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‘Our priority is to return discussions on NK conflict to diplomatic field’ – Armenian FM

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Newly-appointed Foreign Minister of Armenia Ara Aivazian says he doesn’t consider the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as solved.

In an interview to Armenpress, the FM talked about issues relating to the further talks over the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the exchange of prisoners of war, the search for missing in action, the international recognition of Artsakh, etc.

-The provisions of the statement signed by the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan on November 9 have not been completely accepted by different layers of the public. According to some views, it’s possible to make some provisions of the statement more pro-Armenian as a result of negotiations. To what extent is this possible?

-We should record that the trilateral statement is directed for the establishment of a stable ceasefire in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh. As of now, some provisions of that statement have been fulfilled or are in process, which mostly are out of the diplomatic field. As we have stated repeatedly, the issues of ensuring the interests and rights of the Artsakh-Armenians should be addressed at the diplomatic domain within the frames of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship. And our priority is to return the discussions over the conflict to the diplomatic field.

Currently, there are some issues which require urgent solutions, and as a priority I would mention the protection of rights of our captured compatriots and their quick and safe return to homeland, the exchange of the bodies and the search for missing persons, the return of displaced residents of Artsakh, the formation of respective conditions for their security, the restoration and protection of their rights, as well as the preservation of Artsakh’s historical-cultural and religious heritage sites which appeared under the Azerbaijani occupation. We are actively cooperating with all our international partners in this process.

In this context we have provided detailed information not only about the war crimes committed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh, but also about the direct participation of Turkey in the Azerbaijani aggression and involvement of foreign terrorists in the military operations against Artsakh. There is already a clear approach within the international community that the Armenian people have resisted the aggression unleashed by this alliance [Azerbaijan, Turkey and terrorists]. Nevertheless, the foreign ministry together with other competent authorities of Armenia and the international partners has still a lot to do in this respect.

Artsakh is a reality on the geopolitical map, and the delay of the international structure’s presence and direct involvement is unacceptable. Our principled approach is to address the social problems of Artsakh-Armenians and the humanitarian crisis in Artsakh on the spot, aimed at quickly ensuring the return to normal life.

-You mentioned the return of our compatriots from the Azerbaijani captivity, which is the most concerning issue today within the Armenian public, as it is holding protest over this, claiming that the state structures do not take any action in this respect. Till now, no public statement by the Armenian diplomacy has been made on this matter.

-Yes, you are right, we have talked less on this matter, but the same cannot be said about our actions. As you know, there is an inter-agency commission dealing with the issues of the Armenian prisoners of war, detainees and missing persons, which is led and coordinated by the defense ministry. All talks regarding this issue are being held through this channel. The foreign ministry is also involved in this commission, with a concrete set of powers, which have recently expanded, directly engaging in the works with the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC).

In this regard, given the sensitivity of the issue and the direct link with the human life, I cannot provide much more information on this. There is the personal commitment of the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian leaders on this matter. The talk is to clarify the lists of captives in both sides and then launch exchange mechanisms. We have confirmed our committment to the “all for all” principle and expect that Azerbaijan would not create artificial obstacles for this issue.

-For years Armenia has viewed the 7 regions of Nagorno Karabakh also as a security zone of the NK people and held negotiations under the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship with this logic. In the current situation, when that regions are under the Azerbaijani control, what are going to be Armenia’s priorities in the negotiation process and how much importance do you give to the continuation of talks under the Minsk Group?

-All rights of the population of Artsakh should be fully restored and exercised in their historic homeland. The recent military operations launched by Azerbaijan with the support of Turkey aimed at completely eliminating Armenians in Artsakh, and had genocidal aspirations which are also reflected in the post-war rhetoric and developments.

In the context of the efforts for peacefully settling the Nagorno Karabakh conflict I want to state that the issue of the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination is the base of the conflict, and this issue cannot be solved with the use of force. Armenia has acted and will continue to act from the positions of the recognition of the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination and the international guarantee of their security.

The Azerbaijani claims according to which the conflict is solved are baseless. It’s an impression that the President of Azerbaijan, who is making such statements, doesn’t fully perceive the essence of the document signed by him. As the text of that statement says and as the Russian President has recently noted, the issue of the final status of Artsakh is not solved and is a subject of further negotiations. The Co-Chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group also agree on this.

The Nagorno Karabakh conflict would be considered as solved only when the right to self-determination exercised by the Artsakh people is recognized by the international community.

-From the first days of the war the issue of the recognition of Artsakh by Armenia is being discussed. Is this issue being considered now?

-The recognition of the Republic of Artsakh has always been considered not only within the context of the status, but also within a broader regional and international context. We need to record that the military force used against the people of Artsakh has further strengthened the grounds of the recognition of their right to self-determination, and we are witnessing new approaches on this direction.

-As new minister of foreign affairs, what are the main foreign policy priorities of Armenia for you?

-The key foreign policy priority of Armenia has been and remains the settlement of the Artsakh issue, which is also one of the pillars of Armenia’s security system. It’s clear to all of us that our country, people are facing crisis days now, and our key task is to carry out a crisis management aimed at addressing first of all the key issues of the comprehensive development and security of Armenia and Artsakh with all its directions.

-Are changes expected in the foreign ministry’s central apparatus or diplomatic corps?

-The foreign ministry is a professional apolitical structure which attaches a special importance to the maintenance of the institute and the institutional memory. At the same time, the foreign ministry is not a static structure, and of course, it also has its logic of development and constant improvement.

-Thank you for the interview.

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