Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   20 January

‘Massacre of Maragha has not been internationally addressed properly’ – Ambassador Tigran Mkrtchyan’s interview to Bernardinai.lt

YEREVAN, JUNE 30, ARMENPRESS. Tigran Mkrtchyan, Armenia‘s Ambassador to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia had an extensive interview to the Lithuanian news portal Bernardinai.lt dedicated to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.  

Armenpress presents the full interview:

-Mr. Ambassador, political information about Armenia is on our Media very fragmented and mostly is about Karabakh conflict. There was even the scandal when somebody published the discussions of two Lithuanian diplomats in internet. When and how could the situation be changed?

Answer: The Lithuanian media often represents Armenian culture and history as well as the Armenian-Lithuanian community life. So I would not say that conflict between Azerbaijan and Artsakh is the main subject being talked about in Lithuania.The negotiations on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement are being conducted within the internationally mandated format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship presented by the USA, France and Russia. The Co-Chairs have on numerous occasions presented settlement proposals. Since 2009 l’Aquila summit of the G8 at least 5 times the heads of the states of the Co-Chairs countries made statements on concrete steps of the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. After every statement the Armenian side expressed willingness to move forward the settlement of the conflict on the proposed basis. Azerbaijan did not welcome those proposals. Moreover, for a long time now the Azerbaijani diversion attacks, provocations on the Line of Contacts between Azerbaijan and Artsakh have become a routine. Last year Azerbaijanis even organized a large scale aggression against Artsakh. The pre-planned massive blitzkrieg attempt failed with hundreds of lives lost from all sides.

-Two weeks ago the OSCE announced the closure of its office in Yerevan. We know it is because of Karabakh. But why now?

-As you may have noticed from several international organizations’ reports and statements authoritarianism in Azerbaijan is getting firmly established. Here the Lithuanian press is often writing about it as well. The OSCE works to strengthen peace, stability and democracy in its area. Apparently Azerbaijani authorities did not feel happy about the OSCE activities in their country and did not prolong its mandate beyond 2015. Moreover, under the pretext of reservations concerning one humanitarian project implemented by the office, Azerbaijan used the consensus principle in the OSCE decision making processes, and against all the other members’ wish to prolong the activities of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, it applied its right to veto against the will of the other OSCE participating states. Some members of the international community while noting the constructive stance of Armenia in this issue, expressed their strong disapproval regarding the destructive attitude of Baku that resulted in the closure of the last OSCE full-fledged mission in the South Caucasus. It has nothing to do with Nagorno-Karabakh, since the OSCE Office in Yerevan has not been engaged in the conflict-related matters, something that was confirmed included by the OSCE German and Austrian Chairmanships.

Simply, Azerbaijani leaders are thinking about something impossible-isolating Armenia, in reality finding themselves in isolation. How can you isolate a nation, which is truly global?

-If we would remember how the conflict began, could we estimate that it was initially provoked or strengthened buy the Kremlin? Both sides received weapons, as usual, not necessary for the police. These were the tools of the Soviet army.

 -The massacres of Armenians in Azerbaijan were organised by Soviet Azerbaijani elites. It is documented and proved. The late entry of Soviet Army in Baku 1990 January to stop the bloodshed unleashed against the Armenians is nowadays resented by Azerbaijan as if it was fighting for independence and the Soviet Army entered to crush it. This is an absolute misrepresentation of what happened. Suffice to say that several international papers, such as the New York Times, have detailed coverage of those barbaric killings of Armenians.

As I noted, the conflict started as soon as Azerbaijan appeared on the political map of the world in 1918 and started to present territorial claims to historically Armenian territories. In 1988 the conflict sparkled again as this time peaceful appeals to correct the historical mistake committed by a dictator, was met by Baku’s brutal and in many ways genocidal response. We could not and will not undergo not more genocide. Everyone understands this very well. On dictator ordered annexation of Artsakh to Azerbaijan, and now another dictator dreams about conquer it by force.

It is true that in the early stage f the conflict, in 1991 April-August, so called “Operation Ring” was carried out in north-eastern parts of Karabakh, during which the Soviet army together with the Azerbaijani forces carried out the deportation of 24 Armenian villages. This indeed had an immensely negative impact on the further deterioration of the conflict.

Next month marks the 25th anniversary of occupation of Shahumian district and part of Martakert district that were accompanied by atrocities and massive ethnic cleansing. The armed forced of Azerbaijan approached Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh threatening the existence of the Nagorno-Karabakh. This period is in the past now, however, the part of the occupied land is still under Azerbaijan’s control. The gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws by Azerbaijan during its aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016 vividly demonstrated that nothing has changes in the Azerbaijani approaches. It simply proves that Karabakhi Armenians’ aspirations on self-determination is still relevant and fair.

-The situation today reminds of First World War: many people are sitting in trenches. Azerbaijan’s diplomatic positions are marked by four resolutions of the UN Security Council of 1994. Armenia must deploy its forces, and the problems will be solved. What is your answer?

-The violator of all those four resolutions was Azerbaijan. The core requirement of the UN SC resolutions is the immediate cessation of all hostilities and hostile acts and the establishment of a durable cease-fire as well. This requirement was consistantly violated by Azerbaijan. The Security Council stopped adopting any further resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh, since their violation was devolving its decisions, undermining its authority and making those resolutions inefficient.

By the way, I cannot agree that the UNSC Resolutions mark Azerbaijan’s position. There are a number of provisions in the resolutions that Baku ignores, disregards. The resolutions recognise the local Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh as party to the conflict. Azerbaijan refuses to negotiate with them. The resolutions refer to Armenia, only to call it to exert its influence on Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to continue negotiations. The resolutions call to open all kinds of communications. Azerbaijan keeps transport networks with or through Armenia closed.

The UN recognises only one way of solving the conflict - peaceful negotiations. Most provisions of the UN SC Resolutions are about the support for OSCE Minsk Process. Azerbaijan does everything to derail the peace process.

While in this process the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs note that the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh will be determined through a legally binding expression of will of the population of Nagorno Karabakh. As soon as Azerbaijan understands and embraces this stance supported by the international community, then the conflict will be resolved.

-We are talking not only about Karabakh, but about 20 percent (every Azerbaijani would say) about the occupied residence of sovereign countries. Why not return it? Can this help solve the problem?

-I believe there is a confusion with figures. Karabakhi Armenians have liberated areas beyond the confines of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast as part of providing their security. But there are other territories of NKAO, currently under Azerbaijani occupation. And I would like to remind that the proposals of the CO-Chairs, which Azerbaijan rejects, anticipate withdrawal of forces.

The illegal annexation and total ethnic cleansing of Armenians carried out in another historically Armenian territory - Nakhijevan, throughout the Soviet period, is not and can not be forgotten either.

-How and what would you do with the problem of hundreds of thousands of refugees?

-There were four hundred thousand Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan. There are refugees also from the territories currently under Azerbaijani occupation. Above all there are also internally displaced people in Nagorno-Karabakh from the settlements located in close vicinity to the line of contact. I believe the basic principles of the conflict resolution include the right of all refugees to return to their previous places of residence.

-Both sides accuse each other of many war crimes. Would you agree with an independent investigation and an international tribunal?

-If we start from the early stage of the conflict Sumgayit, Baku, Kirovabad massacres of 1988-1990 need to be thoroughly investigated. If we start form the latest cases it is the 2016 April war crimes. For a few days continuously and in front of the entire world war crimes were committed by the Azerbaijani army during the Four Day war in April 2016. Artsakh’s Ombudsman has prepared a detailed report showing how beheadings and maiming of dead Armenian soldiers, brutalising of elderly people’s bodies and other crimes were committed. Those who committed those crimes were laughing. They were lauded by the leader of Azerbaijan as heroes, decorated by Azerbaijani President. Before that the axe killer Ramil Safarov, who has beheaded an Armenian soldier in his sleep in Bucharest, was later on extradited from Hungary to Azerbaijan and upon landing in Baku, declared as a national hero of that country. When murderers are applauded as heroes in Azerbaijan, we need to think seriously if the Azerbaijani society is ready for a peaceful solution of the Karabakh conflict and make conclusions based on that.

Besides, the massacre of Maragha, a village entirely bulldozed and more than 100 civilians brutally murdered in 1992, has not been internationally addressed properly.

Armenians did not treat the Azerbaijanis in such a manner. There is no such case.

-Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations have scuffled in Moscow during a commemoration of World War II veterans after an argument erupted over the breakaway Karabakh region. How could you comment this incident?

-The incident happened because the Azeris saw the flag of Artsakh and started a conflict. This is the result of decades-long Armenophobia in Azerbaijan. If people are not ready to tolerate the flag of Artsakh, you can well conclude that they can not tolerate the people of Artsakh as well, their right to determine their political and social life in their historical fatherland. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in their appeals urge the sides to prepare societies for peace and not for war. In Azerbaijan I have not noticed the least trace of preparation for peace.

-What you think about Lithuanian diplomatic positions concerning the Karabakh conflict?

-Lithuania, as much as I can say that, supports the exclusively peaceful settlement of the issue within the frames of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs format. This is also the stance of the European Union, all those who support the peace efforts of the Co-Chairs.

-Do you personally think that some serious progress will be made in resolving the Karabakh conflict and other frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space?

-I personally do not think that those conflicts will have a quick solution.






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