"Azerbaijan has territorial designs on Armenia" - Nikol Pashinyan
Nikol Pashinyan press conference
“The risk of new escalation is very high both along the border with Armenia and in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Prime Minister of Armenia said during a regular press conference. Nikol Pashinyan came to this conclusion “from the aggressive rhetoric of Azerbaijan” and “some information” he had received. He considers it important that Armenia be able to prove that it is not responsible for the escalation, as Baku is trying to claim.
“We have solved this problem along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border [referring to the deployment of EU civilian observers monitoring the situation]. Nagorno-Karabakh also has this tool and I hope it will work properly. We are talking about the Russian peacekeeping forces and the facts they publish,” Pashinyan said.
The prime minister spent more than four hours answering journalists’ questions. He spoktalkede about the possible signing of a peace treaty with Azerbaijan and the need for international guarantees for the implementation of these agreements. Pashinyan also explained how Armenian-Russian relations are currently being maintained and how he assesses Armenia’s membership in the CSTO military bloc.
“Azerbaijan has reached a new stage of aggressive policy”
This is how Pashinyan characterized a statement by the “Community of Western Azerbaijan” organization about the desire of Azerbaijanis who lived in Armenia before the conflict to return to their homes, a political initiative is supported by the President of Azerbaijan, who, at a meeting with representatives of this organization, said: “The current Armenia is our territory.”
Pashinyan believes that “this is an illegal and obvious encroachment on the sovereign territory of Armenia”, more proof that “Azerbaijan has territorial claims.”
He stated that forced migrants from Nagorno-Karabakh, in particular from Hadrut and Shushi, are also presenting their demands to the Armenian government regarding the realization of their rights, and that according to the tripartite statement signed at the end of hostilities in November 2020, these people should have already returned to their homes. According to Pashinyan, the Armenians who once lived in the Nakhichevan autonomy and were evicted thence are also “raising questions today” before the Armenian government:
“For the entire last century, forced de-Armenization took place there, and after a while not a single Armenian remained. Armenians evicted from Azerbaijan have the right to demand compensation. I believe that these people will fight for their rights.”
He mentioned the pogroms against Armenians and deportations from Baku, Sumgayit and Kirovabad, emphasizing that Azerbaijanis living in Armenia were not subjected to pogroms and were not forcibly deported:
“Moreover, in our archives there are documents that the government of Soviet Armenia paid compensation to Azerbaijanis, just astronomical amounts.”
On a possible meeting with Aliyev and the Brussels format
According to Nikol Pashinyan, a meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan is not yet scheduled. He said that he has never avoided such meetings, but that there should be guarantees for the implementation of the agreements reached as a result.
As an example he cited the Brussels format, with ten unfulfilled agreements. Pashinyan listed the return of Armenian prisoners of war from Baku, the start of work on the activation of the railway, and mutual withdrawal of troops on the border with Azerbaijan. The prime minister believes that this is a “fundamental problem”, which he also discussed with the mediator of these negotiations and head of the European Council, Charles Michel.
“They say that when there are no negotiations, the risk of escalation increases, this is true. But Brussels has shown us that there are negotiations that not only do not reduce the risk of escalation, but increase it. A few days after the meeting in Brussels, Azerbaijani troops invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia [referring to the events of September 2022].”
Pashinyan said that Yerevan is ready to continue negotiations, but that all agreements must be fulfilled:
“If Azerbaijan uses the negotiations only to justify the escalation, then this is not an acceptable option. Negotiations should become a guarantee of stability. I am ready to take responsibility for signing a document that will not be a dream document, but will not give reason to be ashamed of it.”
The Prime Minister believes that the meeting in Prague with the participation of the President of France was the most effective of the negotiations organized by mediators so far. He says that Baku wants to work “with less efficiency, in the Brussels format”, Azerbaijan does not like the presence of France. In this case, Pashinyan proposes to expand the list of participants to include representatives from Germany or the United States.
“We see some progress on the peace treaty”
The Prime Minister said that a couple of days ago, Azerbaijan received a response to Armenia’s proposals regarding a possible draft peace treaty.
“It should be emphasized that we see some progress, but the further we go deeper, the more fundamental problems appear,” Pashinyan said.
He listed the following issues:
- “Azerbaijan is trying, through a possible agreement on peace and the establishment of relations, to formulate territorial claims against Armenia,
- with proposals on the text of the peace agreement, Baku is trying to get a mandate to carry out genocide or ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh, signed, among other things, by Armenia,
- Azerbaijan is pursuing such a line that we do not even have a system of guarantees for the execution of the agreement.”
According to him, all these points are red lines for Armenia.
“Any document that will be signed must have guarantees of fulfillment, preferably international,” he said.
He maintained that official Yerevan “is not playing for time” and is ready to sign a peace treaty, but that Armenia needs guarantees.
“Fact-finding mission – without the consent of Azerbaijan”
Pashinyan believes that Armenia should promote the issue of security and rights of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh on international platforms, consistently present its positions.
“Azerbaijan is taking every step to justify the existence of a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh at the international level. We need to further substantiate the facts of the humanitarian crisis, ethnic cleansing and the danger of the Armenian genocide in NK, which will create the possibility of sending an international fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh without the consent of Azerbaijan.”
According to him, sending a fact-finding mission to the Lachin corridor and Nagorno-Karabakh is expedient right now, in a situation where “the road connecting it with the world is blocked by Azerbaijanis, there is a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan is clearly preparing for ethnic cleansing.”
“In the event of a possible escalation, the Russian Federation is the guarantor of the security of Nagorno-Karabakh”
Journalists were interested in whether Armenia would be a guarantor of the security of the Armenians living here in the event of a possible new escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh. In response, Pashinyan emphasized that the November 9, 2020 statement states that Russia is now the guarantor of security:
“The point is not that Armenia refuses this responsibility. Unfortunately, after the defeat in the 44-day war in 2020, Armenia cannot fulfill this function.”
“There is no crisis in relations with Moscow”
“Our relations are in a normal state, which does not mean that there are no worries on both sides,” Pashinyan said.
He is confident that there is no crisis in relations with Russia, as there is a conversation going on and the existing “objective problems” are being discussed in working order.
The day before, at the initiative of Armenia, he had a phone call with Vladimir Putin. According to Pashinyan, he spoke with Putin about the danger of escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, presenting his “concerns about the problems that are on the face in the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers deployed there.”
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“Armenia is not going to leave the CSTO”
The prime minister reiterated that Armenia does not intend to leave the CSTO military bloc:
“My opinion is that voluntarily or involuntarily, the CSTO is in fact leaving Armenia. And that worries us.”
Yerevan refused its quota for the post of Deputy Secretary General of the CSTO. Pashinyan said on this occasion that the country would accept this position, but the country’s authorities do not want to give their people the “wrong signal”:
“If it adds another factor to the security of Armenia, we will use it. If not, then we see no reason to take on this position, at least based on the logic of being honest with our people.
According to Pashinyan, in the event of the final withdrawal of the CSTO from Armenia, Yerevan should try to ensure its security needs in all possible ways.
“We lost the war because of the 5th column”
Pashinyan was asked about the veracity of accusations by former Armenian authorities regarding the problems in the army that arose with the coming to power of his team, specifically that since 2018 the country has not acquired weapons. Pashinyan called this statement nonsense. According to him, in 2018-20 more weapons were acquired than in the previous ten years combined:
“I believe that we lost the war because the 5th column operated in our army. If you look carefully, you will see this. I think that in the near future they will become so public that this statement will not seem so strange.”
He recalled that more than fifty soldiers are accused of espionage, high treason and failure to properly perform their direct duties. According to him, these actions directed by the “former authorities” harmed not the political power, but the statehood and independence of Armenia.
On the de-occupation of the territories of Armenia
“As a result of the invasion on May 12, 2021, as well as the military actions of September 2022, Azerbaijan occupied the sovereign territories of Armenia. This problem cannot have a one-step solution, and there is no need for hasty action.
The territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Armenia are a red line for us, but we see the need for a strategic, long-term, lasting, deep and comprehensive solution to these problems,” he said.
He stated that since 1994 Azerbaijan has taken control of the sovereign territories of Armenia.
“Only peace can guarantee security”
According to the Prime Minister, peace is the best way to ensure security, and Armenia strives for peace, which is possible only with good relations with all countries in the region. According to him, Azerbaijan is not inclined to resolve and normalize relations, since it has military superiority.
Pashinyan believes that the following thought is hidden in the context of Baku’s statements: “We won the war, there is nothing to negotiate, you must sign what we say.” Pashinyan declared: “Yerevan does not agree with this.”
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Press conference of Nikol Pashinyan