“I hope to find a solution to the conflict that will be acceptable for the peoples of Azerbaijan, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) and Armenia. I have personally asked Mr. Aliyev to make a turning point in this process, but unfortunately, he continues to declare that Zangezur, Syunik Province, Lake Sevan or the capital Yerevan are the territories of Azerbaijan. However, nobody can speak in the language of force with us Armenians.” This is what Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan declared during the 2nd Paris Peace Forum today.
Prime Minister Pashinyan expressed gratitude to President of France Emmanuel Macron for the Paris Peace Forum and stated that it serves as a major platform to discuss the current security challenges and develop joint formulas to overcome those challenges.
In his speech, the Prime Minister particularly said the following: “What should you know about Armenia’s security environment? I have to record a very strange fact. Two of our four borders are closed, and the other two are so-called semi-closed due to certain tension concerning Iran and the certain negative impact on Armenia due to the tense relations between Russia and Georgia, which is Armenia’s neighbor in the north.
But, of course, the key security challenge for us is the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. To be honest, when I became Prime Minister of Armenia and became involved in international relations, I was surprised when I found out that there are a lot of misunderstandings in regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in the international community.
There is another interesting fact. Whoever is interested in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue must know why this conflict emerged. The first reason was Stalin’s decision to annex Karabakh to the newly established Soviet Azerbaijan. When Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the former USSR in 1986, he launched a process of democratic reforms and declared democracy, perestroika. The prevailing majority of the people of Karabakh, who have been and remain Armenians and had the status of autonomous region in Soviet Azerbaijan, decided to take advantage of this opportunity and exit from Azerbaijan in accordance with the legislation of the former USSR.
The authorities of Soviet Azerbaijan decided to repress this movement through power structures. This was the very beginning of the conflict. When the former USSR began to collapse, like many other Soviet states, Azerbaijan also decided to become an independent state, and the law of the former USSR stated that if any member republic decides to declare independence, the autonomous region located within its composition shall determine its future on its own.
And so, alongside Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh also launched the process of declaring its independence, and just like Azerbaijan broke away from the former USSR, Nagorno-Karabakh also broke away from Azerbaijan. As a result, Azerbaijan decided to apply military force and unleashed a war against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. There were many territories in the Nagorno-Karabakh where they launched ethnic cleansing, and as a result, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (about 80-85% of the population) began to defend themselves, and it turned out that they were capable of doing so and forced Azerbaijan to come to grips with the new situation.
On May 12, 1994, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement. After that, and even before that, the negotiations had been launched, and a format of negotiations had been developed. According to the decisions of international tribunals, there were three parties, including Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
The negotiations had begun even in 1992. For a long time, Nagorno-Karabakh was involved in the negotiations as a party. As a matter of fact, there were certain meetings between the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan and the defense ministers of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. Unfortunately, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unresolved.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, in 1998, Nagorno-Karabakh was excluded from the negotiations. As a result, now Azerbaijan refuses to negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh and even refuses to negotiate in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. However, according to this format, there are three parties in the negotiations, including Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
However, the government of Azerbaijan also claims that Nagorno-Karabakh must form a part of Azerbaijan, but this is a very strange claim since it is impossible to understand how the Azerbaijani government can consider Nagorno-Karabakh a part of its territorial integrity, yet refuse to negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh. Unfortunately, the authorities of Azerbaijan don’t plan to talk to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and negotiate with them since they want to have territories without the people in those territories.
The Armenophobic policy also extends to foreigners visiting Nagorno-Karabakh, whose names are included in the ‘black list’ of Azerbaijan. A citizen of any country with an Armenian last name or of Armenian origin, can’t enter Azerbaijan.
Recently, a driver was arrested just because he was listening to Armenian music in his car. An even more infamous incident happened to member of Arsenal football team Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who missed the final match of the Europa League in Baku.
It is clear that there is a need to make real efforts to solve the problem. Armenia has, shall we say, equal opportunities with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh to solve the problem.
When I took office, I declared that any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue must be acceptable for the peoples of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. I am the first leader of Armenia who declared that any option for the solution must also be acceptable for the people of Azerbaijan, yet Armenia’s political opposition asks why Armenia should care about the interests of the people of Azerbaijan.
My answer is very clear. It is because I am certain that if we want a sustainable solution to the issue, we need to take into consideration the interests of all the parties. I made this statement with the hope to hear a similar statement from the Azerbaijani authorities, particularly my counterpart Ilham Aliyev. From this major platform and from this venue of the event with a major title (Paris Peace Forum), I would like to call on our colleagues to make a similar statement that the solution to the issue must be acceptable for the peoples of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. Of course, this is not easy, but if we have assumed responsibility for the future of our peoples, the region and the world, we need to make real efforts to achieve real changes,” Prime Minister Pashinyan said.
Afterwards, Pashinyan answered questions from a participant of the discussion, an Azerbaijani blogger, who is originally from the Armenian city of Vardenis. The blogger asked about the United Nations Resolutions regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, the granting of the highest autonomy to Artsakh within the composition of Azerbaijan and the entrance of citizens with Armenian last names into Azerbaijan.
“When you were asking your question, you stated that Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan. This is not right. There is internationally established negotiation format, named OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairmanship, and the mandate of that format is to decide on final status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Why is Azerbaijan involved in the process of these negotiations as a party, if Karabakh is already internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan? This is strange, right?
I hope to find a solution to the conflict that will be acceptable for the peoples of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. I declared this in Stepanakert, and I have been waiting to hear a similar statement from the Azerbaijani government for a year. I have personally asked Mr. Aliyev to make a turning point in this process, but unfortunately, he continues to declare that Zangezur, Syunik Province, Lake Sevan or the capital Yerevan are the territories of Azerbaijan. However, nobody can speak in the language of force with us Armenians. What did you expect me to declare when the leadership of Azerbaijan declares that it will seize not only Karabakh, but also Zangezur and Yerevan? We offer peace. We are not threatening anyone in the region. We want to prepare our society for peace.”