YEREVAN, APRIL 20, ARMENPRESS. Foreign Minister of Artsakh Sergey Ghazaryan has said that Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) considers President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev’s ultimatum statements and threats to unleash a new war to be absolutely unacceptable.
In an interview with ARTSAKHPRESS, FM Ghazaryan said that the people and authorities of Artsakh remain committed to the path of freedom and independence they have chosen, and no threats or difficulties created by Azerbaijan can make them turn off this path.
Below is the interview published by ARTSAKHPRESS.
How would you comment on the statement made by the President of Azerbaijan on 18 April that the Armenians living in Karabakh should either accept Azerbaijani citizenship or look for another place of residence?
This is not the first time that the President of Azerbaijan has made statements that reveal the true intentions of Azerbaijan to ethnically cleanse Artsakh and expel its indigenous population from their historical homeland. The blockade imposed on Artsakh by the authoritarian leadership of Azerbaijan for more than four months is just one of the tools for the implementation of those criminal plans. Through coercion, the threat and use of force, Azerbaijan is essentially trying to force the people of Artsakh to accept the illegal demands of Azerbaijan, which contradict, inter alia, the peremptory norms of general international law.
The fact that the leadership of Azerbaijani is no longer hiding their criminal intentions demonstrates the insufficiency of the international response and engagement in efforts to end the ongoing blockade of Artsakh and prevent the genocidal intentions of Azerbaijan. In fact, the Azerbaijani authorities, acting in an environment of absolute impunity and permissiveness, are increasingly expanding the scale and geography of their crimes committed against the people of Artsakh and Armenia.
In this regard, I would like to emphasise that States, both individually and collectively, have an obligation to take effective and decisive measures to prevent the most serious crimes, primarily genocide and crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing and forced displacement. At the same time, the direct responsibility for preventing such crimes rests with the UN Security Council, a body that not only has the appropriate mandate, but also the necessary tools to stop the criminal intentions of Azerbaijan against Artsakh and its people.
In this context, it is regrettable that despite the commitment to prevent such serious crimes, representatives of some international organisations and states make political efforts that indirectly promote Azerbaijan's illegitimate position and encourage their genocidal policy. We believe that such an approach by international actors, particularly those involved in the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict and normalisation of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, is not only unacceptable and counterproductive, but also fraught with unpredictable consequences for the entire region.
How would you comment on the statement of the Azerbaijani President that Karabakh is an internal affair of Azerbaijan?
The Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict has never been considered as an internal affair of Azerbaijan, neither during the existence of the Soviet Union, nor in the subsequent period of the formation of independent states on the territory of the former Soviet Union. This is evidenced by the fact that after Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), Armenia and Azerbaijan gained independence, the international community created a special mechanism for the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict – the Minsk Process. The decision to create an international format to determine the final political status of Artsakh indicated that the community of States did not recognise Artsakh as part of independent Azerbaijan. In turn, Azerbaijan's consent to be involved in the Minsk Process was also a recognition of the fact that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was not an internal matter of Azerbaijan.
In addition, the Armenian side has always emphasised that the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict is primarily a matter of human rights and freedoms, and first of all, the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination. In this sense, according to international obligations, including those assumed by the state of Azerbaijan, issues of human rights and freedoms are of direct and legitimate interest to all States and are not exclusively an internal matter of any one State. There are many examples in the world where certain countries and international organisations have directly intervened in conflict situations to prevent genocide, massacres and other serious human rights violations. In situations where human rights and freedoms, including the collective rights of peoples, are systematically and grossly violated, only intervention of the international community and the free exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination can ensure a peaceful and civilized resolution of such situations, without resorting to the use of force, violence, forced deportation and ethnic cleansing.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing blockade, massive violations of the individual and collective rights of the people of Artsakh, and other aggressive actions, the efforts of the official Baku to present the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict as their internal affair are a clear attempt by the leadership of Azerbaijan to get carte blanche from the international community to continue the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh and expulsion of its indigenous people from their native lands. We consider Aliyev's ultimatum statements and threats to unleash a new war to be absolutely unacceptable. The people and authorities of Artsakh remain committed to the path of freedom and independence they have chosen, and no threats or difficulties created by Azerbaijan can make us turn off this path.
Are negotiations between Artsakh and Azerbaijan possible?
The Republic of Artsakh has been and continues to be committed to the peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict. We believe that lasting peace in the region can and should be achieved through negotiations and on the basis of mutually acceptable approaches. Unilateral coercive measures can, of course, contain the issue, but this will be temporary, as evidenced by the 70-year existence of Artsakh within the Azerbaijan SSR. The political issues of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict settlement should be discussed in an agreed and internationally recognised negotiation format based on the equal rights of the parties and in the presence of strong international guarantees for the implementation of their commitments.
As for the addressing of urgent technical and humanitarian issues, such contacts between the parties began after the ceasefire established by the Trilateral Statement of 9 November 2020. On 11 April, the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh, through the Russian peacekeeping mission, sent a proposal to the Azerbaijani side to hold a meeting at the place of deployment and with the mediation of the command of the Russian peacekeeping forces to discuss urgent humanitarian issues. However, there was no response from Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan has been trying to politicise these contacts in order to eliminate the need for an international mechanism for the settlement of the conflict. By rejecting the international mechanism of dialogue with the official Stepanakert, Azerbaijan is trying to avoid the implementation of possible agreements. Involvement of the international community in the dialogue between Artsakh and Azerbaijan is the only way to guarantee a comprehensive settlement of the conflict.
What is your position on the assertion of the Azerbaijani side that, according to the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1991, the borders between the union republics are considered state borders and, therefore, Karabakh is recognised as an integral part of Azerbaijan?
First of all, it should be noted that the Alma-Ata Declaration has never been considered as a political and legal basis for the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict or the determination of the status of Artsakh. This is indicated by the fact that by the time this declaration was adopted, negotiations on the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict settlement had been underway for several months already within the framework of the Zheleznovodsk process, through the mediation of the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan. After the signing of the relevant declaration, the conflict settlement process continued with the mediation of Russia, the CIS, and the CSCE/OSCE. As part of the negotiation process, international mediators developed the basic principles and elements of the settlement, according to which the status of Artsakh was to be determined through a legally binding _expression_ of will of its population. Thereby, the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination was recognised and a mechanism was proposed for its implementation. Thus, the parties involved in the conflict and the international mediators were not guided by the Alma-Ata Declaration when developing the basic principles of the settlement.
Moreover, the Alma-Ata Declaration, like any international document, must be guided by the objectives and principles of the UN Charter and other universal norms of international law. Therefore, the Alma-Ata Declaration contains the same principles and norms as the UN Charter, including the right to self-determination.
In this regard, we consider it necessary to emphasise that in case of massive and serious human rights violations and discriminatory policies, the right to secession based on the principle of self-determination of peoples prevails over the principle of territorial integrity of states. This formula, in particular, is described in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States, and is also enshrined in the jurisprudence of various countries.