Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (photo: primeminister.am)

In Virtual Press Conference Pashinyan Says ‘Peace on Agenda’

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YEREVAN (JAM News) — Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan on January 24 answered a wide-ranging series of questions from journalists and representatives of civil society, on the air, and spoke about the issues that the country is currently facing. He outlined the priorities of the current government, including the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, normalization of relations with Turkey and overcoming the internal political crisis.

The main message of the press conference was the confirmation of its course towards establishing peace and stability in the region, which is also enshrined in the government’s program for the coming years.

The prime minister’s press conference began with the question of the resignation of the country’s president, as he announced his decision unexpectedly for the whole country, including, as it turned out, for Pashinyan. The Prime Minister learned about Armen Sarkissian’s intentions 3.5 hours before the publication of his statement.

The prime minister did not comment on possible reasons for the hasty resignation of the president, and talked about the future instead.

The president justified his decision to resign by the limitations of the constitution, which does not provide president with tools for making decisions.

However, Pashinyan said no changes are anticipated to be considered regarding the constitution.

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A more delicate topic was the package of proposals regarding the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which he said includes not only the point of view of Armenia, but that of Russia and the Azerbaijani side.

The Armenian prime minister believes that it is necessary to begin the demarcation process as soon as possible. At the same time, he refused to disclose details, since the document is still under discussion.

According to Pashinyan, back in 1992, both countries mutually recognized each other’s territorial integrity — in accordance with the borders outlined by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Now the process depends not only on Armenia, but the prime minister claims that he will continue to work to establish peace and an era of stability in the region. As for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan said that it is on the agenda. A peace treaty should be signed, but before signing, all issues will still be discussed, including the boundaries within which the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan will be recognized.

Speaking about the restoration of the Yeraskh-Julfa-Meghri-Horadiz railway, which is already on the government’s agenda, Pashinyan said that the construction of the Armenian part of the road would cost Armenia $200 million. The figure is one that the country should afford especially in light of the railway making Armenia a transit hub connecting Armenia with Iran and Russia. And, according to the prime minister, both for Armenia and Azerbaijan, this is an opportunity for making big profits.

The Armenian government has created a special working group for the restoration of the Yeraskh-Julfa-Meghri-Horadiz railway. Azerbaijan plans to complete its section of the railway by early 2023.

Pashinyan could not answer whether it will be possible to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey this year since this is a non-unilateral process. But, he says that it could happen. He believes that if these negotiations do not have a result for a long time, both the parties themselves and international partners will lose interest in this dialogue.

But the prime minister himself confirmed the “sincerity of the Armenian government” in this process. Moreover, he argued that all previous leaders of Armenia went to this dialogue with the same sincerity.

Pashinyan said ex-president Robert Kocharyan had stated that Armenia had no territorial claims against Turkey, and this approach was preserved during the years of ex-president Serzh Sargsyan’s rule, and the current government adhered to it.

As for the process of normalizing relations, which the special representatives of the two countries discussed on January 24, according to Pashinyan, if this dynamics continues, serious progress is possible.

Regarding the concern that after the opening of the borders, Turkish goods will damage local production, the prime minister said that the current government is pursuing a policy of developing exports.

In some segments, local goods may lose competition after the opening of borders and the influx of Turkish goods, Pashinyan says. But in contrast, roads will open for the export of local products, which will bring more to the local producer. The government plans to open factories, including copper smelters, for which the export of products is important, and this can be very profitable for Armenia.

Pashinyan stated that Nagorno-Karabakh will also benefit from the opening of communications – both in security and its share of prosperity.

The prime minister recalled the long protests demanding the resignation of the government, which began in Armenia after November 9, 2020, that is, the announcement of defeat in the war in Karabakh. To resolve the political crisis, the ruling party went to early parliamentary elections.

According to Pashinyan, Armenia participated in the mission of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Kazakhstan, since “it is beneficial for Armenia to have a CSTO”, and for “response mechanisms” to effectively operate in the organization. He stressed that the Armenian peacekeepers only ensured the protection of strategic facilities, in particular, the bread factory.

The prime minister said that he would not repeat his mistake and would not say anything about the army, which is classified information. He only said that the reform of the Armenian Armed Forces is going in two directions.

Firstly, “work is going on every day”, which is aimed at creating a efficient army. And the second goal of the country’s Armed Forces is to protect the security of its own territories, and not aggression and the seizure of foreign territories. And, of course, according to Pashinyan, the army should be equipped with the latest military equipment.

 

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