“The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that he allegedly inherited a negotiation package from you, in which it was no longer possible to start or continue substantive negotiations. He literally said that all opportunities were exhausted, and therefore he started from his own point, not from your point. There was no possibility to negotiate Artsakh’s status, and it was only about the unconditional surrender of 7 regions, moreover, there was no guarantee that Azerbaijan would not present new conditions or demands. That is, in fact, in April 2018, the negotiation process was at a deadlock. Is that so?” In response to this question during an interview with ArmNews TV, third President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan said the following:
No, definitely not. What he said speaks only about the fact that he, even after working for almost 3 years as Prime Minister, that is, being the chief negotiator, did not understand the meaning of the negotiations, in general. He made such statements after the capitulation, and the representative of one of the co-chairing countries, Mr. Popov immediately hit back at his allegations. You may not believe me, but we have no reason not to believe Mr. Popov, because if what Popov said did not correspond to the truth, the other co-chairs would immediately try to correct him, because no matter how much the USA, Russia and France have contradictions. - At least this was the question, because they cooperated, they did not hide anything from each other. I want to address the issues of principle, to say the following: that we have never negotiated about what we will give, we have always negotiated about what we will get. But the negotiations were a matter of giving or not giving for these people, which is nonsense, nonsense, maybe to some extent typical for such people. Our red line was that Nagorno-Karabakh would never be part of Azerbaijan. That was our red line, and we defended that line until April 23, 2018.
You see, the Prime Minister published an article entitled “The Origin of the 44-Day War where he evokes “your tenure,” the April War, and asks a rhetorical question, saying that if you were to prevent the war, then why did you not prevent the April war, why did you not provide us with a victorious outcome in the two years following the April war? Now, look, Mr. President, is it possible to agree with the observation that the 2020 war was the continuation of the suspended April war, because at what cost did we stop the April war? You know better than me that, for example, there is information that we have verbally agreed to cede 7 regions at the cost of stopping the April war.
No never. Such an opinion has nothing to do with reality, and David, sorry, where did you get that information? In reality, such a thing did not happen. The April war was stopped with the mediation of Russia, which Azerbaijan accepted because it was inflicted upon a powerful counterattack during the hostilities, and, having suffered great losses, had to sit at the negotiating table. I said this in detail during my August press conference.
We were expected to sign a new ceasefire agreement, with which we did not agree at all, we said no. You know, if we had other agreements there, because that meeting was a trilateral one, the third party, that is, co-chair Russia, would have announced it one day, at least because he would not damage his credit in this way, because the Russian side could not witness such a conversation, such an agreement without informing its partners about it, I mean the USA or France. Do you see how much the circle expands?
Just as the Russian Foreign Ministry announced through Popov what kind of document was on the table before the spring events of 2018, so it would announce that such conditions existed. And, on the other hand, if there was such an agreement, how did the package solution remain on the table until 2018?
Mr. President, the opposition, including the Republican Party led by you, accuses the incumbent government of withdrawing from the Vienna-St. Petersburg agreements, which should have established monitoring mechanisms on the line of contact. Okay, but during the two years following the April war, you were in power and failed to enhance the monitoring mechanisms and increase the number of observers. Why are you blaming this government now?
And who said that in 2 years we should have reached that coveted destination? Even when in 2007 we were offered a document called the Madrid Principles, it took almost a year for Azerbaijan to give a preliminary agreement on those principles, to negotiate over that document. It would be a great loss for Azerbaijan, we have talked about it many times with the President of Azerbaijan, and he also realized that with this mechanism of investigation of incidents we were simply internationalizing the line of contact.
Anyone who is more or less aware of the negotiation process should have understood this clearly. Azerbaijan was well aware that the use of force after that would have very serious consequences for them, so I tried to avoid it by all means. And who said that one should get tired of that job, and who said that the task had a term of two years, a term of three years or a term of four years.
Mr. President, we should have continued as it was a trump card in our hands?
Definitely. You know, when these authorities gave up our achievements and started learning about the negotiation history, so to speak, from Aliyev, it was already obvious to me that we were going towards a defeat, we were going to war. You see, I understand their wish that they were trying to gain time, maybe during that time to get acquainted in detail with what we had been negotiating, where we had reached, but that time had to be gained for a very simple, understandable reason. They should have said: “Mr. Co-Chairs, yes, the former authorities were thieves, bandits, robbers, etc., etc., but, nevertheless, a war took place in 2016, following which you yourself made such a statement. Please, let us implement that statement, and then let us move on to substantive negotiations. Instead, they set an incomprehensible condition to the co-chairs and Azerbaijan. That Artsakh should participate in the negotiation process. I think they thought that with that, as I said, they could gain time, because it was impossible, and secondly, they put that condition before Azerbaijan.
Was it a condition or a wish of the Armenian side?
It was a condition - the wish was ours, as we always said that it would be right for Nagorno-Karabakh to fully participate in the negotiation process. It was a wish that did not become a condition. And in this case it was a condition, because they said that there would be no negotiations without it. Can you imagine what it means for Armenia to impose conditions on the Co-Chairs, Russia, the United States and France? It meant not only failure, it meant disrespectful attitude towards those countries, which made great efforts to solve the problem. The Presidents of the Co-Chair countries had stated five times about the format of negotiations, the principles on the basis of which this issue should have been resolved. And there comes someone who ignores all that and says no, I have to start the negotiations from my own point.