Interview of Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Foreign Minister of Armenia, to Al Jazeera
Question: Civilians are being caught up in this fighting. What efforts have been made to put a stop to it?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: This was a very dangerous development of the past days since 12th of July, when there was an attempt of infiltration by the Azerbaijani forces to the Armenian territory, to the north-east of Armenia and the use of large calibre artillery has amplified the dangers of escalation which we have now. The attempts to de-escalate are a priority now. This is what we are working for, this is what we are working with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which comprises France, Russia and the US. This is the priority now.
We need to de-escalate, because while Armenia has full capacity to defend, Armenia remains the security guarantor to Nagorno-Karabakh, but war is not the alternative. There is no alternative to the peaceful settlement. We remain committed to this and we will work towards the de-escalation and the establishment of the environment, the atmosphere, which helps peace and which favors the negotiating process.
Question: What kind of detail can you give us about the efforts to try to de-escalate this? What is the process that is happening and how fast is it going to happen given the fact that people are dying for this fighting is carrying on?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I should say that it is encouraging that we have a relative calm over the past, I think, now it’s about 12-14 hours. We are in constant touch with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, with Russia and other partners, United States and France. We are trying to work out the modalities that will sustain this relative calm and will re-establish the ceasefire regime - as you mentioned, a regime, which has been established in 1994, fully in force since then, the document signed by Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. And our priority now is to re-establish fully the ceasefire regime.
Question: It was being reported that Armenia had asked the CSTO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is led by Russia, to meet on this and take action on it, but the response to that seems to have been somewhat lackluster. What was Armenia's reaction to that response?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Well, I would not agree with that assessment. Armenia is a member of the CSTO, it’s a Collective Security Treaty Organization, and with our partners we are obviously raising the questions which concern the territory of the CSTO, of which Armenia is a part. We are briefing our partners about the developments and we will raise the question as we did necessary to raise the question of collective action now. Obviously as an organization, with its Charter, we have all the instruments in our hands but we assess the situation, assess the acts as per the situation. We are in contact, we are in touch and we are consistently in dialogue with our partners in the CSTO.
Question: There were talks in 2019 to try to find some sort of solution to this situation. It’s reported that Armenia’s Prime Minister at the time has said that “Nagorno Karabakh is Armenia”, and he wanted to change the negotiation format of the talks, which essentially allegedly undermines the process of the talks. How much responsibility does Armenia carry for the failure of the stalling of these talks?
Zohrab Mnatsaknayan: Again I would rather disagree with such assessment, because the Prime Minister of Armenia has been very clear in the context of Armenia being the security guarantor for Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia bearing responsibility for the security, very physical existential security of our compatriots in Nagorno- Karabakh.
We remain fully committed to the peace process and obviously Armenia has its development agenda, Armenia has its agenda to secure the prosperity of its nation. Nagorno-Karabakh, its population is under conditions, which are not favourable. Every attempt is made to cut them off from the world, and this is not acceptable and Armenia obviously provides every support that Nagorno-Karabakh people can live in security, and in peace, and in development. It is in that context.
However, I would underline that the Prime Minister of Armenia has been very consistent in his statements that the peace is possible when we achieve such a compromise, such a solution, which is acceptable to all people - to the people of Armenia, to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and the people of Azerbaijan. And we are still awaiting for a reciprocation of such an approach, a compromise-based approach from the leadership in Azerbaijan, because now what we are facing is the maximalist approach, which ignores the basic fundamental priorities of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
So our position is a position of seeking and establishing a solution which is acceptable to all and we are working in that direction.