Former President Serzh Sarkisian testified on Thursday before an Armenian parliamentary commission investigating the April 2016 hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian initiated the inquiry last year with the stated aim of assessing the Sarkisian administration’s preparedness for the four-day fighting which nearly escalated into an all-out Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
The ad hoc commission conducting it is headed by Andranik Kocharian, a senior lawmaker representing Pashinian’s My Step bloc. It has questioned dozens of current and former military officials.
Sarkisian, who ruled Armenia from 2008-2018, agreed to answer questions from members of the panel after it promised earlier this month to provide him with a copy of his videotaped testimony not subject to publication.
“The meeting took place in very normal conditions and I am very glad that I could give additional information about the April hostilities,” Sarkisian told reporters after the four-hour hearing held behind the closed doors.
“My goal is very clear: to give the public real, credible information about the hostilities during which we -- I mean the armed forces, the civil society and the public in general -- won and won not only on the battlefield but also diplomatically,” he said.
Sarkisian refused to give any details of his testimony, saying that he will hold an extensive news conference after the coronavirus-related state of emergency in Armenia ends on May 14.
“Mr. Sarkisian recalled many things,” Kocharian said for his part. He said the ex-president acknowledged the Armenian side’s “shortcomings” during the four-day heavy fighting which left about 80 Armenian soldiers dead.
The fighting broke out early on April 2, 2016 with an Azerbaijani offensive launched at several sections of the “line of contact” around Karabakh. It was halted by a Russian-mediated agreement four days later.
Some of Sarkisian’s opponents, including Pashinian, blamed the former Armenian leadership for modest territorial gains made by Azerbaijani troops and said the Armenian military should have anticipated the offensive involving tanks and heavy artillery.
Sarkisian and other former Armenian leaders maintain that the Azerbaijani army failed to achieve any major objectives and suffered disproportionate casualties. Sarkisian’s allies have also accused Pashinian of trying to exploit the issue for political aims.