On February 19, the annual press conference of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh Masis Mayilian took place. Masis Mayilian briefed on the activities carried out by the Foreign Ministry during 2017.
Speaking of the efforts exerted towards the international recognition of Artsakh and expansion of decentralized cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that the positive trends continued in 2017 as well. In September, the Senate of the U.S. State of Michigan passed a resolution on the recognition of the independence of Artsakh. Declarations of Friendship were signed between the cities of Chartar and Berdzor of Artsakh and Décines-Charpieu and Alfortville of France. In 2017, within the framework of the visit of President of the Republic of Artsakh Bako Sahakyan to Belgium, a Group of Friendship and a Circle of Friendship with Artsakh were established. In particular, in the Walloon Parliament of Brussels, a group of francophone Belgian parliamentarians, representatives of scientific and public circles created a Circle of Friendship with Artsakh, and in the Flemish Parliament of Belgium, a Group of Friendship with Artsakh was created. Similar Group and Circle of Friendship were created in Artsakh.
Masis Mayilian stressed that in 2017, the Foreign Ministry of Artsakh exerted efforts not only to deepen the existing ties, but also to establish new ones. The geography of international cooperation of Artsakh expanded. In 2017, delegations from Bolivia and Mexico, as well as a member of the Portuguese Parliament visited Artsakh for the first time.
Touching upon the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, the Foreign Minister noted that in 2017, it was mainly focused on overcoming the negative consequences, which resulted from the military operations resumed by Azerbaijan against the Republic of Artsakh in April 2016. In this regard, the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairpersons were aimed at implementing the agreements reached at the meetings in Vienna and St. Petersburg, and creating conditions for the promotion of the negotiation process. In this context, Masis Mayilian stressed the need to expand the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and to establish mechanisms for investigating violations of the cease-fire regime in order to create a constructive atmosphere in the settlement process. At the same time, to achieve real progress in the settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, it is necessary to restore the full-format negotiations, with the participation of the Republic Artsakh in all the stages. The full-fledged participation of Artsakh in the negotiations will increase the effectiveness of the peace process. The authorities of Artsakh continue to advocate for their equal participation in the process and are ready to assume their share of responsibility for the maintenance of regional stability and for the destiny of the region as a whole.
Masis Mayilian also noted that in close cooperation with Armenia’s Foreign Ministry and Missions in the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Union, and the UN, consistent steps had been taken to present the official position of Artsakh on various issues, including the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, and to prevent processes running counter to the interests of Artsakh. In particular, nine comprehensive documents, prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Artsakh and other offices of the Republic, were distributed in different international structures.
Briefing on the main tasks for the current year, Masis Mayilian noted that, in accordance with the program of Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan for 2017-2020, the foreign policy priorities are to intensify the efforts towards the international recognition of Artsakh, to ensure progress in the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, based on the fact of realization of the right to self-determination by the people of Artsakh, to establish and expand foreign economic ties, to create external favorable conditions for the development of Artsakh, and to encourage foreign investments. One of the most important directions of the foreign policy agenda of Artsakh is also the further expansion and deepening of the Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora cooperation.
Following are the answers of the Foreign Minister of Artsakh to some of the questions.
Question: In late December, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus, Günther Bächler, made some noteworthy statements in an interview placed at the OSCE official website. In particular, he noted that for the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh they have some principles about final status on the table, but no real negotiation architecture. In this regard, he stressed that the 2014 OSCE Swiss Chairmanship had developed a non-paper on a structured negotiation process with all elements and details of a full-fledged negotiation process. What is the position of Artsakh on this issue?
Answer: First of all, I would like to clarify the terminology. Full-fledged negotiations provide for the involvement of three parties - Artsakh, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, which signed the cease-fire agreement in May 1994. It is this format that is enshrined in the final document of the CSCE / OSCE Budapest Summit. Accordingly, we believe that efforts should be exerted to resume the trilateral Artsakh-Azerbaijan-Armenia negotiations, and not to create a new negotiation architecture.
It should also be noted that the lack of full-format negotiations is a derivative of Azerbaijani leadership’s lack of political will to achieve a final settlement of the conflict. By impeding the resumption of the full-format negotiations with the direct and full-fledged participation of Artsakh, refusing to implement the peacemaking initiatives to strengthen the ceasefire, and pursuing a consistent policy of escalating the conflict, Azerbaijan deliberately protracts the establishment of lasting peace in the region.
In this regard, it is worth recalling that the full-format negotiations were undermined in due time as a result of similar manipulations by the Azerbaijani party, which, at the peak of the development of the Great Political Agreement, insisted on the elaboration of settlement principles as a basis for continuing the negotiations. Now Azerbaijan proposes to abandon the discussion of the principles of the conflict settlement, which it initiated, and to start some kind of structured negotiations. Such inconsistency of the Azerbaijani authorities raises no doubts that this initiative, like the previous ones, is just a trick, resulting from their unwillingness to recognize the right to self-determination realized by the people of Artsakh as a basis for achieving a final settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh.
Question: According to the statement by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairpersons following the January 18, 2018 meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Krakow, the Ministers expressed their agreement in principle with the revised conceptual document of the Co-Chairpersons on the expansion of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. How would you comment on this statement?
Answer: The Republic of Artsakh has always supported the initiatives aimed at strengthening the ceasefire regime, and has repeatedly made various proposals to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Artsakh and Azerbaijan. In doing so, we always took into account that these steps should not be formal or declarative, but should make a real contribution to the stabilization of the situation on the Line of Contact. The same approach applies equally to the proposal on expanding the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, which should not be limited to a formal increase in the number of staff, but should provide for increased monitoring capabilities of the Office.
The implementation of this proposal will be an important step in the right direction. However, merely the expansion of the staff of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and its increased monitoring capabilities are not sufficient to ensure stability and predictability on the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Artsakh and Azerbaijan. It is also necessary to implement other initiatives on strengthening the ceasefire, in particular, the proposal on mechanism of investigation incidents agreed upon in 2011. In this context, the practical application of the agreement of February 6, 1995, reached by Azerbaijan, Artsakh and Armenia under the aegis of the OSCE, is also of great importance. The agreement contains a whole complex of militarily significant measures on stabilization of crisis situations.
Question: What are your expectations related to the negotiation process in 2018?
Answer: The April war in 2016 clearly demonstrated that at the current stage, the priority task in the settlement process of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh is to strengthen the ceasefire and to ensure the irreversibility of the peace process. In this regard, our expectations for 2018 are mainly related to the implementation of the already mentioned proposal on the expansion of the staff and the increased monitoring capabilities of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. The next step, in our opinion, should be a more substantive, result-oriented discussion of the mechanism for investigating violations of the cease-fire regime.
We are convinced that stability and security on the Line of Contact will have a multiplicative effect on the entire settlement process. In particular, they will allow avoiding human casualties, thus eliminating the main source of maintaining tension in the relations between the societies of the conflicting parties. This, in turn, will create a favorable environment for implementing measures to restore confidence between the parties. Combined, these steps will ensure a more constructive situation for the promotion of the negotiation process.
Surely, to expect such a dynamics in the negotiation process in 2018 would be too optimistic. At the same time, we consider it quite realistic to implement the agreement on expanding the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and increasing its monitoring capabilities, surely, with the political will of the Azerbaijani party.
Question: How would you comment on the recent initiatives by political and public circles in the United States and France, aimed at the establishment of direct ties with Artsakh?
Answer: We consider these initiatives an important and timely step, especially against the background of Azerbaijan's unceasing attempts to isolate Artsakh. The resolution initiated by Congressman Frank Pallone and the call by Chairman of the France-Artsakh Friendship Circle Francois Rochebloine to the leadership of France are an important reminder that human rights are universal, and their observance is the responsibility of the entire international community and cannot depend on a whim of such a not free state as Azerbaijan.
It is noteworthy that the initiatives condemning Azerbaijan's attempts to isolate Artsakh and calling for the establishment of direct contacts with the leadership of Artsakh were taken by representatives of the political and public circles of the United States and France, which, along with Russia, are Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Similar proposals were also made by members of the European Parliament - President of the Friendship Group with Artsakh in the European Parliament Frank Engel and member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Lars Adaktusson.
We are also convinced that the establishment of direct and open dialogue between Artsakh and other countries will contribute to strengthening stability and resolving the problems existing in the region. Moreover, international cooperation based on the principle of involvement, rather than exclusion, will give a new impetus to the settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh. Artsakh is an important factor in the regional architecture, which seeks to establish final and lasting peace in the South Caucasus by pursuing a responsible policy.