It is necessary to launch an international mechanism for the monitoring of the border situation։ Nikol Pashinyan

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan delivered remarks at the regular Cabinet meeting, ahead of the discussion of the session’s agenda.

Below is the full transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech:

“Dear participants of the Cabinet meeting, dear compatriots,

I am sure you are familiar with the statement of the Security Council of the Republic of Armenia on March 28, 2022. The statement, issued following the discussions in expanded format, emphasizes the aspiration of Azerbaijan to launch new provocations and attacks in the direction of Nagorno-Karabakh. We underlined that there is quite a high probability of such developments on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border as well.
This statement, naturally, raised additional questions and I want to come up with a number of clarifications and justifications to make the situation in the region clearer for both the Armenian and the international community.

Like before, during and after the 44-day war in 2020, Azerbaijan pursues a policy of formatulating the wording for justifying the military attack on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. They first bring forward theses, proposals or comments on the diplomatic and public platform, then accuse Armenia of not responding to those theses, proposals or comments or reacting in an unconstructive way or rejecting them, then attributes some promises to Armenia, fabricates some types of arrangements.

Then, in the context of this discourse, they attribute to Armenia none-constructiveness, denial, the practice of not fulfilling promises, not adhering to the agreements, and build aggressive rhetoric based on this accusation, followed by aggressive actions, which are justified by the discourse and content already described above.

This practice, which has been constantly repeating, continues today and it is obvious that Azerbaijan is trying to legitimize a large-scale attack on Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia, and my objective today is to prove that their discourse is groundlessand illegitimate.

In the above context, by the way, sometimes dissinformation plays a significant role, as it is now commonly said, fake news. Now, for example, the false information circulated by Azerbaijani sources is widely spread in the Western world, as if Armenia has provided 4 of its Su-30SM multifunctional jets to Russia for use in Ukraine. This, of course, is outrageous disinformation and our SUs have never left the borders of our country since the day they were imported to Armenia. In the same way, the false news that terrorists are being transferred to Ukraine through the territory of Armenia is presented as truth. Every more or less informed one knows that Armenia, which suffered from the involvement of mercenary-terrorists in the war against it two years ago, can never contribute to their involvement in other places, this is completely absurd information.

Meanwhile, the most speculated issue by Azerbaijan aimed at provoking regional escalation is probably the topic of the peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan continues to claim that the Republic of Armenia leaves the issue unanswered. However, this information does not correspond to reality at all, because I have repeatedly publicly expressed the readiness of the Republic of Armenia to sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan.

And this behaviour has reached the point when Azerbaijan is continuesly announcing that it has conveyed a 5-provision proposal to Armenia, and we have allegedly left those proposals unanswered. At the previous Cabinet meeting, in a live broadcast, I addressed this issue in detail and stated that on March 10, a 5-provision proposal was submitted to the Republic of Armenia, and on March 14, that is, four days later, two of which were non-working, we responded in a written form. We delivered our response through the same channel we received it.

It was conveyed to us by one of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chair countries, we delivered the response through the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chair countries. We have also publicly stated that there is nothing unacceptable for us in Azerbaijan’s proposals. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia stated on March 21, 2022. (I quote)

“There is nothing unacceptable for us in the proposals submitted by Azerbaijan on March 10. Օn the other hand that these proposals do not address all the issues on the Armenia-Azerbaijan comprehensive peace agenda. In our response to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, we have completed the agenda and, on that basis, we are ready for the start of peace talks.” (end of quote)

This is the official position of Armenia and as you can see, the Republic of Armenia responded to the 5-provision proposal of Azerbaijan through both public and diplomatic channels. This answer means that the principle of mutual recognition of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders is acceptable for Armenia. So the question is, why does Azerbaijan consider this reaction as an absence of response?

The reason is that the Republic of Armenia has stated in its public and diplomatic responses that there is a Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the issue of the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh should be addressed in the context of the Armenia-Azerbaijan comprehensive settlement.

Azerbaijan’s position is that there is no Nagorno-Karabakh issue, it is already solved. However, this position of Baku does not answer one important question: and how the issue of the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh be solved in that case? There is no answer to this question and this is the reason why the international community is constantly speaking about the need for a comprehensive settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, expressed at various international platforms. Realizing that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue exists and will be better expressed on the international agenda, Azerbaijan is not trying to solve the issue, but just to close it, and this operation was launched from the village of Parukh in the Askeran region, which has an obvious tendency to continue. In essence, Azerbaijan is trying to annihilate all Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, thus consider the issue closed.

If we are wrong, then let Azerbaijan demonstrate concrete interest in discussing the rights and security guarantees of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh – an issue is raised not only by Armenia but also by the entire international community.

But official Baku is moving in the opposite direction, claiming that there is no Nagorno-Karabakh. This is also the reason why the official circles of Azerbaijan react quite aggressively to all the cases when the international community uses the name Nagorno-Karabakh.

However, the use of this name is unequivocally legitimate, logical, because, among other reasons, the trilateral declaration of November 9 clearly states the terms Nagorno-Karabakh, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. That declaration is also signed by the President of Azerbaijan.

By the way, the fact that Azerbaijan has adopted and is implementing a policy of “Nagorno Karabakh without Armenians” is also substantiated by arbitrary interpretations of the November 9 trilateral declaration. Among them is, for example, Azerbaijan’s persistent claims that a November 9 trilateral declaration pledged the withdrawal the Defense Army from Nagorno-Karabakh.

This is more than an arbitrary comment, because the November 9 declaration clearly states which areas the Armenian units should leave and where they should stay. I should also say that the earlier statements of the President of Azerbaijan testify to the fact that this provision put forward by Azerbaijan is imaginary. During our trilateral meeting mediated by the President of the Russian Federation on November 26, 2021, he himself publicly stated that practically all the provisions of the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020 have been implemented, except for the point of opening communications. (I would like to emphasize that from our point of view, the provision on the return of prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees has obviously not been fully implemented so far, and we are, of course, continuing the work on that.)

But we must state that the withdrawal of the Defense Army of Nagorno Karabakh means the withdrawal of the Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh, and in fact this is the demand that Azerbaijan is formulating. This also explains Azerbaijan’s policy of getting rid of everything Armenian from Nagorno Karabakh, including millennia-old churches, khachkars and inscriptions. And the events in Parukh show that the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh need to be protected, otherwise they will become victims of genocide.

In the past, we have proposed solutions that would reduce or eliminate such a conflict situation and resolve the issue of the militarized line of contact, I mean the events related to Parukh. The essenc of the proposal is the following. To record the line of contact in Nagorno Karabakh, to record the obligation of the parties not to cross that line of contact, to remove all military positions along the line, to create a demilitarized zone and to strengthen the implementation of agreements with concrete guarantees. This proposal was not accepted, but the relevance of the guarantees is obvious especially now.

I must inform that Parukh’s crisis, in fact, arose as a result of violating the agreements. In order to alleviate the tense situation in the region, an agreement had been reached to simultaneously remove a number of positions from the Parukh-Khramort section, and this agreement was to be guaranteed by the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Several Armenian positions were withdrawn, Russian peacekeepers were deployed in the area, but the Azerbaijanis invaded the area of responsibility of the peacekeepers in front of their eyes.

We note with regret that despite the clear statements of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the United States, France and the United Nations, the invasion of Azerbaijani armed forces into the area of responsibility of the peacekeeping force of the Russian Federation in Nagorno-Karabakh continues.

We expect that the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh will take concrete steps to ensure the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the area of responsibility of the peacekeepers and to restore the status quo established by the November 9, 2020 trilateral declaration.

We also expect that the actions of the peacekeepers during or after the invasion, or the possible inaction, which I mentioned, will be properly investigated. Let us not forget that before these events, the Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire from mortars on the village of Khramort for 10 days. In a number of villages in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijanis fired and continue to fire from firearms at residential houses and people carrying out agricultural work, equipment, tractors, and naturaly, the drivers. Such cases were registered in the direction of Nor Shen, Amaras, Taghavart villages, while on October 9, 2021, the driver of a tractor carrying out agricultural work was killed while driving in Martakert by an Azerbaijani sniper in the presence of peacekeepers.

The apparent goal of these actions is to complete the policy of ethnic cleansing of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.

This is also evidenced by Azerbaijan’s distortion of pont 9 of the November 9 declaration. Let me remind you that this point is about the restoration of all transport and economic links, the launch of the road connecting the western regions of Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan. You are aware that Armenia has made comprehensive proposals on this topic. Without going into details, let me say that the essence of our proposal is the following: reconstruction the Yeraskh-Julfa-Ordubad-Meghri-Horadiz railway, reopening or building a highway that will connect the western regions of Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan, carrying out border, customs and other controls at border crossings.

Azerbaijan both accepts and does not accept our position. And this is expressed in the following. They say they agree with any legal regime for the operation of this road, but the same regime should apply to the Lachin corridor, and to justify this position, they refer to the November 9 declaration.

This discourse is baseless for two reasons. First of all, the November 9 declaration does not mention any territory of the Republic of Armenia and any corridor related to it, but there is a term “Lachin corridor”. The Lachin corridor is not just a road, but an area 5 kilometers wide. That whole area, according to the trilateral declaration, is under the control of the Russian peacekeeping forces. There is simply no provision for any other country to take control of any territory of Armenia under Article 9 of the trilateral statement. Besides, the parallels between Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhichevan are strange for several reasons. First, Nakhichevan has a land connection with Azerbaijan through the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey, air communication through the airspace of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey and the Republic of Armenia.

Nagorno Karabakh has only land connection with Armenia, only through the Lachin corridor, and making the Lachin corridor controlled by Azerbaijan in any way means one thing: the eviction of the Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh.

We record once again. The comparison of the Lachin corridor with the road to be opened through the territory of Armenia is unacceptable, the November 9 declaration does not envisage the existence of any corridor through the territory of Armenia and Armenia has not accepted and will not accept any corridor-related logic.

On the other hand, we are ready to open the road and the railway within the framework of our proposals, to build a road and a railway, but we consider it necessary to sign a de jure agreement with Azerbaijan. Why? Because we see a very specific risk that Armenia will build both the road and the railway, but Azerbaijan will refuse to open the border. And it will mean that neither Armenia, nor Azerbaijan, nor third countries will be unable to use the infrastructure that requires several hundred million dollars of investment, and Armenia will simply lose several hundred million dollars. What do we offer today? We propose the de-jure record the agreements reached in Brussels on December 14, 2021on the relaunching of the railway, agree on the parameters of the railway and start the construction. Or we can do it in a package, including the highway, and we are ready to do this as soon as Azerbaijan responds positively to our proposals. By the way, we have also delivered our written proposals to a number of our international partners, for whom our proposals are logical, acceptable, and address the interests of all the countries in the region.

Dear attendees, dear compatriots,

The next issue that Azerbaijan uses to form a discourse justifying escalation is the demarcation and delimitation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Based on the results of the trilateral meeting held in Sochi on November 26, 2021, the President of the Russian Federation, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia adopted a statement stating that they agree: “To take steps to increase the level of stability and security on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, push the process towards the establishment of a bilateral commission on delimitation and demarcation of the state border between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

I do not think that this statement can be misinterpreted, and it is obvious that the establishment of a commission on demarcation and delimitation should be preceded by steps to increase the level of stability and security on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Azerbaijan has not made any proposals on such measures. As you know, Armenia has proposed to simultaneously withdraw troops from the Soviet-period border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to hand over the protection of that border to a limited number of border guards and to carry out international monitoring of the border. Azerbaijan has not yet officially responded to this proposal, according to information received from third countries, our proposal is not acceptable for Azerbaijan.

In this regard, however, we have been and are maximally flexible and have also proposed several other withdrawal formulas. Azerbaijan either does not accept or does not respond to those proposals. What does this mean: In fact, it means that it tries to maintain the tension on the border and the possibility of resumption of hostilities also during the demarcation process, to formulate territorial claims against Armenia and to resort to military provocations if those demands are not met. This is an unacceptable approach.

In any case, I think it is necessary to launch an international mechanism for monitoring the border situation. We have offered several options for that, including to Azerbaijan, and any of those options that Azerbaijan will accept will be acceptable for us.

Dear attendees, dear compatriots,

Returning to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, I would like to note that the Azerbaijani armed forces, in addition to invading the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, continue to make daily statements threatening the population of a number of villages in Nagorno-Karabakh using loudspeakers. This is also happening in front of the eyes of the peacekeepers. Using loudspeakers, Azerbaijanis demand people to leave their homes, otherwise threatening to evict them by force. This is an obvious demand for ethnic cleansing.

For the residents of the villages with the population confessing the Armenian Apostolic Christian faith, even at night hours, the Azerbaijanis turn on the Muslim Azan with loudspeakers. Of course, we have great respect for the Islamic religion and civilization, but what Azerbaijan is doing is violence against the freedom of conscience and religion, a means of inciting religious hatred and ultimately offending the religious feelings of our compatriots.

Above, I have already referred to Azerbaijan’s policy of getting rid of everything Armenian in Nagorno Karabakh. In this context, it is worth mentioning the statement made by the minister of culture of Azerbaijan on February 23 that “a working group has been set up to eliminate the false traces left by Armenians on the temples of Caucasian Albanians, consisting of specialists who know Albanian history and architecture.” This means that Azerbaijan is publicly and officially launching the falsification and elimination of the Armenian cultural heritage under its disposal. And the statement of the minister of culture is not a coincidence at all. During his visit to Hadrut region on March 16, 2021, the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, speaking about the Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God in Tsakuri, stated: “Just as the Armenians desecrated our mosques, in the same way they desecrated the ancient Albanian temple. But we will restore. All these writings are false, they are written later”.

These steps of Azerbaijan are an open challenge to the December 7 decision of the UN International Court of Justice on the provisional measures, which clearly obliges Azerbaijan. “To take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration against the Armenian cultural heritage, including churches, other places of worship, monuments, sights, cemeteries, artifacts.”

We believe all these situations should be subject to proper international investigation and assessment. We expect the international community to make a targeted assessment of Azerbaijan’s actions in Nagorno-Karabakh, because the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh is being intimidated every day, literally every day (including gas terrorism) and its goal is to evict people from their homes and homeland.

I would like to complete my speech by reiterating that Armenia offers concrete and logical solutions for demarcation and delimitation, opening of regional communications, excluding military escalation in Nagorno Karabakh and there are no grounds for accusing us of denial or non-fulfillment of agreements.

I once again express the readiness of the Republic of Armenia to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan. Armenia is ready for the immediate start of peace talks. President of the European Council Charles Michel, President of Azerbaijan and I are scheduled to meet in Brussels on April 6. And I hope that during that meeting, all issues related to the start of peace talks will be discussed and agreed with the president of Azerbaijan.”

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