Sending an international fact-finding mission to Artsakh and Lachin Corridor is a must – PM Pashinyan

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the Prague Center for Transatlantic Relations, where he gave a speech and answered the questions of representatives of expert circles. The meeting was attended by Tomáš Pojar, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Alexandr Vondra, the director of the center, and members of the Czech Parliament.

In his speech, the Prime Minister, in particular, noted.

“Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here today and address this distinguished audience. And I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Alexander Vondra and his team for organizing and moderating this event.

Armenia has traditionally friendly relations with the Czech Republic based on common values and is willing to enhance our cooperation in all areas of mutual interest. My visit coincides with the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between our countries. During the past 30 years, Armenia and the Czech Republic have developed a solid bilateral agenda covering a wide range of areas, including active political dialogue and partnership in different fields of mutual interest.

Today I would like to speak about Armenia’s democratic journey in a region that has been marked by turbulence and uncertainty and to share with you Armenia’s progress towards building a stable democracy in the face of many challenges.

Armenia’s commitment to democratic development is a result of the non-violent revolution in 2018, which was inspired, among others, by the principles of the Velvet Revolution in former Czechoslovakia, led by Vaclav Havel.

After the revolution, my government initiated wide-ranging democratic reforms that included the fight against corruption, the shadow economy and economic monopolies. We have safeguarded the freedom of speech and expression and turned the page of falsified elections, ensuring that the free expression of citizens’ will is the only legitimate source of power.

As a result, we have been able to achieve impressive economic growth: 7.6 percent in 2019, 5.7 percent in 2021, and 12.6 in 2022. The number of workplaces grew by around 32 percent in 2022 over 2017. Tax revenues grew by over 66 percent in 2022 over 2017. Armenia’s sovereign rating has been upgraded. So have Armenia’s international rankings in respect of economic and democratic performance, most notably regarding the freedom of expression and respect for human rights.

My country currently leads the “Democracy and Good Governance” rating table among the EU Eastern Partnership states in the following 5 areas: fight against corruption, independent judiciary, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, independent media and democratic rights, elections and political pluralism.

Nevertheless, the Armenian people’s trust in democracy is undermined due to the security challenges faced by Armenia in recent years.

In September 2020, Azerbaijan unleashed a war against Nagorno Karabakh.

In May 2021, it invaded the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, and in September 2022, initiated a new large-scale attack against Armenia, occupying some more of our sovereign territory.

These events took thousands of lives, destroyed civilian infrastructure, and caused many people to go missing, in addition to those held captive by Azerbaijan to this very day.

Dozens of thousands of Armenians have been forced to move out of their homes in Nagorno Karabakh, joining the hundreds of thousands that had become refugees because of Azerbaijan’s decades-long Armenophobic policies.

As it is widely known, the 2020 November trilateral statement legally stipulates that the Lachin Corridor must serve as a link between Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. However, in gross violation of the said statement, from December 2022 Azerbaijan has imposed an unlawful blockade in the Lachin Corridor, causing a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno Karabakh. Moreover, despite the interim measures ordered by the ICJ in February 2023, Azerbaijan unlawfully set up a check-point in the Lachin Corridor, further escalating the situation.

Azerbaijan not only has deprived the people of Nagorno Karabakh of the right to freedom of movement, but also has disconnected the supply of natural gas and electricity. There is a shortage of food and essential supplies in Nagorno Karabakh, and they are currently sold through coupons.

Our belief is that these are not isolated actions, but rather—Azerbaijan’s preparation for ethnic cleansing of Nagorno Karabakh. In this sense, we consider it necessary to dispatch an international fact-finding mission to Nagorno Karabkh and the Lachin Corridor; the international community needs to make a clear and pointed assessment of the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno Karabakh. This is important for not only the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh, but also the future of democracy in our region, because the main question hanging in the air in the Republic of Armenia is WHETHER democracy can ensure security and stability in our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In spite of all this, our perception of this situation is guided primarily by the following democratic considerations: there is no alternative to peace in our region. On the sidelines of the First Summit of the European Political Community held here in Prague in October 2022, we laid a solid foundation for achieving peace in our region, during the four-party meeting between French President Macron, President of the European Council Michel, Azerbaijan’s President, and myself.

The main outcome of that meeting was that Armenia and Azerbaijan recognize each other’s territorial integrity with the territories that the two republics had when gaining independence from the Soviet Union, as per the 1991 Almaty Declaration, which will be the basis for the subsequent delimitation of the borders. This understanding was reaffirmed during the trilateral meeting held in Sochi on 31 October 2022, where the sides underlined that the outstanding issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan must be resolved only on the basis of the 1991 Almaty Declaration and the UN Charter, renouncing the use of force or the threat of force.

Nevertheless, Azerbaijan continues its policy of threatening the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia and using force and the threat of force, constantly escalating the situation on the border with Armenia, as well as in Nagorno Karabakh.

Despite all this, Armenia remains committed to the policy of resolving the outstanding issues through negotiations, and we are ready to sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan.

At the moment, the main obstacles to signing such an agreement are the following: it has so far been impossible to agree upon language that will clearly state that Azerbaijan recognizes the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia with 29 thousand 800 square kilometers.

The mechanism for safeguarding the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh is still uncertain; so is the Stepanakert-Baku dialogue format, which in our opinion should take place in the framework of an international mechanism.

It has so far been impossible to agree upon mechanisms for overcoming differences in the reading of the peace agreement text.

And finally, there is no agreement on international mechanisms for implementing the peace agreement.

We do, however, continue our efforts in order to succeed in all these areas. For four days now, Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations, with facilitation by the United States, have been negotiating in Washington for resolving all these issues.

To conclude, I would like to highlight that as a result of the four-party meeting held in Prague on 6 October 2022, an important development occurred in the Armenia-EU relationship. It was decided to deploy a short-term monitoring mission of the EU on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, which later evolved into a decision to deploy a long-term mission that started operating in Armenia in February.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Czech Republic for supporting this decision, which is yet another manifestation of support to Armenia’s democracy.

Thank you for your attention. And we can now take some questions”.

Next, the Prime Minister answered a number of questions from the audience, which related to the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, negotiations with Azerbaijan, processes taking place in the South Caucasus and other topics.

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