“Baku wants Karabakh without Armenians” - Pashinyan on Azerbaijan’s policy
Pashinyan’s statements in the Netherlands
“Recently, Azerbaijan has made statements that give the impression that only Azerbaijan’s proposals will be discussed at the negotiating table. This, at th very least, does not correspond to the agreements reached by us [with the President of Azerbaijan] in Brussels”. This was stated by the Prime Minister of Armenia during his visit to the Netherlands.
After the completion of his meetings within the framework of the official visit, Nikol Pashinyan spoke at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations (Clingendael).
The Netherlands Institute of International Relations is a leading think tank and academy of international relations. Based in The Hague. Clingendael’s mission is research, education and public debate that “will inspire and equip societies, businesses and governments to create a safe, sustainable, prosperous and just world”.
Pashinyan made a number of statements about the normalization of relations with Azerbaijan, the reasons for the start of the second Karabakh war, as well as the “peace agenda” that he personally promotes.
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“War could not be avoided”
In his speech, Nikol Pashinyan discussed the reasons that led to the second Karabakh war. He said that in Armenia, many are of the opinion that “it was democracy that led to the 44-day war”. This refers to the democratic transformations that Pashinyan, as the leader of the Velvet Revolution of 2018, promised the people and tried to implement. According to him, after the war, many are wondering how democracy can ensure the security of the country.
Meanwhile, according to the prime minister, the war in Karabakh had nothing to do with democracy in Armenia:
“The situation is much more serious. It is my deep conviction that the war of 2020 has become another sign indicating the expected global geopolitical changes and changes in the world order as a whole.
Actually there were two reasons for the war. One was the change in the balance of global and regional forces that has taken place over the years, as well as the negotiating policy of Azerbaijan: “Give us what we want, otherwise we will get it by military means”. In this sense, it is obvious and unambiguous that the war in this context was inevitable.
“Erasing Armenian trace in Karabakh”
The prime minister assessed the situation in the region as extremely tense. Pashinyan stressed that after the war, Azerbaijan is of the opinion that the Karabakh conflict has allegedly been resolved:
“This is not only a political statement, but, in fact, the pinnacle and culmination of Azerbaijan’s ideas – both past and present – regarding the settlement of the Karabakh issue. If we formulate this policy in one word, it will be as follows: Karabakh without Armenians. And there is no exaggeration in this. Everything is being done so that the Armenians consider their presence in Nagorno-Karabakh impossible”.
The prime minister gave several examples to support his words. Pashinyan, in particular, spoke about the recordings with calls to leave, which are played through the loudspeakers of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces near the Armenian villages in Nagorno-Karabakh. The prime minister also touched upon the explosion of the pipeline through which gas is supplied from Armenia to NK.
The accident occurred in the territory under the control of Azerbaijan, then a valve was installed here, and the gas was turned off despite unprecedentedly cold weather, which led to a critical humanitarian situation in NK.
The prime minister also dwelled on Azerbaijan’s attempts to erase the Armenian trace from historical and cultural monuments:
“Recently, the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan made a strange statement. They announced that a working group had been formed to, in their words, “remove false inscriptions from the walls of churches considered to be Armenian”. And a few months ago, the President of Azerbaijan, visiting the territory that came under the control of Azerbaijan, where the ancient Armenian church is located, literally stated the following: “The inscriptions are false and must be removed”.
By taking such steps, Azerbaijan, according to Pashinyan, seeks to show that the Armenians of Karabakh have recently found themselves in Nagorno-Karabakh, therefore “they do not have a legitimate right to live there”.
Meanwhile, according to the prime minister, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a territorial issue, but that of people’s rights. And the message of the Armenian side to the international community is the need to protect the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Mandate from people to implement peace agenda”
According to Pashinyan, it is not easy to promote a peace agenda after the war. But this obligation is entrusted to the current government by the people, who gave the authorities this mandate in the elections precisely after the defeat in the war. And the prime minister considers it the duty of the government to do everything to establish peace in the region, including in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations:
“Many of our compatriots believe that by talking about a peaceful agenda, we are betraying our national identity, the interests of our country, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving them defenseless. However, we are convinced otherwise. We take this criticism, we analyze and try to understand it.
We even partially and generally understand it. But the main task of the politician and the political team, the government elected by the people, is to go the hard way, because easy ways do not lead to good results. And the result we expect is an era of peaceful development for our country and our region. That is why we need to open regional communications so that our railways and roads with Azerbaijan work”.
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Regarding the negotiations on a peace agreement with Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister reiterated his position: there is nothing unacceptable in Baku’s five-point proposal, but they do not cover the entire agenda of bilateral relations. Pashinyan said that the Armenian side supplemented the negotiation agenda with items on the rights and security of the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the final status of this territory.
According to the prime minister, during a meeting on April 6 in Brussels, this issue was discussed with the President of Azerbaijan:
“Having returned from Brussels, I said that we had reached an agreement, in fact, the Azerbaijani side also stated this. But recently there have been statements from Azerbaijan that create an impression that only Azerbaijan’s proposals will be discussed at the negotiating table. This, at the very least, does not correspond to the agreements we reached in Brussels”.
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“Baku uses POWs as bargaining chip”
Pashinyan made a sensational statement that during the last meeting with the President of Azerbaijan in Brussels, he promised to release another group of Armenian prisoners, but this did not happen:
“Today, at least 38 Armenian prisoners remain in Azerbaijan. Attempts are constantly being made to make this process the subject of bidding on a variety of issues.
The prime minister recalled that the situation was the same when Baku wanted to receive maps of minefields from the Armenian side:
“We handed over to Azerbaijan all the maps we had, hoping that this humanitarian step would be followed by another humanitarian step”.
At the end of his speech, Pashinyan said that Armenia has experienced very difficult trials over the past two years, but he is convinced that the country is moving in the right direction – towards establishing peace in the region:
“We know that it will be very difficult, but we are ready to take on this political responsibility, because we feel, we see that we have the responsibility to make a decisive contribution to the establishment of global peace – in our country and in the region as a whole”.
At the same time, the prime minister expects that the international community and all of Armenia’s foreign partners, including the Netherlands, will support Yerevan’s efforts.