Priorities of the Pashinyan government: “peace remains on agenda”
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan answered the questions of journalists and representatives of civil society, on the air, and spoke about all the painful issues that the country is currently facing. He outlined the priorities of the current government, including the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, normalization of relations with Turkey and overcoming the internal political crisis.
The main message of the press conference was the confirmation of its course towards establishing peace and stability in the region, which is also enshrined in the government’s program for the coming years.
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“The next president will be like-minded”
The prime minister’s press conference began with the question of the resignation of the country’s president, as he announced his decision unexpectedly for the whole country, including, as it turned out, for Pashinyan. The Prime Minister learned about Armen Sarkissianan’s intentions 3.5 hours before the publication of his statement.
According to Pashinyan, he clarified whether the resignation was an intention or a set decision and since the decision was final, it was no longer discussed.
The prime minister did not comment on possible reasons for the hasty resignation of the president, and talked about the future instead. The candidacy of the next president, who will be proposed by the ruling party in parliament, has not yet been discussed, but Nikol Pashiyan believes that this should be a supporter of the current authorities so that there are no disagreements like ones they had with Armen Sarkissian, although they were not given much importance in the ruling party.
“There may not be any changes to the constitution”
The president justified his decision to resign by the imperfection of the constitution, which does not provide president with tools for making important decisions. In general, the country has long been discussing the need to return from a parliamentary form of government to a semi-presidential one, and the government has already created a commission that is studying the issue.
However, Pashinyan said that there may not be any changes in the constitution, their expediency will be clarified based on the results of the work of the commission.
“Azerbaijan is not only offered the point of view of Armenia”
The package of proposals regarding the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border includes not only the point of view of Armenia, Pashinyan said, adding that the document that was handed over to Russia and the Azerbaijani side, contains rational grains deriving from the proposals of other parties.
The Armenian prime minister believes that it is necessary to begin the demarcation process as soon as possible. At the same time, he refused to disclose details, since the document is still under discussion.
“Is it necessary to sign a document recognizing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan?”
According to Pashinyan, back in 1992, both countries mutually recognized each other’s territorial integrity – in accordance with the borders outlined by the CIS.
Now the process depends not only on Armenia, but the prime minister claims that he will continue to work to establish peace and an era of stability in the region. As for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan said that it is on the agenda. A peace treaty should be signed, but before signing, all issues will still be discussed, including the boundaries within which the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan will be recognized.
“Unblocking will bring Armenia more benefits than problems”
Speaking about the restoration of the Yeraskh-Julfa-Meghri-Horadiz railway, which is already on the government’s agenda, Pashinyan said that the construction of the Armenian part of the road would cost Armenia $200 million. This is not an unbearable amount for the country, and international partners are showing interest in this issue, and, perhaps, nothing will be spent from the budget at all.
This branch will connect Armenia with Iran and Russia. And, according to the prime minister, both for Armenia and Azerbaijan, this is an opportunity for large transit flows and an opportunity to make big profits. After all, communications, as Pashinyan explained, will open to the whole world, not only to the countries of the region.
“The dialogue with Turkey has begun, it would be strange to interrupt it”
Pashinyan could not answer, whether it will be possible to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey this year since this is a non-unilateral process. But, he says that it could happen. He believes that if these negotiations do not have a result for a long time, both the parties themselves and international partners will lose interest in this dialogue.
But the prime minister himself confirms the “sincerity of the Armenian government” in this process. Moreover, he argues that this is an unoriginal approach, since all the previous authorities of Armenia went to this dialogue with the same sincerity.
Pashinyan stated that ex-president Robert Kocharyan had already stated that Armenia had no territorial claims against Turkey, and this approach was preserved during the years of ex-president Serzh Sargsyan’s rule, and the current government adheres to it.
As for the process of normalizing relations, which the special representatives of the two countries are discussing, according to Pashinyan, if this dynamics continues, serious progress is possible.
Regarding the concern that after the opening of the borders, Turkish goods will damage local production, the prime minister said that the current government is pursuing a policy of developing export production. In his opinion, the local market is small and cannot develop local production.
In some segments, local goods may lose competition after the opening of borders and the influx of Turkish goods, Pashinyan says. But in contrast, roads will open for the export of local products, which will bring more to the local producer. The government plans to open factories, including copper smelters, for which the export of products is important, and this can be very profitable for Armenia.
Pashinyan stated that Nagorno-Karabakh will also benefit from the opening of communications – both in security and its share of prosperity.
“CSTO will not crush protests in Armenia”
The government has already shown its approach to resolving internal political problems, Pashinyan said, answering the question whether it is possible for Armenia to repeat the situation with Kazakhstan, where peacekeepers of the CSTO military bloc were sent.
The prime minister recalled the long protests demanding the resignation of the government, which began in Armenia after November 9, 2020, that is, the announcement of defeat in the war in Karabakh. To resolve the political crisis, the ruling party went to early parliamentary elections.
According to Pashinyan, Armenia participated in the mission of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Kazakhstan, since “it is beneficial for Armenia to have a CSTO”, and for “response mechanisms” to effectively operatein the organization. He stressed that the Armenian peacekeepers only ensured the protection of strategic facilities, in particular, the bread factory.
“Armenian army will be efficient”
The prime minister said that he would not repeat his mistake and would not say anything about the army, which is classified information. He only said that the reform of the Armenian Armed Forces is going in two directions.
Firstly, “work is going on every day”, which is aimed at creating a efficient army. And the second goal of the country’s Armed Forces is to protect the security of its own territories, and not aggression and the seizure of foreign territories. And, of course, according to Pashinyan, the army should be equipped with the latest military equipment.