Sanctions are only way to stop Azeri aggressive actions against Armenia, says MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel
YEREVAN, OCTOBER 27, ARMENPRESS. German Member of the European Parliament Viola von Cramon-Taubadel believes that sanctions are the only way to restrain Azerbaijan’s aggressive steps against Armenia.
In an interview with Armenpress Brussels correspondent, the MEP spoke about possible assistance from Germany to Armenia, the opportunities for peace in South Caucasus and her latest visit to Armenia.
Azerbaijan carried out ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh and it seems to be digested. The reaction and actions of the EU during the days of the attack and forced displacement did not go beyond deep concerns. To what extent do you see the EU's share of guilt in all of this, considering that financial support cannot alleviate the tragedy that happened?
Absolutely. Well, I think this has three layers. First of all, there's only one guilty. This is Aliyev. Second of all, there's only one betrayer of Armenians and that is Russia, the so-called peacekeeping forces have not existed for the last three years. And third of all, for the EU it's very difficult because what we would like to see is that we work together with Armenia on a sustainable peace, and I think the whole intention why the EU has not gone for hard sanctions at that very moment against Azerbaijan, against Aliyev and his regime has deserved or have deserved that. We do not want the brokering, the mediation part to go to Russia or Turkey because we are very much afraid if we are now too tough and too biased, we give too much leverage or too much reason for Aliyev not to have a Brussels format. We've seen it already in Granada. We have seen it at other moments. And I think the EU has shown that the solidarity is fully with Armenia, that we will pay, that we will give financial contribution, that we will work on an economic plan, that we will make offers to bring Armenia closer to the EU, that we have an interest, that you can emancipate from Russia... But what I understand, and I wish we would have seen a tougher stand and a tougher formulation of sanctions and also deterrence to prevent Aliyev to go further because we don't know what he might have in mind. But the reason for this is understandable, is that if we kick ourselves completely out, the peace, hopefully soon, will be brokered by Turkey and Russia, and this is not in our interest.
As you said we don't know whatever Aliyev thinks or wants, but one thing we know very clearly is his expansionist policy. Do you think that the EU has the measures to take care of the security of Armenia, of Armenians? Even if, as you say, Russian forces have failed, beside this, realistically, if today Azerbaijan attacks Armenian sovereign territory, what can the EU do?
No, absolutely. And that is exactly this dilemma. I think if Aliyev knows that the next military attack he would provoke, be it on the enclaves or be it on the Zangezur corridor, he will face immediate sanctions, freezing his assets in London and Cyprus and Geneva wherever his family would not have access to all his real estate he had stolen over the years. I think this would make a difference, but since nothing is on the table, as you said, there's no deterrence. In fact, has the EU formulated anything else? I don't know. I mean, for me, on one hand i's a rich country. They live from the revenues of gas and oil export. But on the other hand, he also wants to be a legitimate leader, being accepted by the West. And we could hopefully behind closed doors make crystal clear: if you dare to think about attacking Armenia on their genuine territory, this must mean no more gas delivering to Europe. This would mean no more official contact. This would mean this and that. I do hope that this has taken place. But I'm not sure.
During his visit to Armenia, the chairman of the Bundestag's foreign relations committee said that if the aggression of Azerbaijan continues and there are attacks on the sovereign territory of Armenia, sanctions will be implemented, which are in the process of being developed. Are you aware of what kind of sanctions we are talking about and how realistic they are?
I was also surprised, positively surprised by that. And I know that my German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was also in favour. She was trying to build an alliance on the European level. She has actually called for sanctions. But I've heard that there was no unity in the German government. So yes, I could imagine there are a couple of colleagues in the Bundestag who would be in favour and also in the cabinet. But so far, not everyone. And that is a problem, and that's why it is difficult if you raise expectations and Aliyev knows that some people will never follow, so he is safe and we have to play it very smartly to make sure that we have a safe bid on Armenia, that there will be no further attack, that there will be any kind of a sanctioned package which would be in place immediately. And that we stay credible, but I don't know what the chair of the Committee for Foreign Affairs actually meant, whether he meant European? German? intergovernmental? So I don't know, but it's good that he was speaking about this.
A few days ago, Armenia and France signed a military cooperation agreement, according to which France will provide Armenia with defensive ammunition. What can Germany do in case of aggression and attacks of Azerbaijan on the sovereign territory of Armenia?
Germany is normally very good when it comes to humanitarian support. For example, after the 2008 aggression of Russia against Georgia, it was Germany's GIZ which built settlements for the new refugees. So, I see Germany more in this role than supporting militarily. But I don't think that Germany would be against including Armenia into the European peace facilities, which means we could also deliver weapons to Armenia directly. Well, so far, I see that Germany does a lot and I came across with many projects. But financially, for the wintertime, for the time being, I mean we have met with many refugees and it needs quite a lot of effort before the winter kicks in and I mean we speak about this 2000 meters high places. The snow will be there soon and there are some people in need of accommodation. There are holes in the walls, so we have to find something else and make this winterproof.
For Aliyev, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is over and there is nothing to discuss. For you, is this issue completely resolved or not?
Well, not, I mean what he has done is the most humiliating way of showing that he has military might. To make sure that people, not ethnic Armenians, did not trust him at all, not a single millimeter. That they had all left or had to leave. But some of them have left everything behind and maybe they want to come back. Maybe they want to look after [their belongings]. Maybe they want to just get some stuff out of their apartments or their houses and so on. And so, for them there needs to be a very unbureaucratic way of returning. Finally, also this should be possible without becoming an Azerbaijani citizen, and these things need to be ruled out. They need to be a regulation as soon as possible. I mean, I was standing at this highest peak where you could see over the situation, you could see how the Azerbaijani troops are, not only troops, but also the construction companies building up fences, roads, pipelines, crossing points. It was like ants, like so obviously they invaded and at the same moment they started falsifying, fortifying the borders in a speed which is unimaginable. And here I think the international community should make sure, that people, first people, who lived in Artsakh they need to have a chance to return at any time.
The tripartite meeting scheduled for the end of October in Brussels will not take place, Armenia has already announced that the postponement of the meeting was initiated by Azerbaijan. How would you interpret this behavior of Azerbaijan, taking into account the fact that Aliyev at the last moment refused to participate in the five-party meeting in Granada, which was also attended by Chancellor Olaf Scholz?
I don't know. It's for the third time. I guess it's postponed and they're playing on that and they will see whether they can get more out, as I said before, on a different format. They dream about the 3 + 3.
Do you think that this format matches better with Aliyev’s ambitions?
Absolutely, I think for Aliyev it's better. I think for him it would be better and he personally counts that he can get more out of this than of the EU brokered peace deal. So that is a little bit the dilemma we are in. On one hand, we have to have a stick for deterring him not to go a step further, on the other hand, we need a carrot that he can agree on this EU brokered deal. How would this look like? We need to see!
The EU’s agenda is much more focused on the possible Peace Treaty. How do you see this peace? How realistic is it for you? Can we really have the peace treaty with Azerbaijan?
No, no, no. I think it was always being pushed by Pashinyan. I understand this government is different to all the other governments, and for the first time, is really speaking about that, it's not our agenda, it's the agenda of the Armenian Government. They see they are a landlocked country. They finally want to have a new set of buttons reset. They really would like to have open borders with Turkey. They really would like to have access to all the countries around. They really would like to trade on the same level and now they need a peace treaty which would be accepted by Azerbaijan, so that Azerbaijan can signal to its partner Turkey: “Please open the borders and let Armenia have free passage and free access”. But for me this is the salami tactics. So now since the Karabakh issue has settled, they find something else. They find the enclave, they find the "Zangezur Corridor", they find something just to keep Armenia in this economically very vulnerable situation. And that is for me, really, absolutely unacceptable and this needs to be also raised in the public sphere, but it's not my agenda to have a peace treaty. I think it's for the Armenian people and the Armenian people deserve finally peace and they want to develop their country, but with Iran on one side, and Georgia is also a bit unsecure, I think it is actually very strategically smart of the government to say ‘we are ready for a peace deal’.
And last but not least, you were in Armenia recently with what kind of feelings are you back?
I am full in admiration and I have a huge respect of everyone in Armenia who managed to integrate 100,000 people within four days through one entry point. I mean, nobody could ever imagine having this in Germany. And in Germany we speak about 84,000,000 and here we speak about, I don't know 3 million maximum. So people managed without foreign help only by themselves, by volunteers, by very, very engaged people. To get these people who are, I mean, they were traumatized, they were exhausted, they didn't have enough food for the last eight months, nine months, they had no medical treatment and these people came and they were welcomed and they found the housing. So, the overall atmosphere was ‘we are proud, we can be proud of what we have achieved, it's good that you come and watch this, but we managed by our own’ and I think this is really incredible. This is really something which the world should know and now the next steps will be, as I said, I mean giving them a winter proof accommodation. Make sure that people have a second chance, if they want to stay, they get a second career life or education. They can integrate into the labour market and so on. And make sure the European Union is there to support, to help. Some people would need psychological treatment and all this needs to be organized for the next months to come, and there I hope to see bilateral help from the US, from Germany, from other countries, but also the EU should be the first partner so that the Armenian people see there's somebody from the West. Second thing is that Armenia has done a lot of reforms. Armenia has moved a lot into democracy, of course, not fully functional, but much more advanced than some of the other countries. Especially of course much more than Azerbaijan, but I would say even compared to Georgia, they have done a lot and this should be awarded by the EU. I think we should do much more to show the people that we have seen the improvements and be it on visa liberalization, I think we should talk about this association agreement, which was declined in 2013, maybe to have a resumption on this, be it on deepening the trade relations. And many more things. So, I think it is up to the EU now to come up with offers to show the people of Armenia: ‘We want you, we see that you would be our next welcomed partner’, something like this. I had so many interesting talks and nobody there was not a single complaint and a situation where, at least in Germany, I saw last winter everyone was complaining about higher energy prices, this and that and too many refugees on them and Armenia where it is definitely difficult, much more difficult than in this rich Germany. Nobody had ever mentioned one complaint. So, I mean, this is a role model for resiliency. Moldova is similar, but Armenia in this neighborhood, it's very difficult to sustain and to be so brave. And so, I am proud and inspired at the same moment.