Armenia, Artsakh Security Councils hold joint session in Yerevan
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Co-chaired by RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan, a joint session of the Security Councils of Armenia and Artsakh is being held in Yerevan. RA President Armen Sarkissian, Armenia and Artsakh National Assembly Speakers Ararat Mirzoyan and Ashot Ghulyan are in attendance.
Before discussing the agenda items, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan and RA President Armen Sarkissian addressed the meeting with statements.
Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan stated:
“Dear colleagues, I am glad to see you.
Honorable President of the Republic of Armenia,
Honorable President of the Artsakh Republic,
Honorable Presidents of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh,
Distinguished Members of the Security Councils of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh,
To begin with, I would like to welcome the second joint sitting of the Security Councils of Armenia and Artsakh. The first similar meeting was held in Stepanakert on March 12, 2019, and now we are holding a joint session in Yerevan. A very important and useful tradition is being established, meant to harmonize our positions and actions on issues high on the joint agenda.
We are thereby coordinating the ongoing cooperation and dialogue between the authorities of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh in an effort to ensure comprehensive security for the Armenian people in the region.
During the joint session of March 12, I highlighted two issues essential in terms of recording progress in the peaceful resolution of the Artsakh conflict. The first is to secure Artsakh’s involvement as the key party to the conflict. The perception of the need to achieve that involvement has been strengthened over the past months owing to the steps taken by the authorities of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. What matters here is that these steps reflect the objective reality created in our region following the Velvet Revolution in Armenia. What are the characteristics of this objective reality?
First, the changes in Armenia have strengthened Artsakh’s positions and emphasized the equitable nature of the relations between the authorities of Armenia and Artsakh.
Second, the culture of decision-making has changed and the role reserved to the people and society in influencing those decisions has changed not only in Armenia but also in Artsakh. It is obvious that no significant progress can be achieved in the Artsakh issue without the presence and expression of popular confidence. And from this perspective, the opinion of people living in the conflict zone is more than essential, as they will be the immediate bearers of the benefits and risks of any settlement. This fact highlights the role of the people of Artsakh and their elected authorities in the peace process. In this respect, the upcoming elections in Artsakh are becoming ever more important. All basic documents for the settlement of the conflict either include a reference to the participation of the elected authorities of Artsakh or have been approved by representatives of the elected authorities of Artsakh.
I would like to stress that we are facing a crucial situation here and note that from the very outset, we highlighted the need for Artsakh’s elected representatives to participate in the negotiation process, and it is strange to hear negative assessments about the upcoming elections in Artsakh. And our record is that the elections in Artsakh are actually held on the basis of an international mandate, and therefore any criticism thereof may undermine the peace process, because the people of Artsakh cannot be represented in the negotiations otherwise than through their authorized representatives nominated by means of polls.
I am more than confident that strong with the people’s vote, the newly elected authorities of Artsakh shall have a constructive involvement in the peace process.
Armenia will continue to act as the guarantor of Artsakh’s comprehensive security. This role of the Republic of Armenia that I detailed during the rally held in Stepanakert Square on August 5 this year implies close cooperation with the new authorities of Artsakh. From this point of view, I appreciate our deep understanding with the incumbent authorities of Artsakh and express my gratitude to President Bako Sahakyan for supporting the democratic process in Artsakh.
The results of the peace process have been modest this year, but two important arrangements have been made to build an environment conducive to peace and prepare the populations for peace.
The arrangements have had two practical implications: in spite of repeated ceasefire violations, we managed to avoid military escalation and keep the situation in check for all parties, as a whole. However, ceasefire violations result in human casualties, endanger the civilian population in the conflict zone and undermine the peace process.
For instance, Azerbaijan shelled Armenia’s north-eastern border roads and settlements last week following the December 6 statement issued by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs at the OSCE Ministerial Conference in Bratislava, and this incident can undermine the peace process. In the current situation, cease-fire agreements need to be implemented consistently, including through enhanced capacity of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.
Equally important are the peace-building programs in the framework of which Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged journalists’ visits. Unlike other people-to-people contacts, this exchange was carried out not through the outline of this or that third party, but through state bodies of all parties to the conflict who were able to coordinate and carry out a common task through the office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office. This fact is to be welcomed, since I am convinced that no force can reconcile us if citizens cannot communicate directly with each other. It is important for Azerbaijani journalists to visit Armenia and Artsakh, and for journalists from Armenia and Artsakh to be in Azerbaijan and eventually be able to work with each other.
On various occasions this year I have indicated that sustainable peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved without the active involvement and agreement of the people of Armenia, the people of Artsakh and the people of Azerbaijan. Let us hope that this program will serve as a starting point for preparing the respective populations for peace.
Then, during our first joint meeting, I was asked about the three principles and 6 elements of the Madrid Principles put forward by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs as a basis for clarifying the negotiation process.
This year we have had two different interpretations of this question by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and Azerbaijan. The issue of Artsakh’s status is of primary importance for us. Do the proposed principles and elements allow Artsakh to preserve and develop its status outside of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, or are these principles and elements meant to limit the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination, as insisted by Azerbaijan?
As I have already mentioned, the Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ comment on this issue differs substantially from that of Azerbaijan, which of course gives grounds for optimism regarding the proposed negotiation basis. Nevertheless, Armenia and Artsakh must eventually come to an agreement with Azerbaijan, so it is necessary to move from ambiguity to a common understanding.
During the year we clarified our positions, most recently in Bratislava on December 5. Should Azerbaijan try to question the exercise of the right of self-determination or non-use of force, then the third principle will becomes relative, too, and nothing will change in the situation we have today. The security of the united Armenian nation of Armenia and Artsakh requires a predictable environment and scenario for conflict resolution.
The approach that the conflict should be settled in a way to comply with the demands and needs of only one side leads to nowhere. That is why the conflict has not been resolved over the past 25 years despite the efforts exerted by the Armenian side and the Co-Chairs.
I believe that any substantive discussion should first of all seek to set out mutually agreed principles for conflict resolution not only in the form, but also in the content. I should also point out that representing the return to the status quo of 1986-87, or any modification to it as an attempt to settle the conflict is inappropriate and does not stem from the essence and content of the conflict.
Our government has been abiding by a constructive approach from the outset, and we are pleased to note that this is recorded by our international partners. We have proposed a very simple, logical and understandable principle at the conceptual level of the settlement of the Artsakh issue. Any settlement should be acceptable to the population of Artsakh, the people of Armenia and the people of Azerbaijan. Declaring this principle, I hoped that the President of Azerbaijan would make a similar statement, which might open up great opportunities for achieving a breakthrough in the negotiation process.
Unfortunately, we have not yet heard such a statement on the part of the Azeri leader, and I think that the international structures and our partners involved in the settlement process should set the task of encouraging the President of Azerbaijan to make a statement to that effect and agree with an understandable and logical formula, since the perception that the settlement should satisfy one of the parties and ignore the interests of the others will block the negotiation process.
Moreover, I think that everyone has understood that the Karabakh conflict has no military solution. Such attempts will have disastrous consequences for Azerbaijan, especially since, as I have said several times, we have acquired an unprecedented quantity of state-of-the-art weaponry and ammunition over the past one and a half years; we have implemented drastic reforms in the Armed Forces to enhance our troops’ fighting capacity and combat readiness.
I would like to reiterate that these steps do not imply a drive for war, but for peace. I hereby declare that any attempt to talk the hard way to Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian people is pointless. And in this respect, not only does Armenia play the role of Artsakh’s security guarantor, but it also has to play a greater role as the guarantor of peace in the region. Thank you.”
President Bako Sahakyan of the Republic of Artsakh stated in his remarks:
Honorable President of the Republic of Armenia,
Honorable Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia,
Dear National Assembly Speaker,
Distinguished Members of the Security Councils of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh,
We have always considered it important and have been in favor of the idea that nationwide issues should be discussed jointly by the leaders of the two Armenian republics, if necessary. The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh are two inseparable parts of single homeland and we have common goals and common vision in resolving the most important issues. And from this point of view, the Security Councils’ joint meetings allow for a comprehensive discussion of emerging challenges, finding optimal solutions to them and making sound decisions. I believe that discussions in this format will be permanent and will become a key platform for the consideration of issues on our national agenda.
Now I would like to touch upon some of the issues that characterize the real degree of close interaction that exists between our two Armenian republics. Throughout the history of the Artsakh Republic, both in times of war and in peaceful conditions, we have always felt the active support of Armenia. Today, Armenia is the main guarantor of Artsakh’s security and normal development. And one of the most important imperatives we face is the continued deepening and expansion of inter-Armenian unity.
It is quite natural that the security of Artsakh has always been a primary concern for each one of us. Together, we are trying to strengthen the defense capability of our homeland, consistently increase the efficiency of the armed forces, and improve the social and living conditions of servicemen. And the fact that some issues related to army building are now on the agenda of the joint meeting of the Security Councils is a vivid proof of that.
Achieving a high level of combat readiness in our Armed Forces, which calls for daily hard work will contributes to the effective maintenance of stability and peace in the region, as well as to reinstating the military-political balance. Security issues are also key in the concept of socioeconomic development in Artsakh, which is quite natural given the unsettled relations with Azerbaijan and the geopolitical character of our region.
From this point of view, ensuring a high level of security and self-sufficiency in a number of areas is of particular importance to the Republic of Artsakh. This implies uninterrupted food and energy supplies, and we have made tangible progress in this direction. 112,000 tons of grain was produced in 2019, which is twice as much as the domestic demand.
Since 2017, energy self-sufficiency has been maintained, and Artsakh is a country that exports electricity. These are the priority areas where self-sufficiency should be absolute, especially in crisis situations, and we have achieved this through the joint efforts of Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora.
The other most important issue is the settlement of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict. You are all well aware of the developments in the conflict settlement process, which sometimes give rise to serious debate and speculation on various platforms.
This is natural to some extent, as the settlement of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict is not only a decisive factor for the present and future of the Armenian statehood and the Armenian people, but is also one of the most important issues of regional and even global politics. Given the importance of the issue, I would like to dwell once more on a number of points related to the settlement of the conflict.
Official Stepanakert's approaches remain unchanged. We stand for peaceful settlement of the conflict within the OSCE Minsk Group and Artsakh’s full participation in all stages of the negotiation process.
We welcome the official Yerevan’s policy and the steps aimed at restoring the full-fledged format of negotiations. We are realistic and understand that restoring the full-fledged format is a difficult task and a time consuming process.
One of the most important tasks of the Armenian diplomacy is the imperative of preserving the status of Artsakh as a sovereign geopolitical factor, which in turn can expand our ability to conduct a flexible policy. Well aware of all this, the opposite side resorts to various manipulative tricks, including the speculation of the so-called Azerbaijani community as a separate entity and the continued efforts to engage it in the negotiation process. In so doing, they are trying to impede the restoration of the full-fledged format and simultaneously turn the fact of Artsakh’s independence and statehood into a virtual reality.
Indeed, we should neutralize these attempts by complementing and accurately distributing the tasks to address. Key to our success on the diplomatic front and in negotiations is the presence of strong and effective armed forces, the expansion and deepening of friendly relations with our strategic partners, as well as the pursuit of a complementary foreign policy.
As for the final settlement of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, I would like to stress once again that there can be no return to the past, whether in terms of status or borders.
No settlement can jeopardize the security of the Artsakh Republic and its normal functioning. These are the barriers that should never be lowered and the red lines that should never be broken. The dependable and predictable future of both Artsakh and Armenia largely depends on this.
Taking the opportunity, I would also like to briefly touch upon the social and economic situation in Artsakh. The economy of Artsakh has maintained its development dynamics this year. GDP growth was more than 9% in 2019, with the total GDP standing at about 341 billion drams. GDP is expected to exceed the mark of 375 billion drams in 2020.
The main sectors of the economy have maintained stable growth rates. There is still a lot to do indeed. A number of large-scale projects are planned to be implemented in the areas of housing, agriculture, tourism, infrastructure and a number of other areas.
Some projects are quite ambitious, but we hope that they will succeed. I would like to underscore that the Republic of Armenia is one of the most important guarantors of Artsakh’s economic development.
I would also like to touch upon the current domestic political situation in Artsakh. You know that in 2020 we will hold presidential and parliamentary elections: we will be electing a new President of the Republic and National Assembly. All the process should be be underpinned by the idea that democracy has no alternative in Artsakh and this is the conscious choice of our people, for which it has been fighting for decades.
Everything will be done to ensure that the next elections are held in a fair, transparent, democratic manner, in an atmosphere of stability and tolerance, in line with the letter and spirit of the law.
It is welcomed Armenia’s willingness to provide effective support in conducting these elections properly and in engaging observation missions from different countries. It is also a good opportunity to present Artsakh as a democratic and civilized country once again and make it recognizable to the world.
This is what I wanted to draw your attention to. At the same time, I would like to reaffirm that close cooperation is the most important factor in resolving all issues. I am convinced that we can jointly implement the proposed programs and provide for our homeland’s dynamic and harmonious development. Thank you.”
Addressing the meeting, RA President Armen Sarkissian stated:
“Honorable Mr. Prime Minister,
Honorable Mr. President,
Dear National Assembly Speaker,
First of all, I would like to say that I am pleased to attend this meeting, as I highly appreciate the ongoing close cooperation between the Security Councils of the two Armenian republics.
I would like to welcome the work done by the Security Council. Mr. Prime Minister, I highly value your personal efforts and Security Council Secretary Mr. Grigoryan’s contribution. I can assess your work based on information received from you and some analytical findings, and I can say that the work being done is of high quality; so, congratulations, Mr. Grigoryan.
The issue raised by the Prime Minister and the President of Artsakh is of great importance to our nation. Priorities have been discussed here, and I would like to come from the end. Mr. President, as you said, and I think this is crucial for each of us, the forthcoming elections in Artsakh are twice as much important because we will get a powerful political tool by holding fair and transparent elections.
I also encourage that such joint meetings be held on a regular basis, and perhaps with broader coverage. Mr. Prime Minister, national security is not at all limited to its military and diplomatic aspects, including the Artsakh issue. Just as you noticed, their scope is much broader: food safety, cyber security, new technologies, economic development and so on.
Greetings to you all! I wish you every success in today’s discussion and in your daily activities, in general. I wish Artsakh fair and transparent elections so that they could set an example to all those who are friends of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh and even to those who are not friends of our two republics.
Thank you, and good luck to all of us.”