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Nagorno-Karabakh Republic: We are not to blame for the escalation of the conflict

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Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nagorno-Karabakh says that this unrecognized Caucasus region and Armenia were not initiators of ceasefire violation, and that the greatest responsibility lies with Azerbaijan

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic: We are not to blame for the escalation of the conflict

INTERVIEW: Karen Mirzoyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh

Originally appeared at Politika, translated by A. Djurich/А. Ђурић exclusively for SouthFront

A new wave of clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh pushed once again this small Armenian enclave located within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan in the spotlight of world publicity.

To survive in such a status it has largely to do with the skilled Armenia and its diplomacy, dedicated to the Armenian Diaspora staggered on positions of influence in the West (mainly the USA and France) and Russia.

Clashes between Armenian Christians and Azeri Muslims in the region this week were newer as intense as in early April.

However, different interpretations of “who started it” flooded the foreign media, and therefore in the beginning of the interview for “Politika” the first question for Karen Mirzoyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the internationally unrecognized region is what really happening in this Caucasus region.

“In the early morning hours of April 2, Azerbaijan launched an unprecedented escalation, which has turned into a large military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani forces have used heavy artillery, combat aircraft and tanks which targets were not only our military positions but also civilian settlements, which led to losses among citizens. One twelve year old child was killed in front of the school during the shelling, and two more were wounded. In the village of Talis, three Kalapjan family members, among them 92 years old Marusja Kalapjan, were brutally tortured, mutilated and killed by a group of Azeri forces which managed to briefly enter the village. The agreement on cease-fire was reached on April 5, and it is generally respected, but we recorded several cases of its violation from the Azerbaijani side. Thus, for example, on April 6 one Armenian soldier was killed and two times there were cases of infiltration of Azerbaijani reconnaissance units. Yesterday, on April 8, one soldier was killed, and in the second part of the front line second, 20 years old soldier was killed under mysterious circumstances”, said Karen Mirzoyan.

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic: We are not to blame for the escalation of the conflict

Karen Mirzoyan

Why, in your opinion, clashes erupted right now, rather than during all the previous years of truce?

Nagorno-Karabakh repeatedly drew attention of international structures to constant provocations on the contact line from Azerbaijan, which is a violation of the ceasefire agreement. Since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in 1994, Azerbaijan has repeatedly violated the agreement and more frequent, especially during 2014 and 2015, also with the use of heavy weapons. In any case, the April escalation is unprecedented, given the large volume of military action, the weapons used and the choice of targets. The facts on the ground show that the decision to start the war offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh was made at the highest level in Azerbaijan. Baku does not hide his ambitions to relieve the conflict by military methods. The President of Azerbaijan in a speech on March 19 was clear when it comes to this issue. Just two weeks before the unprecedented conflict, President of Azerbaijan made a statement in favor of the military solution of the conflict. Azerbaijan consistently refuses proposal of Minsk Group, formed by the OSCE, to create mechanisms to investigate violations of the ceasefire, which would, at the same time, become a mechanism for preventing violations of the ceasefire regime. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have agreed on the formation of such a mechanism.

Causing a new wave of military tension on the very eve of Easter, Baku ignored the joint call of the Special Representative of Germany, which chairs the OSCE and Minsk Group to respect the cease-fire for religious holidays. A small number of cases of violation of ceasefire during the Novruz Holiday, which is celebrated in Azerbaijan, proves that neither Armenia nor Nagorno-Karabakh did not initiate the ceasefire violations. Azerbaijan was preparing a campaign against the Nagorno-Karabakh for a long time, as evidenced by the continuous amplification of military presence. Therefore, Azerbaijan has full responsibility for the current situation and possible consequences.

When do you expect the crisis to be resolved?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict when we will come up with a solution because it does not depend only on us. It is much easier to talk about how the crisis should be resolved. First, it is necessary to take concrete steps to consolidate the ceasefire regime and to promote security and stability in the contact line between the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The current situation demonstrates that the most effective way to curb Azerbaijan’s military ambitions and the suspension of military aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh represents the recognition of independence of Nagorno-Karabakh by the international community. International recognition will have a positive impact on the peace process and facilitate the creation of the necessary conditions for the peaceful coexistence of two independent states – the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The stakes have increased in large part due to the inclusion of Armenian and Azerbaijani allies. Russia, on the one hand, is a traditional ally of Armenia, a member of the CSTO, while Turkey as a NATO member, supports Azerbaijan. What will, in your opinion, be their reaction in future?

Although Turkey has expressed support for Azerbaijan during the last aggression, though, as I have already said, Azerbaijan is a country that should bear the full responsibility for the serious violation of the ceasefire and the attack on Nagorno-Karabakh. General Secretaries of the CSTO and NATO have urged to refrain from violence on the line of contact, as well as for an end to military action. While we appreciate the efforts of those who want to help in this situation, at the same time we have to notice that the practice of such appeals of the international community in Azerbaijan are seen as a green light for the continuation of war policy. We invite representatives of the Minsk Group to unequivocally condemn Azerbaijan for the continued escalation of the situation, thereby undermining the efforts of mediators to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict and prevent its spillover across regional boundaries. To reiterate, it should be clear that a peaceful solution to the conflict has no alternative. And in order to achieve a comprehensive solution, it is necessary that Karabakh takes part in all stages of peace process.

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