Karabakh war at centre of PM Pashinyan's yearly address
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has presented the government’s 2020 annual report to parliament. His speech lasted for hours, and the head of the government raised several painful issues that Armenian society is now facing.
The prime minister presented his version of some of the events of the second Karabakh war and, once again, blamed the previous government for failing the negotiations on the Karabakh conflict. He stated that he wants to use this opportunity to comment on the disinformation spread by his opponents.
Nikol Pashinyan also spoke about the possible expansion of the Russian military base in Armenia.
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The negotiation process and the mediators’ requirements
This is not the first time that the prime minister has accused that the previous government of failing the negotiation process on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
This time, Pashinyan said that Azerbaijan was gradually strengthening its position on the status of Karabakh, and from 2014-2015. this position was also supported by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, who were responsible for mediating the negotiations on the Karabakh conflict for decades.
PM Pashinyan said that two months before the start of the April 2016 war, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group proposed that Armenia abandon the requirement to grant Nagorno-Karabakh an interim status. Armenia disagreed and the April war began, a war that was supposed to force Yerevan to abandon the idea of Nagorno-Karabakh’s interim status.
The prime minister accused the former head of the General Staff of lying
The MPs accused Pashinyan of dragging out the hostilities, which led to the death of thousands of people. In order to justify himself, the prime minister spoke about the statement of the former head of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces, and, once again, accused him of lying.
Onik Gasparyan stated earlier that on the fourth day of the war he had insisted on the need to stop hostilities, otherwise the resources of Armenia would be exhausted very soon.
“The Chief of the General Staff did not say that, it is officially recorded, there is a transcript. We are talking about a meeting of the Security Council on September 30, where Gasparyan said that, on the contrary, the enemy did not achieve any success, the army is fulfilling its tasks and will carry them out to the end”, PM Pashinyan said.
Moreover, PM pAshinyan stressed that during the meeting of the Security Council on August 21, 2020, the head of the General Staff presented a report, which said that “in the Artsakh area, Armenia is able to fight off the enemy with the available forces and the principle of “not a step back”.
Negotiations with Baku during the war
However, by the second half of October, after analyzing the situation as well consulting with the leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia, Pashinyan decided that it was necessary to form a truce.
Then Pm Pashinyan contacted the Russian president and said that Armenia wants a truce on the condition of returning the regions around Nagorno-Karabakh KR to Azerbaijan according to the “5 + 2” formula, which had been repeatedly proposed by the earlier mediators.
However, the prime minister said that Baku demanded the simultaneous return of all seven regions, and also refused to discuss the status of Karabakh.
During his speech, the head of government stressed that now Armenia should raise the issue of complete de-occupation of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and the restoration of borders within the former NKAO.
PM Pashinyan, did, however, note that the decision to return the Hadrut region and the city of Shushi under the control of Stepanakert should be political, not military based.
Who decided to recapture the strategic Lele Tepe heights?
A scandalous episode with the attempted recapture of the strategic Lele Tepe heights during the second Karabakh war has been discussed in Armenia for several months.
It was lost during the April War of 2016 when the Armenian forces lost control over a total of 800 hectares of territory.
Unofficial sources claim that Pashinyan gave an order to recapture Lele-Tepe heights at any cost. This would allow him to announce that he was returning territories that were lost under the previous government.
The same sources report that as a result of an unsuccessful military operation, several combat units significantly lost their combat effectiveness and were unable to recover.
While addressing parliament, Nikol Pashinyan commented on this incident for the first time and stated that this operation was developed by the military:
“The proposal for an operation to recapture Lele-Tepe was made by the general, the general assessed the probability of success, and the general made the decision. We are talking about those generals who, at that moment, had the opportunity to implement this decision”.
Pashinyan said that the discussion of the operation plan took place in his presence, but he only acted as a ‘moderator’ of the conversation, without expressing any point of view.
“Turks and Azerbaijanis are our enemies”
In Armenia, the topic of relations between Armenia and Turkey has been discussed lately.
It all started when the Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan in one of his interviews, answering the question whether Turkey is an enemy of Armenia, did not give a direct answer, but said that “our approaches need to be reconsidered”.
The Prime Minister, answering the same question, stated:
“Turks and Azerbaijanis are our enemies, and this issue cannot be a subject of discussion … But the question is different: what will we do with this animosity, how long will we build up this enmity”.
The prime minister added that there are hostile states in the world, which, nevertheless, have tens of billions of dollars in trade between them. Armenia also needs to start controlling the situation and regulating the conflict carefully and deliberately.
Expansion of the Russian military base
Armenia and Russia are discussing the possibility of creating a stronghold of the already operating Russian military base in the southern region of the country – Syunik:
“We are discussing the issue of ‘enriching’ the capabilities of the Russian military base. Quite effective discussions are underway with Russian partners, and the Minister of Defense spoke about this”.
In this context, the prime minister noted the importance of joint grouping of Armenian-Russian forces and a unified air defense system:
“Under this system, an attack on Armenia would also mean an attack on Russia”.