“We have not failed in diplomacy; we failed in our attempts to cope with the burden of the past 20-25 years’ diplomatic failures” - PM addresses the nation
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An interesting process started in Armenia after I took upon myself the responsibility for our failures in the Artsakh war.
Whoever takes the trouble slams the government for the mistakes committed over the past 25-30 years. It has reached the point that the person who drove Nagorno-Karabakh out of the negotiation process and converted the talks into the Armenia-Azerbaijan format blames us for considering the Karabakh issue in the context of a territorial dispute.
The issue got into the context of a territorial dispute when Armenia came to act as the negotiator for Nagorno-Karabakh. Note that it happened more than 20 years ago. We are accused of the international community perceiving this year’s Azerbaijani aggression against Karabakh as the reinstatement of its own territorial integrity. And the blame comes from a man, during whose rule the international community accused Armenia of documenting the occupation Azerbaijan’s territories. In the meantime, he told the Armenian society that there was nothing dangerous in it, because when entering the toilet of a plane you can see an inscription saying “occupied,” so there is nothing terrible in the word occupied.
I can guess that many may wonder what I am talking about right now. I am talking about things that were known to every citizen of Armenia in the 2000s. I mean the explanations for Armenia’s diplomatic failures given at the highest state level or the allegations that they were not so bad. But time probably erases the memory, or at least darkens it, and some have decided to take advantage of that. The attitude of the international community was not formed in 2020, but during the last 25 years. I mean that:
a) The Karabakh issue was perceived as a territorial dispute, and it became our biggest problem;
b) Armenia gradually began to be perceived by the international community as an occupier. It definitely did not happen during the past couple of years. Instead, during the last 2 years there has been an attempt to get out of that magical circle.
We are accused that the war was due to Armenia’s diplomatic failure. But nobody asks whether Armenia has succeeded in its diplomatic efforts over the Karabakh issue ever since the start of the institutional talks.
Was a diplomatic success the 1995 OSCE Lisbon Summit, where immediately after our victory in the Artsakh war, the international community, in fact, stated its view that Karabakh should be an autonomy within Azerbaijan, and this is the formula for resolving the issue?
Was a diplomatic success the so-called “Common State” package tabled in 1998, which clearly stated the demand to hand over 7 regions to Azerbaijan, and that demand was put before Armenia, and that Azerbaijan and Karabakh should be part of the same state?
Was a diplomatic success the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Declaration, which stated that conflicts should be resolved on the principle of territorial integrity?
Were diplomatic achievements the Madrid principles, which, by the way, were drummed up as a diplomatic success, but they eventually turned out to be something shameful? According to the Madrid principles, Karabakh could be excluded from Azerbaijan only with the latter’s consent.
Was a diplomatic success the Kazan talks in 2011, when Azerbaijan slammed the door and the Armenian leader gave interviews saying that we were ready to return 7 regions to Azerbaijan, but Azerbaijan wanted more?
Were diplomatic achievements those numerous documents adopted during the past 25 years in different international instances, which clearly stated that the territories of Azerbaijan were occupied and that the issue should be resolved within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity?
Was it a diplomatic success that Azerbaijan initiated a military escalation in 2013 and, in fact, no one condemned it for that? Why? For a very simple reason, because when you enter the toilet of a plane and close the door, it says “occupied.” Many of you will not believe it, but this is an almost literal quote from the public expression of an Armenian negotiator in the 2000s.
Those who conducted diplomacy at that very level have come to tell us today that we have failed in our diplomatic efforts.
Were diplomatic achievements the Russian proposals of 2016, when, in fact, the issue of Artsakh’s status was removed from the agenda altogether? Well, say we have built up bad relationships with Russia just as you keep claiming. But if you boasted such good relations, how came Artsakh’s status was in fact removed from the agenda at the suggestion of our strategic ally?
If you were a good diplomat, how come Azerbaijan went unpunished after the April war in 2016? Because you agreed to what was being offered. In other words, you accepted Azerbaijan’s right to wage war; you legitimized that right.
We have not failed in diplomacy; we failed in our attempts to cope with the burden of the past 20-25 years’ diplomatic failures. We failed trying to avoid the consequences of your failures, and this is the truth.
We are accused of being unable to prevent the war. Did you avoid the war in 2016? You just stopped the war with a verbal promise to return the territories. And why did we not succeed in the same? Because we were told that Armenia had promised so several times in the past; Armenia had agreed to return the territories but failed to do so, and that the time had come to document the talks with a specific date.
The war could be stopped only by signing a document similar to the one on November 9. I mean signing such a document before or at the outset of the hostilities. By the way, on the very first day of the war I said from the rostrum of the National Assembly that I could stop the war at that point. And I said at what cost. Why did you not state then that you agreed that the war should be stopped?
Now, by the way, it turns out that everyone was in favor of handing over the lands with the 5 + 2 formula. You were in favor of surrendering lands, surrendering in 2016, surrendering in 2017. Why did you not prevent the confrontation and settle the issue, especially after the April war. Some are naïve enough to think that the 5 + 2 formula might meet Azerbaijan’s aspirations. Yet, it was not but a preliminary proposal, it still had to be discussed, written, agreed upon and signed. According to its well-known approach, Azerbaijan would have wanted more, should Armenia have agreed to any option, for example, Shushi, Lachin, etc. And I am just amazed at those who consider themselves to be great diplomats, but do not understand or do not want to understand such simple things.
We are accused of allowing Turkey to get involved in the Karabakh issue. Sorry, Turkey got involved in the Karabakh issue as a result of football diplomacy, when the failure of the Armenian diplomacy let it announce that it would not establish relations with Armenia as long as the territories of Azerbaijan were occupied. And it thereby got involved in the Karabakh issue. This happened 10 years ago.
The next group of absurd accusations refers to the alleged destruction of the army: namely that we came and destroyed the army in 2 years. We are accused of not “shutting” the airspace before and during the hostilities. Ladies and gentlemen, the airspace was “closed,” because in 2017 armaments worth USD 42 million were purchased for the Armenian army, with which the airspace was supposed to be closed during the war. But later it turned out that those devices just do not work.
The co-author of this purchase allegedly makes a sensational revelation. He says he had been offered a kickback for the Su 30s, but he refused the deal. Question: Did you buy the USD 42 million-worth obsolete armament without a kickback? Who would have believed that a malfunctioning device could be bought for USD 42 million with good intentions and in good faith? And in order to divert attention from this fact, they have been discussing the purchase of OSA-AK systems, as if they were ineffective weapons.
First, the decision was made following an in-depth discussion, and second, it hit many targets, including an Israeli-made Hermes-900 drone, which was shot down for the first time in Tavush in July, and which became a global sensation. The target was hit through the OSA-AK system.
Now they are asking us a question. They say, why did you not make the right procurements for the army? We bought what we could in 2.5 years; we had to raise the salaries of the military, solve the army’s catering problem, solve the problem of soldiers’ footwear and underwear, buy bullets we were short of, buy new machine guns, air defense equipment, and yes, buy warplanes. Yes, we had to buy everything that should have been bought and was not bought in the last 20 years. Well, in 2 years we did not manage to buy what should have bought for 20 years, and why did you not do that during the past 18, 20 years? How come you considered building castles, buying islands, buying private houses in Europe, saving millions in Swiss banks to be more important than buying what we did not buy in 2.5 years? Because you thought that when you close the door of a plane toilet and see the inscription “occupied,” then everything would be fine?
A thesis has been put into circulation that on the third day of the war I made a decision that had catastrophic consequences. We have been looking for that decision for 15 days now and we could not find it, because there is no such decision. I am being accused of failures in military action. Is the Prime Minister leading a battle? Does the Prime Minister make decisions at the level of a platoon commander or even a regiment commander? Did the Prime Minister make decisions alone? The Prime Minister once made a sole decision during the war, and thanks to that decision, the 7th Defense District is in place, because some people wanted to hand over the 7th Defense District in panic. Well, at least they did not go down without explaining themselves first. What is more important?
Why was there no success? What does this testimony have to do with the evidence, by the way, the testimonies of the soldiers from the front lines, that from the first day of the war some people spread rumors on the front lines that the lands had been sold, that Nikol had sold the lands, that there was no point in fighting? What does the fact that some political circles promised war and internal political surprises in September-October have to do with defeat? With whom did they agree on the war and internal political surprises? Those statements were made in public. And after all, will we not have the strength to admit that the reason for our failure was that Armenia has been a corrupt state, where the most influential part of the political elite has done nothing but accumulate personal wealth, embezzle and transfer ill-earned money to Swiss banks for at least 25 years.
And one or two people did not do that. It has made a system with its many tentacles, and that system has resisted and is resisting every day. And that resistance has reached its culmination. And the main purpose of this resistance is that the truth about this war and the events that preceded and followed it is not known, so that everything remains at the level of manipulation.
By the way, there is a hypothesis that the attack committed on the 9th of the month was meant to exterminate the country’s leadership. Why? That many truths would not be revealed about this war. The truth cannot but be revealed. In any case, the history of our past failures should be analyzed in detail. And it must be done without manipulation, in peaceful and working conditions. This definitely needs to be done, but calm is needed for real analysis, while today we are all in turmoil.
Perhaps the most important thing today is the question of what we will do next. The most important issue is the repatriation of our compatriots kept in captivity. Here, I would like to state that we have made some progress and, in fact, agreed on the principle of “all in exchange for all.” Moreover, not only the ones captured during the war, but also those who happened to find themselves on the other side of the frontier before the war ought to be repatriated. And now our task is also to create mechanisms for repatriating such persons as may appear to be in captivity in the future. We need some patience here, and I think we will succeed.
The next important task is to find out the missing. While somewhat slowly, this process is proceeding steadily. How does this happen? It would be difficult for me to present this topic in all detail, at least in terms of vocabulary, but, on the other hand, I know that the public needs answers. So, I apologize in advance for talking about such details.
So, what is going on? On the one hand, the bodies are being removed from the territories under Azerbaijan’s control. On the other hand, the unrecognizable bodies of the Armenian martyrs are being recognized. Since November 9, we have managed to evacuate more than 600 dead bodies. And I want to emphasize that more than 500 bodies are currently in the recognition phase.
Unfortunately, these bodies are most likely the bodies of our missing brothers. Now a process of recognition is underway, which is done as follows. A DNA sample is taken from the body, which is compared to a DNA sample taken from relatives.
This process is quite time consuming. But I want to say that 135 bodies have been identified and handed over to relatives since November 9, and this process will continue. I am sorry, I apologize again for talking about this topic like this, it is very difficult, but I have to say it again, because the public is waiting for concrete answers. I would also like to address another issue: there is another group of missing people, about whom I simply would not like to speak now. And I want to say that efforts are underway in this direction, but in no way can I talk about that work now.
I would also like to evoke the fact that we have not yet declared mourning days at the state level. We had better do so after identifying at least most of unrecognized bodies. This is going to be a time of meditation and mourning; it should be a period of reflection on the past and the future.
Now I want to touch upon another painful topic. There are some processes taking place these days at some sections of Armenia’s borders, which, of course, are perceived painfully by many of our compatriots. This is understandable, but we must state that our armed forces are deployed along the border of the Republic of Armenia. We are talking about the Armenian section of the border. The case of Artsakh is a separate issue. Of course, these processes taking place near our borders can cause people’s concerns. There are different types of practical problems, but these problems are not unsolvable, and we are trying to address them. But our armed forces are deployed along the Armenian border, and I must ask you not to get into panic on this occasion every day. Our further activities should be aimed at making it a real border and not a front line. We must go that way.
There is also some progress in resuming the negotiation process on the Karabakh issue. Representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, the Foreign Ministers of Russia and France, and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State have issued a joint statement. There are important notes in that statement, namely they reaffirmed the willingness and desire to work together on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict and restore a full-fledged negotiation process.
This is another important factor in strengthening the ceasefire stipulated in the November 9 statement. Army service will become safer for our soldiers under these conditions. There are virtually no tensions on the border at the moment. The aftermath of the war has raised some questions about the living conditions of our soldiers, and we are now actively working on those issues. There are difficult issues and difficult situations, but the global issue is as follows: What are we going to do? Are we going to give in to the burden? No, we are not going to do so. And we must be able to bear that burden with dignity and defy the challenges. I say “we must defy the challenges, because there are losses, the losses of our brothers, which are insurmountable? We must carry them in our heart, in our soul, in our mind, but also that weight must strengthen our will to live, to win and triumph.
Evoking the November 9 statement, some people have been circulating the concept of “Meghri Corridor.” I wish to draw your attention to the fact that there is neither a mention of Meghri, nor the word “corridor” in the statement. The word “corridor” refers to Lachin. I mean, there is no mention of a corridor concerning Meghri. There is another concept - unblocking transport infrastructure.
If we are to think about the future, then we must think about the possibility of generating new factors in economic life. Will the re-commissioning of the Armenia-Russia and Armenia-Iran railways bring about significant changes in our economy? I think so. If we contemplate the issue in this context, we will have a different pattern. But now, as I said, there are many more pressing issues to address. And now I want to inform you about the implementation of the roadmap I published on November 18.
A number of socio-economic decisions were made during this period. Our Artsakh-domiciled compatriots are being provided with primary financial assistance in the amount of 68,000 drams per person, plus 15,000 drams to those who do not own property in Artsakh. There are some exceptions in the decision, of course: now I will not touch upon that as it is stipulated in the relevant decision, which has been published. This process is not over, it continues. The residents of those territories beyond the control of Artsakh authorities are provided with the first necessary financial assistance in the amount of 300 thousand drams per person.
The government has allocated funds for the restoration of damaged houses in Syunik and Gegharkunik marzes. Compensation is provided to the families of those civilians who were disabled and killed during the war. We have made a decision to support host families. I mean the families who will host our homeless compatriots from Artsakh and Armenia. The beneficiary families will be compensated for each hosted aged citizen - 30 thousand drams in Armenia, and - 45 thousand drams in Artsakh. This system has been developed for those families in a position to accommodate homeless people in their homes.
A decision will be made in the near future to fully reimburse the tuition fees in the second half of 2020 for those students who took part in the war and students from families with members who participated in the war. Damaged movable assets are registered in order to provide compensation.
Another system of social guarantees will be available for the families of captured and missing persons. Active efforts are underway in cooperation with the Artsakh government to restore the normal life of Artsakh. Tens of thousands of local residents have already returned to Artsakh. We need to address the problems of restoring damaged houses and accommodating homeless citizens. This calls for hard work, and we are determined to do that work.
As we have agreed, the implementation of the roadmap will be a primary task in the coming months. At the same time, consistent work is underway in various areas of public life, including the judiciary reform to the law on parties.
The purpose of all this is not to keep my team or me in power, but instead to keep the people in power. What does it mean? It means that the citizens of Armenia must be free in choosing the authorities. Let me remind you that the parliamentary elections of 2018 were the only such elections in Armenia’s history, the results of which were not contested by anyone. The bias behind some political processes taking place in Armenia is clear.
Some want to do everything possible to make that the 2018 parliamentary elections were the only ones in which people made their own decision. We will not allow this. The people’s power cannot be questioned in Armenia.
Thank you, dear compatriots, and I would like to say that as I noted above, different kinds of accusations are being circulated at this stage. I would like to say that none of these questions will go unanswered. Let us just state that we cannot respond to all of them at once or on the same day. Otherwise, it will turn out that we have to spend the whole day in front of cameras, while the issues that need quick response will not be resolved.
Today I addressed a number of conceptual and important issues, but that is not all. All questions will be raised indeed, and the conversation with you, with the citizens of the Republic of Armenia will definitely continue. Let us just work, let these accusations accumulate, we will understand which of them are worth answering, for which of them the people of Armenia need explanations, and if necessary, we will address them sometimes in different formats. That is all for today. I bow before all our martyrs. I love you all and serve you all.