“International recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence is a way to prevent the threat of genocide” - Nikol Pashinyan tells La Repubblica
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gave an interview to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which we present below.
“Turkey’s return to the South Caucasus means another Armenian Genocide a century later the Genocide of 1915, when the Ottoman Empire massacred 1.5 million people,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said. “Encouraged by Turkey, Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh is a terrorist war against people fighting for freedom,” Pashinyan continued.
La Repubblica - Mr. Prime Minister, you returned from the frontline just a few hours ago. What is the situation over there?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Azeris are indiscriminately bombing towns and villages, hitting especially civilians who are forced to flee their homes and take refuge in shelters. On the battlefield, meanwhile, there are intense battles, but the Armenians are retaliating. I can say that the Azerbaijani army has no strategic gains whatsoever.
La Repubblica – Can you confirm Ankara’s direct involvement?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think this is already an established fact. To make sure you just have to look at direct public statements. Not to mention that the New York Times published photos evidencing the presence of Turkish F-16 planes at Ganja airport yesterday. We had been sounding the alarm that Turkish F-16s were involved in hostilities, and in the end it was actually proved.
It is also important to record the public statements made by high-ranking Turkish officials. Let me give you an example: the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries, the Foreign Ministers make statements that there should be an immediate ceasefire, while Turkey stated that it hoped that Azerbaijan would not stop the hostilities. On the other hand, they keep stating that they will stand by Azerbaijan both in the diplomatic field and on the military front.
La Repubblica - What about the Syrian terrorists?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - It is now an internationally acknowledged fact that Turkey has brought jihadists from Syria in support of Azerbaijan. That is why we say we are fighting against terrorism along a frontline which divides civilization and barbarism. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh stand as the last barrier to Ankara’s expansion. If the international community does not intervene soon, it will soon see the Turks at the gates of Vienna, as it did with the Ottomans in the 17th century.
La Repubblica - What do you expect from the international community?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - First of all, recognize that Nagorno-Karabakh has been attacked by Azerbaijan, which recently held a month-long exercise with Turkish troops.
We must be aware of the threat posed by jihadists in the conflict zone. And it should be noted that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are facing a threat of genocide. In this situation the international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence is a way to prevent the threat of genocide.
La Repubblica - Will Moscow intervene in the near future, should Armenia mediate? What are your expectations from Mr. Putin?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Russia has specific security-related commitments towards Armenia, which shall be applied under certain conditions. I am sure that Russia will fulfill its contractual obligations under appropriate circumstances.
I would also like to note that Russia is a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. The OSCE Minsk Group is the only format that hosts the negotiations on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. This, too, should be taken into account. The President of the Russian Federation announced yesterday that Russia will fulfill its security commitments to Armenia in case of such a need.
La Repubblica – But the Armenians and those living in Nagorno-Karabakh are same nation, aren’t they?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We are the same people ethnically, there is no difference. We speak the same language, we believe in the same religion. In other words, there is no difference between the Armenians living in Karabakh and the Armenians living in Armenia.
La Repubblica – Nagorno-Karabakh has been independent for almost 30 years. Why didn’t any country, including Armenia, recognize it?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The situation is different with Armenia. Of course, we are discussing that possibility, but Armenia’s recognition will not change much in terms of international relations, because we have de facto recognized Nagorno-Karabakh and have established relations.
International recognition is just what can change the situation in terms of settling the issue. This is why I think that in this situation the most effective diplomatic way to stop this terrorist attack is to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
La Repubblica - What is Nagorno-Karabakh ready to give up?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Nagorno-Karabakh has always said that they are prepared for compromise, but Azerbaijan refused to negotiate. The last time was in 2014, when Baku refused to sign a peace agreement, as it would mean recognizing the right of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination. Baku wants to return to the status quo that was before the liberation war of 1991.
La Repubblica - It should not be easy for a pacifist like you to get involved in a war as you say you have been inspired by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mandela…
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - When there is a terrorist attack, you have to respond. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot but defend their right to life. Of course, the involvement of the international community is needed; otherwise the jihadist threat will spread everywhere, since I am confident that the Azerbaijanis will not manage to control the Ankara-backed Islamists.
According to our intelligence, when they arrived in Azerbaijan, they first tried to ban the sale of alcohol and introduce Sharia rules.
La Repubblica - This war affects you personally…
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes, because my 20-year-old son has just left for the frontline as a volunteer.