Interview of the Foreign Minister of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan to “Ria Novosti” news agency01 September, 2021
What will be the foreign policy course of the new government of Armenia? Will the tendency of strategic cooperation with Russia be maintained? Do you think there was a period of mistrust between the two countries, and did they manage to overcome it?
The Republic of Armenia pursues a predictable, stable and reliable foreign policy. Yerevan has repeatedly demonstrated its consistency in the development of the Armenian-Russian strategic allied relations, both verbally and with actions in deed and in word, I am convinced that the peoples of our countries will continue good traditions based on centuries-old friendship, mutual trust, transparency and full understanding.
The recently approved program of the government formed following the parliamentary elections in Armenia reiterates the readiness to strengthen the Armenian-Russian allied relations in all spheres. We will continue to expand and deepen our cooperation with Russia in all directions of our interstate agenda.
We are hopeful that through joint efforts we will enrich our cooperation with new achievements in political, trade and economic spheres, as well as with constructive collaboration in international and regional platforms, with significant progress in the security, military and military-technical spheres.
How feasible is the signing of a peace agreement with Azerbaijan in the foreseeable future? Is it possible to include a provision on recognizing each other's territorial integrity in that document?
The Republic of Armenia has repeatedly stated at the highest level about the readiness to resume the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process on the basis of well-known principles, namely, non-use of force or threat of force, equal rights and self-determination of peoples and territorial integrity. Following the signing of the trilateral statement of November 9, the Co-Chairs issued a number of statements. The Armenian side welcomed the statements, considering them a roadmap for peace in the region.
The neglecting of its commitments under the November 9 trilateral Statement by Azerbaijan, first of all, on the immediate repatriation of all prisoners of war, the infiltration into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, as well as the false territorial aspirations towards Armenia, and in general, the constant aggressive rhetoric of the Azerbaijani authorities, do not in any way contribute to the establishment of an environment conducive to lasting and sustainable peace in the region.
The Armenian side will consistently advocate for the realization of the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination, to free and dignified life in their homeland.
When will the delimitation and demarcation negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan launch? Will the trilateral format be maintained with the participation of Russia, or will the other mediating countries of the Minsk Group or international organizations, such as the UN or the OSCE, be involved in that process?
There are no negotiations on demarcation and delimitation. At the moment, negotiations are underway, the outcome of which will once again demonstrate the degree of official Baku’s ability to reach an agreement, as well as its readiness to abandon the policy of initiating fake agendas in gross violation of the norms of international law and principles. If Azerbaijan takes a constructive position, withdraws its armed units from the sovereign territory of Armenia, i.e. returns to the positions as of May 11, then favorable conditions will be created for launching the process of demarcation and delimitation.
The above-mentioned negotiations are being pursued with the direct participation of the Russian side, and we hope to find a solution during such discussions, in which case there will be no need to apply to the mentioned organizations.
Is the possibility of holding a trilateral summit between the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan being considered?
Peace and stability in the region is our long-term strategy. We welcome Russia's mediation efforts in this regard, including on the resumption of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship.
It is obvious that the use of force can in no way be a settlement of the conflict: the final, comprehensive, sustainable solution of the conflict must be based on the principles and elements well-known to the sides, set by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship. And this is not only Armenia’s position, but also of Russia, France and the United State - the joint format of Co-Chairmanship. This is the position of the international community.
The head of the Armenian government proposed to deploy bases of the Russian border guards and CSTO observation mission along the border with Azerbaijan. Are there any negotiations on those proposals? Has the Russian side expressed interest in this issue?
On May 12 of this year, we encountered a situation when the armed units of Azerbaijan infiltrated the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, which is fraught with explosive consequences. It is inadmissible and the situation must be resolved through the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Azerbaijani armed units from the territory of Armenia.
In this context, the initiatives of the border guards and observation mission in the respective border regions of Armenia should be considered as a step aimed at restraining the militant aspirations of the Azerbaijani side and avoiding bloodshed.
Does the Armenian side expect an extension of the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh? Are there any negotiations to ensure the indefinite deployment of Russian peacekeepers?
Russia played a key role in cessation of the Azerbaijani aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, with its direct involvement, the trilateral statement of the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan on the cessation of all hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone was signed on November 9, 2020.
According to the statement, the 5-year term of the peacekeeping contingent will be automatically extended if one of the sides does not announce its intention to suspend the provision. The presence of Russian peacekeepers plays a very important role in ensuring the security and the right to life of the people of Artsakh, which is clearly stated in the recently approved program 2021-2026 of the Government of Armenia.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that Azerbaijan has not signed the mandate of peacekeepers yet, and is also carrying out strong anti-propaganda against the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, Azerbaijan is constantly trying to question the expediency and effectiveness of the peacekeeping mission. In this context, the cases of capture of Armenian servicemen in the areas of responsibility of peacekeepers should also be considered.
When can the UNESCO mission arrive in Nagorno-Karabakh? Baku states that Armenia is against such a mission and hinders it in every way. How would you comment on that statement?
The need for immediate implementation of the UNESCO assessment mission arose in 2020 as a result of the 44-day war, in order to protect the Armenian cultural and religious heritage from the danger of complete destruction in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan. There are numerous documented cases of deliberate vandalism of Armenian churches and other cultural and religious monuments by the Azerbaijani armed forces during the hostilities, as well as after the ceasefire, mandated by the instructions of the top leadership of Azerbaijan.
For the very purpose to conceal the cultural crimes, Azerbaijan had for a long time posed impediments towards the visit of the UNESCO experts, while blaming Armenia for that. The practice of creating obstacles for the implementation of the mission by the Azerbaijani authorities and politicizing the issue continues even now. Let me remind you that back in December 2020, the Deputy Director General for Culture of UNESCO stated that Azerbaijan does not consent to the mission dispatch.
The cultural and religious heritage of Artsakh, which is under threat of destruction, needs urgent attention from the international community in order to ensure its proper protection and the prevention of vandalism. Armenia is interested in the implementation of the UNESCO mission as soon as possible and continues to make targeted efforts in that direction.