“Our most important task is to usher in an era of peaceful development for our people”- Nikol Pashinyan’s Speech at National Assembly Special Sitting
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Honorable National Assembly President,
Honorable Vice Presidents,
Distinguished National Assembly Members,
First of all, thank you for initiating this discussion. Although, frankly, I am not sure that the discussion is useful in terms of resolving the issues on the agenda, but it is certainly useful from the perspective of informing the public and answering the questions raised.
I have already described the process that has been going on for the last two days or, I can even say, the process that has been taking place for the last five days. I would rather call it “The saga of how some circles calling themselves opposition are doing everything to prevent Azerbaijani troops from leaving the territory of the Republic of Armenia.” Now I will try to talk about it in detail.
I have had the opportunity to say what happened on May 12. I referred to our assessments at the previous sitting, which was held on May 14. Now I wish to dwell on the outcome of those actions.
First of all, let me remind my opinion of Azerbaijan’s actions, namely that they sought to provoke border skirmishes in the narrowest section of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, which is about 26 km, and to move the hostilities deep into the territory of the Republic of Armenia as a chain reaction. And, of course, there could be other developments in the future, but we might face a situation that would trigger several complications.
After analyzing the situation, we decided not to let the situation get out of control and to resolve the issue through diplomatic means. I can unequivocally describe the Government’s efforts as teamwork done systematically and effectively, because as a result of our diplomatic efforts we can see a general consensus among the international community concerning the border situation. I mean that there is an agreement as to the illegality of the operations carried out by Azerbaijan’s armed forces and the need for them to leave the sovereign territory of Armenia.
Let me tell you that just a few minutes ago the European Parliament passed a resolution on the return of our prisoners of war, and at the last moment an amendment was made to the resolution in defense of Armenia’s territorial integrity. 607 deputies voted for, only 28 or 27 deputies voted against. This is important.
By the way, when I speak about international consensus, I should note that part of consensus is expressed publicly, and part of it is put on record at a working level. Now, what happened? Did our position remain the same? Our position is that all Azeri troops must leave the territory of the Republic of Armenia without preconditions.
However, a very important question arose following discussions due to the fact that we do not have a delimited-demarcated border with Azerbaijan, at least after the declaration of independence. Well, we settled the matter: should similar situations arise at any moment in the next stage, every time, will we go the way of raising international awareness and having a general consensus. After all, we have a situation that has developed under well-known circumstances, and that situation has to be managed.
In the meantime, a proposal was made to form a tripartite commission to deal with those issues. I must say that I did not consider it correct for the Government to publish a working document, which is still under discussion. In general, it will put any government in a very bad and inconvenient situation, but since it was published by the opposition, let me say that, yes, it is the only paper that has been in circulation for a day and a half now.
What is the most important provision in that document? The most important point is that the parties undertake to resolve the border situation not through mutual movements of troops, but only through diplomatic and political means. By the way, this is not a new idea, because I happened to announce it from this floor. I stated this at the May 17 sitting of the Security Council, when I said that Azerbaijan wants the border adjustment process to take place in a bilateral format, but since we do not have diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan, our position is that it should go in a three-dimensional format. But, on the other hand, it is crucial for us to state the following position: either the commissions should be formed after Azerbaijani armed forces leave Armenia’s sovereign territory in accordance with the status quo of May 10, or we will stipulate such a provision that, say, the process of withdrawal takes place in 3 or 4 days. This is, in fact, the whole story.
And I want to tell you that there cannot be any secret appendix to the document. They mean that this one was public, yet there was a secret one, don’t they? In other words, this is a confidential working paper in itself. And also, how come they get the first part of a confidential document and fail to get the other part? Or are you talking about public reaction in general?
I understand that we have all been under a lot of stress of late; we have gone through very challenging times, yet it does not mean that we should overlook simple things. For instance, a paper is published in which 90% of the text is closed, which allegedly comes to prove that we deal with some conspiracy. Then the question may arise: if it is a proof, why did you black the lines out? On the contrary, you should expose the text and let everyone see that there is a conspiracy.
They say, why do we read “attachment” just above the text? It is either a mistake or it should have been called a draft, and in this case it should be considered a proposal, an appendix to the November 9 statement. Frankly, we did not pay so much attention to details like that, since this document is not yet a negotiated, agreed upon and signed.
We are being told what document we are going to sign behind the people’s back? It is the same as saying, “What kind of telephone talks are you having with the President of Russia behind the people’s back? You understand indeed what I mean. Or the statement of January 11 issued in Moscow, signed in a tripartite format. And why did not the same questions arise? Or they announce the November 9 statement, they say it is anti-state, it must be ratified, it is a fact. And why do they not say we will come and cancel that statement? They say it should have been ratified, but it is anti-state, and if we come to power, we will not declare it null and void.
Now about the Foreign Ministry: they say the Foreign Ministry was not aware thereof. These documents are received through the channels of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. How else can I get them? Can anyone explain it to me? They are first sent to the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Russia, the Embassy forwards them to the Foreign Ministry, and the minister sends it to me. It seems that some are just afraid of Mishik.
I spoke about the efforts of the opposition. The opposition is doing everything possible to prevent Azeri troops from leaving Armenia. And I say those people are acting just as the agents of Azerbaijani propaganda. I have no doubt: they do not want the enemy troops to leave our country. On the contrary, they said that there would be such a war, they waited every day for a week for that war to take place.
At one time we were accused of not preventing the war, but now we are accused of not allowing a war. Let me tell you something else, I first heard some of the theses set forth by Azerbaijan during the talks from opposition representatives who keep trumpeting their unbiased support for Syunik Marz population. I am convinced that this letter just as many other papers was received from Azerbaijan. That is what I think.
Now, what is being said here? We are told that that there is a problem of border demarcation and delimitation. What is delimitation? It means that the parties agree on the basis of the maps on which the demarcation of the border should be made, they move these agreements and draw them on the map. Demarcation is when they go with a map to see with GPS whether any coordinate so agreed is just the one placed on the map. Both demarcation and delimitation take more than a couple of days. For example, although the process of demarcation and delimitation started some 30 years ago, none of the post-Soviet countries has managed to complete it so far.
We are accused of handing over land. Dear compatriots, more than 70 square kilometers of the territory of Soviet Armenia went under Azerbaijan’s control following the First Artsakh War. Today we have border villages that have not had arable land for 30 years. The inhabitants of those villages live and do not have land to cultivate. In other words, people do not have land, because their lands are privatized, occupied, that is, they are under the control of Azerbaijan. Instead, there are territories belonging to Soviet Azerbaijan, which are now under the control of our Armed Forces. Moreover, since the 90s Azerbaijan’s armed forces have combat positions that used to be located in the territory of the Republic of Armenia, Soviet Armenia. A few days ago the Minister of Defense said we have the opposite situation as well.
Now, finally, we have to talk, understand what we are doing. There are various options. For example, we record the current situation as a state border. I do not know. I have raised this topic several times from this rostrum. You may remember that once a question was asked during a question-and-answer session, it was said that there was a question about the enclaves, etc. I said, ladies and gentlemen, why do we forget that we have the issue of Artsvashen? In other words, why do we constantly speak with foreign propaganda theses in our inner life?
They blame us saying that we ought at least to block access to Facebook. Why should we do so? We have nothing to hide or conceal from the public, absolutely nothing, including the November 9 statement.
Yes, we say that we are convinced that the November 9 statement must be fully implemented, because I have repeatedly commented on the circumstances behind the signing of the November 9 statement. Now I say that those who call it a betrayal, now it is a pre-election period, let them announce that in case of coming to power they will take back the signature of the Republic of Armenia. Let them announce.
We are going the opposite way. Yes, I made a very strong statement at the Government session today, I want to make that statement here as well. We must now choose our long-term strategy from this point. After all, what does demarcation and delimitation of borders mean? It means closing the issue of border security, because to mutually agree on where the state border passes, which is inviolable.
In this context, questions are raised: does this mean that the Karabakh issue is closed? I would like to tell you some news: back in December, 1991, when the Declaration of Independence of States was adopted in Alma-Ata, the Declaration was signed by all countries, recognizing each other’s territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. If we think that there is a problem in this respect, then we should admit that it dates back to December 1991, or as early as 2010, when the law “On Administrative Territorial Division” was adopted in this hall, which states that the Republic of Azerbaijan comes after Shurnukh and the Republic of Azerbaijan is beyond Lake Sevan.
Also, they suggest proceeding to demarcation and delimitation after the upcoming elections? In other words, now this government must say, you know what, there is no government in Armenia; the troops have come and let them stay; we are not going to deal with this issue; there will be elections, we will solve it. Then, they will declare during the electoral campaign that there is no government in the country, right? The opposition called for martial law from the very first day. That is what they wanted. But then they suddenly changed their mind saying that we did this intentionally to cancel the elections, and so on.
How will this commission be set up? I want to reveal one more “conspiracy” to you. An interdepartmental commission on demarcation was set up in the Republic of Armenia in November 2020, about which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs again has no “idea” because the Commission is headed by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. But, naturally, no one in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is “aware” of it, neither are those in other agencies. I mean that a contract and not the results of delimitation had to be ratified. I do not know, perhaps it is up to the lawyers to comment on the matter at hand. But, for instance, an announcement was made on January 11 that a tripartite commission on the opening of communications was being set up, headed by the deputy prime ministers, then why was there no such noise, why did they not say, “Let us ratify it?
There is no need to ratify at all; we can only talk about the ratification of the results. It is just the same as saying why you had a telephone conversation with the President of Russia or the French President: now let us know the details. This is a usual working process, and now let those who have blacked out the lines say if there is any conspiracy in there.
We are now told that there were 3 articles that are being kept elsewhere. If you were able to get Article 7, 8, how come you were unable to find those 3 articles? And why is all this being done? They say, “Pashinyan has isolated the officials, nobody knows anything.” Anyone who should be aware of knows everything.
The Secretary of the Security Council gave an interview and clarified the matter two days ago. Why did he not say, “Dear people, we are discussing this document, but it is not serious. It is not serious to post working documents on the internet before they reach us. That document may not be signed after all; we may have suggestions for that document, and then say the next moment that one word came out. Well, if that was the case, let them post what they had been negotiating about Karabakh for 30 years; let Mishik put it on the Internet and say, “Dad had decided to return the 7 regions without preconditions.”
Now about the video of what happened in Vardenis. Has this been reported or not? I wrote that after addressing the Security Council meeting, I learned that border tensions were growing. Then the situation calmed down. What happened? Yes, there was no use of firearms. I do not know of such facts. Instead, mass hand-to-hand fights occurred between Armenian and Azeri servicemen all along the border line. Now they say why did the Ministry of Defense deny and then confirm it? Because no one reports to the Ministry of Defense that they have been attacked and had to run away? No such reports are ever being made; people report the end result, they say there was an incident, but we tackled it.
Azerbaijan cuts 3 minutes from the video of the 2-hour incident and gives it to its Armenian agents, and those agents spread it afterwards. These people are anti-government people. I say the territories liberated over the past 30 years and half of Karabakh were actually handed over to Azerbaijan. Why did they not make it public? Mr. Marukyan, you have been an MP for a long time now. Why did you not say even once: “Let them publish what they are negotiating over there?”
They say the official information is not reliable. And why did the Ministry of Defense refute its previous statement again, because it is possible for it to officially tell the people honestly what it is? They are talking about today’s shooting. The situation is very tense, let us not underestimate it. Yes, today there was a shooting near Kuth village, but then the parties stated that it was just due to some misunderstanding, they came and discussed that there was no shooting at each other, but that an incident had taken place.
We are being asked whether the published document is the one I was talking about. Yes, that is it. It is just the document the opposition circles received from Azerbaijan. They say a secret statement was signed on November 9. When it comes to whether we should save the lives of 30,000 soldiers or not, I declare that, yes, I have taken on that responsibility.
I understand that we are all extremely tense as we are going through hellish times. But we have to go this way. I stated our objective at today’s Cabinet meeting. What is the biggest lesson we learnt over the past 30 years? We must do our best not to have half-finished questions and find specific solutions to outstanding issues.
By saying enclave, why do they not mention Artsvashen? Are we interested in Artsvashen or not? It is also stated that there can be various combinations. I really do not know, I did not have time to consult with lawyers in order to see whether demarcation needs ratification or a referendum.
We have been in a demarcation process with Georgia for 30 years, a little less than 30 years, we already have a mutually agreed delimitation on 60% of the border, the work on about 30% is still going on. But we must solve these issues.
I said at today’s Cabinet sitting and I want to state it from this floor: our problem as a problem of political leadership. We just need to settle the outstanding issues, yes, to take up responsibility and do it in a transparent manner through sustained dialogue with society.
Our most important task is to usher in an era of peaceful development for our people. We must go this way, but we must not have illusions, because, unfortunately, this does not depend only on us: our people should know where we want to take them.
I see our work, our role in the opportunity to open an era of peaceful development for Armenia. Today I see that there is an opportunity for that, we just need to show political will, move from the logic of toasts to the logic of tackling the half-solved issues.
Yes, we must go to the settlement of the Karabakh issue. The first point of the roadmap I published in November referred to the process of clarifying the status of Karabakh in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing format, or otherwise, to the settlement of the Karabakh issue.
Today we can state that the international community, the Co-Chairs state that the Karabakh issue is not resolved, and the Karabakh issue must be resolved. I have already weighed in on the settlement principles. By the way, let me say that the resolution adopted by the European Parliament also stipulates the principle of self-determination. Today the European Parliament may adopt a resolution, where the principle of self-determination is emphasized.
Armenia needs such leadership as may assume its share of responsibility on the way to ushering in an era of peaceful development for the nation. This means that, yes, we must go to a dialogue, to open communications.
We must make it clear once and for all weather we want rail communication with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation? We want. We want to use Azerbaijan’s territory but we do not want Azerbaijan to go through our territory. Is that possible? It would simply mean that we ourselves want to continue the policy of blockade. We just need to find acceptable solutions. I want to state that the Armenian government has never been or will never be involved in conspiracies against its own country, its people.
Now let us talk about the line of contact. We realize that we are facing several hundred kilometers of a newly formed line of contact. Even if all Armenians had left their business in an attempt to fortify those new border sections without having to pause for a day, they could not have managed to build a pervasive barrier. It is to be ruled out. I do not want to go into the details, since there are nuances that cannot be put on record.
Some would like to prove that there is no future in this country, and they want to make despair the main point of our discourse, but I wish to counter by saying that is not at all the case.
And we, yes, in the past and now we have fought for the future of our country, we will continue that struggle, because it is our political cross, we must carry that cross to the end, as long as the people of the Republic of Armenia have given us that opportunity.
They say people do not trust you. They are holding a rally in the street right now; how many people are there in the square; does that mean that people do not trust us? On the contrary, our people do not trust those who are saying so. I am confident that we will have a chance to make sure of that. Thank you.”