Armenia’s former Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian: Nagorno-Karabakh: X-Ray of the Conflict

Editorial Board of Politique Internationale interviewed Armenia’s former Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. The interview reads as follows:

Politique Internationale – A simple question to begin with: who started the last war in Nagorno-Karabakh [(Artsakh)]?

Edward Nalbandian – There is no doubt who started. The first war in 1992-94 and the military aggression in April 2016 as well as the new war in September-November 2020 was launched by Azerbaijan. During the first war as well as in 2020 this country used mercenaries closely linked to notorious terrorist groups which was confirmed by high officials in Moscow, Paris, Washington and other capitals as well as in several international organizations. It can be said that during the war of 1992-94 and military agression in April 2016 Bakou enjoyed moral and military support of Ankara, and it is no exaggeration to state that Turkey along with Azerbaijan was the initiator and actually also a direct participant of the last war.

This large scale 44 days war with the use of all kinds of military weapons was a gross violation of the trilateral ceasefire agreements signed by Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia in 1994-95 that had been in force for 27 years and which have no time limitations. Since then Russia, the United States and France, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, have been calling for the unequivocal implementation of these agreements.

The war was a gross violation of one of the Basic Principles for the settlement of the conflict proposed by the Co-Chairs, namely, the principle of non-use of force or the threat of force which during many years was included practically in all statements and documents on Nagorno-Karabakh adopted on the level of Ambassadors, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Presidents of the Co-Chair countries.

The war was a gross disdain for the UN Secretary-General’s Appeal for Global ceasefire in the context of pandemic issued on March 23, 2020 as well as a breach of correspondent consensual resolution N 2532 adopted by the UN SC on the July 1, 2020.

Therefore this war was not only an aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian people but also a direct act of defiance by Azerbaijan and Turkey against the Co-Chair countries, i.e. Russia, the United States and France, as well as the whole international community.

The question as such – who started the war – is exceptionally important as it also includes the context: who is responsible for thousands of men killed, wounded, maimed, missed, who is responsible for catastrophic devastations, for gross violations of human rights? Nobody can close eyes to all this, especially in front of those who shamelessly brag about their deeds.

“War is a crime, that victory does not excuse”, – said Voltaire.

P.I. – The co-chairs made a lot of efforts to prevent the escalation. Why those efforts did not work?

E.N. – For a very simple reason.

Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, has declined the proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to confirm the obligation to achieve the settlement of the conflict exclusively by peaceful means. The Co-Chairs have offered more than once to enhance the capacities of the team of Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office in regard to monitoring the respect of the ceasefire regime. They offered to create a mechanism for investigation of violations of the ceasefire. On several occasions even agreements on the mechanism were achieved. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to implement them. It was Azerbaijan that sabotaged these agreements, and there was no doubt whatsoever, as this country was trying to escape the direct responsibility for the violations of ceasefire, even though it was crystal clear which side was the violator – even without any mechanisms in force. As it is evident now who started the war.

The question as such – who started the war – is exceptionally important as it also includes the context: who is responsible for it? Who is responsible for thousands and thousands of men killed, wounded, maimed, missed, who is responsible for catastrophic devastations, for gross violations of human rights? Nobody can close eyes to all this, especially in front of those who shamelessly brag about their deeds.

“War is a crime, that victory does not excuse”, – said Voltaire.

P.I. – Was it possible to avoid the last war in Nagorno-Karabakh?

E.N. – Yes, it was possible to avoid the war and it should have been done.

Leaving the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia in May, 2018 I made a statement, emphasizing the importance of the continued efforts for preservation, strengthening and

further improvement of all what had been worked out during the years of negotiation process so that a peaceful settlement could be achieved.

It was obvious that any digression from the above mentioned could have unpredictable consequences. That was also the point of view of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

Before 2018, having led itself into an impasse in the negotiation process, Azerbaijan time and again threatened to go to war but never acted on this threat – afraid to risk open opposition to the Co-Chair countries, three permanent members of the UN SC– Russia, the United States and France which have the international mandate for mediation in the conflict settlement, and therefore afraid of the risk to confront the entire international community. Nevertheless, Baku used multiple violations of ceasefire and regularly sabotage of the negotiation process in order to provoke Yerevan to abandon the negotiations, in order to shift to Armenia the responsibility for the failure of peace process. Regardless of all efforts, the Azerbaijani side couldn’t achieve its goal. What is more, the position of Armenia was practically becoming more and more in line with the position of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which was more than once echoed in public statements.

At the end of March 2016 Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan being in Washington refused to meet with the Co-Chairs in protest against their position and proposals on Nagorno-Karabagh.

Having failed in the field of diplomacy, Azerbaijan in April 2016 unleashed aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh, trying by use force to impose its vision in the framework of the negotiation process. In that time practically the entire international community called for immediate cessation of military action – with the exception of Turkey which supported the aggressive behavior of Azerbaijan. After a couple of days it was obvious that the military operation started by Azerbaijan was failing. On the 5th of April, three and a half days after the beginning of the hostilities, with active mediation of Russia a verbal agreement was reached on the restoration of the ceasefire according to the above mentioned trilateral agreements of 1994-1995. As a response to Baku’s attempts to cast a doubt on the validity of these agreements, the Co-Chair countries adopted a series of statements in the period of 2016-2018 demanding the unconditional compliance with the ceasefire agreements of 1994-1995.

Therefore Baku had failed to achieve its military and political goals. Unmistakable attestations of that are the results of summits on Nagorno-Karabakh held in Vienna on May 16, 2016, in St. Petersburg on June 20, 2016 as well as many following statements adopted by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, including Joint Statements of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia, the United States and France on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council Meetings in Hamburg on December 8, 2016 and in Vienna on December 7, 2017. This being said, Armenia expressed its solidarity with the position of the Co-Chair countries.

P.I. – What happened after the change of Government in Yerevan in 2018?

E.N. – After May 2018, the situation began to change and not in favor of Yerevan – because of serious diplomatic miscalculations, ill-considered statements and actions of the new Armenian leadership. The Armenian side came forward with a statement that it intends to begin the negotiations “from its own point” practically abandoning the accumulated results of the preceding negotiation process, but at the same time was unable to explain even to the Co-Chairs where that “point” was and what this approach meant. During the previous years it was time and again asserted that Armenia’s position echoes that of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs position but now Yerevan became the non-constructive side in the eyes of the international community. The new leadership of Armenia went even further, starting to voice doubts that the conflict could be settled through the negotiating process and even declaring that war is unavoidable.

Baku had got what it was unable to attain during many years – as a pretext for war it could use the accusation that Armenia refuses to negotiate. Nevertheless it was Azerbaijan that in the period between 2008 and 2018 refused all proposals made by the Co-Chairs not only for political settlement of the conflict but also for strengthening of confidence building measures and consolidation of ceasefire regime. Therefore the main culprit in the non-settlement of the conflict as well as, I will repeat it again, the main culprit of the provocation and unleashing of war in September 2020 is none other than Azerbaijan.

If one side is preparing for war, and it is hardly a secret that Azerbaijan was preparing for war for a long time, and the other side is of the opinion that war is unavoidable but does not do everything necessary to prevent that war, then war becomes inevitable. But even in the case when your adversary embarks on a military adventurism it is possible to stop it, if you are prepared to launch an appropriate response and if you have secured unquestionable support and understanding from the side of your allies and the international community who are ready to do everything possible in order to put an immediate stop to the military action. Such a development we witnessed in April 2016 when the war was stopped after three and a half days.

To those who even in Yerevan continue to insist that nobody could have guaranteed that negotiations which have lasted for almost 30 years would have resulted in a settlement in the near future, I would reply with the well-known saying: “Better 40 years of negotiations than 40 days of war”. Especially, when the negotiations were moving in the right direction and Armenia was not negotiating for the sake of negotiating but was oriented towards a settlement and the approaches of the Co-chairs and of the Armenian side had practically harmonized.

P.I. – What was the evolution of the negotiation process for the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from 2008 to 2018 and what were the respective positions of Armenia and Azerbaijan?

E.N. – For many years Azerbaijan was insisting that the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh problem should be based only on the principle of territorial integrity, while the international community represented by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – the Russian Federation, the United States and France – stated that the settlement of the conflict should be based on three principles of the international law conceived as an integrated whole: non use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, people’s right to self-determination. What is more, the Co-Chairs emphasized that prioritizing of just one of these principles would undermine the peaceful settlement.

Three principles of the settlement, among them the principle of the right to self-determination were included in the so-called “Basic Principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement” the draft of which was proposed by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs in Madrid in November 2007, during the OSCE Ministerial Council and became well-known as the Madrid document or the Madrid Principles.

These three principles were officially pronounced in five statements on Nagorno-Karabakh by the Presidents of Russia, the United States and France adopted in 2009-2013 in l’Aquila, Muskoka, Deauville, Los Cabos and Enniskillen as an important foundation for the solution of Nagorno-Karabakh problem.

Thanks to the efforts of Armenian diplomacy, these principles of settlement, including the principle of self-determination, for the first time were included in the Statement by the three Co-Chairs and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan in December 2009 in the OSCE Foreign Ministerial Council in Athens, i.e. under these three principles, including the principle of self-determination, Azerbaijan also put its signature. Nevertheless, later Baku refuted this move. Regardless of this refusal, the Co-Chair countries during all the following years up to 2018 time and again emphasized the importance of conflict settlement based exactly on these three principles.

P.I. – How Azerbaijan rejected the agreements reached?

E.N. – Until the adoption of the Maindorf declaration of the Presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan on the 2nd of November 2008 Baku refused to negotiate on the basis of the Madrid Principles. Beginning with December 2008 until the summit of the Presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in Kazan on June 24, 2011 sides were negotiating the approval of the “Basic Principles” with the mediation of Russia and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. During this process 12 bilateral (Armenia and Azerbaijan) and trilateral (Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) meetings of Presidents, thirty meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs were held. Azerbaijan was always refuting the achieved agreements. The culmination was the Kazan Summit when Azerbaijan, contrary to expectations, refused the practically approved text, putting forward 12 amendments.

Working documents prepared by the Co-Chairs in the period from November 2007 to June 2011 – as the first step toward the settlement of the conflict with the aim that after their being agreed upon, they would serve as the basis for the peace agreement which would be legally binding, were handed over to the OSCE Secretary-General for depositing in Vienna.

Armenia had repeatedly emphasized that a comprehensive and long-term settlement is not possible without the participation of Nagorno-Karabakh. That was reflected in all working documents of the negotiation process.

P.I. – Thus the negotiation process was at an impasse…

E.N. – This is absolutely not true.

Notwithstanding Azerbaijani side’s refusal of practically all proposals made by the Co-Chairs we cannot say that the negotiation process had reached an impasse. Rather it was Azerbaijan that was more and more backing itself into a corner.

Intensive negotiations continued also after 2011 until 2018: 10 summits, more than 30 meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, tens of separate meetings with Ambassadors-Mediators of the Co-Chair countries.

In 2011-2013, despite multiple calls by Russia, the United States and France – the Co-Chair countries, as well as a number of international organizations to continue, accelerate, conclude the process of agreement over the “Basic principles”, Azerbaijan rejected all proposals made by the Co-Chairs declaring that the agreement over the “Basic Principles” is futile and proposing to move on and draw up the peace agreement.

The Co-Chairs and the Armenian side expressed their doubts about the possibility of drafting a peace agreement when it was not possible to reach agreement over the basic principles of the settlement.

P.I. – And what happened next?

E.N. – From 2014 to 2018 Russia and the Co-Chairs continued their efforts searching for ways to find a settlement on the level of thoughts aloud method. After the project of the “Basic Principles”, that had been discussed during Kazan Summit and deposited in the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna as the last working document, there was no document on the negotiating table which would be a subject of negotiations between the sides. It is no coincidence that Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia several times declared that there were no working documents apart from those deposited in the OSCE. There was no “Lavrov’s document” or any other paper. There was a search, a brainstorming on the level of ideas, said [Russian FM Sergey] Lavrov.

All these ideas, suggestions were handed over to the sides in the format of “non paper”. All of them were different just in form, not in essence, compared to the document discussed in Kazan Summit 2011. For example, one of the last versions of these “non-paper” had taken the form of three coherent documents comprising a single entity that as a whole had preserved practically all elements of the Kazan document. It was high performance of the art of diplomacy by Sergei Lavrov, the main goal of which was a search for a compromise solution. And this creative approach was supported by the two other Co-Chairs. All those suggestions formed a solid basis which encapsulated a complex approach to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In addition, Yerevan declared that the approach of the Co-Chairs was in line with the position of Armenia, and that the Armenian side was ready to continue the negotiations upon this basis to search for a way to settlement. Still, Baku rejected even those proposals…

Declining practically all proposals, initiatives of the Co-Chair countries, regularly taking a step back from already reached agreements, Azerbaijan, in fact, in matters of the conflict settlement juxtaposed itself not only to Armenia but also to the international community.

The international community and Armenia, in fact, began to speak a common language: there is no alternative to the exclusively peaceful solution of the problem based on the international recognition of the right to self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and guarantees of its security.

P.I. – According to some sources, Russia and other Co-Chair countries offered to hand over to Azerbaijan 7 Armenian controlled territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabagh with nothing in return in terms of status, security guarantees…

E.N. – It’s a lie. The same applies to the absurd assertions that, allegedly, before 2018, the negotiations concerned the granting of Nagorno-Karabagh just only autonomy within Azerbaijan. ( In any case, Armenia could not agree to that kind of proposal, since it would return the conflict to its origins and would not give a possibility to resolve it). Such allegations not only fail to comply with the facts, but neither can withstand criticism. One can ask a very simple question: if those allegations were true, and all the proposals of the Co-Chairs were only in Baku’s favor, why it happened so that it was the Azerbaijani side which up to 2018 declined all these proposals? And why on a cabinet meeting on October 18, 2016, Aliyev made a statement that the international mediators behind closed doors are putting pressure on Azerbaijan to achieve his consent to the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh?

P.I. – What concrete parameters on the conflict settlement were put forward by the Co-Chair countries?

E.N. – All proposals made by the Co-Chairs envisioned a package solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem with phased implementation in conjunction with all interrelated components of the settlement.

1). The final legal status

It was envisioned that the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh would be determined through a legally binding expression of will of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh. It was emphasized that the wording of the question or questions to be voted on would not be limited in any way presupposing the choice of any status. Belonging to the population of Nagorno-Karabakh that would take part in voting were considered persons of any nationality in the same proportion that had existed in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988 according to the results of the last census held before the conflict. In that time Armenians were more than 76% of the population.

2). Interim status

Until the determination of the final legal status, Nagorno-Karabakh would receive an interim status with detailed description of all modalities including the formation and functioning of legislative, executive and local authorities, formation and functioning of courts, law enforcement forces, self-defense forces, obtaining of observer status in the OSCE as well as the right of membership in international organizations which would not see the interim status of Nagorno-Karabakh as an obstacle; conducting of external relations in the fields presupposed by the agreement, receiving of direct foreign investments, assistance of international donor organizations and foreign countries and access to international markets. In reality it meant “status quo plus”.

3). Security guarantees

The context of the interim status presupposed multilayer security guaranties: commitment of Azerbaijan to non-use of force against Nagorno-Karabakh, an international peacekeeping operation with deployment of peacekeeping forces, recognition of Armenia’s role as guarantor of Nagorno-Karabakh’s security, entrusting security by the self-defense forces of Nagorno-Karabakh, security guarantees by the Co-Chair countries as well as adoption of a special UN SC resolution aimed at fulfillment of these goals.

4). Corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia

Until the determination of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh security and all questions concerning the use of the Lachin corridor were to be provisioned and solved by Nagorno-Karabakh authorities under the terms of status quo existing at the moment of the entry into force of the peace agreement. The final status and the width of this corridor were to be determined in the context of determination of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh. In any case, the talk was not about 5 km of width but about many times wider corridor.

5). Return of territories

In the framework of the package agreement, recorded in the peace agreement on such interrelated parameters as the determination of the final status and interim status, corridor and other elements, after precise international and other guarantees and security measures including the guarantees by UN SC, after entry into force of the peace agreement, envisaged return of five districts: Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrail, Zangelan and Kubatli which were to be demilitarized and peacekeeping forces were to be deployed in these districts, i.e. in surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh territories, not in Nagorno-Karabakh proper.

Return of a non-corridor part of Lachin and Kelbajar was envisaged in connection with the agreement on the organizational issues of the free expression of the will by the population on the determination of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nevertheless, as was stated already in the Kazan document, the sides were to aspire to coordinate these issues in such a way that the respective arrangements would be applied 5 years after the peace agreement’s entry into force.

6). The opening of communications

In the framework of implementation of the agreement about the conflict settlement the Kazan document, as well as non-papers that were made afterwards, offered to cancel all the reservations and dissenting opinions from respective international agreements which limited the freedom of

communications, lift the blockades, ensure unimpeded transportation and other communications, open all borders and communications going through the territories of all sides. During the entire negotiation process of 2008-2018 the talk was about opening in the context of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict of all communications in the whole region and not of communications between concrete districts.

P.I. – May we say that the Statement by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on November 9, 2020 finally ended the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as is claimed by Baku?

E.N. – Adoption of the joint Statement of the Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia on November 9, 2020 reached cessation of all hostilities in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. After three futile attempts to reach a ceasefire on October 10, 18 and 26 the reliability and strength of the compliance with the new ceasefire, which had entered into force starting with November 10, 2020, was guaranteed by the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and Lachin.

Thanks to Russia’s efforts military action was ceased and a humanitarian disaster was avoided. This is an important achievement. But we still have a long way to go in order to reach a comprehensive settlement.

If we compare what was the subject of negotiations for many years under the auspices of the Co-Chair countries, enhanced to the level of the Presidents of Russia, France and the United States, with what we have after the aggression of Azerbaijan and Turkey against Nagorno-Karabakh then it is obvious that the war by no means contributed to establishment of conditions beneficial for the conflict settlement. Rather the opposite is true.

It is no coincidence that the Presidents of Russia, the United States and France not just once stated in their joint statements on Nagorno-Karabakh in Deauville, in Los Cabos and in Enniskillen that the use of force would not lead to the solution of the conflict, it would only have disastrous effects for the population of the region, would prolong their misfortunes and suffering, would lead to numerous casualties, further increase of the number of refugees… And, by the way, the Presidents declared then that renewed use of force would be condemned by the international community.

The root cause of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is Baku’s refusal to respect the right of self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh people. The first as well as the last war was initiated by Azerbaijan exactly with the goal to prevent the realization of this fundamental right of Nagorno-Karabakh people.

Nagorno-Karabagh conflict cannot be settled without elimination of its root causes.

P.I. – What did Azerbaijan get as a result of the last war?

E.N. – As a result of the last war Baku obtained control over 7 regions surrounding Artsakh, occupied a substantial part of NKR and, as an extra bonus imposed an agreement on communications that would provide link between the Western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhijevan and further with Turkey. Baku pretends that now all problems are solved and the conflict has ended. But that is not the case.

It is no coincidence that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia, France as well as the Undersecretary of State of the USA in the framework of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Tirana on December 3, 2020 called upon Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations in order to solve still unsolved problems according to the well-known Basic Principles and elements that I have presented in detail in my answers to your previous questions.

P.I. – What questions remain unresolved?

E.N. – The main problem – the question of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status, of the right of its population to self-determination remains unsolved. It is this problem which runs through all proposals of the Co-Chair countries as they have always understood and still understand that without its consideration all talks about conflict settlement are self-delusional.

Now, after the war in the autumn of 2020 Baku claims that the question about the status is closed, but on the other hand, it is not hiding its intention to change the demographic composition of the region by means of return there not only of persons displaced in the result of the conflict, but also by settlement of considerable number of new settlers in order to eliminate the possibility to open the question about the status in the future. It is obvious that in the case of future attempts to solve the problem of the status through free expression of the will the approach to the participation therein of population of the region should remain the same as it has been for many years for the Co-Chairs – in the same proportion which existed in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988 before the beginning of the conflict. If this approach was adopted after the first war and remained unchanged for the whole period afterwards, then why should it be changed after the last war?

Those who declare that the war has changed the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and it should be accepted as a fait accompli, pour water into the mill of Aliyev. The President of Azerbaijan pretends that he has proved that the “law of force” is the main instrument of the international relations and, allegedly, that is why the whole world takes as fait accompli what he has gained by use of force. Is such an approach really acceptable for the international community?

After the cessation of hostilities it is necessary to seek for ways for a genuine, comprehensive, long-term resolution of the conflict.

P.I. – To what extent the sides are ready to fulfill the agreements presented in the Statement on November 9, 2020?

E.N. – I would formulate this question slightly differently: to what extent Azerbaijan is ready to fulfill the agreements?

The whole experience of the last years gives reason to doubt. Baku expects the unquestionable fulfillment only of those agreements that it sees beneficial to itself and in the process of their implementation also tries to add to them new demands. As for the fulfillment of other agreements the Azerbaijani side immediately raises doubts.

That is amply demonstrated by the paragraph 8 of the Statement that concerns the exchange of POWs, hostages and other detained persons as well as the bodies of the killed. In spite of respective requirements of the Co-Chair countries and several international organizations that call for a speedy fulfillment of this obligation Baku has turned this quite sensitive humanitarian issue into an object of manipulations, bazaar-style bargaining and blackmail.

P.I. – Are there any other concerns?

E.N. – In the already mentioned statement made during the OSCE Ministerial Council in Tirana the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia, France and the Undersecretary of State of the United States emphasized the importance of protection of the historical and religious heritage in the region. It is hard to believe that Azerbaijan has really heard this call. For several years hundreds of Armenian churches, monasteries, objects of religious worship, cemeteries, thousands of medieval khachkars [(cross-stones)] have been destroyed by Azerbaijani authorities aiming at the annihilation of historical, cultural, religious heritage of the people, who for many centuries had lived in this region. Today just like in the past, Baku is obstructing the attempts of the UNESCO mission and representatives of other competent international structures to come to the region for monitoring and protection of cultural sites and places of worship.

Baku is trying to convince the whole world that Artsakh is a part of Azerbaijan, that the Armenians of Artsakh are citizens of Azerbaijan who will be able to live in the tolerant Azerbaijani society. What kind of tolerance is that if in Azerbaijani textbooks Armenians are still presented as mortal enemies, if murderers who decapitate Armenians are hailed as heroes by Azerbaijani leadership that calls upon the Azerbaijani youth to follow their example? What kind of tolerance is that if the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of several countries warn their citizens with Armenian surnames not to visit Azerbaijan where they could be persecuted just because they are Armenians? The reality is such that Armenian-citizens of other countries find themselves behind the bars upon coming to Azerbaijan. I think you would agree that this is a very peculiar demonstration of tolerance. What would be the fate of any inhabitant of Artsakh who is exposed to the “tender mercies” of Azerbaijani authorities?

There is still a long way to go in order to overcome such demonstrations of intolerance and hatred that don’t correspond even to the most rudimentary norms of the civilized world. But that could be done only after a comprehensive settlement of the conflict. It isn’t much helped by the last war as well as by all previous military hostilities, war crimes, gross violations of humanitarian law. Yes, the Presidents of the Co-Chair countries were right, when they declared that the use of force cannot lead to the settlement of the conflict.

P.I. – Is it possible to say that there is no more danger of renewed military hostilities in the zone of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

E.N. – The presence of the Russian peacekeepers in the zone of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a security guarantee and a serious obstacle to the renewal of war.

Nevertheless, there is still danger of destabilization in the region. Russia, the United States and France in the Statement on December 3, 2020 called for immediate removal of foreign mercenaries from the region. Until this very day representatives of several international bodies express their concern regarding the continued presence of mercenaries in the zone of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which endangers the safety and stability in the region. Who brought these mercenaries to the region? It is no secret – Turkey and Azerbaijan.

After the end of war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku adorned with Turkish and Azerbaijani flags, saw a joint Turkish-Azerbaijani military parade of “winners” during which Azerbaijani and Turkish troops marched. Apparently, so that there was no shadow of doubt who was leading the military aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh. The Presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey both held provocative speeches during the parade. Aliyev voiced territorial claims against Armenia, pronouncing that Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, as well as Zangezur and Sevan are historical territories of Azerbaijan. As for Erdogan, looking back into the history of Ottoman Empire, he exclaimed: “Today, may the souls of Nuri Pasha, Enver Pasha, and the brave soldiers of the Caucasus Islam Army, rejoice!” In the memory of generations they have remained as instigators and perpetrators of hideous crimes: mass murders and pogroms, Armenian Genocide, that resulted in the death of 1,5 million persons.

The provocative statements and and hostile actions continue…

There is ample reason for the international community to think seriously about it, since it is not only about the threat to Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia but also to the regional and international security and stability.

(1) Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, rejected as a basis for negotiations five statements by the Presidents of Russia, the United States and France on Nagorno-Karabagh made in L’Aquila, Muskoka, Deauville, Los Cabos and Enniskillen. Armenia, unlike Azerbaijan, welcomed all 9 statements on Nagorno-Karabagh made from December 2008 to December 2017 on the level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the framework of the OSCE Ministerial Councils as well as the statements adopted at the OSCE Astana Summit in 2010. Bakou refused to support those statements or hereafter took a step back. Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, rejected the agreements reached at the Summits of St. Petersbourg on June 17, 2010, Astrakhan on October 27, 2010, Sochi on March 3, 2011, Kazan on June 24, 2011, Sochi on January 23, 2012, Vienna on May 16, 2016, St. Petersbourg on June 20, 2016, Geneva on October 16, 2017.

Interview conducted on April 2, 2021