Democratization is essential for peace and stability in the South Caucasus, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said during the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit held at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.

“I come from a region where unfortunately bloody conflicts, corrupt system of governance, animosity between people overshadow wisdom and the need for peaceful coexistence,” Pashinian told the summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

“Democracies are not supposed to wage wars against each other,” he said. “I hope that one day our region’s democratic development will rule out the risks of hostilities, wars and hatred. Armenia has firmly embarked on this path and strongly stands for regional peace, stability and reconciliation.”

Pashinian swept to power in May after weeks of massive anti-government protests organized by him. He has repeatedly described the protest movement as a “velvet revolution” that will turn Armenia into a democratic state.

Addressing the UN summit dedicated to Nelson Mandela, the 43-year-old former journalist described the late South African president as a role model who inspired his own political activities.

“Having been a political prisoner myself, I closely followed the political path and life story of this most famous political prisoner who would change his own country and indeed the aspirations of millions worldwide,” said Pashinian.

“Mandela’s walk, the long walk to freedom was with me during my imprisonment, and to a great extent influenced my conscience and motivated me to embark on my own ‘long walk to freedom’ through prison and persecution, through struggle against injustice across the towns and villages of my country,” he declared.

“In the true spirit of Mandela’s ideas, our movement became known to the world as Armenian non-violent velvet revolution of love and solidarity and now, months after my people’s success, I stand here at the high rostrum of this summit as the head of modern Armenian government to celebrate the legacy of this great person whose courage and determination served as an example for others around the globe,” added the Armenian premier.

Pashinian met with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres earlier on Monday. In a live Facebook interview aired over the weekend, Guterres described the Pashinian-led movement as a “fantastic example” of democratic change effected by young people.

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