In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday attempted to justify his reasons for signing an agreement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on ending the Karabakh war.
The agreement that stipulates the surrender of territories in Artsakh, including Shushi, as well as establishing a transport corridor between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan through Meghri, among other provisions.
Earlier, Pashinyan met with President Armen Sarkissian to discuss the current situation. No specifics were reported from the meeting.
Below is the English text of Pashinyan’s address provided by his press office.
Dear people, sisters and brothers,
Armenia and the Armenian people are facing crucial days. There is sorrow in the hearts of all of us, tears in the eyes of all of us, pain in the souls of all of us. An end to the war that started on September 27 with the signing of a document such as the joint statement issued by the Prime Minister of Armenia, the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on November 10 caused public despair and raised many questions, and I am supposed to answer all these questions. Why was such an unfavorable document signed for Armenia? It happened in the conditions when the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia kept reporting that every minute mattered, and the war had to be stopped as soon as possible. And the President of Artsakh warned that if the hostilities failed to stop, we could lose Stepanakert in a couple of days, and under some scenarios, even within a few hours.
Many can say that if we had already lost Hadrut, Shushi, we could have lost Stepanakert as well, and not much would change. The reality, however, is a little different, because if we had lost Stepanakert, which as Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan already confirmed in his public remarks, was by and large defenseless at that time, then Askeran and Martakert would have been predictably and inevitably lost just because these cities were in the rear at the time the war started as they were located far enough from the front line and lacked defensive structures and fortifications. Nor were there so many fighting forces that could actually defend these cities.
And what would happen after the fall of these cities? The second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh defenses of the Defense Army would be under siege by the enemy, which means that more than 20,000 Armenian troops and officers could find themselves surrounded by enemy troops, inevitably facing the prospect of being killed or captured. Under these conditions, of course, the fall of Karvachar and Kashatagh regions would be inevitable, leading to a complete catastrophe.
Due to the logic of the time, many may ask the question: why was I so anxious about the safety of our soldiers at the time of signing the document and why was I not so worried before that? In operational terms, the point is that any commander has a key function, namely to set combat tasks that have a specific tactical or strategic goal, and the commander should set such tasks, realizing that their implementation could result in he killing of his soldiers. In my capacity of the Commander-in-Chief, I actually set such tasks before the army and the armed forces from the first day of the war. In a situation arises where the soldier cannot influence the further course of events, it is no longer the soldier that must perish for the sake of the homeland, but the homeland needs to make sacrifices for the sake of the soldier; the commander should not issue such orders as could imply the killing of his soldiers. With this in mind, I signed the notorious document, and when I signed that document, I realized that I was facing the threat of my personal death, not only in a political but also in a physical sense. But the lives of 25,000 soldiers were more important, I think, for you too. Under threat were the lives of our soldiers who had rendered full service to the homeland. Moreover, these soldiers had no chance to influence the situation in the rear, there were no more fighting forces in the rear that could exercise a realistic influence on the situation, and therefore, it was time for the commander to risk his own life for the sake of these soldiers, both physically and politically. It was time for the homeland to make sacrifices for those soldiers who spared nothing for the sake of the homeland, and I signed that document with this in mind.
Moreover, in this situation and under these conditions, the issue was no longer in the realm of days and weeks, where we could maneuver: we had to take a decision. A decision had to be made within hours, otherwise a process could have begun that could have ended in the killing or captivity of some 10,000, 20,000, 25,000 Armenian soldiers.
Many people are asking the following question: Why did I not resign before signing that paper? Because it would mean desertion, it would mean shaking off my share of responsibility and putting it on someone else’s shoulders, hoping that later people would say that Prime Minister Pashinyan was so patriotic as not to sign that humiliating document. And also because, as I said, decisions had to be made within hours, otherwise the wheel could spin, which could no longer be stopped in any way.
The next question that is being asked is as follows. Why did I not consult with the nation before signing that document? For a very simple reason. When talking to the people, I would have presented the objective situation, which meant providing the enemy with detailed information about the situation, moreover, presenting a detailed plan to block our 25,000 soldiers for hours, with all the ensuing consequences.
Besides, I have promised to discuss with the people the options for the settlement of the Karabakh issue, and this document does not envisage a substantive solution to the issue: it only implies cessation of hostilities. The Karabakh issue was not resolved before the signing of the aforementioned statement, nor has it been settled after it. There is still much to be done in this respect.
The next question that is understandable and naturally arises is the following: Why even in such conditions was it not possible to reach a ceasefire in the first days of the war, or maybe a little later? There were two reasons for this. First, we had to hand over seven districts, including Shushi, without fighting, and second, the military situation instilled the hope that by involving new resources, we would be able to defy the challenge with superhuman efforts. That was the reason why the President of Artsakh and I kept making calls for people to enlist for the defense of the homeland, but we also tried to ensure that our message could not discourage the soldier fighting on the frontline, would not set despair and give the enemy unnecessary details about our problems.
We, the President of Artsakh, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the Commander of the Defense Army, I myself and the Government of Armenia, the representatives of our political team and, of course, first and foremost our soldiers, volunteers, officers and generals did everything to defend every inch of our land. Our army fought heroically. Our troops were fighting not to surrender, but to keep what we had; they fought not to lose, but to win. And they practically fought against three armies. But, unfortunately, as the President of Artsakh mentioned in his message yesterday, we were unable to provide the army with sufficient backing.
Indeed, with its many heroic manifestations, the volunteer and mobilization movement was not strong enough to cope with the challenge as we were faced up with a reality from which there was simply no other way out.
As for the content of the document itself, it is really bad for us, but we should not make it worse than it is in reality. In particular, there are rumors about handing over Meghri, which is absolute nonsense. It is only a matter of unblocking the transport routes in the region, including from Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan, but this means that the transport routes from Yerevan to Nakhichevan through Syunik should be unblocked, including the railway communication between Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which can boost our country’s economic development.
As for Nagorno-Karabakh, or rather the part under the control of the Artsakh authorities, the Lachin corridor from Goris to Stepanakert will see uninterrupted functioning after the deployment of Russian peacekeepers. Communication between Stepanakert and Yerevan must be reliable. The peacekeepers will also ensure the security of the border in this part of Artsakh, so the residents of the settlements within the perimeter of the peacekeepers’ deployment need to return to their homes as soon as possible. The governments of Armenia and Artsakh will do everything possible to eliminate the impact of destruction as soon as possible and provide all necessary conditions.
The final settlement of the Karabakh issue and the status of Artsakh is of fundamental importance. In this regard, our task has not changed: the international recognition of the Artsakh Republic is becoming an absolute priority, and in fact, there are now more weighty arguments for the international recognition of Artsakh.
Now, I would like to touch upon our further activities in the Republic of Armenia. Our priority is to restore the atmosphere of stability and security in the country, which is the only guarantee of the people’s power.
We must ensure first of all that people fully enjoy their inalienable right to form a government and exercise their power. The government will not give in to the provocations of rebel groups sponsored by the former authorities. The organizers of the riots and many of the active participants have been arrested, many are hiding, but they will definitely be found and brought to justice.
I call on all our compatriots not to give in to provocations and to unite around a government that is determined to live up to the task of getting the country out of this situation, while guaranteeing that no one can usurp the people’s legitimate power against plundering the country and returning it to a whirlpool of corruption.
We are reaping the bitter fruits of robbery and corruption, when for many decades the country’s wealth and income used to go into the pockets of well-known individuals and not to the development of the army.
Proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia,
Proud citizens of the Artsakh Republic,
Proud Armenians of the Diaspora,
Our country does have a future, and we must do everything to make this difficult junction an important milestone on the way to that future. And we must learn lessons from our collective mistakes.
Many may whether we can talk about a good future after such a disastrous war. Yes, because today there are countries that have suffered the most severe capitulations in the 20th century, but today are among the most powerful nations in the world. They did so after a brutal defeat, with an emphasis on the development of education, science, industry and democracy, and this should be our next step. And I urge all of us to focus on what we can do to strengthen our country. This will be our best service to the memory of our martyrs, our wounded and disabled servicemen, their relatives, families, mothers, fathers, wives, and children.
The relatives of our martyrs may ask the question why their loved ones died after all. The answer to this question is one, first of all, to save the people of Artsakh from genocide, to protect our people’s right to survival.
By reviving and developing the country, we will value the blood they shed for the sake of the homeland, the future of their children, their unwavering devotion. Our homage implies daily creative work and education that should improve our country.
Long live freedom!
Long live the Republic of Armenia!
Long live the Artsakh Republic!
And long live our children who will live in a free and happy Armenia!
We bow to our martyrs’ memory!