Interviews and press conferences
Armenians will stop Baku’s every attempt to carry out ethnic cleansing. President Sarkissian’s interview to Chinese Caixin Media
President Sarkissian gave an interview to Chinese Caixin Media.
Question: Yesterday, we have seen the all Co-Chairing Countries in Minsk group have urged all parties to end hostility activities and urge you to reconvene the negotiations without pre-conditions. But from your perspective, do you think is there any basis for negotiation with Baku again? Do you still hold the confidence to negotiating with them under current situation?
Answer: I would like first to start describing the current situation. In the early 90s, or 1988, when after 70 years of forcibly being part of Soviet Azerbaijan the breakdown of Soviet Union happened, and the people in Nagorno-Karabakh, eventually, in a referendum, voted for getting out from Azerbaijan and declared again their independence that they had for hundreds of years or thousands of years.
Azerbaijan’s reaction was not a sort of a 20th century reaction. It was just sending troops and started killings. And the conflict turned into a war, which was stopped in 1994 with an understanding that there will be negotiations. And here the OSCE Minsk Group started with three Co-Chairs: the United States, France, and Russia.
So, there have been negotiations for 26 years. In any negotiation between states or parties of the conflict, or commercial negotiations, it never happens that everybody is happy and you come to a conclusion immediately. Sometimes you are happy with negotiations. Sometimes you are not happy with negotiations. That is a normal life. You have to be patient because the alternative is a war. Now Azerbaijan has decided to withdraw itself from the negotiating table, and take the path of the war. It has already happened a couple of times. But these were local wars, four-day war in 2016, and another conflict in last July which was a very local one.
Question: But this time it is different. And what is different? What is different today is that Turkey is directly involved in this. Turkey has a lot of military personnel in Azerbaijan, both in mainland Azerbaijan and in a small part called Nakhchivan, which doesn't have a direct connection with Azerbaijan. It is between Armenia and Turkey. That part now is basically controlled by the Turkish side.
Answer: Turkey brought with them generals, officers and supervisors to mainland Azerbaijan, and the worse, it hired terrorist groups, Jihadis from Syria. And this is not about 10 or hundreds. It is about thousands of them. How on earth a 3rd country interferes in the conflict of two states: the state of Azerbaijan and the small state of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is, of course, Armenian, and the Armenians are supporting them. However, as you break into that equation, Jihadis are terrorists and this is not controllable.
The third thing is that absolute modern technology is used by Azerbaijanis and also the Turks, the modern drones and F-16 jet fighters, which is, again, basically breaking all international laws and rules. I am absolutely sure that the contract that Turkey has with the USA doesn't allow them to do that sort of stuff. I am absolutely confident that the agreements that Turkey signed to become a NATO member are forbidding them to do that. But they have just ignored all that. And now we also have facts that American equipment is used not only in Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh Republic, not only there are drones made in different places of the world, including in Turkey, but they are using them against Armenia. During last night, 4 drones, Turkish made, have crossed the State border of Armenia and were heading towards the capital Yerevan. Four of them were shot by the Armenian defense system.
Question: You mean the conflict now erupt not only in the eastern side but also in your border with Turkey? The drones were sent to Yerevan (Yeah, they have sent it) from Turkey?
Answer: I don't have the final information about where they crossed the border from Turkey side. But it doesn't matter. These are Turkey-made drones. And they are controlled by Turkish operators. And they are crossing the border. So, we have all the evidence of Turkish involvement. Then they give some “reasons” of why they are doing that. One of the reasons is that they are ethnic brothers with Azeris. I'm sorry; Turkish nations are so big, and Turkey has ethnic brothers in the North Caucasus, in every region of Russia, in Central Asia, including in the north of China. But if they are looking for ethnic brothers, they can have the freedom of interfering in each and every of those states in order to support somehow a call from ethnic brothers. Absolutely unacceptable.
Second, they were claiming that there are PKK soldiers or fighters in Armenia. A complete nonsense! There is not even one or a half of a PKK soldier in Armenia. We have a very small minority of Kurdish Yazidis, and other ethnic minorities. But they are not many. And most of them are Yazidis. They are not Muslims. Their faith is Yazidi. And all of them are very good citizens of Armenia, and some of them living in Nagorno-Karabakh. When the danger is there everybody is basically fighting for their own country because they all are citizens of the Republic of Armenia or they are citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh. So, this is another nonsense.
The third one, which is interesting, Turkey has now deployed its military might along the energy pipelines, claiming that there is a danger from Nagorno-Karabakh that they will bomb these pipelines.
And this is another nonsense. If Nagorno-Karabakh or Armenians had the intention to bomb that, they would have been bombing it 20 years ago when this pipeline was going to be built, but they didn't hit it. If the first bombs would fly when the first hundred meters of the pipeline were about to be put in place, there would not be any pipeline at all. Am I right? People, international community, and the companies would be afraid of putting pipeline in a place where it is dangerous. And if there was a threat from, let's say, Nagorno-Karabakh, so, there would not be pipeline. But Armenians didn't do that, and didn’t do that in the next 20 years. And during all these 20 years Azerbaijan was making billions and billions of dollars selling oil and was using those billions to buy armaments and kill my fellow Armenians? Now they are saying that Armenians will explode it, which is a complete nonsense. I categorically deny this.
Question: You have said, since Turkish involvement makes thing more complex and the difficulty cannot be solely solved by a current Minsk group framework. So, are you preparing to ask the CSTO countries, especially Russia, to militarily intervene the situation? Is this an option on your table? Or you will prefer to deal with the war, the military conflict, by the defense power of yours?
Answer: The answer is simple: before there was no Turkish involvement. As parties of conflict, there was Azerbaijan, and on the other side, it was Nagorno-Karabakh, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, the state of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenia State, as the guarantor of their safety, and we are the same nation. And it was clear and the Minsk Group Co-Chairs was dealing with this clear situation. Now, all this has gone, it's not equalized. All of the Co-Chairs are trying to remain balanced, and politically correct. We were saying something to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan was saying something to Armenia. Now there is no balance here because there is Turkey. So, I think we can go back to the Minsk Group when we exclude the Turkish influence, when the Turkish army withdraws there. They can help Azerbaijan in education, culture, science, humanitarian are. Good luck, nobody is against them. But if they are involved in this equation, is not equal. There is no equilibrium here. And it is going to be very difficult for the Minsk Group, for three Co-Chairs to deal with this new entity, which is already part of the conflict, and this is Turkey.
Now, about the CSTO (The Collective Security Treaty Organization) and our relations with Russia and so on. The situation that I described to you is already complex because of Turkey’s presence. I keep getting asked the question: Will Iran be involved? Will Russia be involved? We are completely unhappy that we have one external player getting in and just destroying everything. It is time to ask the international community to make pressure on Turkey so Turkey withdraws, and then we can go back to the normal Minsk Group process. But any involvement of a 3rd party, makes the whole thing much more complicated, and less manageable. And we will then have something like in Syria. This is unimaginable. This Syria will create about 10 times more and more problems in the heart of the Caucasus. And it will spread all over the region.
Question: Because I think, I believe your people and people at the Artsakh Republic, are very, very tired of this kind of offensive from Azerbaijan for decades, so I'm wondering what is your ultimate blueprint for the republic of Artsakh? Because we have heard some argue that Armenia, should finally unify with Artsakh ultimately. And some would argue that you should give them a de jure recognition, sovereign recognition to the Artsakh state. What we heard from Baku is that: they said there is no option for keeping in the status quo. The only goal of them is to, so called “liberate” the Karabakh region. Would you accept that? And Baku said, “if we take the control back, we will give them (the people at Artsakh) high degrees of autonomy”. What will be your option for Nagorno-Karabakh?
Answer： Okay. Let me answer to your question. You ask two questions about Armenia recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state, or maybe going to sign specific treaties with the state. One may suppose that Baku will completely deny any negotiations, and they are claiming that there is only one solution, and the solution for them is to expel all Armenians from those lands where they lived for 4000 years.
Let me just answer one by one. In the case of Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh, our approach is to be as patient as possible.
We could recognize Nagorno-Karabakh about 30 years ago as a state or 26 years ago. But since we have been at the negotiation table and we were talking about the final status, we decided that we should not get the situation more complex with our recognition and we will wait until we find a final solution between Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan. And then, we will recognize what is there. The only reason of why Armenia refrained for the recognition is to be patient and not to disturb the peace process.
However, with the war happening now, and the declarations from the Azeri side, Armenia might not have any other choice but to recognize and openly support [Nagorno-Karabakh]. And why we are supporting Nagorno-Karabakh? Because it is a historic Armenian land that was given to Azerbaijan about 70 years ago by the Soviets. Those Soviet rules were famous in creating problems among all nations. Look at the boundaries drawn by Stalin. He created problems between Georgians and Russians, Ukrainians and Russians, for Chechens, the Central Asian Republics, and so on. Nagorno-Karabakh is just one of them. To give a chance to peace talks, Armenia remained very conservative, very patient. And this is the Armenian way of handling things because we believe in peace and negotiations.
What Baku is saying is called “ethnic cleansing” in our modern vocabulary. You basically just push everybody out and conquer their lands. If they start that sort of a policy, where is the limit? If so, we will end up by having a world with probably 2 or 3 states only. If one is strong, does that mean they will conquer everybody? Where is our humanity? Where are the international community? Where is the United Nations? And so on. From that point of view, whatever Baku is saying, is completely unacceptable for us.
I would emphasize that not only we, the Armenians live in the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh or Artsakh, not because we have been there historically all the time, but it’s very important to understand that be it in Artsakh, be it in Armenia, be it in Russia, be it in California, be it any country of the Far East, or in any country of the Middle East, today's war where Turkey is involved reminds us about the Armenian Genocide that happened in 1915.
What we see now is that Turkey has unfortunately decided to finish the job it left unfinished in 1915 when they killed one and a half million Armenians, and pushed them out from their historical lands where they were living.
Question: Talking about history, we have seen that the Baku side has constantly using the four resolutions passed by the UN Security Council in 1993 as their major tool in international law, to claim that the Armenians troops or the troops of Artsakh republic should be withdrawn first. And how would you respond to the 1993’s four resolutions? Would your government consider to introduce another resolution, or to compel the Security Council pass a new, a more balanced resolution towards the current situation?
Answer: At this moment, everything is on the table and we are considering all possible options. Just to tell you that there is no way that we can stop thousands of volunteers from our diaspora.
Question: It's 15 million around the world.
Answer: Yeah. And everybody remembers the genocide. Everyone is very emotional about that. And we have people who are standing ready. And they are already traveling to Armenia from America, from Russia, from everywhere. These are volunteers.
And there is no way even I can stop them saying that you are not allowed to go and so on, because they feel that this is another scenario that may repeat what happened hundred years ago. Armenians in California, Armenians in the Middle East, in all Arab world, Armenians in Russia, in Europe, in many other countries, are there because of the genocide, their homeland was destroyed and they had to run. They ended up in Massachusetts, New York, Paris, Boston, in St’ Petersburg, and Moscow, in everywhere.
Why? Because they were pushed out from their own homeland, historical homeland by Turkey. Now the history is about to repeat itself. And for this, young people who are the grandchildren of those that lost their families, those lost their parents and their families killed, lost their homeland. They cannot accept this history repeating itself. So there are thousands of volunteers that ready to come to fight for the country.
Question: So can we say that: If Baku does not cease fire first, then your people, your defense forces, and the potential volunteers as the backup, will continue to fight? If the ceasefire did not start.
Answer: I can assure you there is no way that the Armenians can stop there. If Baku has a plan of ethnic cleansing, we cannot allow this to happen as nation since the Armenians of Karabakh are living their homeland they live for thousands of years. There is no way there Armenians in Armenia can allow ethnic cleansing, and any friends of Armenia from abroad cannot tolerate this.
And again my final call is, I think, if we exclude the Turkish factor, Azerbaijan does not have the power to do these crime alone. Thus, if Turkey is sidelined, it will force Azerbaijan, will force the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh to return back to the table of negotiations and to find a peaceful solution. Because in this world, there is no final military solution. Look what happened after the Second World War. Germany was divided, the victorious allies made decision to divide that country and it looked as final solution. There was West Germany and East Germany. Where is the east and the west now? There are no such counties but a single and united Germany. Because we are humans. We live in a different world rather than the world of killing each other.
Question: Yes, indeed. Finally, I would like to talk one thing. Because nowadays Baku is still condemning, or still accusing you and your armed forces of directly involved into the war, at frontline of Karabakh.
Can you tell me what is relationship between Armenian National Forces and the regional defense forces of the Artsakh? Are they now commanded together with the same unitary commanding system? Or basically, you (Armenian National Forces and the regional defense forces of the Artsakh) fight back to back, but operate rather independently?
Answer: No. Armenia is not involved directly in this conflict, as I primarily said. The army, which is fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is Artsakh, is its own defense army. And as I mentioned, there are also volunteer Armenians fighting there. They are not brought there by third country. In case of Turkey, we see well organized policy of deployments not only own forces, pilots, equipment, military high ranked consultants who are closely assisting the Azeri army, but Turkey also transfer fighters from abroad, the majority of which as I mentioned, are terrorists - creating great and another headache for our region. Perhaps for the north, which is the north Caucasus, part of Russia, as well as maybe for the south where we find Iran. At this stage however targeting Armenia. Who wants terrorists in this world, on its soil? I do not want that. I amazed that our Azeri neighbors have allowed them to be on their soil, believing that after the conflict they will go away. It does not work like that. What we have seen in the recent several years, wherever they go, they stay.
Question: So, until now, do you still have a very high confidence towards them there? Toward the military situation in the republic of Artsakh.
Answer: I have very high confidence for a simple reason because if we go by 30 years ago, then I was a professor somewhere. I was professing in physics and mathematics, then I became Armenia’s ambassador elsewhere, including the United Kingdom, NATO, and European Union also. So, I had a lot of meetings with a lot of people. So everybody was telling me the mathematics of conflict, saying, Armenia is so small, Azerbaijan is so big. Nagorno-Karabakh is so small, and Azerbaijan is so big. Warning me that they have so many military equipment lent by the Soviet Union. You do not have anything there and Turkey is supporting them, so on, so forth. And that was the beginning of the 90s. However, in 1994, after the victory of the relatively small and materially weaker Armenians, the same people started to tell me that according to their opinion, the army, which is located in Nagorno-Karabakh is the strongest in the Caucasus. So you are fighting not only with a gun, a rocket or the airplanes. You are fighting with your spirit. These people that live in Nagorno-Karabakh have a unique spirit of mountainous people. And this invasion is not the first one from Azerbaijan. They had seen this from Genghis Khan, the Persians, from everybody. They never left their homeland. So I have high confidence.
Question: Have you talked about the current situation with the president of the Republic of Artsakh so far?
Answer: Me? Of course, I called him. I know him. I am concerned. So I could ask what is happening. And he tells me his opinion and whatever he has information. But I am regularly talking to the world leaders as well, trying to explain to them the situation. I ask them questions about Turkey. They have to realize that the modern Turkey, which in recent 30 years goes from economic difficulty to economic rise and go economically down again is getting more and more unreliable and irresponsible in its actions. It proves by the conflicts that Turkey is getting involved in South, North, East or West. Turkey intervened in Syria and Libya. Before they also managed to destabilize the Egypt. Now the tensions in the Mediterranean, and mounting confrontation with Greece and Cyprus as well as Israel. At the same time Turkey is now acting against Armenia. It is 360 degrees around them. Some analysts say this is the return of the Ottoman Empire. Some analysts say it is back to what we saw hundreds of years ago.
Question: Would you say that offenses launched by Baku’s offensives are emboldened by Ankara or even instructed by Ankara? Would you say that?
Answer: I would basically restrain myself giving that sort of answer to you. But the fact is that either it was created together with them or Turkey has a huge influence on decision making. It's obvious.
Question: Let me sum up your argument: If the whole world wants to diffuse the current situation, the major points should be put on Turkey. When Turkey steps back, then the things could be calm down again.
Answer: The moment Turkey steps back, and eventually after a while, we will have the ceasefire. Because the parties will negotiate like before, and there is OSCE Minsk group mediator countries namely Russia, first of all, and then the United States and of course France. And there will be a ceasefire. And after a ceasefire after a while, I hope we can go back to the negotiating table. Otherwise, there can be the only escalation of this conflict. No one will win from this war. Neither Europe. Because the Caucasus is the Caucasus, it’s the connection between Europe and Central Asia and Eurasia. Now, even China. Because a lot of silk roads go through the Caucasus as well.
Now Russia got terrorists in its southern border. (Xu: Again, this is a nightmare for them). Even Turkey will not benefit from this. It will create further instability and unhappiness. Look what happened. Saudi Arabia banned Turkish products. And the leaders are ripped down. So imagine, what's going to happen to the Turkish economy at times of coronavirus? And all of this is happening when the world, both China, us, America, Russia, everybody is fighting the coronavirus. So how unhuman you must be knowing that sending your soldiers to fight when you know they will infect each other! How unhuman you can be while you are bombing civilians, villages, and states! You are knowing that people are trying to be isolated far from each other because there's a pandemic. So for there are three wars the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh currently face at the same time. One is the coronavirus. Another is Azerbaijani aggression and the last one is Turkey who fuels this aggression with its direct involvement.
Thank you, Mr. President, for your time. I think your information is very profound and strong. Thank you very much.