YEREVAN, MARCH 25, ARMENPRESS. The risk of an open war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the near future is real and underestimated, Former NATO secretary-general (2009-14) and former prime minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with Le Figaro.
“There is a single road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Only one. And this road has been blocked since December 12 . From essential products to medicines, nothing goes by. Residents are stuck on the Armenian side and cannot return to their homes . This situation can lead to a humanitarian disaster. The ultimate goal could be ethnic cleansing, making the life of the inhabitants so difficult that many of them would leave the territory.
I wrote a message to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev urging him to lift the blockade. He did not answer me, just as he never reacted to the various statements by the international community. The International Court of Justice has itself ordered Azerbaijan to restore movement. But the blockade is still there. I appreciate Emmanuel Macron's strong commitment on this subject, and I hope that France will be joined by the other main Member States of the European Union in increasing the pressure on President Aliyev,” Rasmussen, the founder of Rasmussen Global international political consultancy firm, said.
Asked to elaborate on what kind of pressures he means, the former NATO Secretary General said: “The European Commission and Azerbaijan are bound by an energy agreement . Obviously, after cutting off the Russian gas supply, we need alternatives. But this agreement can precisely be an excellent basis for increasing the pressure on the Azerbaijani president. It is important to tell Baku that our energy interest will not make us look away from a potential humanitarian crisis.
It could be that Ilham Aliyev is an autocrat, like Vladimir Putin. But I firmly believe that he is aware of the disadvantage of being considered an international pariah, as is the case for his Russian counterpart. In my opinion, Aliyev carefully calculates the limits not to be exceeded in violations of international law. Because the blocking of Nagorno-Karabakh is a violation of the law, as well as the attacks carried out last September on Armenian soil, followed by the occupation of parts of territory. The European Union must make it clear to the Aliyev regime that these violations will not go unpunished.”
He added that Russia – who is in control of the Lachin Corridor – did nothing to prevent the blockade.
“Indeed, the Lachin Corridor has been under the control of Russian peacekeepers since an agreement in 2020. I saw with my own eyes the soldiers posted to control the road. They are very close to the place of the blockade, but they do nothing! Moscow did absolutely nothing to prevent this situation, just as it said nothing when Baku attacked Armenia in September. It cannot be ruled out that Moscow, in addition to a lack of will to help its historic ally, also lacks the capacity to do so, being fully engaged on the Ukrainian front. Either way, there is clearly a paradigm shift in the Caucasus, with Russian influence and impact fading. Armenians are deeply disappointed by this inaction. That's why they look for reliable friends.”
Asked why Europe has a special responsibility in Armenia, Rasmussen said: “I think that a new conflict in this region at the gates of Europe cannot serve us. First of all, this risks compromising our energy supply. Also, the passivity of Russia suggests the existence of an informal alliance between Moscow and Baku, and between Moscow and Istanbul. This is why European states must engage in the South Caucasus.
I think the European Union has grasped what is at stake by deploying an observer mission to the Armenian border. For the moment, the group is too small, the means too limited, and the experts do not have access to the Azeri side of the border. But it's a good base. The objective is twofold: in the immediate future, to contain the threat – because Azerbaijan will not dare to attack as long as European observers can observe the facts. In a longer perspective, I encourage the European Union to make it a real fact-finding mission to establish documented facts on the humanitarian situation in Nagorno Karabakh. We must also urge President Aliyev to engage in peace negotiations…”
Rasmussen noted that Armenia highlights ensuring the rights and security of Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh, and said that this would require a peacekeeping mission “which can warn of an imminent risk of ethnic cleansing.”
“I therefore plead for the deployment of an international and armed mission, under a United Nations mandate,” he added.