“We have made a commitment, and therefore, we must make efforts to achieve real changes in the region” – PM Nikol Pashinyan’s speech at the Paris Peace Forum
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took part in a discussion held in the format of a master class at the Second Paris Peace Forum. The discussion was moderated by New York Times Chief Diplomatic Correspondent for Europe Steven Erlanger.
Introducing the Prime Minister, Steven Erlanger noted that Nikol Pashinyan is an interesting person. Mr. Erlanger stressed that he had a special attitude to the head of the Armenian government, because the latter is an ex-journalist: he had been in prison several times before becoming Prime Minister in his country. “This is a very unusual record. I am a former Moscow correspondent, I was in your country. I want to thank you for being here,” Steven Erlanger said.
Addressing the audience, the Prime Minister thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for such an important initiative and went on to note that the Forum is a solid platform for discussing security threats and developing joint formulas in a bid to defy the emerging challenges.
“What you need to know about the security situation in our country? A very strange circumstance has to be noted here: two of our four borders are closed, while the other two are half-closed. Why half-closed? Because we have a border with Iran in the south, and, as you may know, there is some tension around Iran; our northern border is with Georgia, and the continuing tension between Georgia and Russia have some negative impact.
But the most important security challenge for us is the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh. Frankly speaking, when I became Prime Minister and started to deal with international relations, I was surprised to find out that there is some misunderstanding in the international community concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.
And one more interesting fact: anyone interested in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue should know the reason for this conflict. First of all, the reason was the decision of the Stalin regime to hand over Karabakh to the newly formed Soviet Azerbaijan.
When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1986, he initiated a process of democratic reform and announced the start of “perestroika.” The Armenians who then constituted the overwhelming majority of the population of Karabakh and are so now, enjoyed the status of an autonomous region in Soviet Azerbaijan. The population of Nagorno-Karabakh decided to seize this opportunity and break away from Azerbaijan in accordance with the legislation of the USSR.
The authorities of Soviet Azerbaijan decided to suppress this movement with the use of police force, etc. This is the very first stage of the conflict. Then, as the USSR collapsed, Azerbaijan, like many other Soviet republics, decided to become an independent state. The relevant law of the USSR stated that should a USSR-member republic decide to become independent, then the autonomous regions under its jurisdiction would be entitled to determine their future status.
Thus, Nagorno-Karabakh, too, began a process of independence. And just as Azerbaijan broke away from the USSR, Karabakh withdrew from Azerbaijan. As a result, Azerbaijan decided to use force, and they started a war against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ethnic cleansing began in many areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, and as a result, the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh - about 80-85% of the total population, resorted to self-defense. After all, they managed to do so. They made Azerbaijan come to terms with the situation.
On May 12, 1995, a ceasefire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. After that, and even before that, a negotiation process started, and a format for negotiations was developed. The international mediators decided that three parties should be involved in the negotiations: Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
Thus, the negotiation process started in 1992. For a long time, Nagorno-Karabakh used to be a party in the negotiation process. By the way, meetings were held between the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, as well as between the ministers of defense of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia.
Unfortunately, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still goes unresolved. There are several reasons for that. Firstly, Nagorno-Karabakh was excluded from the negotiation process in 1998. As a result, Azerbaijan refused to negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh. They are even reluctant to negotiate in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs - Russia, France and the United States. However, the MG format implies that there should be three parties to the negotiations - Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the other hand, the Azerbaijani government claims that Nagorno-Karabakh should be part of Azerbaijan. But it seems to be a very strange statement, because it is impossible to understand the Azerbaijani authorities who consider Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, but at the same time, they do not want to start a dialogue with it. Is it not somewhat weird?
Azerbaijani leaders say they want to see Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, but they refuse to negotiate with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. What does this mean? Only one thing: as a matter of fact, the authorities of Azerbaijan do not want to negotiate with the people of Karabakh just because they want to have the territories but not the people. To be more precise: territories, without the people.
The policy of Armenian-phobia extends further. Foreigners visiting Nagorno-Karabakh are on the black list of Azerbaijan. A citizen of any country that has an Armenian surname or is of Armenian descent cannot enter Azerbaijan. This was the case with a US citizen, a Bloomberg journalist, a Turkish orchestra musician, an eight-year-old child, and an eighty-year-old Russian pensioner. Recently, the driver was arrested only for listening to Armenian music in the car.
The most notorious incident occurred with Arsenal player Heinrich Mkhitaryan, who missed the final match of the Europa League in Baku just a few months ago. The Azerbaijani authorities even banned T-shirts with the name of Mkhitaryan, and people passing by in such T-shirts on the streets of Baku were detained by police. What will happen next?
Obviously, a real effort is needed to solve the problem. We have, so to speak, equal opportunities with the leaders of Azerbaijan, the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh to solve the problem.
At the outset of my tenure, I stated that any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be acceptable to the peoples of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
In fact, I was the first Armenian leader to state that any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be acceptable to the Azerbaijani people. The Armenian opposition wonders why Armenia should take care of the interests of the people of Azerbaijan.
My answer is very simple: because I am convinced that if we want to find a lasting solution to the problem, we must take into account the interests of all parties involved. I made this statement in the hope that we might hear a similar statement from the leadership of Azerbaijan, from my counterpart Ilham Aliyev. Should we hear a similar statement on the part of Mr. Aliyev, this would be a real breakthrough in the negotiation process.
From this very important platform (the Paris Peace Forum), I want to urge our partners to make a statement that the solution of the problem should be acceptable to the peoples of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia
Of course, this is not an easy problem, but if we took responsibility for the future of our peoples, which also means for the future of the region, which means for the future of our world, we must make real efforts to achieve real changes,” Prime Minister Pashinyan concluded.
Then, the Prime Minister answered the questions of an Azerbaijani blogger born in Vardenis about the UN resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh, granting Artsakh highest autonomy in Azerbaijan and the entry into Azerbaijan of people with Armenian family names.
“First of all, as for Vardenis, let us recall the times when Armenians lived in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis lived in Armenia. I remember very well those times. The Armenians were killed in Sumgait, later the massacres continued in Baku, and this spread to Karabakh and so on. No Armenians were left in Azerbaijan and they often fled without even taking clothes with them.
And what happened to the Azerbaijanis in Armenia? By the decision of the Government of Armenia, they were provided special buses, the Police saw them as far as the border, and no Azerbaijani was injured during this process. All this gives us a clear idea of the conflict.
You mentioned in your question that Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan. That is not true. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ mission is to broker a final decision on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. After all, why is Azerbaijan involved in the negotiation process, if it finds that Karabakh is already an internationally recognized part of your country? Is it not strange?
I expect to find such a solution to the conflict that would be acceptable to the peoples of Azerbaijan, Karabakh and Armenia. I announced this in Stepanakert, and I have been waiting for a year now for a similar announcement on the part of Azerbaijan’s leadership.
I have personally asked Mr. Aliyev to bring about a breakthrough in the peace process. But unfortunately, he keeps declaring that Zangezur, Syunik, Lake Sevan and capital Yerevan are Azerbaijani territories. No one can talk to us from the position of force. And what did you expect me to say against the background of your leadership’s statements, which claim not only Karabakh, but also Zangezur and Yerevan? We propose peace and we are not threatening anyone in the region; we want to prepare our people to peace,” the Prime Minister of Armenia said.