenia under occupation, and in the conditions when we say: very well, let's reflect the border on the ground based on the Alma-Ata declaration and mutually and simultaneously withdraw troops from the border line. And that will be one of the very concrete steps for building trust.

The reform of our army should not worry anyone. Why? Because we say that we recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all our neighbors. Therefore, why should anyone be worried about reforming our army? If we recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our neighbors and reform our army and say that our army does not and will not solve any tasks outside our sovereign territory, but Azerbaijan expresses concern and makes noise against this background. This can happen only under the circumstances when Azerbaijan itself has a task to solve a problem in our sovereign territory through military means. There is no other logic. Was I able to explain the idea?

Yes, we are reforming the army, and by the way, having an army is the sovereign right of every country. No country can accuse any other country of having an army. And we say that we unconditionally recognize the territorial integrity of all our neighbors, that is, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Georgia. We do not have and will not have a task to use our army outside our sovereign, internationally recognized territory. And against this background, Azerbaijan expresses concern. Why does he express concern? Does he have a problem to solve in our sovereign territory? It is also this fact, this reaction, that gives many experts a reason to assume that Azerbaijan will continue its aggressive policy.

But we also offer solutions here. We offer several solutions. One of the solutions is to reflect the border of 1991 and withdraw the troops, that is, neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan should have any equipment, firearms and soldiers in each other's sovereign territory. Secondly, we propose the demilitarization of the border zone. Third, we propose mutual arms control. In other words, if we had any desire to threaten the security of Azerbaijan, why should we make all these proposals? It is Azerbaijan that says it will keep the heights under control, no matter whose territory they are in. But it is a direct violation of our territorial integrity, implementation of an aggressive policy today and, in fact, a declaration of no intention to abandon that policy. And this is a problem.

France 24, Marc Perelman - During the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, you accused Moscow of trying to use that conflict against you personally. Do you still think that Vladimir Putin's goal is to remove you from power?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, during the events of September 2023, the highest-ranking representatives of the Russian Federation directly called on the citizens of Armenia to go to the streets and overthrow the elected legitimate government. Russian TV channels, not for a few days, but for 6 years, in fact, have been carrying out systematic and consistent, purposeful anti-propaganda against the Armenian government, the elected authorities and me personally. Is there anything else that could be concluded from all this?

France 24, Mark Perelman – Does it continue today?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, to be honest, I have lost interest in that topic. I don't even know if it continues or not. No matter if it continues or not, the people of Armenia have shown that they are not going to give up their sovereignty, independence, and democracy and will be consistent in claiming their territorial integrity, establishing normal relations with their neighbors, and in terms of implementation of the peace agenda, as well as the "Crossroads of Peace" project, also in terms of deepening further relations with the European Union.

France 24, Mark Perelman – Do you at least keep contact with Vladimir Putin now?

Prime Minister Niko Pashinyan - Yes, we had contacts and talked in December.

France 24, Marc Perelman - Do you trust him?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, we have interstate relations, and Armenia and Russia have a long history of relations. The history of those relations has certain institutional traditions. We are within those traditions.

France 24, Marc Perelman – A deserter named Dmitry Sedrakov was arrested in December. The Armenian authorities assure that they are not aware. Can you tell us what the actual situation is and whether the Russian authorities can make arrests in Armenia without Armenia's permit?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, that incident, the alarm about those incidents greatly worried us. And we are also investigating that case, and if it turns out that everything is as you say, it will of course also lead to certain consequences, because, of course, we cannot tolerate illegal actions on the territory of our country.

France 24, Marc Perelman - What consequences are you talking about?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - It will depend on our legal assessment of the particular events.

France 24, Marc Perelman - Two short questions. There is a Russian military base on the territory of Armenia. Do you intend to close it and are you going to withdraw from the military alliance with Russia?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, in our estimation, has failed to fulfill its obligations in the field of security towards the Republic of Armenia. In particular, in 2021 and 2022, and this could not go unnoticed by us and without consequences. And the consequence in practice is that we have essentially frozen our participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. We will see what will happen tomorrow.

France 24, Mark Perelman - And what about the Russian base?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The base is located in Armenia not within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty. It is a completely different contractual dimension, and we have not had the occasion to return to that dimension.

France 24, Mark Perelman - Last question, Mr. Prime Minister. Regarding the war in Ukraine, Armenia was initially quite cautious, naturally, because of your relations with Russia. After two years, do you think it was a fair war from Russia's side?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I said that the Alma-Ata declaration is very important for us, because what is the Alma-Ata declaration about? The Declaration of Alma-Ata is about two key things. Moreover, that declaration of Alma-Ata was signed by Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. By the way, that declaration of Alama-Ata started with the Belovezha Accords, which was signed by Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. That agreement, which was later joined by another nine former Soviet republics in Alma-Ata, is about two things: that the Soviet Union ceases to exist and, secondly, that the signatory Soviet republics become independent states, recognize each other's territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. Now, with the spirit of the Alma-Ata Declaration, which is also very important for our security, we see that what is happening in Ukraine is a violation of the Alma-Ata Declaration, and we are, in fact, seriously concerned.

France 24, Mark Perelman - Are Western countries pressing you to join the sanctions against Russia? Are goods from Armenia entering Russia, and are Western countries pressuring you to join the sanctions more broadly?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We don't have such a regime of relations: to join or not to join, but on the other hand, we take into account the existing sanctions, because it’s not so that we are pressured or demanded, but if we do not keep the sanctions, it will affect our relations with those countries who impose these sanctions. And we attach importance to our relations with those countries.

I am very glad that you ask that question, because, in particular, there are accusations from time to time in the European Union that Armenia does not comply with the sanctions, that Armenia violates the sanctions regime, but I can say that during this time, for the last time in 2023, we had several delegations from the European Union and the United States, the purpose of which was to see how the Republic of Armenia adheres to its international relations and obligations, how it relates to these sanctions. And it should be noted that neither the European Union nor the United States of America have made any reservations towards us. On the contrary, they officially recorded that they have no reservations towards the Republic of Armenia in the context of sanctions.

But since this is not talked about much, we don't raise this topic too much, so to speak, because it is a working issue, unfortunately in a number of EU countries and also in the media, statements are sometimes made to blame Armenia on the basis of misinformation, counter-propaganda provided by some circles about Armenia. But I say again, it has been officially recorded by both the European Union and the United States of America that there is no ground to blame Armenia in this matter.

France 24, Mark Perelman - Mr. Pashinyan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, thank you very much for answering my questions.

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