“Sovereign power cannot change in Armenia as it belongs to the people since 2018” – Nikol Pashinyan’s final speech in the National Assembly
Thank you first of all for constructive proposals. We had agreed that today’s discussion would be of a technical nature, but ideas have been voiced here, which if overlooked might simply give a wrong impression, therefore, I would like to address a number of issues raised by our colleagues.
The first has to do Armenia’s security system. The external security system of the Republic of Armenia did not change before the war and in the wake of it; our security system was supported by a joint Armenian-Russian military corps and the joint air defense system in the Caucasus region.
I have had several occasions to say from this rostrum that all those who say that some decisions have triggered new security threats, for example, in Syunik, simply fail to deeply assess the situation. We can just witness the opposite in practice. The protection of the borders of the Republic of Armenia is now carried out by the Armenian-Russian joint military group, just as it used to be before the war. In the meantime, this does not mean that any military outpost is supposed to have joint combat positions or posts. There is a relevant agreement.
A question was raised about Syunik’s security, about the Russian military base 102. It is no secret that the 102nd military base now has two new strongholds in Syunik Marz of Armenia, which provide additional guarantees for Syunik’s security and Armenia, in general. This is a very strong record.
As I have said before, the point is that our security system has inched closer to the borders of the Republic of Armenia. The description of those borders was given by the National Assembly with the Law on Administrative-Territorial Division, adopted as early as in 2010. Some people in this hall are asking why the Armenian border is just there, or why Azerbaijan comes after Shurnukh. These people are now working hard to get a place in the proportional list of those who described the border that way. Can anyone explain this logic to me?
A very important question has been raised that we should capitalize on the results of the Velvet Revolution in the negotiations on the Karabakh issue. Let us see whether it was possible and to what extent. There is a common delusion sometimes even voiced by experienced people. For example, there is an understanding that those who abide by constructive approaches are generally not pressured in the negotiation process, while those who take a destructive approach are pressured.
Let us see whether this is true in practice. In 2011, Azerbaijan simply refused to sign a mutually agreed document in Kazan. And what happened after that? The following happened: Azerbaijan shot down an Armenian helicopter in 2014; the border escalation reached an unprecedented level in 2015; Azerbaijan started a war in 2016. And what happened as a result? Did anyone put pressure Azerbaijan? We witnessed the opposite as a matter of fact.
After all, we need to understand the facts. Well, it is clear that the war broke out on September 27, 2020, but did the war fall out of the air at once? What happened in April, 2016 and before that?
As I said in my previous remarks, we had been saying for many years that leaving Nagorno-Karabakh out of the negotiation process would lead to irreversible consequences. It has been talked about for 20 years: the Armenian side left Karabakh out of the negotiation process for the sake of political power?
Yes, at that time Armenia could have said that I would not negotiate without Karabakh and nothing would happen. Moreover, let us see what was agreed upon at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit. Please note the title of the document: “Charter for European Security,” which was adopted by consensus. Armenia attended the summit at the highest level and voted in favor. What is written there? Let me quote: “Full respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, in addition to being an end in itself, should not be undermined, but should, on the contrary, strengthen territorial integrity and sovereignty. The various concepts of autonomy, as well as the other approaches outlined in the document, which are in line with OSCE principles, are measures to protect and promote the ethnic, linguistic and religious identities of national minorities within an existing state.”
Armenia voted for that document in 1999. Now let us put it in a row: you leave Nagorno-Karabakh out of the negotiation process, you say it is normal that the international community considers the liberated territories occupied, you go to Istanbul and vote for the Charter for European Security, which features the aforementioned key paragraph. What did you expect then?
What happened after the Revolution? One simple thing happened following the Revolution. We said we were not going to resume the process from the point which, according to Serzh Sargsyan, left no room for optimism, since Azerbaijan’s expectations were unacceptable. Were we supposed to go and say that we accepted those unacceptable conditions in order to prevent the war? Let us confess after all.
We fought desperately against all that. We did not give up, we fought. We did not fight locked in our offices. I do not understand, can anyone explain to me - a thousand apologies - is it normal that for political expediency... I said that the number of victims was below 5000?
Can anyone else explain to me why some keep insisting that I took 5,000, 7,000 people to massacre? The war did not pass by my family. My son was on the front lines, at a section where we suffered the most of casualties. There was a man next to my son, he died. No one could decide that he was the one to be killed at that moment... he had a name, and that is a verifiable fact.
Yes, we fought desperately. Sorry, but we just fought as desperately as the Armenian people once did in Avarayr, Sardarapat and dozens of such examples. We fought since we deemed that as a nation, as a state, we had to struggle for our rights.
We did not give up. The negotiation process was a step back from our national-state interests... What else were we to do? Should we have said, yes, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh... Let us see how many Azerbaijanis used to live in Nagorno-Karabakh after all. Go, let them explain.
The day before, that man said “the population of Nagorno-Karabakh.” Have you ever heard me say “the population of Nagorno-Karabakh?” I have said the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. What is the difference? The people represent a constitutional entity that is entitled to exercise its power. What is the population? And he issues another letter, saying, let us look and understand how many Azerbaijanis lived over there. He says Shushi had never been discussed. Everyone says no, it was not discussed. It appears that the Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh used to live under trees or sleep in cars?
Yes, we fought. And I repeat, my family was involved in that fight. No one can say that I did more for my son’s safety than for the tens of thousands of other children. No one can say so.
The boy standing side by side with my son in the same entrenchment cell was killed in a grenade blast. He was my son’s friend who had signed up as a volunteer like my son just because the applicable law prevents us from mobilizing the demobilized for a year following the demobilization, which makes that we cannot mobilize our most efficient reserves during a war. Who disposed things that way?
We fought because we are the descendants of Vardan Mamikonyan, we are the descendants of Aram Manukyan. Maybe our mistake was that we did not take Aram Manukyan’s powers. There is a lot talk about justice. I am very critical of the judiciary, but now I would like to say something in defense of the judiciary: we have been insisting for decades that a person who steals eggs should not be kept in custody for years. In 2001, there were 7,428 people in Armenia’s prisons. There are 1967 people in prisons in 2021. These are specific people with families, children behind them...
We have given freedom to the people. The Revolution considered justice, social justice as a top priority. The fundamental principle of justice is as follows: it is better for the criminal to go free than for an innocent person to be imprisoned. My legal colleagues corrected me saying that the principle is that it is better for ten criminals to remain in prison than for an innocent person to end up in jail, because we cannot restore the fate of his child.
Yes, you are right, there are many criminals in freedom, but today there is not one innocent person in the prisons of Armenia. We have fulfilled our promise. And we have, yes, made a revolution. We promised that we were not going to resort to vendettas.
Some keep insisting that a dictatorial government is established in Armenia. There can be no dictatorial government in Armenia, because in 2018 we stripped ourselves of the opportunity to get into dictatorship.
We are blamed for several mistakes. We are told: “You failed here, you failed there.” We have fought against failures. One of the speakers in here said that the victory was just wasted away...
Well, for 30 years the formers had been looting the army, building castles in Paris and Rome, why did you not talk then? You failed to criticize, but you should know that the Press Freedom Day was not proclaimed today; the Press Freedom Day was established a long time ago. In the meantime, you had to ask the authorities for permission to benefit from your rights and freedoms. Yes, we have given you freedom, but you do not want that freedom, because freedom implies responsibility.
Now let me touch on another problem: we are asked why we did not tell the people the truth during the war. We failed to do so because it would mean to exhaust the resource of resistance in general. That is, open the cards. On the other hand, our opponents wonder why we did not object to the Chief of the General Staff when he was saying things like that. In other words, they say that the Prime Minister had to engage in a public debate with his subordinate? After all, did we not ask the same question a hundred times, we said, people, we need to decide whether we can maintain the status quo or not, they said, yes, we will keep it as hard as it may come. And they reported in writing that we could stop and defeat the enemy in the eastern operational direction on the principle of “no step back.” Does anyone mean that having such pledges we should have gone and said, well, people, we are giving up 7 regions; we are giving up half of Karabakh?
Why should we say that, but even if we had done so, they should have taken out those papers, saying that they had reported that we were able to take it to the Pacific Ocean, but the incompetent and treacherous government sold our lands.
Our problem is that yes, we have not set up the right state institutions in the country for 30 years, we used to hand out diplomas, yet we failed to build state institutions. On the other hand, let us understand what we should get prepared for after all? We need to get prepared for regional security and stability. I say again, the regional situation should change, but it does not depend only on us. And yes, we must take note of the ongoing global processes. For example, when statements are being made by the Russian Federation, the United States and France that we welcome, they are made to ensure security and stability in the region. These statements are not made to inflame the region.
I am not supposed to say such a thing, but I want us all to know that statements are the result of joint work. The former Armenian leaders blame us for fomenting war. Armenia is accused of hitting the civilian population, after which Azerbaijan retaliated. In other words, perhaps they mean that Stepanakert was not shelled, Martakert did not come under shelling, Vardenis was not bombed, Ghazanchetsots Church was not targeted. And why don’t those who mention Vardenis ask their political leaders about the civilian killed in Vardenis in the very first days of the war. They do not notice all this because they think that “power is shifting in Armenia.” They are just mistaken, because sovereign power cannot change in Armenia as it belongs to the people since 2018. Do they really mean that the people will not have power in Armenia? I rule it out once and for all. Forget about it.
And here I would like to welcome the approach voiced by the Bright Armenia faction: it does not matter who will have what status, government will not change in Armenia, because sovereign power belongs to the people in our country. It is immutable; it cannot be changed, and these questions will definitely be asked.
We do not want to conceal that yes, the war has weakened us; it weakened the position of the incumbent government, we want to turn to the people and recover our powers. And this conversation has to take place.
At that time, our team decided not to reveal the details of the negotiation process, because it might harm Armenia’s state interests. What about the state interests? Many will now draw maps, indicating where to infiltrate. They are not thinking about Vardenis; they are thinking of something different. In fact, it was a little out of place, but I had to answer these questions.
Thank you, see you next week.