Interview of Zohrab Mnatsakanyan to "France 24"
Question: Mr. Foreign Minister, for the past week violent clashes have occurred between Azerbaijan and your country Armenia. The two countries have been at loggerheads for decades now over the fate of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. However unlike in previous flare ups the latest round of violence has occurred far from this disputed region - at the north of the border between the two countries. At least 16 people have lost their lives - the worst death toll since 2016. We have seen a lull in the fighting for the past few days. Are you optimistic that the fighting is now over or you are still concerned that it could resume very soon?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Thank you very much. Indeed we had a situation over the past week: on 12th of July, we had an attempted aggression, attempted infiltration of the Armenian positions by the Azerbaijani armed forces across the Armenia-Azerbaijan border to the north-east of Armenia. This has been decisively thwarted. It has been followed subsequently by missile attacks at Armenian positions, also civilian infrastructure and the population.
We have been decisive in our defense. And we have also been working very hard with our partners with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship, comprising France, the United States and Russia, in order to halt the hostilities and in order to restore the ceasefire.
Now what happened in fact is a material manifestation of the ongoing warmongering and hate induced rhetoric that was very intense over the past weeks and months from Azerbaijan. Apparently they have been testing the resolve and the capacities of Armenia far from Nagorno-Karabakh. And this was, of course, a very dangerous development.
We have managed to calm the situation so far. Since Thursday we have again through the engagement of the Co-Chairs, the Russian Co-Chairmanship in strong coordination with the other partner France and the US, we have managed to restore ceasefire. This is again a shaky situation. So far it is holding and our intention is to make sure that we firmly restore ceasefire. In fact take further specific measures to reinforce the ceasefire regime and to deny any further challenge to the calm across the border and across the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh. This is, of course, a very big priority that we have before us now.
Question: Azerbaijan says that you started the fighting. It has also threatened to strike the nuclear plant, the Metsamor Nuclear Plant, if you continue what they call your “provocations.” What is your response to that?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Well, on the first question. We have been quite insistent on establishing measures to reduce risks of escalation and to investigate ceasefire violations. We are very insistent on that. We are very insistent on further measures including the expansion of monitoring, the establishment of a direct line on the ground. And those are the measures that will help us to control the ceasefire regime. Azerbaijan has not been very forthcoming to accept those proposals and to establish such measures which would deny opportunities for further ceasefire violations. So, once again I am calling upon them to come to reason and to accept those proposals, and to work with us towards strengthening the ceasefire regime.
So far as the threats to the nuclear power plant are concerned, I think this is a very vivid manifestation of irresponsibility, of threat to the broader region, a threat in fact to their own people. This is very disturbing and this demonstrates a crisis of reason. And I think it is very important that they come to their senses in Baku.