YEREVAN — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a televised interview on Friday that transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan would have been reopened long ago if Azerbaijan had not made aggressive statements and territorial claims against Armenia.

“Overchuk (Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk, co-chair of the Armenian-Azerbaijani-Russian working group set up to handle the resumption of transport and other links between Armenia and Azerbaijan) asked us whether we were ready to reopen transport links. Our answer was that we are not only ready but we want it. And in order to show our desire, we even gave a name to this project, calling it – “Armenian Crossroads”. That’s how we want to show that we consider this matter important to us,” he said.

Pashinyan said there is a need to reach agreements on the legal use of roads: there is an agreement in principle that the roads will operate within the sovereignty of the countries they pass through and there should be border, customs and passport control.

“As a matter of principle, there is an understanding that this issue needs to be resolved, but how to do it? We proposed to delegate customs and border services for citizens of Armenia and Azerbaijan at the border to another country), as they do in Europe. If Azerbaijan agrees to this, we can move forward. I say this officially,” he said.

Pashinyan announced that Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov will start discussions on drafting a concrete text of a peace treaty.

“The Armenian foreign minister will hold a meeting with Azerbaijan’s foreign minister in the near future to have substantive discussions on drafting the text of the peace treaty,” he said.

“The negotiations and contacts could result in something acceptable to us and if it’s acceptable to us we will sign it,” he said.

Pashinyan believes that having gone through all the trials and challenges it is still necessary to start substantive talks with Azerbaijan around the peace treaty. He stressed that Armenia is not rejecting the agreements reached earlier.

The prime minister said there is no document ready to be signed on the negotiating table: the foreign ministers should start substantive discussions on the text of the peace treaty on October 2, when they are expected to meet in Geneva.

“If there was one that would be good. That would mean that we had a draft text to elaborate. The problem is that there is no document on the table now. There are some draft agreements they have been prepared by us regarding the reopening of the transport links between the countries,” he said.

In his interview, Pashinyan blamed Azerbaijan’s “aggressive statements” as the reason a peace agreement has not yet been reached, saying, “without this rhetoric, the treaty would have been signed long ago.”

Referring to Azerbaijan’s unprecedented attack on Armenia two weeks ago, he suggested that “the purpose of Azerbaijan’s provocations is to torpedo the peace process, and when we say that we will defend Armenia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by any means, this means that we must defend Armenia’s right to peace by any means.”

“Given Azerbaijan’s aggressive rhetoric, new provocations cannot be not ruled out,” he warned.

Pashinyan said there is an approach where “a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be separated from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”.

“Our approach is such that there may not be any references to Nagorno-Karabakh in the peace treaty. We believe that Armenia and Azerbaijan should recognize each other’s territorial integrity,” Pashinyan said, adding that “the main beneficiary in the discussion of the Artsakh issue should be the people of Artsakh themselves, through their elected leaders. On the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, Nagorno-Karabakh should be the main negotiator.”

Turning to international involvement in the peace process, Pashinyan urged for “international observers, we mean a long-term or permanent mission” to monitor the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, while conceding that “neither Moscow, nor Brussels, nor Washington are ready to recognize Karabakh’s independence or to recognize Karabakh as part of Armenia. We must acknowledge this fact.”

Pashinyan also called out the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led military alliance, for its non-response to Azerbaijan’s assault on Armenia earlier this month, marking the bloodiest week in the region since the start of the war in and around Karabakh two years ago.

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