Turkey's actions must not destabilize the entire region
President Sarkissian’s Special interview to Al Jazeera.
Question: Mr. President, I would like to start the interview with your latest claim: you warned that unless military actions in Nagorno Karabakh stopped, the Caucasus could become another Syria. Why are you so concerned?
Answer: Well, I think we have to look at the historic perspective of the issue of Nagorno Karabakh and from the perspective of history, I think we have to look at where is Nagorno Karabakh, what is Nagorno Karabakh? This is a region of historic Armenia where people were living for hundreds and thousands of years. Only during the Soviet era, Mr. Stalin has given this territory to Azerbaijan. Comrade Stalin was a great designer of divide and rule creating problems with all nations of former Soviet Union, problems between Georgia and Russia, Armenia - Azerbaijan, between Central Asia republics and others. So for 70 years, Nagorno-Karabakh.... Yes.
Question: Sorry, Mr. President, this historical perspective is important but today the conflict is turning into the all-out war, so do you believe this war will be prolonged?
Answer: Well, this is exactly what I'm trying to say. I think I have to come back to the history of that, with the breakdown of Soviet Union people of Nagorno-Karabakh clearly have expressed their desire and this in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh then the absolute majority of population where Armenians as for centuries, have expressed their desire in 1991 to become independent state. But instead of honoring the desire of the people, Azerbaijan decided to fight against that and decided to send armies and start the war between Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh that declared their independence as a republic, and Azerbaijan. And the first war ended in a ceasefire in 1994. And since then, an international renown organization that OSCE has created a platform for a dialogue and that platform was the Minsk Group platform, which was co-chaired by United States, France and Russia. So there were negotiations sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful, and these negotiations were targeting to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. So on the 27th of September this year, Azerbaijan has decided that they will not continue going this path of dialogue at finding a peaceful resolution, and they decided that they can resolve this issue with Nagorno-Karabakh or Republic of Artsakh with force. So military were sent in and all the along the whole line of frontier between Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan shelling has started and that shelling is also going into deep into this civilian.
Question: Sorry, Sorry…. Are they willing now to reach a peaceful solution?
Answer: No, of course, I'm coming to that. It's very important to give that perspective. So what has changed today, that Azerbaijan is trying to resolve the issue with military force, and what has changed now if it was only between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, that we would all have the hope that the two will eventually after several day of fighting, which is happening now and there is no big movement of frontier, so Azerbaijan couldn't defeat Nagorno-Karabakh in three- four days, but what has dramatically changed is the involvement of Turkey. Turkey is now involved directly with their generals, with their officers, with their advisor, mujahideens that are brought from Syria, and they're also using Turkish made drones, the Turkish F-16 are involved and there is no way that anybody in international community can interpret that by saying this is ethnic cleansing. So if it was between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, there is a mechanism to resolve this issue peacefully, which is going through negotiations but the moment the Turkey …. let me finish this. Let me finish my sentence. Let me finish my sentence please. The moment Turkey is involved .....
You are not allowing me to finish my sentence my friend.
I cannot hear anything.
Question: Mr. President, you can still hear me. Right? Okay.
Question: The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan says that Armenian fighters fight alongside the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. So how do you explain that?
Answer: Well, these are Armenians and these fighters could be from all over the world because Armenians will not allow the another genocide to be repeated after 105 years of the genocide that happened in Ottoman Empire. These are volunteers that came to support their fellow Armenians. These are not from other country. Unlike in Azerbaijan, these are not organized by any other third state. Like Turkey as a state is involved now in the fighting against and ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh. If their volunteers going to help their sisters and brothers there is nothing wrong with that. And they can be from not only Armenia they can be from Russia, they can be from Ukraine, from America from France.
Question: So you do admit that Armenian fighters also from Armenia and also from outside the region are fighting alongside the Armenian forces. Is this natural for you?
Answer: Well, this is absolutely natural because we are a small state but global nation but the global nation, we are a small state but the global nation but it's also natural because every Armenian remembers that hundred and five years ago the same turkey which is now involved in Nagorno-Karabakh has slaughtered one and a half million of Armenians, the same Turkey has this means that ethnically cleansed Armenians from the Ottoman Empire, and has created the diaspora. All of these people remember this, and there's no way that we as a nation or our friends, not let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish. There is no way that Armenians will allow another genocide to happen.
Question: The president of Nagorno-Karabakh said that the war against Nagorno-Karabakh is also a war against Iran. Do you agree?
Answer: It is the way the President of Nagorno-Karabakh…. No, that is the opinion of the President of Nagorno-Karabakh. This is how he interprets geopolitical changes that will happen in if this world war not be stopped.
Question: Are you open to Russian mediation?
Answer: Well, Russia, France and United States are three members of the Minsk Group they are three co-chairs were always open for any mediation, especially from Russia, that is a country that has good relations, both with Armenia and with Azerbaijan. And of course, we are open for that mediation but mediation has to start and the sooner the better. And of course, it is a mediation between Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and also Armenia, but the Turkish presence and military activities should be stopped.
Question: So, on what bases or condition you accepts the mediation? Your Prime Minister said you are not ready to resume peace talks now because the circumstances are not appropriate, but you are saying that you are open for talks.
Answer: There is no contradiction. There are no contradiction between what I'm saying. And my government's saying, You're asking a general question, is Armenia accepting Russian mediation, if it starts working? The answer is, in principle, yes. But the mediation is a process. It starts with specific mediator. It starts with connections between military politicians, foreign ministries, but that process has not started yet. And the answer is, yes, we are ready for mediation specially from Russia, if that mediation will be organized.
Question: Has Russia spoken of this?
Answer: Well, the thing is that they are daily contacts between Armenian different departments, between the Foreign Minister of Armenia and the Russian Foreign Minister, there are talks on the level of government Prime Ministers, so they're always talked, but they don't have yet the form and the content of being that we can call that mediation between the parties has started.
Question: You are connected with Russia through collective security treaty, can you tell Russia help?
Answer: We are a member of the collective defense organization, where except Armenia, there are other members as well. And Armenia for the moment has not applied to that organization yet, but it has the right to applying it, we hope that international pressure on our neighbor or if it will be better to say on both neighbors, first, Azerbaijan and of course also Turkey will stop this ethnic cleansing that is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh, and that the war against the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, and we will not need into going to other institution or other international organizations. We hope that common sense and human logic will prevail.
But Armenia has the right of approaching the organization that we are a part of it. And we also have approached to the leadership and the organization of North Atlantic, North Atlantic to NATO. Because Turkey being a member of NATO is showing activities that clearly are against the whole philosophy of the organization and basically getting involved in a conflict that they don't have direct interest based on the sort of things that are pretending that there are PKK fighters there or there is a threat to international energy sources.
Question: You mentioned that you can appeal to Russia for military assistance. You certainly have a security treaty with Russia, as well as an Armenian-Russian military base in Armenia. Has Russia shown any desire to interfere in the conflict, to become part of it?
Answer: No, you're asking a question and that's a question more to the president of Russian Federation not to me. I am answering to you as the President of Republic of Armenia. We are a member of a collective defense treaty organization that includes Russia as well. We have specific treaties with Russian Federation, as I told you we are not officially approach neither Russia or the organization that includes Kazakhstan, Belarus and other, in order to help us in this and unless you ask them you cannot know are they ready or not, but we have the treaties we don't want to escalate with one thing is very importan, we don't want to escalate this conflict between Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to a higher level. And that is why you said in your words as well, I was warning that if it will be if the confrontation will go on higher level, then Caucasus will become another Syria and God help us what will happen in the whole region. So we are trying to contain and to maintain at the current level and there is one important parameter or component of this maintaining or containing this conflict is Turkey. If Turkey stops bombing Armenian villages, cities in Nagorno-Karabakh sending through their drones and F-16, and I think that conflict, or the current conflict of the war after a while, could come to some sort of a conclusion, and I hope that they are the sides, including the Azeri side, will hear what we are saying, let's go back after sorting out what is happening now, back to negotiation table because there is no alternative, there is no way that militarily this issue will be resolved. And if we don't hear this message, what will happen thousands of people will die. And what will be the result? A big disaster for both nations for both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Question: The other part says – let Armenia get out of the region, which is not recognized and is under Azerbaijan’s sovereignty. How do Armenians respond to that, what’s the end?
Answer: Well, I think it's not recognized, but it takes time for recognition, first of all and the best way of recognition is if Nagorno-Karabakh in a dialogue with Azerbaijan will finally come to a conclusion that both sides will agree on the future structure of relations between Azerbaijan and Nagorno- Karabakh and the future of the Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh. So that's the best recognition. Okay, if 1,2,3 or 10 countries will recognize and Azerbaijan will not, the issue will not be resolved. So the main path, the way to resolving this issue is not being recognized by one or two or three, which probably helps, but at the end of the day is the dialogue between Azerbaijan and the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, that's number one.
Number two, when we are speaking about territorial integrity, we have to not forget that while what I was trying to say at the beginning of our discussion, which is Nagorno-Karabakh, the whole region was a part of Azerbaijan, only under Soviet Empire. It was not a part of Azerbaijan before never, for hundreds of years and maybe more thousands of years. It was given to Azerbaijan by Stalin, when you speak about integrity, and if you mean, what Comrade Stalin has created, then that's the creation of an empire, Soviet Empire. And as in the normal human society, or societies, or environment like happened in Europe, when Yugoslavia started this integrated, every nation claimed for their independence and there was nothing wrong with that. Because I can give you an example of a more human and natural way of resolving these issues, through the will of people and through dialogue in United Kingdom.
Let me finish, let me finish. No, no, let me finish in United Kingdom, the Scotland has decided through referendum to express their desire for independence and England, Great Britain didn't say no, they allowed Scottish people to have a referendum. And if the referendum was positive, then probably Scotland would have been independent state today, but it was negative. Why? Why on earth in United Kingdom, they can behave like in an human normal society and in the case of Azerbaijan, where the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, where 90% of the people for centuries were Armenians, has expressed in a referendum to have independence, why had Azerbaijan is sending army, why they're asking Turkey to bomb the civilians and do another ethnic cleansing. Can you explain that to me?
Question: Mr. President, do you expect that Iran will get involved?
Answer: I hope, again, that this conflict is war, which is happening will not include anybody else, I hope that charity will be, I hope soon to be war be excluded and I hope nobody else will be included. And that is why we're not approaching others. Because any new inclusion will create another 10 times higher tension, and the conflict that not could be stopped. So instead of including Iran, or Russia or anybody else, I would like to see exclusion of Turkey from this conflict.
Question: Whom have you appealed to take Turkey out? Who would take Turkey out?
Answer: I'm calling to international community to put pressure on Turkey. Everybody that understands that Turkish involvement in this conflict, is unproportional, unjustified is against all international laws and agreements, and this is Turkish involvement reminds me, others, many friends and non friends abroad, about the genocide of Armenians in 105 years ago in Ottoman Empire, where they wanted to move out Armenians, and they had other excuses then like they're using this or that excuse today about International Energy pipelines, PKK soldiers, which is all nonsense. And in during the 1915, they were using that Armenians were Christian, they will support Russians and so on and so forth. That's all are excuses, and the goal is clear, ethnic cleansing, moving Armenians from the land that they were living for thousands of years in Nagorno-Karabakh out, and this is unacceptable. So we are approaching international community to put pressure onTurkey, because Turkey has become the big negative factor in this conflict, that will not allow people going back to normal negotiating table. You have heard several times from me, I am for negotiated solution. Because I don't believe in any other ones. There is only one human way of solving problems. That's a dialogue.
Question: Is it possible to start a dialogue now considering the existing situation. Will it be possible to start a dialogue without preconditions? Is it acceptable for you?
Answer: My friend, my friend, what you are saying now can the dialogue start now when the F-16 are killing women and children, domain the villages and the cities? How do you start? How do you start negotiations? When Turkey which is not a party of this conflict is bombing cities and villages not only the military, but cities and the villages of Nagorno-Karabakh. Explain to me, how do you imagine that sort of how do you start negotiation, first of all, Turkey has to withdraw from this conflict. They should not be a party to this conflict. And then after that the Azeri side, Nagorno-Karabakh and of course, Armenia will decide when to go to stop the hostilities and when to go to the negotiating table again. But I urge everybody to do that the sooner the better. And I urge Turkey not to be the one that will be destroying the whole region with their activities.
Question: Turkey is denying any direct assistance, says that they support Azerbaijanis, denies any direct involvement. What’s your opinion?
Answer: What I say, I say they're lying, and basically what Turkey is saying and doing and it's not only in Armenia, it was the same in Syria, it was the same in Mediterranean, in Libya, in Iraq, I just remember words, which were said by one of the greatest American presidents who said that you can fool all people for some time. You can fool some people for a long time, but you cannot fool all people all the time. So Turkey is fooling international community here.
Question: Turkey interferes with Syria, it was said that Erdogan targeted it.
Answer: So Turkey is yeah, but Turkey is interfering in Nagorno-Karabakh and pretending that they are not interfering. I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of facts now, how the Turkish drones are involved, how the Turkish military is, is on the ground in Azerbaijan, and how the F-16 are bombing the Nagorno-Karabakh. So Turkey says that and I'm saying this, so you take whichever, whichever you like, but there are civilians dying today under the shelling that comes from not from the other side of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan in side where Turkey is fully involved, and my question is very simple. Why on earth Turkey decided to invoke to be involved in this conflict? Was Azerbaijan couldn’t Azerbaijan that is much bigger than Nagorno-Karabakh handle this. Why on earth Turkey decided to come into this bloody war that is killing people. Of course, they say there is a threat to international energy pipelines, which is absolute nonsense. Why it is nonsense, because if Armenians would like to bomb the international pipelines, they probably would bombed it 20 years ago, when they were building the pipeline to stop the pipeline being there. But the pipeline is there for 20 years and Azerbaijan has made billions of dollars, and Azerbaijan is using these billions of dollars to buy weapons, to kill the same Armenians in Nagorno- Karabakh. So telling that Armenians today are thinking of bombing the Baku, Tbilisi, Chechnya is wrong, is a lie.
And thank you Al Jazeera. I have great respect for this organization. Thank you very much.