"Russia's military presence does not guarantee the security of Armenia" - Pashinyan
Pashinyan press conference
“The military presence of Russia not only does not guarantee the security of Armenia, and even creates threats to the security of the country,” the Prime Minister of Armenia said during a press conference.
Nikol Pashinyan also said that Azerbaijan has been giving Western countries the impression that its “aggressive actions are preventative steps” against “aggressive actions” by Yerevan and Moscow against Baku. According to the Armenian prime minister, this is an absurdity.
After an almost three-year hiatus, Pashinyan met with reporters; until now, his press conferences were held online. Pashinyan explained that this was a consequence of the pandemic, but also a lack of desire to return to the “extremely emotional, politicized atmosphere” of media.
For almost four hours Pashinyan answered questions about the signing of a peace agreement with Azerbaijan, the Lachin corridor, the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, relations with neighboring countries including Turkey, rumors of joining the Russia-Belarus union state, and the likelihood of leaving the CSTO military bloc.
“Azerbaijan’s provocation has two goals” – about the Lachin corridor
Journalists were interested in information about the Lachin corridor, blocked by Azerbaijanis for the past month.. Pashinyan said that regulations regarding the Lachin corridor are written in black and white in the tripartite statement signed by the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2020. According to him, Armenia’s position is unequivocal — the other two parties “should fulfill the obligations assumed at the international level.”
According to the 6th paragraph of the document
- “The Lachin corridor remains under the control of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation,
- The Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees the safety of movement of citizens, vehicles and goods along the Lachin corridor in both directions.”
Pashinyan said that blocking the corridor is a provocation with two goals:
- “to break the will of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to live in their homeland,
- involve Armenia in an even greater provocation.”
“We must react deliberately and capitalize on the response of the international community to this situation,” he said.
The prime minister would like to see the problem made more visible to the world.
According to him, no one disputes that Russian peacekeepers ensure the security of NK Armenians. He emphasized that “we are not criticizing them, we are voicing our concerns” about the need to ensure unhindered movement along the corridor.
“We do not pretend to decide the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh”
Answering a question about Armenia’s position regarding the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during negotiations with Azerbaijan, Pashinyan said that Yerevan does not pretend to decide the fate of NK, as it considers this to be “the wrong formula”:
“Our task is to help Armenians continue to live in Nagorno-Karabakh, continue to be Armenians, consider themselves Armenians, and have the opportunity to live in a safe environment. By and large, our position since 2018 is that it is not the government of Armenia that should decide the fate and relations of Nagorno-Karabakh. The people of NK should decide for themselves and should have communication, including with the authorities of Azerbaijan.”
According to him, Armenia considers the issue of security and the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh a priority. At the same time, Armenia will not abandon its role as a guarantor of the security of Nagorno Karabakh, but provides financial and humanitarian assistance, not military. Decision-making should come from the people of the unrecognized republic itself.
“Peace achievement formula”
Pashinyan believes that in the current situation, when there are both threats and opportunities, Armenia should act as responsibly as possible. He says that it is impossible to achieve peace either by begging for or by forcing it. According to him, in order to establish peace, Armenia needs
- to establish tolerant relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, form a field for certain agreements,
- develop relations with Iran and Georgia,
- use the resources and opportunities of the international community.
“Signing a peace agreement is not enough”
Speaking of signing of peace treaty with Azerbaijan, the prime minister said that Baku has not yet responded to Yerevan’s proposals. He again confirmed that he was ready to sign a peace agreement and was doing everything possible for this.
It will be a red line for Pashinyan if the text of the peace agreement does not meet the state interests of Armenia, but also warns that it “will not be perfect”:
“If there are no implementation mechanisms, we can sign a peace agreement, but in a week we will have a new war or escalation.”
“The armed forces of Azerbaijan must leave the territory of Armenia”
Pashinyan again said that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces should leave the sovereign territory of Armenia, where they had invaded since last year. And for this, Yerevan consistently uses “all diplomatic means”:
“It is important not to provoke new provocations, our actions proceed from this logic.”
At the same time, he stated that the Azerbaijanis have been in the territory of Armenia not for a year and a half, but for thirty years:
“Since the 1990s, the armed forces of Azerbaijan have occupied dozens of square kilometers of the territory of Armenia. We are talking, in particular, about more than 70 square meters. km. in Tavush and Ararat regions”.
On the normalization of relations with Turkey
The Prime Minister welcomed Turkey’s announcement to lift the ban on direct air cargo transportation:
“Dynamism is important in a relationship. I hope that the border will also be opened for third-country nationals in the near future. We also expect the border to be open to those with diplomatic passports.”
He says these steps are important not only from the point of view of Armenian-Turkish relations, but also in the context of changes in international supply chains. He believes that the region is becoming much more dynamic in terms of international cargo transportation than it used to be:
“The opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey and the opening of the Armenian-Turkish railway are gaining more global significance. I hope that we will have the opportunity to move in this direction.”
Pashinyan did not rule out that mutual high-level visits could take place in the near future within the framework of matches between the Armenian and Turkish national football teams.
“We suggested Baku create an institution of guarantors” – Secretary of the Armenian Security Council
Armenia has suggested that Azerbaijan create an institute of guarantors to ensure the implementation of the peace agreement that is being prepared for signing, reports Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan to Armenian journalists.
“This is provable nonsense”
To a question about rumors that there is a verbal agreement on providing Azerbaijan with the so-called “Zangezur corridor”, Pashinyan stated that “this is provable nonsense”:
“We preclude the existence of an extraterritorial corridor through the territory of Armenia.”
He once again stated that Armenia is ready to restore the Yeraskh-Sadarak-Ordubad-Meghri-Horadiz railway, is interested in road freight transportation through its territory, opening highways in the east-west direction, and building new roads:
“The only thing that prevents all this is the constant talk from Azerbaijan about some kind of corridor.”
Pashinyan has repeatedly stated that Armenia is ready to unblock roads, but categorically does not agree to lose sovereignty and the ability to control the territories of the roads provided, which implies the term “corridor”. The Armenian authorities refer to tripartite documents signed with the mediation of Russia, in which there is no mention of any corridor other than Lachin.
“There was no official offer”
Commenting on the subject of Armenia joining the Russia-Belarus union state, Pashinyan said that officially there has been no such proposal and won’t be, but immediately added:
“The reality is not as simple as it seems. Sometimes it is necessary to deeply consider not so much the texts of questions as their contexts. We must take into account global processes.”
In any case, Pashinyan ruled out the possibility of the country joining the union state:
“For us, the sovereignty, independence and statehood of Armenia are absolute values. We consider it our duty and mission to do everything to ensure the inviolability of the statehood of our Motherland.”
“We must not speak the language of ultimatums”
Pashinyan stated that “you cannot speak with colleagues in the language of ultimatums”:
“We believe that our toolkit should be diplomatic, that is, exert the maximum possible international pressure to open the Lachin corridor.”
Pashinyan said that after the 44-day war in 2020, the main topic between Armenia and Russia was the possibility of Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions against the internationally recognized territory of the country. The prime minister says:
“We have received official assurances that Armenia’s borders are a red line for our allies and security partners. However, after the invasion in May 2021 on the Sotk-Khoznavar section, the same partners stated that the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan was not demarcated.”
Since then, according to Pashinyan, Yerevan has been trying to understand what the CSTO military bloc’s zone of responsibility is, which operates under the leadership of Russia. This issue was also discussed at thae CSTO summit organized in the capital of Armenia at the end of last year:
“We said that without the official recognition of this feature, we cannot imagine the adoption of any other document. This is the main content that is relevant today. In other words, the CSTO Yerevan summit is over, but the conversation is not. And it remains on our agenda.”
According to Pashinyan, Armenia hopes that the CSTO will fulfill its obligations, but believes it might not, in the end.
“We weren’t pragmatic”
Pashinyan recalled his statement that “the international community perceives Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.”
“We were not pragmatic when it seemed to us that the four resolutions of the UN Security Council were just texts that we could ignore,” Pashinyan said.
“Peace is impossible without a combat-ready army”
Pashinyan believes that it is impossible to establish peace without a strong army that can protect the country’s borders.
He vowed that everything is being done to overcome problems ensuring the country’s security, but considers it it inappropriate to talk publicly about replenishment of weapons.
“We must move out of the region into the world”
According to Pashinyan, Armenia should be moving from the region to the world, whereas until now it has moved from the world to the region. He believes that the country will not be able to cope with the threats that have arisen around if it does not regulate relations with its neighbors:
“It’s not certain that our desire alone will be enough; we need to be more flexible.”
According to the prime minister, Armenia should position itself in the region as a neighbor and partner, but also understand why and how relations have changed with its neighbors — and what it means for Armenia.
Press conference of Nikol Pashinyan