Statements and messages of the Prime Minister of RA

“Our greatest task is to not let our people’s collective sacrifice be depreciated, but instead to make it a cornerstone, a powerful cornerstone on which to build a free and happy Armenia” - PM Attends 12th Extraordinary Congress of Yerkrapah Volunteers Union


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Today, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attended the 12th Extraordinary Congress of the Yerkrapah Volunteers Union (YVU) in the Big Conference Hall of the Government of the Republic of Armenia. Nikol Pashinyan addressed the Congress with greeting remarks, in which he stated, in part:

“Dear participants of the Congress of Yerkrapah Volunteers Union,
Dear delegates,
Dear guests,

First of all, let me greet the YVU Congress and wish that the organization could get a fresh breath and a new mood after the Congress.

The Yerkrapah Volunteers Union is an organization established in the outbreak of the Artsakh Liberation War, which originally comprised the freedom-fighters directly involved in the liberation war, headed by Sparapet Vazgen Sargsyan.

This organization was founded by legendary persons who put their courage and life at the service of Armenia’s sovereign statehood, Artsakh’s independent statehood, the security and victory of our people. I want to make this clear because many events and phenomena that occurred over time have somehow overshadowed this key circumstance.

And as Armenia’s Prime Minister, I wish to say that I bow to the generation of freedom-fighters, who did not get into panic in the face of new challenges facing our genocide-hit nation, and in the absence of Armenian armed forces, an unequal battle was waged for our homeland, for the sake of our dreams.

While it cannot be said that all the freedom-fighters later became a member of the Yerkrapah Volunteers Union, but the YVU was 100% composed of freedom-fighters at the time of its being founded. And this battle for our dignity and sovereignty was actually uneven, because many may have already forgotten about the fact that attacks on our compatriots in Nagorno-Karabakh were carried out not only by Azerbaijani forces, but also by Soviet troops, and the situation seemed reckless.

It seemed that there was no chance, no opportunity for our people, but in the Karabakh war just as in the Sardarapat Battle, we witnessed something that was at odds with all expert analyses and estimates because the latter, as a rule, do not take into consideration the spirit and the power of unity, which the Armenian people boasted since 1988, and let me say it still has today in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora.

Dear Friends,

The lessons and conclusions drawn from the Karabakh war are of great importance for the future of our country and people. With this freedom fight, we proved that we can be the masters of our own fate. We proved that we are in a position to impose peace with an iron hand, peaceable mind and invincible spirit rather than to beg peace and pardon from others. And I wish to stress that we managed to dictate peace in a war imposed on us.

I also consider it worth mentioning that I am grateful to all those freedom fighters who are not members of the Yerkrapah Volunteers Union for having instilled that historic trust in our people, and I do hope that this congress will bring together all our freedom-fighters.

I would also like to emphasize that we never took up an aggressive and militaristic stance by virtue of that historic confidence. Vazgen Sargsyan once made it clear in a remark: “No one wants peace more than me,” he said. I think this is just what each of us can repeat today.

And, yes, establishing a comprehensive peace and stability in the region is our greatest and most important task, and we will be consistent in this matter. But to solve the problem, we need to formulate it as accurately as possible. Achieving peace and stability in the region cannot be held as the responsibility of only two or one of the three sides to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It should be equally shared by all the three parties to the conflict.

Let me say that it is a joint responsibility, joint work, and this is the idea that I set forth during the discussion with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev at our March 29 meeting in Vienna. I voiced our formula of peace as early as on March 12 at the joint session of the Security Councils of the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh in Stepanakert. I would like to state here that this formula was the main focus of our discussion in Vienna.

In this regard, there is some misunderstanding that I wish to once again address and clarify. First, Armenia or the Armenian government is said willing to change the format of negotiations, and our neighbors are citing as a victory the fact that the talks format has not changed. I want to state clearly that the Armenian government has never demanded a change in the Karabakh negotiations format. The Armenian government has been seeking the restoration of the negotiations format. We have never questioned the fact that the negotiations on the Karabakh issue should take place in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing format. Originally and at the very outset, the OSCE Minsk Group format implied the participation of Nagorno-Karabakh’s elected representatives in the negotiation process.

And now let me say that Nagorno-Karabakh was present all the way through the negotiation process not only until 1998, but also after that, because if we look straight at the facts, we can see that Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan actually represented both Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia at the negotiations held after 1998, since they used to be directly elected representatives of Karabakh and, in this sense, they had a full mandate. Consequently, the negotiation process should be continued with the same logic as in the early 1990s.

It is important for Karabakh to participate in the negotiation process simply because no conflict can be resolved without the participation of its pivotal, key stakeholders. If we continue to negotiate without the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, then we will talk about anything, but not the settlement of the conflict because it is not serious to speak about the settlement of the conflict in such a format.

The next issue we are setting forth has to do with the Madrid Principles. As I stated in Stepanakert and in Vienna, for me as a new person involved in the negotiation process, it is crucial to get a clear idea of what the Madrid Principles could mean in practice, what outcomes may eventually result from those principles within the framework of the proposed negotiations.

And I wish to state that I did not get a positive answer to this question in Vienna. It is not until we receive a clear-cut answer to this question that we can say how much acceptable or unacceptable these principles are for us, and whether they are acceptable or not after all.

In general, it is said that the most important advantage of the Madrid Principles is that any side can interpret them the way it wishes. I have already made it clear and I am now reiterating my position: it is not serious when the leaders of two States come together, meet for hours, talk in the same room before the eyes of the international community and their respective societies, and then it turns out that they have absolutely contradicting opinions of what has happened at the negotiations table. This is not serious and it can undermine the negotiation process.

And if you have noticed, after the Vienna meeting, I did everything to prevent such a situation. I am hopeful that all participants in the negotiation process will refrain from any practice that may come at odds with this logic, because it is a mistake to think that such practices can only undermine or damage one of the parties. Such practices undermine the entire negotiation process and the institution of the head of state, in general. And I made this position very clear in Vienna

Second, I think mistaken is any such government or authority which thinks that it can settle the Karabakh issue on its own. There is only one subject or perhaps three subjects to solve the Karabakh issue, I mean the peoples, and no government can promote a solution unacceptable to the populations concerned. Therefore, any settlement of the Karabakh issue implies keeping pace with the peoples’ opinion, otherwise any action contradicting this logic is doomed to failure.

Also, I wish to underscore that one ought to give up the practice of constantly threatening the other people. I want to draw your attention to the fact that those who threaten other peoples are indirectly threatening their own people.

This is a very delicate issue, and I do hope everyone has recorded that the Armenian government has never threatened other peoples, not because we are afraid of any nation or any government, but because we never had the temptation of threatening our own nation. There is no point in speaking the language of threats to peoples. We do not need to hear threats of war at all.

We will respond to the threats of war with our agenda of peace, and if necessary, with the agenda of imposing peace. We will respond to the call for peace with our readiness of peace and we are prepared to work for the sake of peace. That is why we are suggesting a simple formula of settlement, which is fully acceptable to the international community, and I have voiced it at the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia by declaring that any settlement of the Karabakh issue should be acceptable to the people of Armenia, the people of Karabakh and the people of Azerbaijan.

Talking about settlement seems unserious as long as we have not been able to find such a solution, and I expect the President of Azerbaijan to abide by that formula as well. And I would like to emphasize that the Stepanakert agenda that we voiced on March 12 has been inevitably put on the negotiations agenda by the results of the Vienna meeting.

This is a reality now, which has been recorded in the joint statement issued by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

Dear Yerkrapah Volunteers,

I believe that today’s congress will become an important milestone on your glorious path. However, my assessment formula has always implied facing the truth, and when facing the truth we should dare to speak about some adverse phenomena that took place in the post-war era, which eventually led to the recent high-profile developments concerning former Yerkrapah Volunteers Union Board Chairman, Lieutenant-General Manvel Grigoryan.

We must understand how and why that happened. Unfortunately, after the cease-fire of the Artsakh Liberation War, we witnessed a social phenomenon which had the tendency to be commented that those who had been war heroes were entitled to privileges, supposed to overrun the rights of other citizens of the Republic of Armenia.
This was a misunderstanding, because, yes, our victory was made possible owing to the life, blood and health of our soldiers, but that victory would have been impossible without the unity and consolidation of the State and the people working at the rear front. Consequently, every citizen of the Republic of Armenia should feel himself the full owner of that victory and that is the only way to maintain and develop that victory.

In general, it is a well-known fact from time immemorial that the most important tactics and strategy of depriving one of the army is to break down the roads and bridges linking it with the population, because armies cannot fight in desert fields without the support of the people at the rear front.

Consequently, all citizens of the Republic of Armenia are equal before the law: no citizen of the Republic of Armenia, whether a freedom-fighter, army general, prime minister, parliament member or a minister, is supposed to have any advantage whatsoever over the other citizens. This is the message I wish to send from this podium to all the citizens of the Republic of Armenia, including the freedom-fighters.

Yes, the liberation war gave us many heroes, great heroes, legendary heroes, but I wish to apologize and say that heroism is like health, and heroism needs daily, hourly care because heroism can depreciate without such daily care.

Our greatest task is not to let the collective sacrifice of our people be depreciated, but instead to make it a cornerstone, a powerful cornerstone on which to build a free and happy Armenia.

Vazgen Sargsyan said that the 21st century will be ours. I want to say today that the 21st century is ours, and we have to do just one thing, namely to stand firm in the position of defending our homeland, promoting our dreams and our future wellbeing.

Therefore, long live freedom, long live the Republic of Armenia, long live the Republic of Artsakh, long live the Yerkrapah Volunteers Union, our children and we as are living and will live in a free and happy Armenia.

Thank you.”

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