Interview with Davit Babayan, spokesperson for the president of the Republic of Artsakh
Mr. Babayan, commenting on the escalation at the border, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Azerbaijan is trying to force compromise but it will not succeed. What is the cause of recent escalation at the border? Shant Military Exercise?
Azerbaijan has never hidden its main purpose, which is the destruction of the Armenian state, first of all Artsakh, then, if it succeeds, Armenia. All its policy, including political, diplomatic, defense, is aimed at this. It is normal that Azerbaijan is especially nervous when military exercises are held in Armenia or Artsakh. It is a negative impulse for Azerbaijan, they fly into hysteria, they take hasty steps, they also hold military exercises. This is a common practice but Azerbaijan’s supreme purpose is at least to squeeze compromise from us if they fail to destroy the Armenian state. But they will not succeed.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion on the heritage of the former government on the settlement of the Artsakh issue. We saw that during the question and answer session in the National Assembly interesting statements were heard. What is the heritage of the former government in terms of the conflict settlement.
It will be more correct for you to talk to the former and current government. As to our side, the position of official Stepanakert is the same. We must fully participate in the negotiations. In other words, we must take part in all platforms and all stages, including ordinary meetings, exchange of thoughts, discussions of steps as per documents, and their implementation. The destiny of Artsakh cannot be determined without Artsakh. Everyone says so. Let them restore this format, then we will see what proposals Azerbaijan has, what answers we will give, what stance the international community will have.
There is an opinion that formerly they had titular participation in negotiations, in those negotiations the issue of power, of relations with Russia were dealt with rather than the Karabakh issue. Do you agree with this opinion?
In general, the Karabakh-Azerbaijani conflict is a complicated conflict. One should not expect a fast solution because the sides have controversial ideas. Both for us and for Azerbaijan it is the highest point because the future of the state and people is on the table.
We understand that the Armenian people lived on their land for centuries, sometimes enslaved, especially in West Armenia which was dominated by Kurds, Arabs, Turks. This created the victim’s complex which culminated after 1915. It is natural that after our sisters and brothers had found home in different countries of the world, the memories of genocide were the core, if not only basis for preserving their identity, which is the same victim’s complex. Meanwhile, the fight for Artsakh has returned confidence to the Armenians. Therefore, is something happens to Artsakh, and this is the last stage of the liberation movement in the modern history, it will turn us to victims psychologically and physically, we will lose our state.
The same exists in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a young country, their state was created artificially, different ethnicities live there who have not assimilated, including the Lezgi, Talish, Avar people. Now if Azerbaijan recognizes Artsakh, the nations will stand up, if they do not recognize, they give us more sovereignty, which is unacceptable for us, it is worse for Azerbaijan because the same nations will have sovereignty too, which will mean that there is not an Azerbaijani nation. This idea will vanish. Therefore, such a complicated situation has occurred. It is fatal for both.
What is the imperative in this situation when there is no solution? They want one thing, we disagree. There is not a common denominator with Azerbaijan. In this situation, what is left to do is promoting peace and stability until they come to terms. The international community also understands that there is no other option, therefore this model has worked since 1994. As long as there is no reason to expect the sides to come to term, and the format is not complete, the most important thing is to maintain peace and stability at which the efforts of the international community are aimed.
Formerly, did Armenia agree with Artsakh everything it discussed with Azerbaijan and the mediators?
We say the following and it is true. As long as we do not participate, the rest, what was discussed or what was not discussed, whether they informed or did not inform, to what extent they informed, these are not legal and political criteria. One may say they informed, others may say they did not inform. There are not legal and political criteria, so we must participate to be able to answer such conversations later. At the moment, it is meaningless to enter into such conversations because there will be a manipulation.
Nikol Pashinyan says that the negotiations had been about returning lands. In answer to Ashotyan’s question he said that they [former government] had passed a proposal which states nothing about the status of Artsakh. “And I said and continue to say that no settlement is possible without clarification of the status of Artsakh. I am not so cruel to tell the whole truth because then you will need a counsel,” the prime minister said. Now what option has been on the table?
We can only speak about the option in which we participated. As long as we are not participants, this is neither political, nor legal thing. We need a legal and political category. DO we have that status, as a party to the talks? Yes we have, which was established in the summit in Budapest in 1994. We did not take part in the negotiations due to Azerbaijan’s whims since 1997-1998. As to the status and lands, official Stepanakert has mentioned many times that there can be no return to the past, be it status or borders. We always speak about it, and this message itself is a point of view, shared with everyone. This means that Artsakh cannot be a sovereign region in Azerbaijan, a sovereign state. This is an unacceptable option.
Speaking of border, we have always said that there is not a notion of territories, there is a notion of borders. Now Azerbaijan states that Artsakh is mine, we will have tea in Shushi, and this is not a normal approach. if you speak about borders in historical, legal, political terms, you must speak about borders, and it does not mean only Azerbaijan’s ambitions. We have issues with borders. The Republic of Artsakh was formed on Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and part of North Artsakh, with a fusion of Shahumyan and Getashen. Whom does Getashen belong to in legal and political terms, we are not speaking about the historical part which is ours, indeed. In legal and political terms this is part of the Republic of Artsakh. So is the region of Shahumyan, other territories of North Artsakh. The Republic of Artsakh has the right to put forth these issues. If Armenia puts forth those issues, they will say it is claims to territories and Artsakh can even raise the issue of Nakhijevan because Nakhijevan and Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region are subjects that create the Azerbaijani SSR, and the declaration on the establishment of the Azerbaijani SSR stated that it was a union of Armenians and Muslims. Therefore, we are part of this state. If the destiny of Nakhijevan is such, why wouldn’t we talk about it. Now that we are talking about the borders, this is the issue of borders.
Russia will set obstacles to all efforts for democratization in Armenia because it sees danger in these efforts, Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council said in an interview with the Voice of America. Russia will not tolerate democratic Armenia, he said.
According to the analyst, first of all, Russia will put pressure on Armenia with regard to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
It is impossible to develop democracy until the Karabakh war continues because the former elite got its wealth and positions on the Karabakh war. And as long as the war continues, they will remain influential and will thwart any democratization path that Pashinyan tries to move along.
However, Armenia alone cannot force Azerbaijan to observe the agreements reached. Russia does not want this, and Europe cannot do this. So, the United States must guarantee peace in the area of the Karabakh conflict, something which Washington has not been doing actively so far, Blank says.
The United States must interfere and provide real meditation which will allow the sides to live in freedom. They are not expected to love each other, they are expected to respect agreements reached, which will allow both publics to develop, he said.
Stephen Blank said if he had been adviser to the U.S. president, he would advise Donald Trump to meet with Prime Minister Pashinyan and pass the readiness of the United States to support the peace settlement.
Jeff Mankoff, CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program, thinks Moscow does not interfere with the “velvet revolution” in Armenia, trying not to repeat its mistakes in Georgia and Ukraine.
Recently, however, he says, Russia’s policy on the new government of Armenia has become more aggressive, and they are trying to remind Armenia of the geopolitical situation and Russia’s role.
Armenia’s borders with two of its four neighbors are closed, it is not Ukraine or Georgia, and irrespective of the government in Armenia, it will have to take into account the geopolitical situation and not to aggravate its relations with Moscow, the expert believes.
Armenal, the producer of aluminum foil based in Yerevan, a subsidiary of Russian Rusal company, has to cut its production volume, and the employees will not have full work load, Interfax reported, and rbc.ru’s source confirmed this information. Rusal and Armenal refused to comment.
North America and Europe were the main markets of the production of Armenal. The factory exported 33,700 tons of foil in 2017.
The source of Rbc.ru mentioned that due to sanctions against Rusal Armenal may stop altogether. 184 employees of the company will be idle by the end of September. Currently the company has 670 employees.
On 14 September 2018 the police received a report from a person that someone had offered them an electoral bribe. The report was checked, and information was obtained that on 14 September 2018 two women went up to the person and offered 60,000 AMD for voting for one of the candidates running in the municipal election in Yerevan or if their monthly pension if their pension amount is bigger. After the person refused them, the women left immediately.
The senior prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office of Ajapnyak and Davitashen communities has decided to launch an investigation and sent the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office to assign the case.
Today, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard M. Mills, Jr., along with representatives from the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation, visited Tsiatsan and Amberd schools to donate $80,000 worth of new school equipment, training aids, furniture, sports equipment, and kitchen appliances.
These schools were chosen to receive the donation, provided by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Excess Property program, after Ambassador Mills’ 2015 visit to the region, where he saw first-hand the efforts of the United Nations World Food Program to provide hot meals for primary school students.
“It is very special for me to be back here nearly three years after my first visit to these schools, and I am delighted to deliver on the promises I made to you back then,” Ambassador Mills said to an audience of local leaders, school staff and students. “By working with the UN Food Program, you will now have the equipment you need to provide hot meals and educational support to nearly 300 children in your communities.”
The goal of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Excess Property program at the Tsiatsan and Amberd Schools is to support the schools by providing new furniture and equipment and to supplement programs implemented by other donors, including the UN World Food Program.
The Tsiatsan School, with World Food Program support, began providing hot meals to students in September 2015. Half of the 300 students at the Tsiatsan School receive hot meals through this program. The feeding program at the Amberd School began even earlier, in 2014. Around 120 out of a total of 244 primary grade students benefit from this program. The school feeding program was implemented as a social safety net to provide nutrition and sustenance for children to enable them to focus on their studies.
The second president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan partners with a British lobbyist company, medium.com informed, noting that two days ahead of the Macron-Pashinyan meeting two European websites published articles in which Kocharyan was depicted as a victim of political persecution and Macron was called upon to support Kocharyan during the meeting with Pashinyan.
The author of the articles is Michael Burrell who used to be the deputy chair of APCO worldwide when the agency was promoting the interests of Azerbaijan in the United States through the foundation funded by the billionaire son of the ex-minister of transport of Azerbaijan.
In the next article the author publishes the emails sent to Grigor Atanesyan. Burrell’s two assistants state in their email to the journalist that they cooperate with Aram Orbelyan, the barrister of Kocharyan for the March 1 case.
The article states that currently Burrell is employed by Eurasia Advisory, a firm based in London, the partners of which include Gazprom. Eurasia PR was established by Alexander Andreyev, a Russian citizen, who represents the Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko.
Commenting on the websites which published the articles, it is said that intellinews.com has an office in Berlin and representations in different cities, including Moscow where the editor-in-chief is based. Neweurope.eu is based in Brussels.
Both websites have 85-100 thousand visitors per month which allows the reporter to assume that the website does not get income from advertisement, comparing them with Euronews website which has 14 million visitors per month.
The Investigative Committee is investigating the case of breach of confidentiality of the conversation between the director of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsyan and the Special Investigative Service Sasun Khachatryan by way of recording and publishing the coversation.
The investigative Committee informed that several addresses were searched without revealing who were searched. The message followed press reports that the office of Yerevan.today was being searched.
Later on the Investigative Committee informed that the operative investigative group visited the editorial office for a search in line with the law, noting that the search had nothing to do with the journalistic activity and was aimed at conducting a comprehensive, objective and full investigation to check the preliminary data acquired under this criminal case, to clarify the medium of secretly recording and leaking the telephone conversation between the heads of the two law enforcement agencies.
The Investigative Service refers to operative data that the recording was first published on the website of Yerevan.today and was shortly removed. According to Google search, the video which spread on the web on 11 September 2018 was first published there two days earlier. During the search a computer processor and 2 memory devices were seized for an examination.
The armed forces of Azerbaijan fired at the village of Areni, Armenia in the evening of September 15. The enemy’s emplacements were suppressed with counteraction, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense of Armenia Artsrun Hovhannisyan told Sputnik Armenia.
“The situation is similar to what happened in Tavush, the shooting was less intensive. They fired from rifles but unlike Tavush the bullets did not reach the village,” Hovhannisyan said.
In the night of September 15, the Azerbaijani armed forces fired in the direction of the third army corpus of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia. The Azerbaijani side used rifles, as well as 12.7mm firearms. The Armenian side silenced the enemy, the spokesperson for the RA Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan said.
At midnight, in the result of the fire lasting for 40 minutes, Suren Sephanyan of Koti village (born in 1957) was slightly wounded in the leg. His life is not endangered.
The press reported that Vachagan Ghazaryan, the ex-chief of State Protection Service, accused of unlawful gaining of wealth had received his money back.
The Special Investigative Service has made a statement dismissing rumors.
The investigative body has frozen the properties and money belonging to Vachagan Ghazaryan and his family, the Special Investigative Service informs.