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PM Pashinyan participates in “Security and Stability in the South Caucasus: Armenia's Perspective” Discussion in Berlin


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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, where he had a meeting with representatives of political, social and expert circles, participated in the discussion "Security and Stability in the South Caucasus. Armenia's Perspective".

The Prime Minister first delivered a speech, where he particularly said,

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to be here today and address this distinguished audience. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Mr. Ralf Nickel, vice President of the Council, and Director Mr. Guntram Wolff and his team for organizing this event.

Today we are living at a time when not only natural but also geopolitical tectonic shifts are taking place all around the world. Deepening geopolitical instability, growing tensions and unpredictability are weakening the world order and international security system, creating even bigger challenges, especially for a country like Armenia, with democracy in a complex region, making us more vulnerable in our complicated region.

Dear attendees,

We witnessed the first sprouts of today’s challenges and the collapse of the European security architecture in our region back in 2020 when Azerbaijan unleashed a war against Nagorno-Karabakh.

After the signing of the November 9, 2020 trilateral statement, Azerbaijan not only didn’t abandon its bellicose policies and threats, but also carried out new aggression, this time against the sovereign territories of the Republic of Armenia in May 2021, November 2021 and September 2022.

During the last aggression - on September 13-14, 2022, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military attack targeting the military and civilian infrastructure of Armenia using heavy artillery, missile systems, and drones. As a result, the Armenian side had 225 victims, including 3 civilians. More than 150 square kilometers of the sovereign territories of Armenia were occupied.

Today, I wouldn’t like to go deep into the details of the aggressions of 2020, 2021, 2022, but it is impossible to ignore the evidences of multiple cases of torture, mutilation of captured or already dead Armenian servicemen (including servicewomen) and other atrocities by Azerbaijani military forces. The horrible videos of the Azeri militaries committing “ISIS-style” war crimes by executing Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) should be acknowledged and addressed by the international community. Another issue is the engagement of the mercenaries from Syria by Azerbaijan.

During the aggression of September 2022, when the external security system of Armenia didn’t work, we requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that was held on September 15, 2022. During the meeting, the UN Security Council member states noted that the use of force is totally unacceptable, explicitly named the aggressor - Azerbaijan, highlighted the importance of adherence to the norms of international humanitarian law, emphasizing also the fact that civilian infrastructure on the territory of Armenia was targeted.

An important step towards de-escalation of the situation was a quadrilateral meeting of President Macron, President Michel, President Aliyev and me, in Prague on October 6, 2022, where an agreement was reached on deploying short-term EU monitoring capacity along the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

When this mission’s mandate ended on December 19, 2022, at Armenia's request the EU Council made a decision to deploy a new, fully-fledged civilian mission (EUMA) on the territory of the Republic of Armenia for a two-year period.

On behalf of the Government of Armenia, I would like to express our gratitude to the EU and its member states, particularly to the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for its support to our request. The Mission was launched on 20th February, and I have already met the Head of the Mission, your compatriot with extensive experience in international deployments – Mr. Markus Ritter in Yerevan.

The Mission shall play a crucial role in ensuring security on the ground and stability in the region, as well as timely and reliable reporting on the current situation to our partners in the EU and its member states.

Dear colleagues,

Azerbaijan, in gross violation of the provisions of the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, has being illegally blocked the Lachin corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia since December 12, 2022.

The blockade resulted in a humanitarian crisis. 120,000 Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh had been cut off from natural gas, electricity, food, medical and other vital supplies.

Due to a severe shortage of food and other necessary goods authorities of Nagorno Karabakh had to take desperate measures, issued food coupons and are rationing certain foodstuffs. Population receives only erratic power supplies, from local electricity capacities. Universities, schools and kindergartens were shut down, due to which more than 30 thousand students and children were deprived of their right to education.

On December 20, 2022, upon the request of the Republic of Armenia, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was held on the situation caused by the blockade of the Lachin corridor.

The overwhelming majority of the UN Security Council members made clear demands to stop the blockade of the corridor by Azerbaijan and to ensure the access of international organizations to Nagorno-Karabakh. Dozens of countries and organizations issued a targeted condemnation of the blockade of the Lachin Corridor and urged Azerbaijan to end it. The Republic of Armenia has been putting efforts to send a UN, and OSCE fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh and Lachin Corridor.

Also, the Republic of Armenia filed a request to the International Court of Justice of the United Nations under Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to apply provisional measures to unblock the Lachin Corridor. On 22 of February, early this year, the International Court of Justice issued its orders to Azerbaijan to take all measures at its disposal to ensure the unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.

Unfortunately, up to now Azerbaijan failed to comply with the decision of the ICJ and the traffic through the Lachin corridor is still disrupted. Though the natural gas supply is restored, electricity supply to Nagorno-Karabakh, having been cut off since 9 January 2023, has not been restored yet. Food supplies are still carried out by coupons and people are deprived of critical medical care. Only Red cross and Russian peacekeepers are able to deliver limited amount of food and necessary lifesaving goods to Nagorno Karabakh, and transport people with healthcare emergency needs to Armenian hospitals.

Growing aggressiveness of Azerbaijan toward Nagorno-Karabakh makes clear the intensions of Azerbaijan – to carry out an ethnic cleansing of Armenians. Recently president Aliyev of Azerbaijan declared that Lachin corridor is open for those Armenians who want to leave Karabakh. That means – that Lachin corridor is closed for those Armenians who live in Nagorno Karabakh.

Dear participants,

Despite the above-mentioned, the Government of Armenia has shown the political will and has been taking decisive steps to open a new era of peace and stability in the South Caucasus and has been engaged constructively in the Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations.

The Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiation process is going on in the following three main tracks: Agreement on the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, unblocking of transport communications and economic links in the region and border demarcation and security.

Armenia agreed to separate from the Armenia-Azerbaijan process the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, with the logic that a mechanism of discussions between Stepanakert and Baku will be formed. It is essential for Armenia to establish a guarantee mechanism addressing the issues of security and rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh which will have international visibility and involvement.

Without going into the details, I would like to mention that the key humanitarian issues, such as the return of all the Armenian prisoners of war (POWs), and the access of International organizations to Nagorno-Karabakh, continue to remain unresolved and are the issues of our utmost concern. We strongly condemn the continuous violations of the Geneva Convention on POWs by Azerbaijan as at least 33 Armenian POWs have been sentenced to different terms of imprisonment through completely trumped-up charges. The refusal of Azerbaijan to repatriate Armenian prisoners of war is another violation by Azerbaijan of point 8 of trilateral statement of 9th November of 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Another aspect of our vision of regional peace is the normalization of relations with Türkiye. We are ready to fully normalize relations with Türkiye, establish diplomatic relations. We hope for full opening of our common border, which was unilaterally closed in the early 90ies by Türkiye.

We have some small but hopeful signs that we are moving forward. Special Representatives of our countries agreed upon establishing air cargo transportation and opening interstate borders for third-country citizens in July 2022.

In January a ban on direct air cargo transportation between Türkiye and Armenia has been lifted, and we hope for the speedy implementation of the opening of the border for third-country citizens.

Also, I met President Erdogan in Prague on the margins of the European Political Community summit in Prague 2022, where we discussed the prospects of normalization.

Armenia reacted rapidly after the recent devastating earthquake in Türkiye. I called up President Erdogan with condolences and proposed our support. After that we sent humanitarian aid and rescue team to the affected areas. It is very important to state that two convoys of humanitarian aid entered into Türkiye through the border bridge which had been closed for 30 years. Our rescue team returned to Armenia through that bridge as well.

Armenian Foreign Minister visited Türkiye, met his counterpart and reiterated our readiness and willingness to fully normalize relations. Though the last interactions were, of course, of purely humanitarian essence, we, however, would be glad to have the political outcomes.

Dear friends,

I would like to stress that the EU is one of our key partners on our democratic reforms path. In this context, it is worth to mention that Germany is a major political and economic partner for Armenia providing development aid and support for our domestic reforms.

Continuing the topic of cooperation with the EU, I would like to inform you of a new important format of the Armenia-EU partnership agenda – The Political and Security dialogue, the inaugural meeting of which took place in Yerevan last January. The discussion on a wide range of issues, including the overall regional situation and the prospects of deepening our collaboration in certain areas was not only timely but also considerably enriched our diverse partnership agenda with the EU.

In this context I would like to stress that the basis for our cooperation with EU is democracy. And according to the latest "Index of the General Assessment of Eastern Partnership Member States", Armenia topped the "Democracy and Good Governance" rating table among the EaP member countries and is a leader in the following 5 areas: fight against corruption, an independent judiciary, opinion and freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, independent media and democratic rights, elections and political pluralism.

Despite all the challenges, we do believe that our security architecture cannot be comprehensive without respect for human rights, rule of law and democracy. Democracy is a strategy for us. We will keep up reforms aimed at strengthening rule of law, consolidating good governance and fighting against corruption, aiming to ensure prosperity for our people.

The 2018 democratic revolution, followed by 2018 and 2021 snap parliamentary elections proved that Armenia’s democratic development path is irreversible. In this regard, 2021 parliamentary elections were exceptional: it was first case when election in Armenia served as a tool for overcoming the political crisis. I mean internal political crisis that we had after the 44 days’ war of 2020. Usually elections sparked political crisis in our country and it was the case from 1994 to 2018.

But this page is closed after the democratic revolution of 2018, and Armenia now is an internationally recognized democratic country. However, recent security challenges raise serious question the following question - whether democracy can provide security.

Whether Armenian democracy is able to provide security - this is the question that rightfully worries the Armenian society today and an issue to be addressed by our government.

Thank you for attention.”

Then the Prime Minister answered the questions of the audience. Referring to the issue of unblocking regional infrastructures, Nikol Pashinyan said: "You know, it is very important to note that sometimes the same words can have different meanings in different regions. Thus, usually when we say corridor in Europe, we mean communication, transportation, etc. But in our case the reality is different. Why? This is due to the the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, because in that trilateral declaration we have only one mentioning of the corridor, and that is the Lachin Corridor, which, according to the trilateral declaration, should be and is beyond the control of Azerbaijan.

And this is with the consent of Azerbaijan, and the president of Azerbaijan signed the trilateral declaration. In the same statement, we have a point about communication, which is about regional communication, transport routes, etc. And there is no other point about the corridor through the territory of Armenia. There is a very important circumstance: when the president of Azerbaijan publicly said that the so-called point about the corridor you mentioned (Zangezur corridor-edited) does not exist, and Azerbaijan itself invented this term after signing the trilateral declaration. According to the statement, and it is with the consent of the president of Azerbaijan, the Lachin corridor is beyond the control of Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, we have accepted that bilaterally, not only Armenia, but also Azerbaijan, we should open all economic and communication routes. And there is no point according to which these routes should be outside the control of Armenia. We have repeatedly stated that this is a red line for us. On the other hand, we have announced, and there is no exaggeration here, that Armenia is ready to open all communications even tomorrow, even tonight. By the way, we had a trilateral meeting in Brussels December 14, 2021, where we reached a concrete agreement to repair the railway, which passes through the south of Armenia, can reach Turkey, Iran, Russia through Azerbaijan. We had reached an agreement, it had been published. There was a very important nuance there. According to this agreement, the railway should operate under the laws of the countries through which it passes.

Unfortunately, a week after that, Azerbaijan refused to sign what was already agreed upon in the presence of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. So what’s the nuance in? Saying "Zangezur Corridor" means supporting Azerbaijan's territorial ambitions towards Armenia. And I want to ask you to take into account that the same word can have different meanings in different regions, in different political circumstances. This is my answer."

Referring to the issue of democracy in Armenia, the Prime Minister said. "I want to emphasize that there is no internal threat to democracy in Armenia. I think that the 2021 elections proved it. But, on the other hand, we have external threats to our democracy. Azerbaijan's continuous escalations, aggressive rhetoric, and hate speech are a great threat to Armenian democracy. By the way, I want to mention a very important fact. After the war in 2020, Azerbaijan invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia for the first time on May 12, 2021. And this happened just two days after I resigned from the post of Prime Minister, and snap elections were coming up. It is a constitutional process. if a new prime minister is not elected after the resignation of the prime minister, it means that snap parliamentary elections must take place. And when we announced that we were going to hold extraordinary parliamentary elections, two days later Azerbaijan invaded Armenian territories.

It was an attempt to influence the results of the elections, to destroy all the democratic achievements of the Republic of Armenia, to create the opposite situation, to prevent the elections from taking place, to decrease the legitimacy of the Armenian government. But even under these circumstances, we remained committed to democracy. And we managed to hold free and democratic elections, and this is not our assessment, this is the assessment of the international community and international observers."

Referring to the question about the situation in the region, Prime Minister Pashinyan said. "You know, the situation in our region is becoming more and more complicated, because due to the events and developments in Ukraine, all international attention is focused on Ukraine. For this reason, during the crisis in Ukraine, a very dangerous crisis is unfolding in our country, which concerns Nagorno Karabakh and the territorial integrity of Armenia. First, in May, 2021 Azerbaijan invaded the territory of Nagorno Karabakh, in the zone of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers, and after that we had a big crisis in September, 2022, when Azerbaijan started a large-scale military aggression against Armenia. There are many factors for these developments, but the most important factor is that all the attention of the international community was or is focused on Ukraine. And it creates even greater opportunities for instability in our region."

Speaking about the Russians who arrived in Armenia, the Prime Minister noted that many people, particularly from the IT sector, relocated to Armenia. "I think it happened because of certain technical issues, because usually they are paid by Western organizations, and after the sanctions, they probably couldn't get a salary and decided to move to Armenia. Maybe they loved our country. And, frankly, we are happy for their presence, because it creates additional economic activity in our country. By the way, we recorded 12.5% economic growth in 2022. Not completely, but partly, this is due to the activity of Russian emigrants. I would also like to say something that is not directly related to the issue, but is related to our regional situation, because representatives of Azerbaijan often say that Armenia is a mono-ethnic country, and they present it as a very negative fact. I want to note that we have mandates for national minorities in our parliament, and this is mandatory. According to our Constitution, national minorities have a mandate in our parliament. And now we have Russian, Assyrian, Kurdish, Yezidi representatives. By the way, Yezidis are the largest national minority in our country, and now we have, I think, four guaranteed, mandatory mandates for national minorities, and if I'm not mistaken, there are no mandates for national minorities in the Azerbaijani parliament.

Referring to relations with Turkey, Nikol Pashinyan said that Armenia never had any preconditions for establishing relations with Turkey. "And now I can say the same: we don't have any preconditions. We just think that we are neighbors and should have relations. And to be honest, I'm not even sure if it's right to talk about it now or not, but I think that now the main obstacle to establishing relations between Armenia and Turkey is Azerbaijan's position, because Azerbaijan constantly urges Turkey not to establish relations with Armenia. Maybe I shouldn't have said this, but I want you to know the very important nuances of the process. We are ready even today, without any exaggeration, to open the border. By the way, we did not close the border, it was closed by Turkey. But now we have taken a very important step. As I said, our humanitarian aid reached Turkey through the border. Of course, our reaction and position was entirely based on a humanitarian approach. But if the decision to send humanitarian aid to Turkey also has certain political consequences, we will be happy about it," Nikol Pashinyan emphasized.

Referring to the question of the representative of Azerbaijan regarding the Lachin Corridor, the Prime Minister noted. "Let me first address the question of the representative of the Azerbaijani consul. Let me note that the International Court of Justice recently, on February 20, rejected Azerbaijan's claim against Armenia in a parallel lawsuit regarding alleged mining by Armenia. The International Court of Justice rejected Azerbaijan's claims that Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh use the Lachin Corridor for military purposes. So, I think I don't need to respond, because the International Court of Justice has already responded. As for the issue of mutual recognition of territorial integrity, it has already been agreed upon. According to the results of the quadrilateral meeting in Prague, there is a point according to which Azerbaijan and Armenia recognize each other's territorial integrity and agreed that the delimitation process should be based on the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1991, which is about the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States. And that declaration says that administrative divisions between former Soviet republics become state borders. And according to the Prague agreement, the delimitation process should be based on this principle. But if I'm not mistaken, 10 days after that, president Aliyev of Azerbaijan announced that the delimitation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be based on historical maps. What does it mean historical maps, when we have already reached an agreement? We have already agreed that we recognize each other's territorial integrity based on that declaration. Moreover, recently the president of Azerbaijan introduced a new initiative called "Western Azerbaijan". Do you know what that means? It means that Armenia does not have a sovereign territory, the entire territory of the Republic of Armenia is the so-called "Western Azerbaijan", saying in parallel that we want peace, etc., etc. This is a very weird situation. This is the main problem of our relationship. We reached an agreement with the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, we signed it. The President of Azerbaijan, the President of Russia and I signed that document. We have reached an agreement. It was a very difficult decision for me, for Armenia. There is a point, according to which all prisoners of war and detained persons should be repatriated, but so far we have 33 prisoners of war, we have a civilian who is a prisoner. He was a representative of a charity organization, who was caught by the Azerbaijanis in the Lachin Corridor, and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Do you know for what? Three days before that, he went live on Facebook and said something that the president of Azerbaijan did not like. And now, according to the decision of the Azerbaijani court, he is a "spy, terrorist, murderer".

Answering the question of another Azerbaijani representative, Nikol Pashinyan noted that in 2018, when he became the Prime Minister of Armenia, he addressed social media users in Armenia and Azerbaijan during one of the press conferences, asking them not to use that platform for hate speech, aggressive, offensive rhetoric, but try to talk to each other and understand each other's position. "But, unfortunately, my initiative failed. But I completely agree with you. We must focus on a positive future, on the future of our common region. Because it is a fact that the three states of the South Caucasus - Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan - have very strong cultural similarities. That is a fact. And we should focus on the positive aspects. And you are right, we are interested, maybe Armenia is even more interested in the opening of regional communications, and that is the reason why Azerbaijan is trying, so to speak, to sell it at the highest possible price. We should focus on positive opportunities for peace and cooperation. The peace agenda is my responsibility, and I would like to receive some support from the Azerbaijani public as well. At the end of our meeting, I will try to focus on positive aspects. My expectation from the international community is to make it clear that any provocation will receive a very harsh response from the international community, and it is very important to maintain stability. I emphasize that it does not matter from the side of Armenia or Azerbaijan, because now we have observers in the region, and now there will be no need for the EU to ask which side was the initiator. Now you have your own source of information. In general, I would like to say that our political team, the parliamentary majority has taken responsibility for the peace agenda, and now we have a mandate for the peace agenda. We are focused on the implementation of that mandate. And we need the support of the international community, the nations of our region, and we are ready to bear that responsibility until we reach a final and lasting peace. And recently I announced in our parliament and government that I have full determination to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, but it should not be a document reminding a capitulation for Armenia. It should be a real and lasting peace document for our region, and I am ready to bear that responsibility for the sake of peace, stability, regional and international cooperation. This is my final conclusion of our discussion today. Thank you," Prime Minister Pashinyan concluded.

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