Nikol Pashinyan: “We will impose peace in case of a war imposed on us”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan touched upon various issues related to the negotiation process over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement during a conversation with journalists in the National Assembly on April 8. Below is the question-and-answer session.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, at the congress of the Yerkrapah Volunteers Union, you said that you will counter a peace agenda to the war agenda. I would like to know to what extent the peace agenda was discussed at the meeting with the Azerbaijani leader.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I said that the whole agenda of Stepanakert was discussed in Vienna.
Question: In other words, the negotiations were effective.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - What do we mean by saying effective? Logically, no negotiation can be called effective as long as the Karabakh issue has not been settled. However, the joint statement of the Co-Chairs and Foreign Ministers said that the meeting was held in a constructive and positive atmosphere. And we all agreed that text. What do you mean by saying effective? It can also be interpreted as ineffective until the issue has not been settled.
Question: After the statement made by Armenia’s Defense Minister, the Azerbaijani side declared that Armenia wants a war.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I have addressed this issue many times. We say: do not try to frighten us with war because we are not afraid of war. There is nothing illogical, or even destructive in the Defense Minister’s statement. By starting a war against us, one may think that Armenia will surrender. Not, indeed. Whoever thinks so is naïve to do so. We are the number one advocate that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue be settled exclusively through peaceful negotiations. And we have said that we will do everything possible to promote this peace agenda. The fact that we are constantly talking about the peace agenda let nobody get the impression that we are afraid of their war threats. Azerbaijan, too, should have something to apprehend and, in general, the region has something to fear, everyone has to be afraid of a war.
Let no one think that if a war breaks out, we will give in. No, in case of a war imposed on us, we will impose peace. And the purpose of our war will not be the war, the goal of our war will be peace, and that will not be our war, we are not going to start a military operation against anyone, but if anyone starts a military operation, we will force it to peace.
But there is no need to talk about war before each negotiation process. Our message is as follows: while talking about war, we stress the importance of the negotiation process and our commitment to the negotiation process.
Question - In 2016, there were talks between Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev, but in fact we saw that the adversary resorted to military operations and unleashed the four-day war. Are these negotiations a guarantee that Azerbaijan will not try again to take such steps?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The same statement made by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the two Foreign Ministers, by referring to the Dushanbe agreements, says that the parties have agreed to maintain and strengthen the ceasefire regime. This is our political agreement.
Is there a possibility that we may break that political agreement? No, there is not such a possibility, but if anybody breaks that political agreement, we will defend ourselves, of course. And I hope that my Azeri counterpart will not break that agreement.
We have come to a very specific agreement. We have signed a written arrangement in the presence and with the signature of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. That is it. Not only did we agree to refrain from using force, but we also agreed not to use threats of force.
And we just wish to draw the attention of everyone to the fact that, unfortunately, Azerbaijan occasionally uses the threat of force as a negotiating factor. We just say: do not use it because if you continue to do so, we will use it, too. Let us develop a peace agenda and work on the peace agenda. This is what we want. As I repeatedly said in Armenia, our compliance should not be construed as a weakness, and I keep stating in the international arena that our commitment to peace should not be interpreted as a weakness or fear of someone or something. We have no fear at all. Let us make a record of it!
Question - When and in which form will the humanitarian steps you referred to be implemented?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – As regards the humanitarian steps, I hope we will be able to guarantee our farmers’ safety in agricultural activities. And we are ready to guarantee that our troops will not fire on any civilian, especially when doing agricultural work. If Azerbaijan reaffirms this willingness, we can do that. There are also some other possible humanitarian activities, but the beneficiaries also need to be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
Question – And in terms of visiting hostages and relatives?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes, I think we are very close to allowing for such an opportunity, but we do not know whether such families on either side would like to take advantage of it, because I cannot rule out that for some political or personal reasons, people will be reluctant to take that opportunity. It is not clear, and it is not an easy decision.
Again, I want to say that I had seen and agreed to the text that was published after the meeting in Vienna on behalf of the Co-Chairs and the Foreign Ministers. I can confirm every word stated there. Yes, it was a constructive, positive discussion and I think the Defense Minister’s statement is not entirely out of that logic. By the way, you may remember that I said a few times last year that we will be adequate to the situation, because there is no other option. We will not be destructive in any case, but we will follow the situation. If we are expected to be constructive, we will be constructive.
By the way, I said at the latest press conference that our task is to make ourselves heard, and we are ready to listen to our partners. I even cited a concrete example. Yes, there is no place for us, where our partners will appreciate that our position is too tough in some new era, yes, we can even make our position more flexible in order to advance the peace agenda. But it should not be done unilateral;y.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, did you resume the talks from the point where Serzh Sargsyan stopped”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - No, I did not start from that point, this is another misunderstanding. I started the negotiations from my own point of view. This is a very important detail.