LONDON — In an interview with BBC’s HARDtalk program, hosted by Stephen Sackur, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said peace with Azerbaijan cannot be achieved through Armenia’s unilateral actions only. He said real peace is possible if Azerbaijan reciprocates Armenia’s efforts, adding also that it was Azerbaijan that attacked Armenia in July.

Considering that Baku claims the opposite, and the international community hears two versions of the events, the head of the Armenian government proposed the establishment of an international mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone.

“I can understand the situation of the international community that every time hears mutual accusations about who violated the ceasefire. And this continues again and again for a long time. That’s why we are proposing to establish an international mechanism for investigating ceasefire violations. And this is a valid proposal by Armenia,” Pashinyan said.

To the remark of the presenter that nothing has changed in Armenia’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh since Pashinyan’s coming to power in 2018, the Armenian leader said that “peace can’t be achieved through unilateral actions of Armenia.”

“We will be able to have real peace if Azerbaijan reciprocates Armenia’s efforts,” Pashinyan said, accusing Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev of continuing his war rhetoric and attempting to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by force.

Pashinyan reminded that after becoming Armenia’s prime minister he proposed a “new formula for peace.”

“The formula is the following: any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be acceptable for the people of Armenia, for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and for the people of Azerbaijan. I am the first Armenian leader to have ever said that any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be acceptable for the Azerbaijani people, too. But, unfortunately, the Azerbaijani president didn’t reciprocate my proposal,” he said.

Responding to Stephen Sackur’s remarks that his statement on “Artsakh is Armenia. Period” was provocative and nationalistic, the Prime Minister said: “For thousands of years Artsakh has been populated by indigenous Armenian people.”

“The reality is that at the time the conflict started, 80-90% of the population was Armenian, and Azerbaijan tried to cleanse the land of Armenians. And the conflict started from this moment,” he stressed.

He added that “the Armenian position is not nationalistic, because “Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh are under existential threat.”

Regarding the mid-July deadly fighting at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Pashinyan said: “Azerbaijan started a military attack against Armenia. It wasn’t a separate action. For a long time the Azerbaijani president has developed a bellicose rhetoric, saying that he is going to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict using military force. As a result of that bellicose rhetoric the Azerbaijani government is facing the challenge to explain to their own society why they couldn’t solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through force.”

Asked which way he’s gong to take the country, given that Armenia is in a tough neighborhood, the Prime Minister said: “Russia is our strategic partner in terms of security. We are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, and we have Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU, and the latter is our main partner in our reforms agenda.”

At the same time, he said, we have good cooperation with NATO and participate in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Kosovo.

“We also have good relations with Iran and we are doing our best to keep our good relationship with the United States. We are fully devoted to our international commitments,” PM Pashinyan stated.

Responding to a question about Coronavirus pandemic in Armenia, Pashinyan disagreed with accusations that his government’s handling of the pandemic was a failure, saying it was still too early to draw conclusions and make assessments.

“I think it is too early to have conclusions because unfortunately the pandemic is an evolving situation all over the world,” Pashinyan stated.

He said that the Armenian government’s strategy on tackling the pandemic was designed appropriately for the country. “Let’s make a conclusion when globally the pandemic would be defeated”, he said.

When asked why he was seen without a mask at a banquet in Nagorno-Karabakh in the midst of the epidemic, while he personally shamed citizens for not observing the mask regime, Pashinyan said that he followed the rules of the territory where the reception was held.

“On that day, we acted in accordance with the rules that existed in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Prime Minister said.

Pashinyan, other high-ranking officials of Artsakh and Armenia were seen without masks on the May 21 open-air banquette in the Nagorno-Karabakh capital of Stepanakert after the inauguration of the newly elected President Arayik Harutyunyan.

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