Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's final speech at the National Assembly on the discussion of the annual report on the 2021 state budget execution of the Republic of Armenia
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Dear President of the National Assembly,
Distinguished members of the Government,
First of all, let me thank you for your interest in discussing the 2021 budget execution report. The budget is one of the key documents of the country, we have had many opportunities to publicly discuss its political, economic and financial features during the past five months. Artsakh and the financial assistance provided by Armenia to Artsakh in 2021 had a special place in those discussions.
In this context, I must emphasize again that throughout 2021, the radical opposition was developing two main theses:
The first is that the Government has left Artsakh alone; the second is that they demanded that we adopt the formulation "Artsakh will never be part of Azerbaijan", trying to show that this was the policy pursued by them during their government. If the current government does not adopt this, then it is betraying the Artsakh issue. Let me remind you that today there are people in the positions of the radical opposition who were in power in 1998-2018, that is, for 20 years, and they are developing the above-mentioned theses.
Today I would like to make some comments on both the first and the second claims.
The first thesis, I think, is refuted only by the budget indicators, which we have talked about several times. In 2021-2022, the budget of Artsakh has reached an unprecedented size, the budget support of the Government of Armenia to Artsakh has reached an unprecedented scale. To make the picture clear, let me say that in 2019 the budget of Artsakh amounted to 117.9 billion AMD, which was the highest in the whole pre-war period, that is, since the 90s. Of this amount, 57.8 billion AMD was provided by the Armenian government. Already in 2021, the budget of Artsakh, the revenue part, was 174 billion AMD, of which 128 billion AMD was the amount provided by the Republic of Armenia.
In other words, in the post-war period, Artsakh's budget was the highest in history. Artsakh has never had a bigger budget, the Republic of Armenia has never provided more support to Artsakh. In other words, the support of the Republic of Armenia to Artsakh in 2021 increased by 122% compared to 2019 or by 70 billion AMD, and the budget of Artsakh as a whole has increased by 48% or 45 billion AMD. 73% of the budget of Artsakh in 2021 was provided by the Government of the Republic of Armenia, and in 2021, the support of the Government of Armenia to the budget of Artsakh was more than the entire budget of Artsakh in 2019. In other words, in 2021, only the part of Armenia's support to Artsakh was more than the entire budget of Artsakh in 2019.
Let me remind you that from December 2020 to the end of 2021, we implemented programs in Artsakh worth 136 billion AMD. During that period, all the salaries of public sector, all the pensions and benefits, all the expenses of the healthcare and education system were paid with the financial resources allocated from the budget of Armenia. From November 2020 and throughout 2021, all utility expenses of the people of Artsakh were also reimbursed from the state budget of the Republic of Armenia.
In 2022, only the budget support of the Armenian government to Artsakh amounts to 160 billion AMD. That is, in 2022, compared to 2021, the amount provided by the Armenian government to Artsakh increased by 32 billion AMD, compared to 2019 - by 102 billion AMD. With these funds, a 20% increase in pensions and benefits took place in Artsakh. Large-scale housing construction is taking place.
We did not even voice about all this, I think we did the right thing, because it is our job, the Armenian government has been, is, will be with Artsakh, no matter that various circles do not notice it or try to sow discord between Armenia and Artsakh. To reach this goal, I mean to sow discord between Armenia and Artsakh, the radical opposition, which I already said that was in power from 1998 to 2018 and was responsible for Nagorno Karabakh negotiation process, tries to make an impression that during their rule they were guided by the slogan and strategy of “Artsakh will never be part of Azerbaijan”.
And since in this sense our radical opposition has crossed all possible borders, I have to announce disappointing news. These claims are completely false, because throughout the history of the negotiation process both Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, thus their political satellite "Dashnaktsutyun" recognized Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, or were not guided by the principle "Artsakh will never be part of Azerbaijan." I reiterate, throughout the history of the negotiation process, both Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, thus their political satellite "Dashnaktsutyun", have recognized Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, or have not been guided by the principle "Artsakh will never be part of Azerbaijan."
Naturally, such a responsible statement must be based on concrete evidence, I am now going to present it now. On November 25, 1998, the then Armenian government, led by Robert Kocharyan, agreed to accept as a basis for negotiations the so-called "Common State" proposal put forward by the Co-Chairs, which says, I quote: “Nagorno Karabakh is a state-territorial formation in the form of a republic, which together with Azerbaijan forms a common state within its internationally recognized borders”, end of quote.
The second quote from the package of the "Common State" solution- "Citizens of Nagorno Karabakh as an identity card will have an Azerbaijani passport with a special mark of Nagorno Karabakh" - end of quote. Naturally, Robert Kocharyan, both Serzh Sargsyan and the ARF Dashnaktsutyun knew about this. It is strange why they did not respond to this proposal of the Co-chairs, saying that "Artsakh will never be part of Azerbaijan." On the contrary, taking the above-mentioned version as basis, they not only did not rule out that Artsakh may be part of Azerbaijan, but also agreed on the key logic of the negotiation package that Artsakh should be part of Azerbaijan within the framework of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Moreover, with this step they ignored the declaration of independence adopted by Artsakh on September 2, 1991, and the results of the December 10, 1991 independence referendum.
The "Common State" negotiation package was followed by the so-called "territorial exchange" package, which I also talked about several times. But today I want to emphasize that with that negotiation package, the then rulers of Armenia recognized Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. Why? Because the core point of the mentioned package was that Armenia should hand over the Meghri region to Azerbaijan and get Nagorno Karabakh instead. In other words, if Armenia had to hand over a part of its sovereign territory to Azerbaijan in order to get Karabakh, it means that it recognizes Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan. I think there is no need for additional comments here, especially since the proposal directly states that Armenia gives the Meghri region, Azerbaijan gives the Lachin region, Shushi and Nagorno Karabakh. Note that Azerbaijan is the one who gives Nagorno Karabakh to Armenia. It means that Kocharyan has accepted that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, together with Shushi and Lachin, just as Meghri belongs to Armenia, which in turn gives it to Azerbaijan to get Nagorno Karabakh.
In other words, by discussing the above-mentioned two well-known negotiation concepts, we see that the Robert Kocharyan-Serzh Sargsyan-Dashnaktsutyun trio, during their rule, in one case accepted that Artsakh can be part of Azerbaijan, and in the second case accepted that Artsakh is part of Azerbaijan. These realities were further reinforced during the period of the discussion of the Madrid Principles. Let me remind you that these principles were officially introduced to Armenia and Azerbaijan by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in 2007 in Madrid, and the Armenian side agreed to accept them as a basis for negotiations. When that happened, Robert Kocharyan was leading the country, Serzh Sargsyan was the prime minister, and the ARF was part of the government and a member and supporter of the ruling team. I mean, like during the whole previous negotiation process, as well as during the adoption of the Madrid Principles, they were jointly sharing responsibility.
So let us state that taking the Madrid Principles as a basis for negotiations, the leaders of Armenia at that time accepted Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, excluding any practical possibility of keeping Karabakh out of Azerbaijan. How do I substantiate what I say? As it is known, the Madrid Principles stipulated that the future status of Nagorno Karabakh should be determined through a referendum to be held in a period agreed between the parties, that is, between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The first question that arises is the following. In that case, what happens with the independence referendum held on December 10, 1991 in Nagorno Karabakh? If you say that the status of Artsakh should be determined by a referendum to be held in the future, you are in fact stating that the referendum held in the past, on December 10, 1991 was not decisive in terms of status. If it was decisive, why do you say that the status should be determined by a referendum in the future? And if you say that the previous referendum on the status of Artsakh was not decisive, you are destroying the entire Armenian discourse and formula on the Nagorno Karabakh issue.
Because all the Armenian side had to say was that Nagorno Karabakh was never part of independent Azerbaijan, which left Soviet Azerbaijan in a completely legal way, that is, through a referendum. This has been the Armenian narrative since 1991, while adopting the Madrid Principles and the Madrid formulations in the mid-2000s, the Robert Kocharyan-Serzh Sargsyan-Dashnaktsutyun trio in fact returned Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan because they said that the referendum held in 1991 did not determine the status of Artsakh, that is, Nagorno Karabakh did not gain independence or status through that referendum, that status will be determined by a referendum to be held in the future.
Moreover, the Madrid Principles ruled out Nagorno Karabakh not being part of Azerbaijan. Why? Because according to these principles, Azerbaijan received the right of veto in determining the future status of Nagorno Karabakh, that is, it had the opportunity to prevent the recording of any status undesirable for it, it can be shown by a concrete example. The Madrid packages stipulated that the referendum on the status of Nagorno Karabakh should take place within the terms agreed between the parties. Azerbaijan said that the referendum should take place no sooner than 50 years later, Armenia said that it did not agree with the positions of Azerbaijan, the referendum should take place in 5 years, Azerbaijan said that it did not agree with the position of Armenia. What does this mean? This means that the referendum would take place neither in 5 years nor 50 years, that is, Nagorno Karabakh would never have a final status.
Nagorno Karabakh would never have an interim status, because it could receive an intermediate status only with the consent of Azerbaijan. And Azerbaijan did not agree with such an intermediate status of Nagorno Karabakh, which would later give Karabakh the opportunity to not be part of Azerbaijan. I must also emphasize that the Madrid Principles have never ruled out the inclusion or approval or, reaffirmation of Nagorno Karabakh within Azerbaijan, you can choose any of the words according to taste.
You know that the Armenian side has always proudly emphasized that in the negotiations it is discussed that the issues to be put to a possible referendum can not have any restrictions, they can assume any status of Nagorno Karabakh. This in itself means that the issue to be put to the referendum could also imply the status of Nagorno Karabakh within Azerbaijan, because if there is no restriction on either the status or the issue, the question may be like the following, “Do you agree Nagorno Karabakh to be an administrative district as part of Azerbaijan?” This can have a counter-argument that Nagorno Karabakh would not vote "yes" in such a referendum. And why are you sure? What would Nagorno Karabakh be like if what was envisaged by the negotiation logic took place? The Azerbaijanis of Nagorno Karabakh are returning, and the referendum will take place 50 or 60 years later. What would be the demographic situation in Nagorno Karabakh? And here again the counter-argument that we would not agree to the referendum to be held in 50 years is appropriate. As I have already mentioned above, very well, Azerbaijan would not agree to the referendum to be held in 5 years, which would mean that neither in 5 years nor in 50 years there will be no referendum.
Summerizing, I would like to emphasize that according to the negotiation logic inherited by me, by us, without the consent of Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh could not receive any status outside Azerbaijan, including the intermediate one; this was the logic of combining the principles of territorial integrity and self-determination of nations. Because if you want to gain independence through the realization of the principle of self-determination of nations, without violating the principle of territorial integrity, which is the basis of the Madrid Principles, the only way is for the subject of territorial integrity to agree with your independence.
This has been the position of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, about which they personally told me, and which is evident from the whole history of the negotiation process, which assumes that Nagorno Karabakh had to get Azerbaijan's permission to hold a referendum. If you did not recognize Nagorno Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, why do you ask for its permission to hold a referendum at the cost of annulling the 1991 referendum?
Moreover, the negotiation legacy left by Serzh Sargsyan does not mention that the referendum will take place in Nagorno Karabakh. I have talked about this several times. It is said that the entire population of Nagorno Karabakh will take part in the referendum, more specifically it is said that it is a nationwide referendum in which the entire population of Nagorno Karabakh will take part. That is, the whole population of Nagorno Karabakh is not the same as nationwide, that is, the whole population of Nagorno Karabakh is part of the nationwide. Moreover, by saying the whole population of Nagorno Karabakh, we mean former NKAO Armenians and Azerbaijanis taken together by the logic of negotiations.
I would like to touch upon the fact that today many criticize us for the fact that we do not consider unacceptable the principle of mutual recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia. But those who crticise us for that have forgotten that Armenia recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, as I have said many times, in the 1992 Agreement on the Establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was ratified by the Supreme Council of Armenia in 1992. At that time, by the way, both Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan were deputies of the Supreme Council of Armenia.
Next, the radical opposition also recognized the territorial principle of Azerbaijan in the context of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. First, taking the "Common State" proposal as a basis for negotiations, with the concept of exchanging territories, as I described above, and accepting the territorial integrity as one of the principles of Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement by the Madrid package. These are all principles adopted by Robert Kocharyan, Serzh Sargsyan and the ARF.
The Republic of Armenia also recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the Law on Administrative Territorial Division of the Republic of Armenia adopted in 2010, when it stated that the Armenian settlements in the Sotk-Meghri section share border with Azerbaijan and not the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the north-eastern and eastern directions. Meanwhile, according to the Constitution of Nagorno Karabakh, all those territories were considered the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh. However, the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) and the ARF Dashnaktsutyun, which formed a parliamentary majority at the time of the adoption of the law, ignored the Constitution of Nagorno Karabakh, and what was considered the Nagorno Karabakh Republic by that Constitution, they recognized as the Republic of Azerbaijan.
This is, dear colleagues, dear people, the content and legacy of the negotiations carried out by those people for 20 years. And this is the negotiation legacy which created the basis for the war and the context of the war, which led to the war. If we are the cause of the war, why was Serzh Sargsyan on April 17, 2018 announcing from this rostrum, I repeat this I do not know how many times, I quote, "In this sense, for at least very long time we should not hope that the Azerbaijani leadership will abandon its treacherous approaches, will abandon its desire to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by force”, end of quote.
If it’s us who brought the negotiations to a deadlock, why did the same Serzh Sargsyan announce the same day from the same tribune, I quote again: "The negotiation process does not inspire optimism, but, to be more precise, that negotiation process is simply in standstill. It is in standstill because the expectations of the Azerbaijani leadership from the outcome of these talks are unrealistic, unacceptable for us”, end of quote.
Meanwhile, dear colleagues, the Robert Kocharyan-Serzh Sargsyan tandem must give a very clear answer: how did it happen that Azerbaijan got an opportunity to make unrealistic, unacceptable demands in the negotiation process, despite the fact that they, ie the former Armenian authorities, for many years had been persuading us that the negotiations are going well, that we are moving towards the realization of our goals.
In reality, however, the real content of the negotiations described above suggests something completely different. It proves that they defended their power in relations with the outside world by accepting Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, dismantling the Armenian concept of the Karabakh issue, the most practical expression of which was the exclusion of Nagorno Karabakh from the negotiation process in 1998, while using false but pleasant to the ear rhetoris inside the country. Because for the sake of Artsakh, the Armenian people have been ready for many sacrifices, they have endured many things, only for the Artsakh issue to reach its completion.
One of the root causes of the 2018 revolution was this, when after the 2016 April war, after a series of statements made by Serzh Sargsyan on Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016-2018, people realized that they were deceived in this issue as well. After the war in April 2016, people finally realized that their 25-year sacrifices did not serve the strengthening of the Armenian army, the statehood, but the enrichment and gilded life of a number of well-known people. People realized that their sacrifices did not become a state or army, but European and American real estate, foreign currency accounts hidden in offshores.
Many today are wondering how and why we, the Civil Contract Party, were able to win the election after the catastrophic war of 2020. And the reason is one: people have seen, and it was before their eyes that both before the war, during the war and after the war we fought desperately to save the Armenian concept of the Karabakh issue, and we took the responsibility for the defeat. And although we took the responsibility for the defeat, the right-minded Armenian people, if not with information, at least with feeling, understood that this defeat was not born in one or two years, but during 25 long years. People realized that the bell of defeat did not ring on November 9, 2020, but in April 2016, when the Armenian side lost a hill that was considered impregnable - areas considered impregnable. Earlier, a helicopter was lost and a sabotage operations were carried out, which resulted in casualties.
In 2013-2015, there were more than 80,000 violations of the ceasefire on the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact. 80,000 violations. And they call this peace. Thousands of soldiers were killed between 1994 and 2018 in different situations. And they call this peace, saying they have secured peace for Armenia and Artsakh. Even if we consider the status quo of 1998-2018 as peace, it’s not them who ensured that peace, but the geopolitical situation. And the geopolitical developments from Syria to Ukraine in 2011-2014 made the explosion and collapse inevitable. But this is a matter of future and historical examination, because it will not be possible to speak openly or honestly about what happened in the foreseeable future.
However, I do not say all this to talk about the past. This talk is really about the future. We, that is, the political majority, the government formed by it, have no task to defend power through lies inside and outside. Because we have received our power from our people, we must speak to the people in the language of truth. And in order to keep the language of truth, it is necessary for the government to avoid the policy of creating insurmountable gaps in the content of negotiations the content of communication with the public. And, by the way, this is the main target of the criticism of my speech, when there was a real, constant, conscious gap in the content of the negotiations and in terms of sharing that content with the public.
Reality, no matter how difficult it is to understand, must be made available to the public. This is the reason why I am publicizing the whole content of the previous negotiations, so that everyone understands the field in which we have operated, in which we continue to operate. Regarding the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I must state that the above-mentioned facts and arguments must lead us to certain conclusions. What conclusions have we made? I stated this in the parliamentary debates in April, saying that if in the past the Armenian concept of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement was based on the status of Karabakh, deriving from it security guarantees and rights, now we are placing security guarantees and rights on the basis, deriving the status from them. In other words, we state that the status in this situation is not a goal, but a means to ensure the security, rights and freedoms of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. This is a narrative that is understood by the international community, makes our goals, the essence of the Nagorno Karabakh issue more understandable. But there is also a strong provision: any status that truly guarantees the security, rights and freedoms of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh must be considered a solution for us.
This, in fact, is the main message of today, dear compatriots, or rather, what stems from it.
And what I want to say is the following, which is not something I say for the first time. Our ship of the Armenian statehood has found itself in the whirlpool of a turbulent storm, because, in fact, the whole world found itself in the whirlpool of a turbulent storm. It was in January 2021 when it seemed to us that we were in a whirlwind of turmoil. It turned out, one could guess that a global storm was starting from us. You can see that the existence of neither big nor small countries is guaranteed, unfortunately, the only guarantee that can be for the state and security is comprehensive peace.
What does comprehensive peace mean? That is, when issues with neighbors are resolved, settled, borders are demarcated, and peace is de jure established. We are now trying to go this way. No one can guarantee that we will be able, will manage, because peace is not a one-sided movement, but the result of cooperation. We have no illusions, we see that the number of those who want to destroy us is greater than we can imagine. And the agenda of peace is an attempt to manage or neutralize the desires to destroy us that exist in the world.
I repeat, no one can guarantee that the peace agenda will succeed. This is a path for us accomponied both inside and outside with insults, accusations, threats, dangers, losses, but we have the will, the determination to go this way, despite the fact that, as I said, no one can guarantee success. But I can guarantee one thing for sure: the opposite path leads not only to the destruction of Nagorno Karabakh, but also to Armenia, and we, of course, can not allow this. And so, I call on the Armenian people, the people of Armenia, to unite around the agenda of peace, around the Armenian statehood and its interests, because there is nothing more important and higher than the Republic of Armenia and its state interests.
Long live freedom, long live the Republic of Armenia, long live our children who will live in a free and happy Armenia.
Glory to our martyrs!