‘This war did not start from scratch. The Azerbaijani government has long been fostering hate speech against Armenians, threatening that it would resol’: Nikol Pashinyan

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s interview to Rossiya 1-aired “60 minutes” TV program

Question: Good afternoon, Nikol Vovayevich. First of all, please comment on what is going on. We have a lot of disturbing news.

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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – The morning news is that Azerbaijan has already directly shelled villages in the Republic of Armenia. Prior to that, on September 27, the Azerbaijani armed forces launched a large-scale military aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh; for three days now, they have been shelling the settlements of Nagorno-Karabakh with heavy artillery and rocket-propelled grenades. Unfortunately, we have casualties not only among the military, but also among the civilian population.

There is a very important point here. Turkey is in practice involved in this process. According to reliable data, there are military instructors, high-ranking military personnel deployed at the command posts of Azerbaijan; they are even conducting military operations in some areas.

Another important fact is that numerous reports have appeared in the international press, which state that Turkey has been recruiting mercenaries in Syria and fielding them to Azerbaijan for participating in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia.

By the way, there are reports of clashes between the local residents and said mercenaries as the latter are trying to impose Sharia law in Azerbaijani settlements, go into shops and demand to stop selling alcohol, etc and so on.

Question: We just received a message that a Turkish F-16 fighter shot down a Su-25 attack aircraft of the Armenian Air Force. By the way, in terms of information, there is a reference to the Armenian Defense Ministry. The pilot died. Do you have this piece of information? What can this mean if the planes of Armenia and Turkey are already colliding in the air?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – This is an established fact – the proof of what I just said. It is obvious that both Armenia and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh are directly threatened on the part of Turkey. We can see that Turkey is looking for an opportunity to go deeper into the conflict; they are looking for an opportunity to send troops to Nakhichevan. This is an Azerbaijani enclave bordering Turkey, Armenia and Iran. By the way, there is information that some units of the Turkish army have already been stationed over there.

There is no secret in all this, because Turkish troops have been in Azerbaijan since August. They launched joint exercises, and this war came as a continuation of said military drills.

Question: Today many experts describe and interpret rather strongly everything that happens in Karabakh: the word “war” is being used. How correct and appropriate is it to use this word; is there anything you can do now to stop bloodshed and shelling?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Of course, this is the correct wording, since there is a war going on; there is a lot of destruction, losses, and a large number of military personnel involved. One more nuance. As you may know, the first genocide of the 20th century was committed at the start of the 20th century. It happened in the Ottoman Empire, the Armenian people feel victim to genocide. That is why we all perceive this as a real threat to our people, in fact, as a declared war on the Armenian people; our people are now simply forced to use their right to self-defense.

What can be done? The international community should definitely condemn Azerbaijan’s offensive and Turkey’s aggression stance and call for a complete withdrawal of Turkey from the region, since the military presence of Turkey in the South Caucasus does not bode well as it could lead to further escalation of the ongoing hostilities. The international community must make specific efforts to drive Turkey out of the South Caucasus and force Azerbaijan to stop aggression and hostilities.

Question: Mr. Prime Minister, we will no longer keep you waiting, we know that you are going to consult with the military, a very short question: what are the talks formats that can work now, or all agreements have been left behind, for example, the Kazan Charter, under which you had to surrender several settlements. Can we state that all agreements have been canceled or can they still be negotiated?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – As regards the negotiation process, we believe that it should continue from the point where it started –within the Minsk Group format. As for specific negotiations, an appropriate atmosphere is needed here. It is hardly possible to talk about negotiations, especially about their content, in the context of ongoing hostilities.

First of all, we must stop violence; we must declare that Azerbaijan should abide by the principle that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This war did not start from scratch. The Azerbaijani government has long been fostering hate speech against Armenians, threatening that it would resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through force despite international appeals.

I hope that at least the latest events, the situation that has developed today will convince Azerbaijan that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I hope the fact that Azerbaijan’s armed forces failed to live up to the task set before them by their military-political leadership will convince Azerbaijan that there is no military solution to this conflict. There can only be a negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; any solution should be acceptable not only for Azerbaijan, but also for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

I would like to state that when I became prime minister, I suggested and still continue to set forth a specific conflict settlement formula, namely that any solution should be acceptable to the peoples of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The order in which the countries are listed does not matter: I mean that the solution should be equally acceptable.

But unfortunately, the government of Azerbaijan, the president of Azerbaijan wants to reach a solution acceptable only for Azerbaijan. It is impossible. Compromise implies a relevant compromise-friendly atmosphere. Therefore, Azerbaijan must immediately halt its offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. By the way, this was a premeditated operation as there is no doubt that it was planned during the latest joint military exercises held with the Turkish Armed Forces.

Thank you.

INFORMATION AND PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME-MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA

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