Nikol Pashinyan: "We're proposing peace agenda to Azerbaijan, not war agenda"
Power changed in Armenia a year ago as a result of events that came to be known as the “velvet revolution”. Member of opposition Nikol Pashinyan became Prime Minister - the held of the republic. Nikol Pashinyan spoke to Yuri Simonyan in an exclusive interview to Nezavisimaya Gazeta and discussed what has changed in the country over this year, main challenges facing Armenia, as well as Yerevan's relations with its neighbors and centers of world politics.
- Russian political and expert circles voice alarming question: is Russia a strategic ally of Armenia or is it a strategic ally in certain areas, like defense, and in others areas it's just a partner?
- Even before I was elected as Prime Minister, I said that there would be no fundamental changes in Armenia’s foreign policy, and we continue to maintain this position. It is important to understand where did this distrust come from. After a number of famous revolutions, anti-Russian sentiments appeared in some countries. It's very important for us to stress - and I have repeatedly said that there was no geopolitical context in our revolution - that there will be no geopolitical conspiracies, there's no external force that will be involved in the revolutionary process. It's very important. But yes, there are certain suspicions in some Russian circles - they wonder how true are my statements that there were no external forces involved in our revolution. I have repeatedly said and would like to say it once again that for me, for all of us, it's not just political issue. It is also a matter of personal dignity. Of course, Armenia is a strategic ally of the Russian Federation. At the same time, Armenia is a very important country for the Russian Federation. There are experts, specialists and politicians in Russia who predicted events in Armenia, who knen that revolution is possible, a change of power is possible. But analysis of the events most likely was not done, they argued that nothing will change in Armenia, that Serzh Sargsyan would easily become Prime Minister and continue his rule until the last day... Now they need to explain themselves, so that's why there's "information" that revolution allegedly involved some outside forces. I want to emphasize once again that there was no color revolution in Armenia. There was a nonviolent and extremely popular velvet revolution. It's a unique revolution, a unique phenomenon in world history, and we are proud of it.
Nothing changed in our relations with Russia. If changes did occur, they were definetely positive. As I promised, there are no dark corners in our relations, our position on this has always been clear, and this is a very good chance to raise our relations to a new level. Of course, Russia is our strategic partner and ally. But we must also take into account that we have internal political agenda, which, of course, doesn't coincide with internal political agenda of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, France, or the United States, because each country has its own internal political agenda, which doesn't affect overall background of our relations with other countries.
Of course, there are some nuances. For example, our relationship with the European Union has become more active. But our Russian colleagues are informed about this. Just like we promised, we remain transparent before our Russian partners when it comes to our relations. And my answer is yes, Russia is a strategic ally for us.
- No government of Armenia was criticized by Washington as harshly, at least publicly, as the current one, due to the fact that you sent humanitarian military mission to Syria. How do you think you can improve relations with the United States?
- There's also the fact that no other government of Armenia has criticized the US as much as I criticize it. The most important thing for us is to preserve our sovereignty and independence. Of course, we cannot exist outside the framework of regional and international relations and realities. We're always open for discussion, even on the issue of sending humanitarian mission to Syria. We're ready to answer all of their questions. We believe that we made the right decision, which comes from historical context. April 24 is the next anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. If Armenian sappers demine a small peace of land for those children whose ancestors saved at least one Armenian, and such people definitely exist in Aleppo, then our mission is justified. If Armenian doctors will save at least one descendant of those Syrians who saved one Armenian during the genocide, then our mission has justified itself. And this has already happened - our doctors in Syria have already performed over 100 operations.
- Azerbaijan was happy about the change of power in Armenia, believing that it will help the Karabakh conflict settlement. Now Baku is saying that Pashinyan is wasting time more and more, demanding to return Karabakh to negotiating table and some other things...
- What do you mean by "wasting time"? Does someone think that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue can be resolved in one day? In one week? Or even in one year? If someone thinks so, then they have no idea about the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. At the joint meeting of the Security Council of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia on March 12, I said that we're proposing agenda of peace to Azerbaijan, not agenda of war. We must work together to resolve this problem. If we don't work together on this issue, then we will never find a solution, even through military measures, because it's impossible to resolve such problems through force, it will only make things worse. Does someone think that it's possible to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without participation of Nagorno-Karabakh itself? The agenda, which I'm currently proposing, is pretty unexpected not only for Azerbaijan, but also for the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. It will take time for us to discuss all nuances in detail in the working atmosphere. I think that over this year both authorities of Azerbaijan and the Minsk Group co-chairs were convinced that we really want to resolve this conflict, really want to reach peace agreement, all our proposals are not wasting time, but help to resolve this problem. We need to prepare our societies for peace, not war. I won't stop repeating that any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem should be acceptable to Armenian people, people of Nagorno-Karabakh and people of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, we havn't heard similar statements from Azerbaijani side yet. When Baku says that solution to this problem should be agreed on by both Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples, then we can talk about breakthrough in the negotiation process.
- Any conflict is resolved on the basis of compromises. In this case, compromises imply certain concessions. What concessions can Armenia agree on?
- It's wrong to ask only one of the sides about this. It's important that the process is constructive. It's necessary for all parties to answer this question simultaneously. And I'm ready to answer this question together with Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. But when Azerbaijan is taking a stand, Armenian side's statements on readiness for concessions and compromises can be interpreted as weakness. I have always said that they should not frighten us with war. There's nothing that scares us, because we feel very confident. Right now Armenian society is in the process of revival in every sense. We propose to talk about peace, not about war.
- Can you name the biggest challenge facing Armenian state, and how can it be addressed?
- The Nagorno-Karabakh issue and the economic revolution agenda. We hope to resolve them with the help of friends and hope that our cooperation with the Russian Federation in this direction will be effective.
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At the end of an interview, Armenian Prime Minister agreed to answer some blitz questions
- When does your work day begin and when does it end?
- From 8AM. It only ends when I'm too tired to work.
- Any hobbies?
- Never had one.
- Favourite dish?
- Spas - Armenian dish.
- Favourite drink?
- Coffee. I also drink alcohol, but I have no preferences. Depends on company, on situation.
- Favorite writer?
- Hovannes Tumanyan, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Hrant Matevosyan.