Time in Yerevan: 11:07,   22 May 2024

The threat of force is not the way to move forward and it will carry consequences: Stano reacts to Azerbaijani shooting

The threat of force is not the way to move forward and it will carry consequences: Stano 
reacts to Azerbaijani shooting

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 27, ARMENPRESS. The European Commission’s lead spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy Peter Stano has said that the European Union supports a sustainable and lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, so the efforts towards the normalization of relations between the two countries need to continue faster

In an interview with Armenpress Brussels correspondent, Peter Stano also spoke about the potential EU response to the Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia, imposing sanctions on Baku, the EU mission in Armenia, etc.

Armenpress: Recently, Azerbaijani troops, deployed on the sovereign territory of Armenia launched another unprovoked attack against Armenia, killing 4 soldiers and bragging about it.  The EU High representative warned about severe consequences for Azerbaijan if it continues aggressive actions. What will be your actions now?

Stano: We are of course, condemning every loss of life wherever it happens under whatever circumstances this happens. But this repeated, unfortunately repeated incident only underlined yet again the need for, of course, distancing the forces and putting much more efforts into measures and activities that prevent such incidents from occurring because they don't bring anything positive. They are just contributing to the atmosphere of tension, distrust and adding one more tragedy upon another tragedy. So, this illustrates really the urgent need for the distancing of the forces - this is something the EU has been advocating for a very long time. We are supporting a sustainable and lasting peace, so the efforts in terms of normalization between Armenia and Azerbaijan need to continue faster and this reminds us how important it is to continue this process because without the normalization there is a risk that such incidents will be repeated again and again and again. And as I said, this only worsens the overall atmosphere. So, it's really important to show restraint on the one hand, and distance the forces on the other hand, and then continuing the overall political efforts to advance the normalization talks. 

Armenpress: What will be the concrete actions of the EU? Because the Azerbaijani forces, by the way, opened fire from the occupied positions in the sovereign territory of Armenia. You always underline diplomacy, talks etc., but these are not tools that will stop Aliyev and the incidents continue as you said. So, I repeat my first question, what kind of actions will the EU take, because the sovereign territory of Armenia is in danger?

Stano: First of all, the EU is not an actor, is not an involved party in this problem. This is in essence a bilateral problem and a problem of course of international law and the respect for international law. We always say that territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries need to be respected, and whenever there are disputes about that, they need to be solved around the negotiating table. So, we, as a third party and not direct party participant or direct side involved in this issue, we can only work with partners and encourage them to follow exactly these steps. That means solving all open issues around the negotiating table and that's why we got involved in the support of the normalization process with President [of the European Council Charles] Michel, with our Special Representative Toivo Klaar, who is conducting a lot of activities and supporting the efforts of President Michel and High Representative [of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep] Borrell, so that we really encourage both sides to continue this process, solve together and solve all the issues, not through shooting, but through discussing at the negotiating table. 

Armenpress: During the joint press conference Mr. Borrell announced that the EU-Armenia relations are at the highest level. If the relations are at the highest level, as the High Representative states, then why does the EU not take practical steps to hold Azerbaijan responsible? In particular, we are talking about sanctions.

Stano: High Representative Borrell really said that relations between EU and Armenia are at their best point, at the highest level currently, and we are determined to continue working on deepening and strengthening them. That's why we agreed two weeks ago in Brussels to launch work on the new partnership agreement or new partnership agenda with Armenia to explore the whole potential of our cooperation even more than what we are doing for Armenia already now. There is a very multifaceted support to Armenia with practical issues on the side of economy, social development through the economic investment plan, through humanitarian assistance, for example, for people who had to flee from Nagorno Karabakh, we are working on strengthening the resilience of Armenia, the resilience of its economy, through the EIP, the Economic Investment Plan, but also through other means, and we already said last year that we are going also to explore the possibilities to strengthen the defence capabilities of Armenia, of course through non-lethal means and non-lethal instruments. But this is something that is on the table. We are also including or we will be including the area of security and defence into our discussions and cooperation in this new partnership agenda, so there are practical steps in order to help Armenia to be stronger, to be more resilient to whatever problems there are in terms of threats to its safety and at the same time we will continue to engage also with Azerbaijan, trying to convey very strongly the message that unilateral actions like threat of force, threat of using force and violations of international law are not the way to move forward because it will carry consequences, but again, we are at a stage of our relations with Azerbaijan, that instead of threats, we still prefer engagement. But if the situation continues to develop in a negative direction, then the Member States will need to see and decide or review the situation and see what other tools we could use. But for us right now, because we are a political community that believes in peaceful resolution of problems, for us right now, the best means to solve the issue also between Armenia and Azerbaijan is to continue engaging with both sides, of course. 

Armenpress: What is the must have condition to apply sanctions against Azerbaijan? What is the red line of the EU and when will you say enough is enough?

Stano: I should maybe clarify one thing very, very clearly. The EU sanctions in general, they are not a magic solution to all the problems. Sanctions are always used in connection with other tools we are using, so they are not the instrument. They are one of the instruments. We are using and usually we start using sanctions when all the other instruments have failed to bring the desired objectives. 

Armenpress: Sorry to interrupt, but don’t you think that sanctions could help to stop Aliyev and he will think twice before attacking Armenia?

Stano: Well, we still believe that no one will attack Armenia, that all the threats or all the challenges Armenia is perceiving right now will be removed exactly in the process of engagement. But the European Union was also very clear, should there be any kind of violation of Armenian territorial integrity and sovereignty, then we would react, but again, we cannot really focus only on sanctions as the only magic wand that solves everything, including using them as a potential. Because if you look at the history or track record of the European Union in using sanctions, then it's usually the last resort that we are making use of when it comes to the current issue or when it comes to sanctions in general. One cannot forget the principle of adopting sanctions, this is an instrument in the hands of the Member States who first need to sit together and decide - yes, we are going to use it and this decision needs to be made by unanimity of all 27. So, unless you have all 27 Member States on board, you cannot talk about the sanctions. But again, this is not a magic solution. It's a supporting measure in combination with other instruments the European Union has always preference for to use them to solve the issues and remove threats or challenges. 

Armenpress: The EU has expanded its civilian monitoring mission in Armenia and at the same time the Azerbaijani MFA invited the EU ambassador to the Ministry and expressed concern that the EU observation mission in Armenia is allegedly busy spreading anti-Azerbaijani propaganda instead of building trust. What is your reaction to this position?

Stano: The European Union decided to launch its mission in Armenia based on the request from Armenia, and we deployed this mission on the territory of Armenia, so this mission is something between the EU and Armenia and the baseless allegations and continued baseless, unjustified criticism directed towards our mission from Azerbaijan is really, I mean it's first of all, it's totally baseless and it's really regrettable. One part or one of the ambitions of the mission was also to engage with Azerbaijan in confidence building measures, and this offer stands. So, we are repeating on every occasion the offer to Azerbaijan to engage with our mission because it will bring only benefits. This is a civilian unarmed mission that is deployed on the sovereign Armenian territory with the task to observe what is going on and to report and to reassure Armenians that, I mean there is a EU partner that is watching over their safety and security. This is not a mission directed against anyone. The mission intends to enhance stability and hopefully also eventually contribute to confidence building, so our offer to engage with Azerbaijan stands, but at the same time very decisively we are rejecting all the baseless allegations and criticism against this mission. 

Armenpress: European Council president Charles Michel’s congratulations to Aliyev and the EEAS’s statement concerning the elections in Azerbaijan isn’t a good example of European common policy. Some experts outline differences between these two approaches? What is your explanation?

Stano: The European Union has one policy, speaks with one voice. What you just described are two different aspects or perspectives of one issue. It is a habit for the European Union to congratulate the people who are being elected or reelected to their positions, either at the level of Prime Minister or the head of State, so it's done at the appropriate level. So, Charles Michel, when the President of the European Council speaks to his partners, he speaks to the President and Prime Minister. So, the President had the feeling that he needs to congratulate President Aliyev for being reelected, he did so. It does not prevent us to listen to the concerns raised by the EU observation mission on the ground, which underlined irregularities in the election process. If you read the assessment very carefully, the report is not questioning the legitimacy of the elections or the election of Mr. Aliev, the mission is pointing out to all the irregularities and problems and making recommendations for the future so that in the future, upcoming elections are then conducted with much better adherence to international standards. So, these are two phases of the same issue, but taken from different perspectives. Our role as the diplomatic service of the European Union is to focus on these processes, to focus on what needs to be improved. We are discussing this with Azerbaijan. We have an ongoing dialogue, in a few weeks’ time we will have a political meeting at the highest level within the framework of cooperation. So, we are raising these issues. We are discussing these issues. I think the final report from the elections, it's still not out. It was a preliminary report and the final report is usually published after a few weeks or few months and then we will be of course taking this conclusion very, very seriously and we will be engaging with Azerbaijan to make sure that we expect them to fulfill all the recommendations. 

Armenpress: EU Ambassador to Armenia Vasilis Maragos announced that Josep Borel is planning to visit Armenia. Are there specific dates of the visit and what is the purpose of the visit?

Stano: The High Representative, of course, is keen and committed to visiting all our partner countries, especially those partners who show the interest to deepen and strengthen their cooperation with the European Union. On the other hand, the High Representative is in charge of EU’s foreign and security policy and these policies are facing huge challenges nowadays, which require him to be in many places at many events almost at the same time. So, of course it always comes down to the agenda. We are working on a possible date. We have nothing to announce at this stage, but we hope that it will be possible that he visits Armenia very soon, exactly to bring the messages of European commitment and the willingness to broaden and deepen the cooperation with Armenia. 

Lilit Gasparyan


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