Dear Mr. Minister, after the change of power in Yerevan, consultations between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the Karabakh settlement intensified sharply (we say “consultations”, because the real negotiations, when Nagorno Karabakh also participated in them, ceased in 1997). How would you explain the intensification of these consultations?
After the new government’s coming to power in the Republic of Armenia, maintaining the dynamics of meetings and consultations was of certain importance for both the Armenian party and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen, including from the point of view of demonstrating adherence to the agreed mediation format. The certain intensification of meetings between Yerevan and Baku is conditioned by the desire of the parties to familiarize with each other’s approaches regarding the peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict.
Meetings of the Foreign Ministers were held under the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen. Contacts at the highest level took place without the participation of mediators on the margins of various international forums and were informal. As it is known, it is planned to hold the first meeting of the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan under the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen.
I believe that an artificial intensification of consultations a priori cannot be fruitful. Apparently, the parties also realize this. For example, in February, Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan participated in the Munich Security Conference, but they did not plan to hold a new meeting at that forum.
The Prime Minister of Armenia insisted on the need to involve the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the negotiations with Azerbaijan. How exactly do you see the procedure and the subject of the NKR participation in the negotiations?
First of all, it should be noted that Yerevan and Stepanakert have the same approach to restoration of the trilateral format of negotiations. At the same time, speaking about the return of the Republic of Artsakh to the negotiation table, we proceed from the need to achieve real progress in the process of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict settlement. There are all the necessary prerequisites for the restoration of the trilateral negotiations. First, after quite a long discussion on the format of negotiations, yet in 1993, the CSCE/OSCE came to the understanding of the need for the participation of Nagorno Karabakh as the third party in all the stages of the peace process. Subsequently, this thesis was reflected in the Prague Summary by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office of March 31, 1995. The trilateral format itself was endorsed earlier by the decision of the OSCE Budapest Summit in 1994, based on consensus. Secondly, as time showed, the trilateral format had been the most efficient and productive one. It was in this format that the only tangible result was achieved in the settlement process – the conclusion under the Russian mediation of the trilateral agreement of May 12, 1994, on cease-fire and cessation of all hostilities.
The formula for the success of the trilateral negotiation format is quite simple: each of the parties directly represented its interests and discussed the issues within its competence.
The procedure for the participation of the Republic of Artsakh in the negotiations can be based on this formula. As Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly stated, Yerevan does not intend to set Stepanakert’s participation in the negotiation process as a precondition, but at the same time, it will conduct negotiations only on its own behalf. This means that the issues within the exclusive competence and powers of the authorities of the Artsakh Republic cannot be discussed in the Yerevan-Baku bilateral format. Such an approach is objective and, we believe, can serve as a mechanism for the return of Artsakh to the negotiation table.
R: The overwhelming majority of projects for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict propose reducing NKR territory to the territory of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. What do you think about such ideas?
Since the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict is not a territorial dispute, the search for possible ways to solve the issue based on territorial concessions is hopeless and does not reflect the essence of the conflict.
The fact that in 1988, when a new stage of the conflict started, the territories around the former NKAO and even one of the administrative regions of the autonomous oblast were under the control of Baku, indicates that this conflict is not a territorial dispute. That is, the conflict occurred despite the fact that these territories were controlled by the Azerbaijani party. Therefore, it is illogical to believe that the territorial concessions of Artsakh may lead to the conflict settlement. It should also be considered that such proposals directly affect the issue of security, which is one of the “red lines” for Artsakh in the process of settlement of the conflict with Azerbaijan.
Surrendering the territories is a direct way to destruction of the security system not only of Artsakh, but also of the Republic of Armenia, and it will threaten the very existence of the indigenous population in its historic homeland. In other words, this issue has an existential significance for us. The statements by the Azerbaijani President prove that official Baku’s strategic goal is to capture not only Artsakh, but also the Syunik region of Armenia and even the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. We should take seriously the statements by the President and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and not facilitate his path to his strategic goal. On the contrary, it is necessary to continue taking military and political-diplomatic measures to deter the aggressive and expansionist intentions of the leadership of the neighboring country.
To remind, the leadership of the Republic of Artsakh has repeatedly stated the impossibility and inadmissibility of returning to the past in terms of both issues: the status and the territories.
In addition, on July 15, 2009, after the mediators' approaches to the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict were made public, the MFA of the Republic of Artsakh issued a statement on the need to restart the distorted negotiation process, to return official Stepanakert to the negotiation table as a full-fledged party, and to transform the basic principles of settlement. This position of the Republic of Artsakh remains unchanged.
It should also be noted that in the above-mentioned statement, the Artsakh Foreign Ministry stressed that the attempts to bring Artsakh back to the past are not only counterproductive, but are also fraught with a new escalation of the conflict.
R: In summer, the election campaign for the presidential elections will start in the NKR. It is already known that Arayik Harutyunyan, Vitaly Balasanyan and Samvel Babayan are ready to participate in them. Earlier, you also participated in the presidential elections in the NKR, achieving a considerable result. Are you ready to take part in these elections and what will your decision depend on?
During the press conference on the foreign policy outcomes of 2018, answering a similar question by the chief of the Russian edition of the Public TV and Radio Company of the Republic of Artsakh, I noted that it is too early to talk about the plans for the next year elections. We should effectively use this time to implement the tasks set for the Foreign Ministry by the leadership of the country, and, in general, to implement the provisions of President Bako Sahakyan’s program for 2017–2020. Only in this way we can ensure the continuous, consistent and sustainable development of the Republic of Artsakh.