EADaily’s correspondent has met in Stepanakert with Foreign Minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Karen Mirzoyan, who answers a number of questions concerning the causes and the consequences of the tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
Mr. Mirzoyan, what happen in early April on the contact line of the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan?
On the night of Apr 2 Azerbaijan launched a large-scale offensive all along the contact line with the use of tanks, guns and planes.
But during the following four days, the Azerbaijanis sustained substantial losses and were forced to ask for ceasefire like they did in 1994.
That campaign was not spontaneous but well-planned. Over the last years Azerbaijan has been actively arming itself. Its leaders have kept saying that their goal is to achieve significant military prevalence over the Armenians and to take back Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of a blitzkrieg.
The Azerbaijanis have been rejecting all the mediators’ proposals for reducing tensions and ensuring stability on the contact line. They rejected the OSCE Minsk Group’s initiative to remove snipers (2009) and to investigate incidents on the contact line (2011). They also turned down Nagorno-Karabakh’s proposals to establish direct contacts between the conflicting parties (2001), to enlarge the OSCE monitoring group (2004) and to stop provocations during religious holidays (2012). The Azerbaijanis also ignored the call by US congressmen Ed Royce and Eliot Engel to install audio and video surveillance systems along the contact line.
They restarted the war once they realized that their capacities were enough for achieving their goals.
During the four-day war, they broke all international humanitarian rules and committed lots of military crimes against Nagorno-Karabakh servicemen and civilians. They killed peaceful villagers and abused their dead bodies. They shelled villages that were several kilometers far from the contact line.
They did not even care for their own people. There are proofs that the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry placed its military facilities in populated areas along the contact line, which was contrary to the international humanitarian law.
What should be done to prevent this in future?
First of all, we need urgent measures to ensure stable ceasefire and also conditions for the parties to resume their talks.
The April events have proved that we need effective mechanisms for preventing such situations, this implying regular monitoring of the contact line and investigation of possible incidents. The Armenian side and the mediators support these initiatives, while the Azerbaijani side rejects them.
But these measures will not be effective unless the world community stops making non-specific statements and ignoring the anti-Armenian hysteria and arms race in Azerbaijan.
The Nagorno-Karabakh peace process has been underway for more than 20 years already. Why is there no progress here?
The key factor is Azerbaijan’s consistent policy to wreck the talks and its refusal to negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh.
At first, the Azerbaijanis rejected the Azerbaijan-Nagorno-Karabakh format, then, the Azerbaijan-Armenia-Nagorno-Karabakh format. In late 2015-early 2016, they refused to meet even with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
Even though from the very beginning the Azerbaijanis ignored Nagorno-Karabakh and claimed that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is just a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the early 1990s they still held several rounds of talks with Nagorno-Karabakh leaders and had even signed a number of agreements. Those documents served as a basis for the ceasefire agreement concluded in May 1994. That agreement was the only real result of the peace process but it would not have been attained without Nagorno-Karabakh.
So, if we want to achieve real results, we must restore the trilateral negotiating format.
What is Nagorno-Karabakh’s attitude towards the Madrid Principles?
Nagorno-Karabakh must be a full party to the peace talks and must have a hand in the drafting of the peace agreement – or this agreement will not be viable.
The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities are making efforts to convince the world community to recognize their country. What chances do they have?
This is our top priority. We are strongly committed to build and reinforce our statehood on the basis of democratic principles. We have made certain achievements here and this is a good basis for us to achieve our goal.
Seven US states, one Australian state and the parliament of the Basque Country have adopted resolutions supporting the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s right to self-determination.
Recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh will stimulate its development and will contribute to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
This will be a basis for us to develop mechanisms of co-existence of two sovereign states – the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan – which were forced as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Azerbaijan’s military aggression.
This will also put an end to Azerbaijan’s attempts to destroy Nagorno-Karabakh and its people and will guarantee peace and security in the whole region.
Interviewed by political analyst Arman Abovyan, specially for EADaily