In parallel interviews with Russian media outlet Sputnik, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have outlined the most pressing issues regarding the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Both leaders were given an equal amount of time and identical questions.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev expressed his conviction that Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was a product of US billionaire George Soros, known for his large donations to political causes that are in line with his own ideology and objectives.
“The collapse of the Soviet Union indeed started with separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh. That was the trigger. People often forget about those rallies, who organised all this, who was behind it,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told Sputnik News Agency Director General Dmitry Kiselev.
“I often say that Pashinyan is a product of Soros, and I believe everyone would agree with that. Soros is not just an individual, he is a concept. I in no way rule out that such instruments were used back then to disintegrate the great nation. Just blow it up from the inside, sow discord, play off the people, and disintegrate the country.”
Azerbaijan to Never Accept Nagorno-Karabakh’s Independence
“Our stance has always been based on pragmatism and I think that the ideas that already exist at the negotiating table show this clearly. As for the red lines, we have stated this clearly and the co-chairs of the Minsk Group know this very well — under no circumstances can the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan be compromised, under no circumstances can Azerbaijan agree to recognise the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Baku Sees Karabakh Conflict as War of Liberation, While Yerevan Views it as Conquest
“Any war means cruelty, victims, human suffering, loss of loved ones, but the difference is that this is a war of liberation for Azerbaijan and a war of conquest for Armenia. It is no secret — and it is something that international mediators are aware of — that there are no so-called armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ninety percent of the troops in the group that Armenia calls by this name are Armenian citizens. The Armenian military summons them and sends them to Azerbaijan’s occupied territories: Agdam, Fizuli, Gebrayil, Kalbajar, Qubadli, Lachin, Zangilan.”
At the same time, Aliyev emphasized that “the Armenian community and the Azerbaijani one can peacefully live and coexist in Nagorno-Karabakh in the future”, and that this was already the case in other areas of Azerbaijan, including the capital Baku, with its thousands-strong Armenian community, as well as in Russia, Georgia, and other countries. “Why can’t we have it here?” Aliyev said.
No Foreign Mercenaries Fighting on Azerbaijan’s Side in Karabakh
Aliyev also reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s official position that no foreign mercenaries are fighting alongside his country’s armed forces, and stated that no one has provided conclusive evidence to substantiate such claims, adding that Azerbaijan does not need any foreign military assistance as “the existing armed formations are fully capable of performing any assigned task.”
“The capabilities of the Azerbaijani Army are not a secret for anyone. We have no need for additional military forces. Azerbaijan has always been consistently fighting international terrorism. We will never allow terrorist organisations to have ‘nests’ on our territory and pose a threat to our people and our neighbours. We will never allow this. No one has presented any proof to support the claims that foreign armed formations are present on Azerbaijani territory and take part in the ongoing clashes. We have no foreign mercenaries, this is our official stance.” LINK
For his part, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that he is convinced Turkey is largely responsible for fomenting the ongoing clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“It is now obvious that Turkey is the main sponsor of this war… By decision and under the patronage of Turkey, it was decided to start a war, an attack against Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Pashinyan repeated the allegation that Turkey has been responsible for contracting and transporting mercenaries to the conflict zone. In his opinion, such a move was required because Azerbaijan alone could not conquer the disputed areas.
“It is important to understand why. Because it was obvious that the army of Azerbaijan alone is not capable of fighting against the Self-Defence Army of Nagorno-Karabakh. That is why Turkey decided to use terrorists, Turkish troops – they are involved not only in leading military operations but also directly, with the special forces of the Turkish army [on the ground].
According to some reports, special forces of the Pakistani army are also involved in the hostilities. And I think that as far as Turkish fighters’ participation at least is concerned, this has already been proven all over the world, because a lot of international media are already writing about it.”
Pashinyan Believes Turkey Wants to Continue Armenian Genocide
The Armenian prime minister explained Turkey’s interest in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as part of an effort to continue the Armenian genocide, referring to the series of massacres which took place in the early 20th century, as well as by the practical objective of expansion.
“I’m confident that Turkey … seeks to return to the South Caucasus in order to continue its policy of Armenian genocide. It’s important to know that it’s a practical goal for Turkey. It’s a practical goal, because Armenians of the South Caucasus is the last barrier for Turkey on its path towards the expansion to the north, east and south-east… Turkey wants to redistribute, or, to be precise, to take control over the South Caucasus, so it would serve as a foothold for its further expansion.”
Heavy Casualties on Both Sides of the Conflict
“The situation is very tense. There are a lot of losses on both sides. The Self-Defence Army of Nagorno-Karabakh is holding the defence, organising the defence, and I can assess the situation as quite difficult…
Many experts say that this is a war of unprecedented proportions in the 21st century. Because it involves all kinds of weapons: tanks, drones, aircraft and helicopters, armoured vehicles, artillery, rocket artillery and so on. And a lot of soldiers and troops are involved in these military activities. I mean that very large-scale and fierce battles are going on, and at the moment, the Self-Defence Army of Nagorno-Karabakh is holding the line. And we can practically say that the ‘blitzkrieg’ plans of Turkey and Azerbaijan to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh have so far failed.”
Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Expands Into Regional One
“The situation is no longer just about the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, but has gone beyond it. This is already a regional full-scale conflict that affects the specific interests of regional countries.”
Armenia’s ‘Red Line’ is Nagorno-Karabakh’s Right to Self-Determination
Speaking about the compromises that Armenia could accept in talks with Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Pashinyan says that Yerevan is ready to take the steps that were outlined in the recent joint “Moscow statement” with Baku to restore the negotiating process. But the prime minister also identified a “red-line” that he says Armenia will never cross.
“There is such a line, and this line is the right to self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. And at all times, Armenia was ready for such a compromise. And the most famous initiative is the Kazan initiative, when Armenia was ready for a specific compromise. But Azerbaijan refused to sign these agreements because Azerbaijan did not want and does not want to accept the right to self-determination of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. And the right to self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh is for us a ‘red line’ we cannot step over.” LINK
The armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh began in 1988, when ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region accused Baku of discrimination and attempted to separate from the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic and join the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic.
On that occasion Baku managed to prevent the separation and in 1991 formally abolished Karabakh’s autonomous status.
Armed hostilities resumed in 1992, when the two sides waged a brutal, full-scale war for control for two years. The conflict left tens of thousands of troops and civilians dead as well as resulting in the forced displacement of more than 1.1 million Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
As a result of the clashes, most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region broke away from Baku’s control, but Armenia stopped short of recognising its independence.
Over the following decades, Azerbaijan has repeatedly expressed its determination to regain control over the lost territory. Armenia, in turn, has argued that ethnic Armenians would be forcibly displaced from the region if this were to occur.
The ceasefire, which had held without major violations since 1994, was broken on 27 September, with both Baku and Yerevan accusing each other of instigating the latest round of military hostilities.
Providing more essential background information on the evolving situation and the positions of each side, the political leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia (President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan respectively) participated in an extended debate over Nagorno-Karabakh at the start of this year, hosted at the Munich Security Conference.
More recently, just over a week ago, Euronews was also granted separate interviews with both leaders.
Some of the longstanding obstacles, as well as key factors and possible elements that could be involved in moving towards a peaceful settlement, come into focus in the extended debates and interviews.
Specifically, the respective dialogues, debates and arguments suggest that there are several topics that must be addressed directly as part of a comprehensive framework in the agenda for confidence building measures and substantive negotiations:
The first step, without which other discussions are meaningless, is an unconditional ceasefire, preferably with international monitors – including diverse international media representation – in a format agreeable to all parties (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh).
Guaranteeing the right of return for Azeris and others displaced from the disputed regions that are currently under Armenian/ Nagorno-Karabakh control during and in the aftermath of the earlier rounds of armed conflict is also a fundamental factor. (This would require a detailed, impartial and expert investigation of what occurred, with full involvement of the inhabitants of the region working together with impartial investigators and experts.)
The other Azeri regions that have been occupied and over which there is widespread agreement are not part of Nagorno-Karabakh must be returned to Azeri control – a necessary counterpart would probably be a guaranteed secure corridor for passage between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized as a State by any country except Armenia, and with its limited population and resource-base would not be a viable State. If it were to amalgamate with Armenia, in whole or in part, there would need to be some guarantees for those who have been displaced in the successive rounds of conflict in the past – a right of return, and guarantees of their security and full citizenship and economic rights.
If it were to amalgamate with Azerbaijan, this would raise the same concerns – how to guarantee the political, economic and civil rights of the inhabitants living there, their security and protection against possible individual or collective acts of retribution or vengeance, with the additional question of how to recognize and put into effect institutions to provide for a degree of self-determination and autonomy within the Azerbaijani nation (possibly on a federal-type basis or as a special semi-autonomous region).
The Armenian demand for self-determination raises many intractable problems even as a preliminary concept. Would this include the right of self-determination of other groups forced to leave the region in the past rounds of armed conflict? Whose right to self-determination would take primacy, and what guarantees are there that the rights of the ‘losers’ will nonetheless be respected? Could there be ‘autonomous’ communities within an ‘autonomous’ region?
And what about communities and regions where there is no clear majority ethnic or social grouping – on what basis and principles can they agree to coexist and live together?
Given the intractability of the many issues involved, and the mutual hostility and acts of brutality that have built up over the last 30 years, there is no trust and good will to serve as a basis for confidence-building measures and the re-establishment of peaceful relations.
This suggests the necessity of introducing international monitors and peacekeepers to make sure that no violations of the peace occur, from a selection of countries and multilateral organizations acceptable to both sides, with the capability of detecting and reporting breaches rapidly and responding immediately with appropriate measures to protect communities and individuals in the event of hostilities breaking out.
These appear to be some of the fundamental topics that will have to be addressed. If they cannot be resolved by negotiations, the fate of the inhabitants of the disputed areas will be decided by the military balance on the battlefield, in which both sides will suffer huge losses and one side will face loss of life and forced displacement on a massive scale.
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