Mr. Mayilian, as Minister, your first interview was to Iranian Shargh newspaper, which is unprecedented. Was it a kind of U-turn towards Iran and making the Iranian direction of the NKR foreign policy a priority?
Artsakh and Iran are immediate neighbors, and the mutual interest is quite natural. One of the priorities of our foreign policy is to expand the geography of international cooperation of Artsakh with all the states, including with neighboring Iran. Artsakh is open for dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation on all the issues of mutual interest.
You worked as an expert on the Karabakh issue for many years, though you worked at the Foreign Ministry of Nagorno Karabakh between 1993 and 2007. What made you change your career and assume the post of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Artsakh?
I’ d like to note that before by appointment, I had worked as Artsakh Republic President’s Ambassador at Large. In September 2017, I accepted President Bako Sahakyan’s offer to head the Foreign Ministry, as I believed and still believe that by working at the foreign office of Artsakh I will bring more benefit to my country, including using my previous experience as an independent expert. I decided to return to the Foreign Ministry with a very high sense of responsibility.
Replacement of the Foreign Minister of any country 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 in the foreign policy of Artsakh and the ones you will be working on? Certain revision of the foreign policy and other issues took place after the renewed armed aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh in April 2016. Broadly speaking, the major function of the foreign office is to ensure favorable external conditions for the 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 the processes running counter to the country’s interests. More specifically, the President forms the foreign policy agenda of the country. It is the President of Artsakh that sets the tasks and goals for the Foreign Ministry. The priority issues of the foreign policy of Artsakh for the coming years are outlined in the President’s program published in mid-October 2017.
The major tasks of Artsakh’s Foreign Ministry are exerting further efforts to expand the geography of international recognition of Artsakh, integrating into international processes, and ensuring progress in the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh.
In particular, the Foreign Ministry will intensify efforts to develop the positive trends of the past years on the international recognition of Artsakh and to expand the frameworks of cooperation in various sectors. To date, the legislatures of eight American States, one Australian State and the Basque Country (Spain) have passed resolutions in support of the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination. 16 cities of the U.S., France, the Basque Country, and Brazil have established friendly relations with Artsakh’s towns. In 2015, in the frameworks of the NKR delegation’s visit to France, headed by President Bako Sahakyan, a Declaration of Friendship between Drôme Department (Rhône-Alpes region) and Artsakh was signed. In October 2017, a Circle of Friendship and a Group of Friendship with Artsakh were established. We ’ll take steps to put all these ties on a practical track.
Our task in the process of settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh is to ensure its settlement, based on the fact of realization of the unalienable right to self-determination by the people of Artsakh. Over twenty-five years ago, the people of Artsakh made its choice to live in an independent state, and we will work to achieve the international community’s recognition of the results of that choice.
Along with the two major directions of the foreign policy – the international recognition of Artsakh and the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, the President’s program outlined some other tasks for the Foreign Ministry, for the realization of which great efforts are also needed. I’d like to outline some of them: establishment and development of economic ties between Artsakh and other countries, including through promotion of foreign investments. Given Azerbaijan’s continuous destructive policy on isolating Artsakh, the authorities of our country have intensified the efforts to attract foreign investments in Artsakh, which is one of the constituents of the Republic’s economic growth and the improvement of its citizens’ living standards.
We will remain focused also on the development of ties with the Armenian Diaspora by giving a new impetus to our relations through the active involvement of Artsakh in preserving the national identity of Armenian communities in various countries.
One of the major tasks of the Foreign Ministry is to inform the international community of the real essence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Have you made any progress in that field?
One of the constituents of Artsakh’s foreign policy activity is to provide true information to the international community on the state-building process in Artsakh, the reasons behind the Karabakh conflict and its essence, as well as to maintain the country’s positive image.
The recent trends attest that Artsakh’s stance is perceived with greater understanding by the international community. The recent examples of the growing support for Artsakh are: the resolution initiated by Congressman Frank Pallone, the appeal by Co-Chair of the France-Artsakh Friendship Circle François Rochebloine to the leadership of France, the initiatives by Members of the European Parliament - Chairman of the Group of Friendship with Artsakh in the European Parliament Frank Engel and Member of the Foreign Relations Committee Lars Adaktusson on the establishment of direct contacts with the authorities of Artsakh.
What will Artsakh’s recognition by any country or a group of countries bring to it in real politics, namely, in the process of the Karabakh conflict settlement, 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. The international recognition of Artsakh’s statehood, the expansion and consolidation of international cooperation in the political, economic and humanitarian fields are the optimal method to ensure the security and peaceful development of the Republic, so that all its citizens can equally enjoy all the rights and freedoms enshrined in the fundamental international documents, as well as freely implement their potential.
In the context of the settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, the international recognition of Artsakh will give a new impetus to the negotiation process and will become an effective means to prevent new aggression by Azerbaijan, thus contributing to regional stability. As long as there is no international recognition of Artsakh, Azerbaijan is facing more and more temptation to use force, which was attested by the large-scale aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh on April 2-5, 2016.
Last year, Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev met in Geneva. According to the official statement by the OSCE MG, the sides agreed to take additional measures to intensify the negotiation process and to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact. What is Stepanakert’s assessment of the results of that meeting and the agreements reached?
The authorities of Artsakh have repeatedly expressed their support for the initiatives aimed at reducing tensions on the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Artsakh and Azerbaijan, including the agreement to increase the staff of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and the proposal to establish mechanisms for investigating incidents on the Line of Contact agreed upon back in 2011. The implementation of these measures, along with the practical application of the February 6, 1995 agreement reached between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Artsakh under the aegis of the OSCE, will help reduce tensions in the Karabakh conflict zone and create a favorable atmosphere for negotiations. It should be stressed that to really 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 neighboring region and Europe. We mean the independence referendums in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia. How does Stepanakert assess these processes?
We consider the conduct of the independence referendums in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia in the context of the people’s right to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter and a number of fundamental international documents.
How do you assess Russia’s role in the Karabakh settlement process?
Russia is an OSCE MG co-chair state, along with the U.S. and France. Despite the disagreements on other international issues, the three states have similar stances on the settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh and coordinate their mediation efforts to achieve a final resolution. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship, comprising the U.S., Russia, and France, is the only agreed format having an international mandate to mediate in the settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh.