PM of Armenia: There are no reasons for optimism, but we are trying to create them
Press conference of PM Pashinyan
For more than two hours, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered journalists’ questions online. It was the final press conference, during which the head of the Armenian government summarized the situation in the country over the year.
Nikol Pashinyan discussed the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, a tete-a-tete conversation with Ilham Aliyev, the return of Azerbaijani prisoners, the conclusion of a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, as well as internal political issues.
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Armenian-Turkish dialogue and meeting with Erdogan
“We are trying not to express unfounded optimism. There are no grounds for optimism, but we are trying to create them”, the Prime Minister said. At the same time, Pashinyan considers the possible opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, railway and air communication positive.
According to him, the Armenian-Turkish dialogue is not a process that allows issues to be resolved in only a couple of meetings:
“It will be a very long process, no date has been set yet. Groups of negotiators will [start working on it], the composition of such groups is now being selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
On December 13, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Ankara and Yerevan would appoint special envoys who would begin the process of normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations. Very soon, both countries appointed their negotiators.
Armenia has no diplomatic relations with Turkey. In 1993, Turkey unilaterally closed its air and land borders with Armenia. The air border was reopened in 1995″under pressure from the international community”, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry website says.
After the Karabakh war in the early 90s, Turkey put forward a number of conditions to reopen the land border and establish diplomatic relations. One of such conditions was the return to Azerbaijan of the regions under the control of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This condition is no longer relevant, since the territories in question are already controlled by Azerbaijan after the second Karabakh war in 2020. Another condition set by Turkey has always been the rejection of international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
This refers to events that took place in Ottoman Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century. Before that, about two and a half million Armenians lived there. As a result of the killings and mass deportations, more than half of them died. Armenia, several Western countries and international organizations officially recognize these events as genocide. Turkey categorically rejects such a formulation.
The Turkish side will be represented by an experienced diplomat, former ambassador to the United States Serdar Kilich, and Armenia – by Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Ruben Rubinyan.
Pashinyan stressed the importance of the negotiator being a member of his political team and not giving up responsibility for the decisions made. In addition, according to the prime minister, the path allocated to Rubinyan will allow him to successfully fulfil his powers.
The prime minister also said that there was no agreement on a meeting with Erdogan. He will meet with the Turkish leader when the time comes:
“If the negotiation process is successful, the process matures to this point, of course, there will be high-level and summit meetings”.
Meeting with President Aliyev
On December 28, an informal summit of the leaders of the CIS states will take place in St. Petersburg. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan will also take part in it.
“There has not yet been an official proposal for a meeting or negotiations, but there will certainly be some sort of communication. Since the summit is informal, contacts will also be informal”, Pashinyan said.
Speaking about a one-on-one conversation with Aliyev, which took place on December 14 in Brussels after trilateral negotiations with the head of the European Council, Pashinyan said that Charles Michel “did not interfere with them”. During the bilateral negotiations, after the European politician left them, they discussed the same thing as before:
“After the departure of Charles Michel, our topic has not changed – neither the dynamics, nor the questions changed”.
The conversation with Aliyev lasted 15-30 minutes.
Resumption of railway communication
Pashinyan spoke about the resumption of railway communication with Azerbaijan. The railway will operate “in accordance with the adopted customs and border rules”:
“This is acceptable for us and for Azerbaijan, and we agreed to start the construction of the railway”.
The prime minister assured that if the safety of rail transportation is not ensured, they will be stopped:
“If the Armenian cargo does not pass through the territory of Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani cargo will also not pass through the territory of Armenia. But it would be illogical to open the railway and not use it. The question will arise why the investments were made”.
According to the Armenian Prime Minister, during the negotiations with Aliyev, a specific agreement on the issue of unblocking the roads could not be reached.
As a result of the resumption of railway communication, Armenia will get access to Iran and Russia, and Azerbaijan – to Nakhichevan. Pashinyan said that the leaders of the two countries agreed to restore the Yeraskh-Julfa-Meghri-Horadiz railway during their November meeting in Sochi and consolidated their success in Brussels.
Two Azerbaijani prisoners
On December 18, two Azerbaijani servicemen were detained by Armenian border guards. The Armenian Defense Ministry commented on this incident only two days later. A short message from the ministry said that the prisoners were returned to Azerbaijan.
“We returned them without preconditions, not in exchange for something. We don’t want to give the impression that we are bargaining for people [as if it was an auction]. Thus, we have demonstrated our full adherence to international norms”, Pashinyan said.
Azerbaijan-Armenian peace treaty
Pashinyan spoke of his interest in concluding a peace treaty with Azerbaijan:
“We have not refused and will not refuse to talk about this topic. If we have stated that we want to open an era of peaceful development for our country and region, it would be illogical to say that we do not want to hear about a peace treaty. The peace treaty is one of our important goals”.