Remarks delivered by PM Pashinyan while presenting the 2020 Government Program Performance Report in the National Assembly
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First of all, I wish to congratulate our Yazidi brothers and sisters on the nice spring holiday and thank them for their efforts aimed at building and developing our common homeland. Happy Yazidi New Year!
Honorable National Assembly Speaker,
Distinguished Deputy Speakers,
Dear members of government and parliament,
Let me introduce the annual government program performance report for 2020.
2019 was an unprecedented successful year for us, for the Republic of Armenia. We had unprecedented high economic results in 2019 over the past 10 years - 7.6% economic growth, exceeding the pre-planned plan of budget revenue by about 63 billion drams. The growth dynamics continued in January-February 2020. The Republic of Armenia boasted an economic activity index of more than 9%, but the global pandemic reached the country in March, and we have been facing a period of crisis ever since. The coronavirus seemed to be the worst memory of 2020, but in September we faced a 44-day war with severe consequences for us.
In view of the above, the Government of the Republic of Armenia resorted to crisis management in 2020. The first stage was associated with COVID-19, which has left more than 200,000 citizens infected in the Republic of Armenia. We have already stated our economic indicators: in 2020 we had a 7.6% economic decline; we had more than 3770 deaths from the coronavirus. At the same time, we implemented 25 anti-crisis activities, in the framework of which about 1.1 million individuals and 83,000 legal entities were supported.
I would like to emphasize that a total of 239 billion drams was made available to the beneficiaries as part of the anti-crisis package, of which state budget expenditures constituted 55 billion drams, borrowed funds - 20 billion drams. The rest came from the banking system through government-provided incentives.
And yet, I think that our most important message for 2020 should be related to the 44-day war. You know that hostilities started on September 27 after Azerbaijan’s aggression. A lot has been said about the war, but I consider today an opportunity to respond to the ongoing speculations, misinformation and a number of questions about the war. At the same time, it has to be underscored that we have had misunderstandings during this period, some specially planned, some perhaps unintentionally.
I want to start with a statement made by former Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparyan on November 17, 2020. On November 17, the then Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparyan stated that on the 4th day of the war he told the Security Council about our losses as he presented the assessment of the Armed Forces on the situation, noting that, I quote: “We need to take measures to stop the war within 2-3 days.”
I would like to state officially from this podium that this point of Onik Gasparyan’s November 17 statement has nothing to do with reality. The Chief of General Staff did not say such a thing. It is officially recorded: there is a recording to that effect. I mean the September 30 Security Council meeting. On the contrary, he said that the enemy had not made any progress, and the Armenian Armed Forces had full control of the situation.
I emphasize that the Chief of the General Staff stated to the Security Council that the army was fulfilling its task and would continue do so. At the same time, I would like to stress that the Chief of General Staff could not have made such a statement on September 30 simply because in his address to the Security Council on August 21, 2020, please note the date - August 21, 2020 - he assured us: “We are in a position to push back the adversary with the forces and means available in the direction of Artsakh; we can check the enemy’s offensive and crush its troops with the principle of no step back. I repeat, the Chief of the General Staff reported to the Security Council at the Security Council meeting on August 21, 2020: “The Armenian armed forces can repel, check the enemy’s attack and crush its groups with the forces and means available in the direction of Artsakh in line with he “no step back” principle.” This is just what the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces stated on August 21, 2020 and September 30, 2020.
All this, however, does not mean that Armenia’s political leadership did not take measures to achieve a ceasefire as soon as possible. I wish to remind you that we had 3 official ceasefire statements and agreements at the highest level. The first agreement was reached on October 10 in Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation, with a statement adopted following the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs: “In response to the message of RF President Vladimir Putin, and in accordance with the agreements reached between President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President Ilham Aliyev of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the parties agreed on the following steps:
1. A humanitarian ceasefire is declared at 12:00, October 10, 2020, with a view to exchanging the prisoners of war, other detainees and the dead bodies through the International Committee of the Red Cross in accordance with ICRC standards.
2. Specific ceasefire parameters shall be agreed upon additionally.
3. Through the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan shall engage in substantive negotiations on the basis of the basic principles of the settlement in order to reach a peaceful resolution as soon as possible.
4. The Parties hereby reaffirm that the negotiation format will not be modified.”
This statement was adopted on October 10, 2020. Why did the ceasefire not take place? For a simple reason. Azerbaijan did not observe the ceasefire against the background of Turkey’s statements that, in their opinion, Azerbaijan should not abide by the ceasefire.
The next agreement came on October 18, 2020, accompanied by the following statement: “The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan shall establish a humanitarian ceasefire on October 18, at 00:00 local time. This decision followed up the statement made on October 1, 2020 by the presidents of the French Republic, the Russian Federation and the United States of America - the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, the statement of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs of October 5, and the joint statement adopted in Moscow on October 10. The agreement was reached through the mediation of French President Emanuel Macron. And yet again, the ceasefire was not observed by Azerbaijan.
Another ceasefire agreement was reached on October 26, 2020, this time with the mediation of the United States. As a result, the following statement was adopted: “Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun on October 24 to reaffirm their countries’ commitment to implementing the humanitarian ceasefire agreement reached in Moscow on October 10 and reaffirmed in Paris on October 17 in line with the October 1 statement issued by U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The humanitarian ceasefire was supposed to enter into force on October 26, 2020, at 08:00 local time.
The United States fostered intensive talks between the Foreign Ministers, the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to bring Armenia and Azerbaijan closer to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
I would like to remind you that all the three statements refer to the declaration made in Moscow on October 10, which stated that the negotiation process should take place within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. Nevertheless, that statement and the ensuing ceasefire were not observed by Azerbaijan either.
There has been a lot of speculation about what happened on October 19 and after October 19. The following happened. After analyzing the situation and following consultations held with the Artsakh President, the General Staff of the Armed Forces, I decided that we had to reach a ceasefire even if it might imply heavy concessions. I convened a Security Council meeting, which was attended by representatives of parliamentary factions, including the opposition.
Moreover, I said that I invited the representatives of the parliamentary opposition not to share responsibility with them, but simply to inform them, because I could not make a public statement about what was happening at the moment, since in case the other side failed to accept our proposal, those statements could have an adverse effect on the general situation. Moreover, let me remind you that the President of the Republic and His Holiness attended that very sitting of the Security Council. On the same day, I invited the representatives of the extra-parliamentary opposition, I told them about the developments taking place on the front line, I repeated specifically that I did not invite them to share responsibility with them or to put responsibility on them, I invited them simply to inform what was happening.
After that, according to the agreement, I called the President of the Russian Federation and said that we want a ceasefire on the condition of returning the territories of Azerbaijan at a rate of 5 + 2. A condition that has previously been proposed by the mediators to the Republic of Armenia in various formats.
In the context of this conversation, we had a detailed discussion with the President of the Russian Federation, he said, we have a common understanding - this is a very important statement - that we were in the same way with the President of the Russian Federation or had a common way of addressing the situation.
You may know that there was a question of return of refugees; there was a question of returning Azerbaijan’s internally displaced persons to Nagorno-Karabakh. I said that in principle we had no objections on the matter at hand, should it be somehow associated with the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. After that, the Russian President held a phone talk with the President of Azerbaijan, as a result of which it became clear that the Azerbaijani side categorically rejected our proposal, our demand for the de-occupation of Hadrut region.
Second, Azerbaijan demanded that the issue of the return of internally displaced persons, including Shushi, not be linked to the status quo. And he - this is a new detail, which I must say, as I have not mentioned it before - there was a hint that there should be no question of returning lands under the 5 + 2 formula, instead there should only be a talk about the return of 7 territories. They made this hint in case we had agreed to the terms before this point.
Why do I mention these details, because Azerbaijan in fact did not accept the agenda of clarifying the status of Nagorno-Karabakh both before and during the war? Please note, that is, Azerbaijan categorically refused to see the status of Nagorno-Karabakh on the agenda or, more precisely, to discuss the status of Nagorno-Karabakh as an issue on the agenda, which was the main reason for the 4-day war of 2016 and the 44-day war in 2020.
This is just what I meant on September 27, 2020, that is, the first day of the war, when addressing the National Assembly from this rostrum, I apologize for quoting myself. So, on September 27, 2020, I announced from this same rostrum: “In fact, Armenia has been consistently facing the demand to concede at least the security zone (i.e. 7 regions) without any preconditions and without any decision on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Let alone the fact that Azerbaijan used to make it clear, including in public statements, that it was not ready to accept any other status for Nagorno-Karabakh, except for the one or slightly higher than that of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region.
I want us all to record this clearly, because I know there will be questions as to whether we could have avoided the war or what could have been done to avoid such a situation? This is a very important nuance. We should have done one thing - to agree that Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh is an autonomous region with perhaps a little more authority. If we had agreed to this, we could have stopped the hostilities. I want the Armenian parliament to make a record as I am asking you the following question: “Do we accept such a resolution, if so, we can resolve it today?” I made this statement in response to MP Hurikhanyan’s question. Why did I ask this question? Because our government had inherited a legacy of negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which implied a deadlock in both pre-war and post-war terms.
What grounds do I have for making such a claim? This is evidenced by the two statements made by Serzh Sargsyan on April 17, 2018 from this rostrum during the vote on the appointment of Prime Minister. Answering Karen Bekaryan’s question, Serzh Sargsyan said, “The negotiation process does not inspire optimism; to be more precise, the negotiation process is simply standing still. It is so because the Azerbaijani leadership’s expectations from the talks are unrealistic and unacceptable for us.”
On the same day, in response to MP Samvel Nikoyan’s question, Serzh Sargsyan said: “First of all, I should say that on the one hand, the April war came as a surprise, but on the other hand, it was to be expected in the sense that very often people are almost sure of something, but they continue to hope that the opponent or partner will be guided by common sense and will not take such steps as may be harmful to both sides. In this regard, the first lesson is that at least in the foreseeable future we should no longer hope that the Azerbaijan’s leadership may abandon its treacherous approaches; they will never give up their desire to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue by force.”
In fact, in 2017 we faced such a situation when the Republic of Armenia approached the red lines in the negotiation process; moreover, it had crossed those red lines. And this is evidenced by Serzh Sargsyan’s interview given to Россия сегодня news agency on November 17, 2016. I quote: “We were close to signing the document several times, where all those principles were clearly reflected.” In other words, the Armenian sides, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, are leaving the territories held as a security zone, the territories that the Azeris call “occupied” Azerbaijani territories. This implies the principle of territorial integrity. But it was clearly specified in the first paragraph that the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be determined through the free expression of the will of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Then it was written who could participate, with what agenda, and so on.”
The journalist asks him “You mean a referendum, don’t you?” Serzh Sargsyan answers, “Yes, I mean a referendum, which was the embodiment of the principle of self-determination, but Azerbaijan keeps setting forth new demands.”
In other words, let us record where we had reached in the negotiation process. We had reached a point where the Armenian side says, Azerbaijan, I return the seven regions, while Azerbaijan says, no, you have to give us more. In other words, the negotiation process had reached a point where the Armenian side - moreover, I say, it is quite possible that this is not my comment - the Armenian side says: Azerbaijan, I return, I hand over seven regions to you, while Azerbaijan says, no, you have to give us more. This is evidenced by another interview that Serzh Sargsyan gave to Armenia TV on July 16, 2017.
What did he say? “The April war came to witness that Azerbaijan rejects the Madrid version of the settlement; it is now clear to everyone, Azerbaijan’s position is clear: it says that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an internal affair of Azerbaijan, that is, Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan and will continue to be so.”
I made these quotes to show that what I said in response to the deputy’s question from this rostrum, before the National Assembly, before the people, was not at all my personal opinion, but it was the statement of an objective situation established in the negotiations, which is proved by many facts. Those who once ruled Armenia have made statements that need to be clarified yet.
There is an understanding in reality that the side which abides by a non-constructive approach in the negotiations is being pressured by the international community in order to bring it to a constructive field. This is just a simple delusion, it is an attempt to mislead the people, because from the very outset, at least since 2011, when the Azerbaijani side took a destructive position, the international community did not persuade Azerbaijan to come to a constructive field, instead it urged the Armenian side to make more concessions in order to bring Azerbaijan to a constructive field. And, moreover, the allegations that there are agreements on the referendum, who should have participated in the referendum, I want to clarify that this is also an attempt to mislead the people.
True, in the packages negotiated at that time, including those discussed after 2015-2016, there was a provision for a referendum, it was said that the referendum should express the free will of the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Please pay attention to the wording: nothing strange at first glance. It seems that everything is OK, but there is no emphasis on where the referendum was to be held, no venue for the referendum is specified. This is a fundamental question. Azerbaijan has always made it clear that according to its Constitution, according to its logic, the status of any region that is internationally considered part of its territory cannot be decided but through a referendum to be held in the entire territory of Azerbaijan. And this was Azerbaijan’s position in the negotiations. When the question arose as to which way that provision should be interpreted, including by the Co-Chairs, the latter said they would accept any interpretation on which Armenia and Azerbaijan might agree.
The next question is what does the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh mean? According to Azerbaijan, this means internally displaced persons, including family members who were born after the deportation. Let us state that, at least according to available data, due to the well-known events in the context of the First Artsakh War, about 40,000 Azeris, if not more, at least according to official data, fled the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region,.
The next question is what specific question would be put to the referendum, who would formulate that question? There were no clear answers to this question either. And it is a fundamental nuance that has been consistently concealed from the Armenian society for a long time.
We need to understand what Serzh Sargsyan meant by saying that Azerbaijan rejected the Madrid version of the settlement. The Madrid version mentions the concept of an interim status. In fact, Azerbaijan has been refusing to discuss the interim status since 2011.
By making use of appropriate negotiating skills, by implementing the right foreign policies and by building Armenian-American, Armenian-French and Armenian-Russian relations in the right way, we could make the mediators persuade Azerbaijan to accept the concept of an intermediate status. But the fact is that this position of Azerbaijan has been supported by the mediators since 2014-2015, the April 2016 war started after the mediators offered the Armenian side to renounce its claim of interim status.
I want to make it clear that two months before April 2016, there was a clear offer from the mediators that the Armenian side renounce its aspirations for interim status. The Armenian side declined, and the April war broke out two months later, which due to the fact that it was stopped after territorial losses, in fact, should imply the imposition of the aforementioned agenda, that is, the renunciation of the interim status.
I would like to refer again to the statements made by the former leaders of Armenia. In particular, Robert Kocharyan stated in an interview with Channel 5 TV on December 4, 2020: “I can cite several examples; all this had led to a situation where Azerbaijan did not see a chance to get anything through diplomatic means. And if you do not leave a chance, the war comes next.” This is just a genius sentence, which reflects the 20-year diplomatic logic of the Armenian side. In other words, the Armenian side had the task to keep instilling the hope that Azerbaijan could achieve what it wanted through negotiations. Azerbaijan just wanted Karabakh to be part of it with a cultural or autonomous status, and possibly even without it. But sooner or later you will have to live up to that hope. You cannot foster hopes for over 20 years without complying with the other side’s expectations.
This was the biggest failure as the Armenian people used to be inspired that we had to give up all our rights, we should to give up the achievements of the Artsakh movement. The most absurd thesis was put forward and circulated, namely that poor negotiations are better than the best war. Hardly ever could one invent greater nonsense. Poor negotiations lead to the worst of the wars. Let alone that in the time of Robert Kocharyan, in 1997-1998, not only did they give hope to Azerbaijan that it could achieve its goal, but they also gave a guarantee by leaving Karabakh out of the negotiation process. I do not know whether Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan are arguing now or not, but a couple of years ago they were arguing over who left Artsakh out of the negotiation process. Going to the talks without Karabakh implied some hope and a pledge for Azerbaijan that they might achieve their goal.
What were they supposed to do? Just what we tried to do in 2019 by stating that we could not imagine the peace talks without Karabakh, a formula that they should have used in 1997-1998, because at that time Azerbaijan was not in a position to resolve the issue by force. And not only would we not be deceived that we were solving a problem through negotiations, but we would be preparing for war in parallel with Azerbaijan without stealing the soldier’s bread and buying castles in Baden-Baden, Europe or Paris.
Robert Kocharyan says that if the Prime Minister had been a Turkish agent, he would have done everything that was done. I say if Robert Kocharyan had been a Turkish agent, and if Armenia had been ruled by Turkish agents in 1997-1998, the biggest service they could have rendered to Azerbaijan was to exclude Karabakh from the negotiation process, accepting thereby that Karabakh was an internal part of Azerbaijan. If Robert Kocharyan had been a Turkish agent, yes, Vazgen Sargsyan and Karen Demirchyan might be shot in the Armenian parliament during his tenure. If the National Security Service had been headed by a Turkish agent in 1999, yes, the author of Armenia’s victories and the leader who made Armenia an industrial country would be shot in the Armenian parliament.
Yes, it could have happened if their security had been provided for by Turkish agents. Not to mention that when they came to power in 1998, the Kocharyan-Sargsyan tandem considered it an act of high treason to negotiate a phased settlement of the Karabakh issue, and even to discuss it. Meanwhile, there was a package tabled in 2018, referred to as “Declaration on the first stage and the subsequent steps in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” In 1998, they considered that the Karabakh issue could not be resolved in stages, and as a result of what they did, we reached a point where the “Declaration on the first stage and the subsequent steps in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict” was on the table of negotiations.
And where is the setback, where is the conclusion, where is the verdict that, yes, the Kocharyan-Sargsyan tandem, using the Karabakh issue in 1998, lost the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process for 20 years to come to power. The victory in the first Artsakh war, all the deprivations of the Armenian people were lost, crushed by building private houses in Baden-Baden, on the Greek islands, by building and acquiring hotels and private houses in Paris and Rome.
They lost in the field of diplomacy; they failed in building and developing the army as they raised toasts to the army while stealing the soldier’s bread. They failed in developing infrastructure and the statehood, in general.
The following is an analysis carried out as early as in 2017, funded by the authorities, that is, the opposition did not fund it: the government did so. According to its findings, in 2017 the Republic of Armenia lost 10:1 to Azerbaijan with the specific weight of critical infrastructure. Note that the analysis was funded by the Government of Armenia. At the same time, the estimates did not take into account the energy system, transport and armaments. If so, the ratio might be 20: 1.
Armenia’s military-industrial system started to take shape only in April 2016 when the relevant legislation was passed with a delay of 11 years over Azerbaijan. Speaking in institutional terms, we can say that the IT sector in Armenia was formed at the ministerial level in 2016 - 12 years after Azerbaijan did so. The high-tech sector was not yet formed at the ministerial level in 2017, whereas a high-tech ministry had been set up in Azerbaijan 13 years earlier. In 2017 Azerbaijan had 3 satellites in orbit, one of which was an intelligence satellite which they had bought.
Yes, Azerbaijan was buying spy satellites, while the Armenian authorities were buying land in the Greek islands, in Europe, wherever possible. And we must say yes, they failed in advancing the institutional reform; instead they turned the state into a mafia structure that used to waste Armenia’s livelihood. And these mafia structures still have their tentacles everywhere – in the judiciary and, unfortunately, we could recently witness its concrete manifestations in the Armed Forces.
We must state that we have been fighting against that 20-year-long betrayal, against that 20-year-long capitulation. But even during the war, they justified their defeat by shooting back at us as loudly as they could in a bid to hide their betrayal and to divert the public’s attention from their capitulation. You are the capitulators and traitors.
I say they are the elite that has plundered and ruled Armenia for 20 years, and we have been fighting every day against capitulation and betrayal. And I wish to announce from this high podium that we will continue our struggle, our unceasing and cherished struggle for a free, powerful, happy Armenia. And right now, we are directly saying to the Armenian people in Armenia, Artsakh, and in the Diaspora: Dear people do not get into despair. Raise your heads, because, yes, there is a future in Armenia, there is a future in Artsakh. We have a future, and we will build a free, happy and powerful future.
I want to draw our attention to the fact that we still need to talk about the future. The most important part of that talk about the future is the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. And I want to emphasize that we must raise the issue of de-occupation of the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region as a political issue, not as a military one. Please note what I am saying: We must formulate this not as a military option, but as a political issue on the table of negotiations; we must continue to implement the principle of “remedial secession” in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, since you saw what was going on in Azerbaijan yesterday or the day before. It is simply unbelievable. I think we need to call everyone’s attention across the globe to the fact that a museum of war sufferings and victims has been inaugurated in a country where we can see the biggest, most powerful manifestation of hatred and Armenophobia. This is the greatest reason for us to demonstrate to the international community that the principle of “remedial secession” must be applied to Nagorno-Karabakh, which should be at the core of subsequent negotiations.
Our country’s security is the next issue that is extremely important for us. We must state that the Armenian-Russian military alliance is the pledge for ensuring the external security of the Republic of Armenia, which is strengthened by several dozen international agreements of a strategic nature, with mutual commitments. In this regard, the joint Armenian-Russian military group and the Armenian-Russian air defense system in the Caucasus region are of practical importance for Armenia’s security. By the logic of the agreements formed by these two systems, an attack on Armenia means an attack on Russia, the two countries must jointly face external challenges.
In this context, a large-scale reform process has been launched in the Armenian Armed Forces, which implies first of all structural and then substantive reforms. In the strategic perspective, we imagine that we must seriously discuss the transition to a professional army in the Republic of Armenia, and we will have to drastically change the structure of military service or conscription.
In addition, we hope to discuss the issue of extending the capability of the Russian 102nd military base in Armenia. The Minister of Defense has already stated that we are having quite effective discussions with our Russian partners on the possibility of establishing a stronghold of Military Base 102 in Syunik Marz of Armenia.
Russian border guards are taking part in the protection of Armenia’s state borders at a number of sections in Syunik Marz. In the strategic perspective, we imagine that the protection of state borders should be ensured by border guard troops, while the army units will deal exclusively with issues of combat readiness and fighting effectiveness. The security of Artsakh will continue to be carried out by the Defense Army together with the Russian peacekeeping forces, in the sense that we will not have much change.
We need to make some distinctions between contractual and professional concepts. What is the problem faced for many years? We knew the problem, but unfortunately we did not notice it. Quite a number of contract soldiers were involved in combat duties, but in fact they were on combat duty for only 14 days, then they used to be relieved for the next 14 days to do their household jobs, due to which the work on raising combat readiness was incomplete and limited.
What is the difference between a professional serviceman and a conscript or contract soldier? First of all, as I noted above, the border guards should protect the state borders. The Armed Forces must stay in their permanent positions in a non-combat situation; they must raise their combat readiness 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all working days of the month. That is, during this time they should not spend half the week, for example, in agriculture, the other half - in the military, they should do their work.
But we must understand that this is a long process. It is impossible to do it in 1-2 days, no matter how painful it is, this process started in 2018. Because in 2018, in the Third Army Corps, in particular, we started to form professional prompt-response detachments, and they proved to be quite effective.
I think it important that we keep the issue of opening communications in the center of our attention, because, unfortunately, I have doubts that Azerbaijan is doing everything to torpedo this process, to keep Armenia under blockade. I would like to state that we will go back to the implementation of the joint statement signed in Moscow on January 11, since it is a strategic task for us to have a railway connection with the Russian Federation as soon as possible, and to establish a railway connection with the Islamic Republic of Iran. And this means that we can become a transport-transit route from the Persian Gulf to the Pacific Ocean. I say again, we should keep this issue in the spotlight because in fact Azerbaijan will most likely do everything to prevent the re-commissioning of transport communications.
I wish to reinstate our economic optimism, based on my previous statement, which is directly related to the opening of communications. I have already said that there is a lot of talk about it, it is fair that, for example, oil, gas and oil products have played a major role in the economic strengthening of Azerbaijan. But I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Armenia possesses the “oil reserves of the 21st century,” I mean huge copper and water resources.
We must be able to make sure that the Republic of Armenia does not export ore, but exports finished products. This is directly related to the opening of communications, because the availability of a railway connection is essential for developing our investment environment, for implementing large-scale economic projects.
We started to explore the possibility of accumulating water resources in 2018. On the other hand, Armenia should implement a sizeable program of irrigation and drinking water storage, and our economy must be based on these two foundations.
I would like to stress once again that, yes, we have huge reserves of copper and water, considered to be as important as oil in the 21st century, 7 billion cubic meters of water are generated annually in the territory of the Republic of Armenia, in the meantime, we cannot store but a small part of it.
The next issue of strategic importance is the educational reform. I wish to emphasize that we have embarked on a large-scale program of creating preschool institutions in Armenia, and we will continue to implement that program. In fact, it is part of this chain that we think we have finally been able to find a formula by which the salaries of professional teachers will be steadily increased. I have already introduced the process of attestation of teachers. The salaries of certified teachers will be raised by 30-50% from this November. All those teachers that will be able to reaffirm their qualifications will see their salaries up by 30-50% in the first stage. In the future, they will have the opportunity to accumulate credits, upgrade their qualifications and continuously increase their salaries.
Our next task is to step up funding for research and science. You may know that in cooperation with the Parliament, this year we increased the funding of science by 14.5%, providing additional 2 billion drams. I want to state that science funding will annually increase by 3-5 billion drams during 2022-2025. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that, as in the case of teachers, in this case, too, we are now introducing a system that will provide an opportunity to continuously increase the salaries of researchers, from postgraduate directors to research institutes.
The next target is the high tech sector. Here, too, we have a tangible increase. In 2019, the Ministry of High-Tech Industry was funded at the rate of AMD 5,570 million, in 2020 budget funding reached 9 billion 137 million drams, an increase of more than 40% over the previous year.
All this makes me believe that Armenia has a future! Yes, there is a future in Armenia.
I wish to draw your attention to the following key factor. The program adopted by the government as early as in 2019 stipulated that ruling out violence as a means of resolving internal issues or even avoiding cases of legal violence was a matter of principle for us. It is my pleasure to state that we managed to settle without any violence the situations we had, in a symbolic way, in Republic Square, on Baghramyan Avenue and Demirchyan Street in Yerevan. And this is a very strong record.
At a time when the notorious circles offered to behead, hang and shoot government officials on a daily basis, the authorities and law enforcement agencies resolved the situation not only without a single shot, not even a single police baton was raised. I would like to underscore once again that according to the agreement reached with the parliamentary opposition and discussed in advance with the President of the Republic of Armenia; early parliamentary elections will be held in the Republic of Armenia on June 20, 2020. What is emblematic here is that we kept the power we had received from the people, we did not allow those who had a hectic experience of usurping state power to come to power in Armenia; we are now giving that power back to the people.
Should the people decide to vest us with power again through free and fair elections, we will continue in office and will fight for a free, happy and strong Armenia. I am convinced that the Armenian people will triumph. Thank you. I am ready to answer your questions.