What is currently needed to start intensive negotiations on the Karabakh conflict settlement? The Azerbaijani party asserts that it is allegedly ready for this.
To resume substantive negotiations on the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh at the current stage, first of all, it is necessary to ensure the irreversibility of the peace process. It is impossible to discuss the terms of lasting peace under the constant threat of renewed hostilities and the existing tensions on the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Ensuring the irreversibility of the peace process requires the implementation of two mutually complementary components: expansion of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and establishment of mechanisms for investigating incidents on the Line of Contact. Together these two components will ensure increased monitoring capabilities on the Line of Contact, which will allow not only to identify the violators of the ceasefire regime, but also to prevent the recurrence of incidents in the future. At the same time, it is also necessary to ensure the observance and implementation of the agreement of February 6, 1995, reached under the auspices of the OSCE by Azerbaijan, Artsakh, and Armenia. This agreement contains a whole complex of militarily significant measures to stabilize crisis situations.
Only after the implementation of these steps, it will be possible to concentrate on the discussion of a peace agreement on the final settlement of the conflict. The statements by the Azerbaijani party on its readiness for intensive negotiations are not supported by any concrete actions. On the contrary, Baku does not fulfill the agreements reached to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact and rejects the mediators' initiatives to create conditions for advancing the negotiation process. The statements on the need to start structured negotiations, repeatedly voiced by Azerbaijan, are just a ploy to delay the settlement process. It is worth recalling that it was the Azerbaijani party that once refused to negotiate the Great Political Agreement and put forward a proposal on the development of settlement principlesas the basis for continuing negotiations. Now Azerbaijan proposes to abandon the discussion of the conflict settlement principles, which it initiated, and to start some structured negotiations.
The issue of returning Artsakh as a party to the negotiations is regularly voiced. Is it really time for the Armenian party or the international community to come up with such an initiative? Will Artsakh's involvement in the negotiations intensify them?
The issue of resuming the full-fledged participation of Artsakh in the negotiation process is constantly raised by President Bako Sahakyan during his meetings with the mediators. The need to restore the trilateral format is voiced both by Armenia and by the Co-Chairpersons of the OSCE Minsk Group. Noting the necessity of returning Artsakh to the negotiation table, we, first of all, proceed from our interest in the conflict settlement. The full-fledged participation of Artsakh in all the stages of the negotiations is also important in view of sharing the responsibility of the conflicting parties for the results of the peace process. Artsakh is one of the three parties to the conflict, so it should be a full-fledged and equal participant in the entire negotiation process and contribute to the discussion of all the issues on the negotiation table. The most important and perhaps the only effective document - the ceasefire agreement of May 12, 1994 - was signed by all the parties to the conflict - Artsakh, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Currently, the only party that opposes the return of Artsakh to the negotiation table is Azerbaijan. Official Baku makes systematic efforts to distance even more the prospects for the conflict settlement. Azerbaijan's termination of opposing the participation of Artsakh in the negotiation process would demonstrate the sincere desire and interest of this country in the final settlement of the conflict and would become a signal of real readiness for productive negotiations.
Mr. Minister, do you think that Azerbaijan will ever reconcile with the present status of Artsakh. When and in what cases can this happen?
The earlier Azerbaijan realizes that the independence of Artsakh is an irreversible fact, the closer will be the prospects for achieving a final settlement to the conflict. Our current task is to ensure the recognition of the fact of realization of the right to self-determination by the people of Artsakh as the basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh. The recognition of Artsakh by the international community should not depend on the whim of Azerbaijan. In this regard, we take consistent steps to expand the geography of international cooperation and to strengthen the positive trends on the international recognition of Artsakh.
April 2 marks the second anniversary of the four-day April war. After these events, both Armenia and Karabakh spoke about drawing lessons and toughening approaches. Have we made the relevant conclusions since then? What has changed? Will we really avoid repeating the same mistakes?
The main lesson of the April war for Artsakh and Armenia, as well as for the international community was the conclusion that all measures should be taken to prevent the resumption of hostilities. For us, the April war was, first of all, an impetus for the active modernization of the Defense Army and the security system of Artsakh. It should be noted that the combat readiness of the Artsakh Defense Army has never been as high as today. And the process of strengthening the army will continue.
Qualitative changes have taken place not only in the army. The April war demonstrated that there is no alternative to the path that we have chosen - the development of a strong and democratic state and the desire to take our equal place in the community of states. We believe that the most important guarantee for strengthening the security of Artsakh is the international recognition of Artsakh, as well as the expansion and consolidation of international cooperation. The establishment of direct and open dialogue between Artsakh and other countries will contribute to strengthening the stability and resolving the regional problems. Moreover, the international cooperation, based on the principle of involvement, and not exclusion, will give a new impetus to the settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh and establishment of lasting peace in the region.