Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh Sergey Ghazaryan to the news agency "Artsakhpress"


- Mr. Minister, for years the expert community of Artsakh and sometimes even certain officials have expressed the opinion that the methodology and philosophy of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process must be changed. Do you agree that the process should have been based not on the consequences of the conflict and the military developments, i.e. the issue of territories, but its root cause, which is the status of Artsakh? In your opinion, to what extent was the negotiating strategy of the mediators reasonable and justified?

- The status of Artsakh has always been the key item on the agenda of the Armenian sides within the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict. Since the signing of the ceasefire between Artsakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994 and throughout the negotiation process, the authorities of both Artsakh and Armenia advocated a peaceful and compromise solution of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, the core of which should have been the determination of the final status of Artsakh.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan was hiding behind the negotiation process and dragging out time, openly preparing for a military solution to the conflict. Statements made by the mediators over the years about the lack of a military solution to the conflict proved ineffective for the simple reason that the destructive position of Azerbaijan in the negotiations, the regular violations of the ceasefire and the use of force did not receive adequate condemnation and response from the mediators. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, as a member of the international community and a party to the negotiations, has made a clear commitment to resolve the conflict peacefully.

Therefore, the claims made by Azerbaijan today that the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict has been resolved do not correspond to reality, which is also reflected in the positions of the international actors involved in the process. At the international level, the issue of the status of Artsakh remains unresolved, and we expect that the international community and, first of all, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries will make additional efforts to restore the negotiation process with the full participation of Artsakh, without which it is impossible to achieve a final and comprehensive settlement of the conflict.

- How would you characterise the blockade of Artsakh? What is it?

The blockade of the 120,000 people of Artsakh by the Azerbaijani authorities for more than 5 months is nothing but a continuation of the aggressive war unleashed by Azerbaijan in September 2020, which is aimed at driving the Armenians out of Artsakh and the withdrawal of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue from the international agenda through the use of force, coercion and a consistent policy of ethnic cleansing. It is obvious that by massive violations of fundamental rights of the people of Artsakh, creating unbearable conditions for normal life activity in Artsakh, and through a policy of military-political blackmail and coercion, the Azerbaijani authorities are striving to achieve one of their main and primary goals, namely, to force the population of Artsakh to leave their homeland out of uncertainty and fear.

- How do you assess the international efforts for a political settlement of the conflict and, thereby, curbing the military ambitions of Azerbaijan? In particular, what do you think the international community should do in this case?

- The international community has clear political and legal obligations and mechanisms to prevent mass violations of human rights, especially their extreme manifestations, such as crimes against humanity and genocide. The blockade of Artsakh is a red flag that should warn the international community of possible mass crimes.

As part of the obligation to prevent possible mass crimes against the people of Artsakh, the international community, in addition to using political and diplomatic means, must give appropriate legal assessment of Azerbaijan's criminal actions. The efforts of mediators and other actors to ensure real progress in the negotiations cannot and should not replace the clear steps and actions that the international community, represented by the member states of the UN Security Council, must take to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing anywhere in the world regardless of political, economic, geographical or other considerations.

The UN Security Council is also the body that should enforce the decisions of the International Court of Justice. On 22 February 2023, the highest judicial body of the UN indicated an interim measure to Azerbaijan, obliging the latter to ensure the lifting of the blockade of Artsakh and the freedom of movement along the Lachin Corridor in both directions. This decision was the logical continuation of the previous decision on interim measures taken on 7 December 2021, by which the Court ordered Azerbaijan to take all necessary measures to prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred and discrimination, including by its officials and public institutions, targeted at persons of Armenian national or ethnic origin. By the same decision, the Court ordered Azerbaijan to take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration of Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries, etc. In this regard, we expect the appropriate actions of the UN Security Council to ensure the implementation of these decisions of the ICJ.

- It can be stated that the ongoing blockade and all the crimes of recent years are the result of a lack of proper assessment and response to the aggressive and destructive policy of Azerbaijan, and if a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the conflict is not achieved, such crimes are likely to continue. In this regard, do you see any prospects, and what should be the solution to the conflict, on what principles and in what format, in order for it to be fair and effective? Can the negotiations on normalisation of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations lead to the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, and what is the position of the Republic of Artsakh on this issue?

- The people and authorities of Artsakh have a common position on this issue. Only recognition of the right to self-determination exercised by the people of Artsakh can become the basis for a durable solution of the conflict and the establishment of just and lasting peace and stability in the region. We stand ready to start negotiations on a comprehensive and mutually acceptable solution to the conflict with Azerbaijan, in an agreed and internationally recognised negotiation format, based on strong international guarantees of the equal rights of the parties and the full implementation of their obligations.

Before creating conditions for negotiations in a full-fledged format on a final and comprehensive settlement of the conflict, there is a need to establish a dialogue on humanitarian and technical issues between Stepanakert and Baku, which, however, should not and cannot replace political negotiations.

In this context, it must be emphasized that the normalisation of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, delimitation and demarcation of borders cannot predetermine the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the final status of Artsakh. At the same time, without the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, i.e., with a half-hearted approach, it is impossible to imagine the final normalisation of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and the establishment of lasting peace. Despite the existing difficulties, it is extremely important for the Republic of Armenia to continue protecting the rights of the people of Artsakh.

If it is not possible today to reach a negotiated solution on the status of Artsakh, then it is necessary to recognise the existence of this problem and postpone the adoption of a decision until favourable conditions are created for this, while at the same time providing effective and reliable international guarantees of the security and sovereignty of the people of Artsakh.

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