Nikol Pashinyan: “Azerbaijan has no longer control of its destiny; Turkey is the decision-maker in Azerbaijani”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gave an interview to the German Der Spiegel weekly, which was also posted on the weekly’s official website. The full text of the interview is presented below:
Der Spiegel - Mr. Prime Minister, you have just returned from Nagorno-Karabakh. What is the situation up there? What did you see in Stepanakert?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I saw a town under heavy shelling with apartment buildings and civilian infrastructure targeted by rocket-propelled grenade launchers. I believe that while delivering such strikes the Azeris are well aware that they are targeting houses, civil infrastructure, schools, kindergartens, but that would not stop them at all, and no wonder as it is now an internationally established fact that cross-border terrorist group members are involved in this war as allies of Azerbaijan’s armed forces. Turkey is transporting them to Azerbaijan. This is the complete picture of the situation at hand.
Der Spiegel - How did this war start for you personally? The attack began on Sunday, September 27, at 08:00 a.m.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The President of the Artsakh Republic called me and said that an offensive had been launched. After that, I called the Chief of General Staff of Armenia’s Armed Forces to verify the information. He confirmed the information. After that, we convened a meeting of the Security Council and declared martial law and nationwide mobilization in the country, because we predicted not without good reason that there was an immediate threat of attack against the Republic of Armenia. In the following days we witnessed that settlements came under shelling and bombing in Armenia; we had casualties among the civilian population. Enemy drones flew over Yerevan and nearby cities.
Der Spiegel - There were clashes and shootings in Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in 2016, 2018, July 2020. But this time the clashes are much more intense than the ones we witnessed for the past few decades. Why?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes, you are right. Our military experts say that such a large-scale war with the use of so many troops, equipment and weapons had not been seen anywhere in the 21st century or at least had not happened frequently. And that has one explanation: Turkey’s involvement in the war.
Der Spiegel - Could you please clarify?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Turkey is back to the South Caucasus after a break of 100 years to continue its policy of genocide. You know that in 1915, during the rule of the Young Turks, the first genocide of the 20th century was committed in the Ottoman Empire, which claimed the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. But emotions or hatred towards Armenians is not the only objective behind this genocidal policy.
The Armenians in the South Caucasus are the last impediment on Turkey’s way to expanding its imperial policy. We must look at it in the context of the general policy pursued by Turkey in the Mediterranean region. This policy implies use of terrorists and mercenaries.
The international community, especially Europe, must take this fact very seriously. If Europe fails to do so, you will have to meet Turkey in Vienna.
Der Spiegel - You are in fact claiming that Turkey is not interested in Nagorno-Karabakh, but that Turkey wants to create a corridor through Armenian territory.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes. And we see that the Azerbaijani statehood is being absorbed by Turkey. Azerbaijan has no longer control of its destiny; Turkey is now the decision-maker in Azerbaijani.
Der Spiegel - The Azerbaijani army is basically advancing to the south along the border with Iran. Almost every day, President Aliyev is announcing the capture of settlements over there. Why do you not just leave those villages to them? That area is not populated. Roughly speaking, it does not belong to Nagorno-Karabakh; it is located within the security zone, which was formed by the Armenians around the disputed area many years ago.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think it is too early for Azerbaijan to make such statements. The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army is implementing anti-terrorist operations, and it still remains to see what is happening on the ground.
The safety zone was not just set up for a whim. It was meant to protect the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, keeping their towns and villages safe from shelling and bombing. Today’s events show that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, as they were, continue to face an existential threat from Azerbaijan.
Der Spiegel - Have you applied to Russia for military assistance?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Armenia, Russia are allies in the field of security; we are bound by specific contractual relations. I am convinced that Russia will honor its commitments in appropriate situations.
Der Spiegel – You mean when there is an attack on the territory of Armenia?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - It is subject to some estimates: I mean the size and the potential of the threat. We have a developed set of contractual mechanisms. You may know that the 102nd Russian military base is located in Armenia. Russian border troops are guarding Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Iran.
Der Spiegel – According to Kremlin’s press service, Vladimir Putin did not even call the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I cannot comment on that, I can only say that self-serving calls are almost never made on such a high level. The Head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service officially stated that Turkey-backed international terrorist groups are fighting against Karabakh and Armenia. Russia is not the first country to mention or at least hint at it. France and Iran spoke about it, too. This is a war between different civilizations in some sense; Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are in fact at the forefront of a civilization-driven standoff. We are fighting against Turkey’s expansionist policy and international terrorism.
Der Spiegel – Do you see the possibility of a compromise, for example, the return of part of the security zone?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – It is not up to me to return land; the Government of Nagorno-Karabakh is the one to decide on the matter. And if so, who will guarantee the security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh?