Concluding remarks of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the National Assembly on the discussion of the Government Action Plan
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Honorable President of the National Assembly,
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly,
Distinguished members of the Government,
First, I want to thank the members of the ‘’Civil Contract’’ faction, because during this discussion they answered many of the questions and I have the opportunity to focus on a concrete circle of issues in my concluding remarks. But I think it’s important to underline that the citizens of the Republic of Armenia should see that every word we said during the election campaign will get their concrete expression in life.
As refers to what happened, I want to refer to the speech of Mr. Konjoryan about taking positions and entrenchment. Mr. Konjoryan, there is nothing unexpected, because when the leader of ‘’Armenia’’ bloc was announcing that they will take the manadates at the parliament, he announced literally the following for justifying their entry to the parliament, I am quoting him as saying, ''Seyran Ohanyan brought an interesting example. During military operations, when the task is not solved, but you take control of trenches, you have to reinforce them for future attacks, not just keep them''. But I think that those who have intentions for an attack, and when they receive political counter-attacks, they should understand that they should take out their dreams of attacks from their minds. And I think this is a visible and clear reality for everyone.
Generally speaking, attempts were made to question whether the elections were able to overcome the domestic political crisis. Yes, the domestic political crisis has been overcome based on the results of the elections. And I want to say that by and large we did not have an internal challenge. Yes, we have said domestic political crisis, but we did not have any internal challenge, and we do not have it today and will not have in the future. And those who question if the domestic political crisis has been overcome or not, they have hopes for external crises, against the background of which, as it has already been noted, they will try to launch internal political attacks, kike they did on November 9, 10.
And I want to draw the attention of all of us that this is the third time we witness this: You may remember there was someone saying ‘’If I were Aliyev, I would attack’’, then someone else represented in our party list, who suddenly, by a lucky coincidence appeared in the parliament, was raising a flag, showing from which direction the Azerbaijani armed forces can start an operation, then another one, who again appeared in the parliament representing ‘’My step’’ bloc, was showing from somewhere lese where else Armenia has vulnerable points.
I think that we should clearly record this; if some people communicate with military terminology, if for them this is a trench, and they have taken positions here, we have to record that subversive vanguard groups are operating behind us, and in case of necessity, yes, their actions must be stopped. Someone else was saying ‘’We don’t know if Syunik has been cut off or not''. You were presenting yourselves as the best representatives of Syunik. Was it difficult to call, gather information before attending the session? Do you see that you have nothing to do with Syunik and that we are your source of information about Syunik. What do you have to do with the people of Syunik, that you were trying to present yourself as "doncarleons" of Syunik? Now someone has fled to Antarctica. Why Antarctica? Because there is no Interpol office there. Someone else, who was trying to present himself as modern Muhammad Ali, I expected him to come to the National Assembly wearing a T-shirt with a ‘’Your cat would buy Whiskas’’ printed on it.
An attempt is made to present that the Armenian Government has carried out secret deals behind the people. I want to close this question once and for all, and draw your attention to the following; on December 19, I delivered a message talking about the problems in the Goris-Kapan section. I said that we have a problem there and, in fact, I said that, yes, we made a political decision, and I am fully responsible for that decision. I quote from my December 19 message, "Today, Russian border troops and other forces are fully involved in Syunik," it’s about the Goris-Vorotan-Shurnukh section, ‘’And this is a completely new security situation. Of course, as a result of all this, transport and logistical difficulties may arise, the uninterrupted operation of some of our roads may face difficulties, but they are solvable, and we make efforts in their direction, including through having a trilateral document’’. I announced this on air.
Now you will ask if we finally achieved any trilateral document? No, we did not. Instead, the Defense Ministry issue a statement on December 19, saying, ‘’ A 21-km section of the Goris-Kapan highway in the Syunik region passes through disputed territory in some places. According to the agreement reached, Russian border guards are stationed on the Goris-Davit Bek road section for the purpose of ensuring uninterrupted traffic. The safety of the 21 km long section of the Goris-Kapan highway, which passes through the disputed area, will be ensured by the Russian border guards. Armenian border guards will be stationed along the line of contact from the Armenian side, and Azerbaijani border guards – from the Azerbaijani side. Necessary complex measures will be taken to ensure the safety of the mentioned road section. Additional clarifications will be provided in the coming days’’. Deputy Prime Minister Avinyan answered a question about this issue from this tribune, the Defense Minister issued several statements, and we provided full information about the circumestances of the incident. We did not provide information only about the sections, which could bring forward additional risks for our national security, including, for avoiding situations like today’s.
I also want to say the following. Now that you have written ‘’disputed’’, is that we who made it disputed, dear colleagues? No matter how unpleasant it may be, I have to once again recall the law on ‘’Administrative-Territorial division’’. But even if we put aside that law, you know that since 2010 there is a program on North-South corridor. I have presented 2-3 times, maybe I did not present the idea so well, but it received no comments. Now they are saying ‘’What’s going on over enclaves, what’s going on over Tigranashen?. So, answer please, when designing North-South road, why that road did no continue from Yeraskh to Tigranashen and then to Zangakatun? Answer, why?
Because it’s not we who brought the issue to the agenda. During the pre-election campaign I read documents dating back 1999, where all this existed. When you were developing North-South program, why North-South road was not passing through Vorotan-Shurnukh section? Instead, it’s designed so that tunnels must be constructed which makes the program much more expensive. Why did not you design it to pass through that section? So is that we who made it disputed? No.
What has happened? The following has happened; in the mentioned 2-3 sections, it’s about the 21 km section, which were out of the territory of Soviet Armenia according to the Soviet Union maps, now the Azerbaijanis have come and closed the road, citing an incident that allegedly took place last night, that some people from the Armenian side entered and stabbed the Azeri border guards. We are officially announcing that this information about stabbing is false. And we urge that if the Azerbaijani side has substantiations corroborating that something like that happened, we urge them to convey that information so we can investigate it and understand what happened.
But what has happened contradicts the agreement, as it’s noted in the December 19, 2020 statement of the Defense Ministry. I reiterate, the trilateral agreement, about the development of which I have talked, which has not been signed. This is the entire problem.
You know that we, regardless of these situations, have been doing very active work since 2019, especially in 2021. There is another road there, the Kapan-Aghavni road, which is being asphalted at a high rate, there is a normal unsurfaced road. I want to say that of course, Syunik Province is not cut off from Armenia. And regardless of these situations, we have planned our work in such a way, we have predicted that such situations may occur and agreed so that to regulate and ensure the traffic, and these works will continue. Fom strtegic standpoint, of course, the construction of the North-South road will solve this issue, but not completely. We have also started works aimed at improving the roads of Shurnukh and Vorotan communities, which we will simply accelerate now.
Now here again, in yesterday's speeches, attempts were being made, one of the speakers said that by dulling the vigilance of our people, as if everything is fine, this government is making speeches from this tribune. Our partners may not have heard or understood well, on the contrary, we say, we warn that there are serious challenges facing our country, and it is for the purpose of jointly withstanding those challenges that we have already called on our opposition partners many times after the elections to work together in a constructive field so that we can face challenges together. Yes, we are facing serious challenges, and we are not going to hide those challenges. We never hid. Yes, we have to withstand them jointly.
I also said in my speech that there are several scenarios for the situation we have appeared: escape from responsibility, use force or turn to mediators. We did not go either way, we turned to our people. And our people has authorized us, given us a mandate, ordered us to go and deal with these issues, and we are obliged to do so. We are not going to escape responsibility. This is the most important record. And we call on everyone, we cooperate with extra-parliamentary forces, establish formats, and particularly we tell the parliamentary forces that there is a problem, that problem is common, let's participate in its solution. They tell us that we are hiding the problems, they are trying, in my opinion, to make very serious methodological mistakes.
And what's that methodological mistake? During the discussion of the Government Action Plan, they actually said from this tribune what they had been saying for 7 months. And in the end they again address the public. And they even make such claims that maybe the public is not so well informed. My dear friends, there was time when our government was completely silent and did not say anything. With all your TV channels, with all possible methods, you have spread all possible lies. The public is informed about the truth. Do you know what the crisis is about? Because what can be said, true or false, they have said, they unable to formulate something new to say. And that's the problem. They refer to the topics that have been touched upon many times, and which we have also touched upon many times, but I do not shy away.
Today they say, "Look at the statements coming from Azerbaijan, what kind of statements the president of Azerbaijan is making." Is that something new for the president of Azerbaijan to make statements? Is there anything new in the vector or content of the statements of the president of Azerbaijan? There were no such statements in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016? They were. But I want to once again express my conviction that the statements made in Azerbaijan are aimed at thwarting our agenda of regional peace and pushing us away from that agenda.
Yes, it is not easy. When we talk to each other, we say we went through the hell. We need strong nerves. We need very strong nerves. We should not hope that in one day, in one hour, 6 months, or 7 months we will be able to create a fully stable environment. That is why the Government Action Plan says that the primary task is to stabilize the situation around Armenia and Artsakh. What does it mean? That means alerting about challenges. And here, an unbalanced reaction to anything, to incidents, to anything, is simply inadmissible. Yes, we need strong nerves, we must confidently move forward with our proposed peace agenda. Because provocations are also made to create resistance to that agenda inside Armenia and to involve Armenia in other provocations. Of course, this does not mean that we should weaken our vigilance, but we should not deviate from our strategic line. Yes, taking all possible measures to preserve and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia, but we must clearly state that we are moving forward with the agenda of peace. Yes, we must make it clear that we are reforming our Armed Forces not for conquering territories but for defending our sovereign territory like any peace-loving state. We do not have aggressive intentions towards any state in our region, we must state this clearly.
By the way, I would like to draw your attention to the following fact. An attempt was made from the beginning, this is a very important methodological subtlety for understanding the situation in depth. If you paid attention from the beginning and also today in this hall, an attempt was made through some forces to create an impression that the demarcation and delimitation is an agenda enforced on Armenia, a treacherous agenda. But when we consistently and clearly stated that we follow that agenda and we are interested in that agenda, have not you noted that no more announcments come from Baku about delimitation and demarcation? And the contrary, it’s attempted to remove that issue from the agenda… We must not deviate by a millimeter, because we have a historical responsibility. The challenges facing our country today are more than can be said from this rostrum. And it has been the case since 2018.
Today they are telling us that we have failed the negotiation process. I will not get tired, I apologise, because maybe this is the 50th time I say in your presence that on April 17, 2018 Serzh Sargsyan said from this rostrum, ''The negotiation process does not inspire optimism. To be more precise, the negotiation process has simply come to a standstill. It is stopped because the expectations of the Azerbaijani leadership from the outcome of the talks are unrealistic, unacceptable for us''. These people say that we have failed the negotiation process. Come on, answer how you conducted the negotiation process for more than 10 years, that you gave Azerbaijan the opportunity to come and sit at the table, pound the table, and make unacceptable, unrealistic demands? What is this a result of? Give answer. There was someone who was throwing a bottle at the wall. These people are focused on the bottle. Come here and answer. How did you negotiate that Azerbaijan set unacceptable and anrealistic demands?
The next announcment he made was the response to MP Samvel Nikoyan's question, ‘'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''. Now they ask us why we did not prevent the war. This means they say that we should accept the unacceptable and unrealistic demands of Azerbaijan, then they say 70% of the motherland, and ask why we did not stop the war. From the first day, Azerbaijan said the price for stopping the war. They said, "Let the Armenian side announce the date they will leave our territories - that is their wording - and we will agree to stop the war’'. And I spoke about that from this rostrum on September 27. Why did not they tell us to stop the war? What does this mean? They say we should surrender 70% of the motherland and stop the war. But at the time when most part of the 70% of the motherland was already lost, they assessed stopping the war as treason.
And they ask us if we drew conclusions from the votes we received. We draw conclusions from the votes we received...
And do you draw conclusions from the votes tou received? By the way, please, pay attention, no one said that the elections were falsified. They said the people were unaware. Therefore, what's your appeal at the Constitutional Court about? Were you playing a theatre?
Do you know why they applied to the Constitutional Court? Because in 2018 I said that it was the first time that the parliamentary elections were not questioned. And they decided to appeal this time so as I cannot say that the results have not been questioned…
They say no one has been aware of the November 9 declaration. They say the same thing again and again. Many have been aware of the November 9 declaration. Yes, many were not aware and many were aware. And I want to tell you that, yes, I took a decision that day and assumed the responsibility for that. The greatest surprise for me during the pre-election campaign was when people, mainly women, approached me and thanked me for signing that document. I realize what means that document. Yes, there are colleagues, who are present now, whom I said that I do not ask anybody's opinion. I take this decision and assume the entire responsibility for that, because there are moments when it's necessary to take a decision, decision taken at one's sole discretion, including for protecting others from the responsibility of that decision. I took the entire responsibility for that.
Next, they again speak about the opportunity for a ceasefire on October 19. They say no one has been aware. A Security Council session took place that day and people representing their team, who are now sitting here, were present. I invited them and told that I have made such a decision. I have not invited you so as you shar ethe responsibility with me. I have invited to inform you about my decision. But it did not happen. Why? Again for the same reason. Because additional preconditions were added to the existing ones. And I can prove that. A fact-finding commission will be set and all the materials will be provided. All these should not again be put into circulation.
Next, the number of our martyrs, the death toll I published, became a subject of discussion here, as far as I understood. I am aware that the Deputy Chief of the General Staff presented a different number in the meetings with the factions. First of all, I want to say that this topic is very painful, but I draw your attention to the fact that we cannot tend to hide any numbers. Because when we say for example 3777, it's different from the number I said previously, because during this period DNA tests have been done and it would be illogical for us to say this number but hide the number of 3800. However, Mr. Karapetyan, if the Deputy Chief of the General Staff says another number, let him come and deliver me a written report on the number and substantiate it. Anyway, I think we should understand the problem. But I again want to say that by now we have 3777 victims. I publish the numbers which are confirmed by death certificates. This means that the number of victims with death certificates is 3777, 3702 servicemen and 75 civilians. The number of missing in action is 243. This is the situation, the painful situation, but these are the recordings.
The next issue I would like to refer to is the following. There has been a lot of talks about the fact that we are constantly calling for alternative precautionary measures, but they are not applied. Mr. Vardanyan addressed that issue very well from the institutional standpoint, but I want to inform you that today in the history of the Republic of Armenia there are the least number of detainees in the penitentiaries of Armenia. In other words, detantion on remand has never been chosen as a precautionary measure for so few people as now.
The next direction is about the concerns over our intentions to make changes in the structure of compulsory enrollment for service, but one simple thing is missing: by 2018 half of our army was formed from contract servicemen. Half of the army personnel were contract servicemen and there was a very serious problm there. Saying contract serviceman we understood that we give a rifle to a taxi driver, shepherd, workman and tell him that from now on you will be a soldier for 14 days in a month. This system was problematic, and now we say that this system needs to be changed in a way that the salary of a contract professional serviceman rises so much that he 24 hours, the entire week and year will be a soldier and will be angaged in raising his combat readiness.
Naturally, now you will ask why we did not to that during the last 3 years. We started that process long ago, in 2019. I want to draw the attention of all of us to the fact that these are actions containing elements of confidentiality, we should not publish everything. By the way, that's our next problem. For example, any information related to the army in Azerbaijan is confidential - incidents, victims, wounded, everything is confidential. It's not the case in our country, and I do not think it should be that way in Armenia, but I want our public to take this fact into account when making assessments.
The next issue. We get blamed for dividing into black and white. I want to say that Mr. Gorgyan, who held the post of Deputy Prime Minister for 10 years in the past, publishes figures that, for example, educational poverty in Armenia is 31%, that 35% do not know reading rules, 7% of children in Armenia are not admitted to schools. Large-scale student research in Armenia shows that 30 percent do not receive secondary education after primary school. This is a research of 2019.
The MP representing ‘’Armenia’’ bloc, who had been the Deputy Prime Minister from ancient times, publishes these numbers from here, and says that we devide into black and whites. What’s this? Deviding into black and whites is when you and your children get education in world leading universities, while the people whom you called mediocre people, have not had the opportunity to go to school, because they were ‘’black’’ and you were ‘’white’’. And now they blame us for deviding into black and whites. Even if we devide into black and whites, we say something else. We say ‘’don’t dare to treat those people as blacks’’. We invite everyone, let’s whiten the field, let’s construct 500 kindergartens, 300 schools, open laboratories in 1400 schools, reform the higher educational system. They continue calling us traitors. I think Mr. Konjoryan explained in a very clear way: who, why, how is a traitor. They ask why we call them traitors. Because you have used that word so often that it has become a very usual word. If you use that word so easily, why don’t you think that it can be used to describe you as well? We have offered, at the Cabinet session and the ‘’Civil Contract’’ faction on the first day, that we should abandon this discourse and engage in real activities.
Now, about the Government Action Plan. In fact, there was one objective criticism of the program. This criticism refers to the following part of the program: The rule of law, the equality of all before the law, and the effective fight against crime, including corruption, are important factors in ensuring internal security. This sentence was not criticized, the next one was criticized: An independent judiciary enjoying public-trust, an effective, high-quality pre-trial investigation, prosecutor's office enjoying public trust, and a modern mobile and professional police force must ensure implementation of the Government's mandate received from the people. This is interpreted as if the Government saying that the judiciary should be subject to the Government. No, that does not mean that.
The people expressed their political will to establish justice, rule of law and justice in the country by voting for the "Civil Contract" party and the Government. The government does not have the mandate to administer justice, but the systems that have must hear the message of these people. They say the judiciary is independent. Yes, the judiciary is independent, but the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia says that power in the Republic of Armenia belongs to the people. Therefore, all authorities must have some organic connection with the people. There can be no authority that has no organic connection with the people, be it judicial or other. We say that the people have expressed their will to establish a dictatorship of law and right during the political election. The government has no legislative authority to implement that. Dear courts, dear judicial system, you have to do it, because we cannot do that. Yes, be independent, be legal, but independent for what goal? Of course, for establishing the rule of law, in this case, yes, for establishing a dictatorship of law and right, and not for administering selective justice. And these elections, after all, had this context, the people expressed their political will on this issue. Yes, all law enforcement bodies must express that will through the forms defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia and the laws. And this formulation is about that the Government does not have that authority. Yes, of course, we must be able to solve this problem through the reform of the judiciary.
However, I want to finish right from where I started. For us, yes, it is obvious that our country is facing serious challenges today, and those challenges are not internal. We have no internal challenges, all our challenges are external. We must consolidate our society around the peace agenda. We must develop and be able to defend that agenda and in the sideline sof this agenda we must ensure the sustainable development of the Republic of Armenia, the security and the happiness of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. This is the mandate that the people have given us, we are obliged to fulfill this mandate.
The first session of the National Assembly is being summed up today and I want to repeat the words of the President of the National Assembly, head of ''Civil Contract'' faction, and about which I have talked, and which is referred to in the Government Action Plan.
Creating an environment free from hate speech, degrading speech, insulting speech, and serving the development agenda of the Republic of Armenia in that environment, building national unity around that agenda, consolidating the best potential around this agenda of our people and state is a high priority for us. Once again, I want reach out for cooperation with all parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forces for the implementation of this agenda.
We are ready to act accordingly. We will be cooperative where there is an opportunity for cooperation. We will be extremely patient in all the points where there is no possibility of cooperation. We will be extremely patient in an atmosphere and environment of provocation, but we can not allow anyone to try to vilify the mandate given to us by the people. It is simply inadmissible, the people will not forgive us. I would like to remind all of us what was the biggest criticism we received during the pre-election campaign: we were constantly criticized for our velvet attitude, being constantly in velvet mood. How fair it is, how unfair it is, is another matter. Yes, we must do our best to create an atmosphere in which such concepts, the concept of velvet, do not catch the eye. But unfortunately, this is also the case when we can not do it alone. Therefore, we invite everyone to create such an atmosphere and environment. We will show maximum readiness in this matter.
I would like to end my speech by thanking and addressing words of appreciation to all the members of the "Civil Contract" faction again. We started this path together with a dream in our minds and we should not be afraid to go after that dream.
That dream is a free, strong, happy Armenia, a free, strong, happy Artsakh.