Two days before Azerbaijan launched a massive attack on Artsakh, Armenian intelligence agencies intercepted communication between Turkish F-16 pilots, who were discussing taking part in “an important event” days later, testimony at the parliament’s select committee on the 2020 war revealed.
The Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces at the time, General Onik Gasparyan has testified that on September 25, 2020, Armenia’s intelligence agencies intercepted audio of the radio communication between Turkish F-16 pilots, who were discussing participation in an important event on the forthcoming Sunday. Gasparyan said this prompted authorities to gradually increase the combat readiness level of the military.
During his testimony on Tuesday in front of the committee, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan acknowledged the aforementioned report, but said that intelligence reports before the intercepted pilots’ communication placed the probability of war at 30 percent.
The chair of the select committee, Andrnik Kocharuan, asked Pashinyan whether he had been briefed on the 2020 intelligence report, to which he replied that since taking office in 2018, the National Security Services had warned of probability of war on a daily basis.
“That information was reported to me, but I remember it mentioning ‘tomorrow.’ But how likely was war according to our institutions before that moment? The assessment was 30 percent. And this assessment wasn’t only based on intelligence, but also other data, including based on contacts with international partners. I received another briefing also, that there is a 30 percent risk of war and that it could be a psychological pressure on the political authorities so that they would resort to disproportional concessions,” Pashinyan said.
“Since I was elected prime minister in May 2018 and began to receive intelligence briefings, the NSS intelligence was always warning about the probability of war,” Pashinyan said, adding that different timeframes of possible attacks were being mentioned.
The revelation of the September 25, 2020 intercepted call, coupled with the the U.S. embassies of Armenia and Azerbaijan issuing hours before the September 27 attack signal that there was intelligence of high probability of an attack.
Yet during his testimony on Tuesday, Pashinyan attempted to defend his failure to prevent the war by both criticizing his predecessors’ policies and also by bit self aggrandizing.
“I feel guilty about absolutely everything, but I say, ‘OK, it’s just a declaration.’ When I start drawing up my own indictment … I enter a deadlock at some point,” Pashinyan told the select committee.
“I’m not saying that it was theoretically impossible to avoid the war,” Pashinyan told the panel boycotted by opposition lawmakers. “But the necessary condition for that theoretical possibility was a renunciation of, let’s put it this way, the Armenian vision for settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
“We could have said that we abandon our vision of viewing Nagorno Karabakh outside of Azerbaijan and taken that path, which of course wouldn’t have guaranteed that it could be possible to avoid war,” Pashinyan said when asked whether or not he believes war was inevitable.
Today, Pashinyan and his government have announced that Armenia will recognize Azerbaijan’s 26,600 square kilometer territory, which includes Artsakh.