After a flare-up in the Karabakh conflict zone in April of 2016, the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh (Republic of Artsakh) has certainly rethought its major foreign policy tasks, with an eye for Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the only country having borders with all the three actors in the Karabakh conflict – Armenia, Karabakh and Azerbaijan. In this light, Karabakh conflict is a potential threat to the national security of Iran. In an interview with EADaily’s correspondents, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh Masis Mailyan addresses these and other prior tasks of Nagorno-Karabakh’s foreign policy.
Mr. Mailyan, as minister, your first interview was with Iranian Shargh newspaper, which was an unprecedented event. Was it a kind of U-turn toward Iran?
Artsakh and Iran are neighboring states and it is logical for them to have mutual interests. One of Artsakh’s foreign policy priorities is to expand geography of the international cooperation, including with neighboring Iran. Artsakh is open for dialogue and mutually-advantageous cooperation in all issues of mutual interest.
You had worked as an expert in the Karabakh issue for long years – at Nagorno-Karabakh Foreign Ministry in 1993-2007. What made you change your career and take the post of the foreign minister?
I’d like to say that before by appointment, I had worked as Artsakh President’s special envoy. In September 2017, I accepted President Bako Sahakyan’s offer to head the Foreign Ministry, as I believed and still believe that working at the foreign policy department of Artsakh I will bring more benefit to my country, including using my previous experience of independent expert. I decided to return to the Foreign Ministry with a very high sense of responsibility.
Replacement of a foreign minister implies at least certain changes in the foreign policy as well. Will Artsakh’s foreign policy undergo any changes? Has the country’s leadership set any new task to you, as foreign minister? Would you outline the major tasks of Artsakh in the foreign policy and the ones you will be working on?
Certain revision of foreign policy and other issues happened after the new armed aggression Azerbaijan unleashed against Artsakh in April of 2016. Broadly speaking, the major function of the foreign policy department is to ensure favorable external conditions for secure development of the country, to present and protect its interests on the foreign policy arena, as well as to use diplomatic methods to remove processes running contrary to the country’s interests. More specifically, the president forms foreign policy agenda of the country. President of Artsakh sets tasks and goals to the Foreign Ministry. The president’s program published in mid-October 2017 among others addresses Artsakh’s prior foreign policy issues for the coming years.
The major task of Artsakh’s Foreign Ministry is to work to achieve international recognition of Artsakh, its integration into international processes and progress in the peaceful resolution of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict.
In particular, the Foreign Ministry will step up efforts to develop positive trends of the past years in the field of international recognition of Artsakh and expand frameworks of cooperation in various sectors. By present, legislative structures of eight American States, one Australian State and the Basque Country (Spain) have passed resolutions in support of the Artsakhi people’s right to self-determination. 16 cities of U.S., France, Basque Country and Brazil have established friendly relations with Artsakh’s towns. In 2015, on sidelines of the NKR delegation’s visit to France, President Baku Sahakyan signed a friendship declaration between Drôme Department (Rhône-Alpes region) and Artsakh. In October 2017, Belgium created a Circle of Friendship and a Group of Friendship with Artsakh. We will be taking steps not to leave these documents on paper.
Our task in settlement of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict is to ensure resolution of the issue on the basis of Artsakhi people’s unalienable right to self-determination. Over twenty-five years ago, the people of Artsakh made their choice to live in an independent state. So, we will be working to achieve international recognition of the results of that choice.
Along with the two major areas of foreign policy – international recognition of Artsakh and peaceful resolution of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, the president’s program has set some other tasks to the Foreign Ministry. Implementation of these tasks requires huge efforts. I’d like to outline some of them: establishment and promotion of economic ties of Artsakh and other countries, including through promotion of foreign investments. Amid Azerbaijan’s destructive policy and attempts to isolate Artsakh, the government of our country has intensified efforts to attract foreign capital to Artsakh, which is one of the components of economic growth and improvement of living standards.
We will remain focused also on development of ties with the Armenian Diaspora and give a new impetus to it through active involvement in projects to preserve national identity of Armenian communities in various countries.
One of Foreign Ministry’s major tasks is to inform the world community of the true reasons and developments of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Have you made any progress in that field?
One of Artsakh’s foreign policy tasks is to provide impartial information to the world community concerning the government building process in Artsakh, the reasons behind the Karabakh conflict and its essence, as well as to maintain the country’s positive image.
The latest developments speak volumes. Artsakh’s stance has found understanding by the world community. One of the recent examples of growing support to Artsakh is the resolution initiated by Congressman Frank Pallone, the motion by Co-chair of Armenia-France Parliamentary friendship group François Rochebloine to the French leaders, initiatives by European parliamentarians, chairman of the Friendship Group with Artsakh in the European Parliament Frank Engel and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee Lars Adaktusson on establishment of direct contacts with Artsakh government.
What will Artsakh’s recognition by any country or a group of countries bring to it in real politics, namely, in the Karabakh peace process, amid Baku’s refusal to negotiate with Stepanakert?
The process of international recognition of Artsakh is irreversible. It develops parallel to the peace process and cannot depend on Azerbaijan’s whims. International recognition of Artsakh’s statehood, enhancement of international cooperation in the political, economic and humanitarian fields is the optimal method to ensure security and peaceful development of the country, so that all its citizens could use all the rights and freedoms stipulated by the basic international documents, as well as to fulfill their potential.
In the context of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict’s resolution, international recognition of Artsakh will give a new impetus to the negotiations and become an effective method to prevent a new aggression by Azerbaijan and contribute to regional stability. As long as there is no international recognition of Artsakh, Azerbaijan is facing more and more temptation to use force. Recall the large-scale aggression against Artsakh unleashed by Azerbaijan on April 2-5, 2016.
Last year, presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev met in Geneva. According to official statement by the OSCE MG, the sides agreed to take additional measures to enhance the negotiation process and defuse tension on the Line of Contact. What is your country’s assessment of the results of that meeting and the arrangements made?
Artsakh’s government has repeatedly supported initiatives aimed at defusing tensions on the Line of Contact of the armed forces of Artsakh and Azerbaijan, including the arrangement to increase the staff of the OSCE PR SR’s Office and implementation of mechanisms to inquire into incidents on the frontline that were agreed yet in 2011. Implementation of these measures simultaneously with the agreement made on February 6, 1995 by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Artsakh under aegis of OSCE will help defusing tensions in the conflict zone and creating favorable conditions for talks. To achieve the goals set, these steps should not be just formalities. They must become an efficient instrument to stabilize the situation on the Line of Contact.
New state formations emerge in both the neighbor region and Europe. We have witnessed independence referendums in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia. What they in Stepanakert think of these processes?
We consider the independence referendums of Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia in the context of the people’s right to self-determination stipulated by UN Statute and a range of basic international documents.
What do you think of Russia’s role in the Karabakh peace process?
Russia is an OSCE MG co-chair along with U.S. and France. Despite disagreements in other international issues, in the Karabakh peace process these countries have similar stances and coordinate their mediation efforts to achieve final resolution of the conflict. This tripartite mediation group comprising Russia, U.S. and France is the only agreed format having international mandate to mediate the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict.
Interviewed by Arshaluys Mghdesyan and Anton Yevstratov