“I propose that Israel send that aid to the mercenaries and to the terrorists as the logical continuation of its activities,” Prime Minister Pashinyan tells The Jerusalem Post
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has given an interview to The Jerusalem Post. Below is the full transcript of the interview.
The Jerusalem Post - Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for agreeing to give an interview. The fighting has been going on for six weeks now. There are hundreds, thousands of casualties on both sides. How is this going to end?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - In fact, Azerbaijan should give up the logic of resolving the Karabakh issue by force, because the problem arose when Azerbaijan started advancing the logic of settling the matter through military means. And what happened when it became obvious that Azerbaijan could not advance that logic on its own? They turned to Turkey for support, which in turn moved to Azerbaijani thousands of mercenaries from the territories under its control in Syria. After that, Turkey, Azerbaijan, mercenaries and terrorists launched a joint offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh.
I am saying this to state the complexity of the situation because, as we can see, there is more than just one entity involved in this process. And this makes the situation much more complicated. In view of the above, I do believe that the problem has gone far beyond the logic of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue because, I repeat, there are mercenaries involved whose presence in our region is a threat not only to Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, but also to Iran, which perceives it as a threat, and Russia, which has declared it a security threat.
And let me say that the recent events in Europe and in the world in general, at least indirectly, have to do with the developments in Nagorno-Karabakh and Turkey’s destructive position. And the answer to your question is as follows: Azerbaijan should abandon its maximalist aspirations; it must give up its genocidal policy against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh
The Jerusalem Post - The conflict has been going on for several decades now. What has triggered it at this moment? Was it Turkey, who was?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - In fact, I stated answering the previous question that, yes, it was due to Turkey’s interference. The reason was that Azerbaijan realized that it was unable to resolve the Karabakh issue on its own through military means. And they turned to Turkey for assistance. Turkey, in turn, recruited mercenaries, transported them to Azerbaijan for the sake of its own political interests.
The Jerusalem Post - Please make it clear: was it Turkey’s initiative or an Azerbaijani initiative?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – You see, I believe that it is a joint undertaking. I would like to state that in the past there was only indirect evidence that Turkey was mobilizing Syrian mercenaries to fight in Azerbaijan, now there is concrete evidence since two mercenaries were recently captured by Nagorno-Karabakh forces.
One of them has testified comprehensively, and said that he used to live in a Turkish-controlled Syrian refugee camp. He described how he was recruited, described where they became engaged, and how they crossed the border into Turkey at an official check point, but without anyone asking them any questions or checking them.
Before crossing the border, they surrendered their passports and identity documents. Then they were transferred to an airport in Turkey, after which they were transported to another airport by a Turkish plane, from where they were transferred to Azerbaijan onboard an Azeri plane yet again without any documents.
Nobody asked them who they were, where they were heading, etc. They moved to Azerbaijan and were recruited as mercenaries for a monthly pay of USD 2,000. Thousands of such mercenaries are taking part in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh. And I do believe that this situation should be the subject of an international probe.
The Jerusalem Post - Who are these people, are they Islamists, who are they?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Some of them are presumably members of extremist groups, while others are residents of Turkish-controlled Syrian territories, who were involved in this process for money.
The Jerusalem Post - Tell me please how concerned are you now? Will it turn into a wider regional confrontation involving Russia, the Turks, or maybe Iran? What are the chances for it to explode right now?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You see, I cannot make an accurate prediction now. But I already said that both the Islamic Republic of Iran and Russia have stated that the presence of mercenaries in our region is a threat to their national security.
Let us see what is going on. Soon after the Karabakh war started, we heard alarms coming from the North Caucasus, Russia’s North Caucasus republics, namely that Russia’s law enforcement entities had neutralized terrorist groups that had infiltrated from abroad, from Syria. And there was a transparent hint that the aforementioned Syrian mercenaries accounted for those terrorist groups that had infiltrated into the Russian territory. By the way, Iran is extremely concerned about this situation.
In practice, war always contains a certain element of unpredictability. And no one can say that we can 100% predict what it will be like. But by and large, the following is even more important here: this mechanism, which I spoke about, which is already based on concrete facts, as a mechanism, another concrete mechanism that can work in different parts of the world. And this is not a coincidence. This is the policy pursued by Turkey in the Mediterranean, in its relations with Greece, Cyprus, Libya, Syria and Iraq.
This is a totally new mechanism that has been put into place, and it is hard to tell where it will be manifested next and in which way. In this sense, I feel that we are going to step into some field of unpredictability as long as the international community has not responded adequately.
The Jerusalem Post - And more specifically, what is Turkey’s aim in this conflict?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Turkey seeks to reinstate the Ottoman Empire, as strange as that may sound.
The Jerusalem Post - Yesterday you asked the Russian President Putin for assistance as part of your security treaty with Moscow. What kind of assistance do you expect?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You may know that we have allied relations and have a cooperation agreement signed with the Russian Federation. The agreement provides for a joint response to common security challenges.
During all this time, I have been in close touch with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We have been in constant consultation and closely followed the developments. As the hostilities drew nearer to the Armenian border, and there was a possibility that they could pose an immediate threat to the territory of the Republic of Armenia, we have launched specific procedures in accordance with the aforementioned agreement in order to continue our consultations on the management of the situation.
In general, I can say that Russia is doing everything in its power to back Armenia in this situation. Armenia is generally satisfied with the quality of Russia’s fulfillment of its commitments to Armenia.
The Jerusalem Post - As part of the security mechanism you mentioned, can you envision Russia sending troops to the Armenian border?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Russian troops are already stationed on Armenia’s borders, and this is not something new. They have always been there as Russia has the Military Base N102 in Armenia. In addition to that military base, Armenia’s borders, including the borders with Turkey and Iran, are guarded by Russian border troops. The Russian border guards have representatives in other border sections as well.
The Jerusalem Post - Tell me, please, who is best suited to mediate now? The OSCE Minsk Group has not had a lot of success over the years. Who needs to get involved to get this conflict down?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The OSCE Minsk Group is the only international framework for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. At the same time, it should be noted that in practice Russia is acting as the most active mediating state. And this is somewhat understandable because Russia is directly present in the region - Russia itself is a country in our region.
The Jerusalem Post - Is there any role Israel can play in mediating a settlement given the good ties with...
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Israel is now very actively engaged in the conflict because Israeli UAVs are actively used in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh. I think that Israel should think about the following: Mercenaries, Islamic terrorists and Israel are now on the same side basically, so Israel should think, is this really a convenient position for it to be?
The Jerusalem Post - Mr. Prime Minister you recalled your ambassador because of Israeli arms sales. Are there any steps you are taking jointly with Israel to smooth the tensions?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I can say the following. The consultations are still going on. I have already mentioned the issue which, in fact, has been formulated by us. Here, I would like to emphasize that Israel, the international community and we all need to acknowledge that a new type of cross-border activity is being tested in Karabakh, Artsakh.
In fact, Turkey today has vast opportunities to recruit mercenaries in Syria. This mechanism has already been used in Libya; it is now being used in Nagorno-Karabakh. Who can guarantee that this may not happen elsewhere and who knows where it will be tried next?
I am very glad that many countries in the Middle East, including many Arab countries, are making a proper assessment of this phenomenon, realizing what a serious threat this can pose to international peace and stability.
This question is not addressed to a single nation; it affects the international community in general because we can see that certain shifts are taking place in the international security system, and that those shifts contain elements of hybrid warfare.
Mercenaries are being engaged in that warfare. And that hybrid warfare can be manifested in different ways – it can be manifested in ways which we see in Nagorno-Karabakh, or in ways that we have witnessed in Vienna, or in Nice, in France, or in Canada. This problem exists already, and it calls for an adequate response.
The Jerusalem Post - It is no secret that Israel has very tense relationship with Turkey. You mentioned that Israel should keep in mind that by supplying arms to Azerbaijan. Israel stands on the same side as Turkey. Did your representatives bring this fact to Israel's attention? And how did they respond to that?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I can only say that I do not think I should reveal the content of diplomatic intercourse. I just formulated the public aspect of the issue. Please address that question to Israel through this interview, and let Israel answer it in public.
The Jerusalem Post - What will make Armenia return its ambassador to Israel?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - It is a matter of diplomatic practice, we will see. We want to build the right relationships with all countries. We will answer that question in the right way and at the right time.
The Jerusalem Post - President Reuven Rivlin soon after Armenia recalled its ambassador in early October, called his Armenian counterpart and offered humanitarian aid. Is there anything you would like to get from Israel?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I have already said it. You see, this is a question that Israel should not answer for us, but for itself, and so should do all other countries. Because, for example, in my conversation with EU journalists, I am often asked what the European Union should do. My answer is that the European Union should do that for itself, not for Armenia. It is a matter of assessing a situation, and I am just voicing my assessment.
Just 10-15 days ago, I said in my interviews that if the European Union failed to properly assess Turkey’s behavior in our region, in Nagorno-Karabakh, the consequences would be seen in Europe. And today we see what is going on in Europe.
Now I say the same thing about Israel. Israel should ask itself the question – is it not fighting de facto alongside mercenaries against Nagorno-Karabakh? Is this a convenient position for it? If it is, God be with it. But I think that there will be specific consequences, and you will have to face those consequences. What I said about Europe came true within in 15 days.
In the case of Israel, I do not know, maybe 15 days, 15 weeks, 15 years. But I would like to state something else: there is a completely new foreign policy mechanism implemented by Turkey. And it is obvious that this mechanism will be manifested in different places, if it gets the chance to manifest itself.
Today, we can see it being used in Nagorno-Karabakh. And we are beginning to see its manifestations in Europe; we are beginning to see them in America. And who said that we will not see its manifestations in Israel. I think we will see. Therefore, Israel should ponder whether it is convenient for it to line up and be on the same side with mercenaries, and have the same target?
The Jerusalem Post - When you said that there would be consequences, what you were afraid of?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I just said. I described the new mechanism of policy pursued by Turkey. Now it has what I would not call unlimited but vast opportunities for recruiting mercenaries in Turkish-controlled Syrian territories, which makes it cherish imperialistic ambitions. Turkey’s imperialistic ambitions extend to the north, to the east, to the south, and to the west. And we will see its manifestations in those directions. Why should I think that we can see such manifestations in Vienna, in Austria, in France, in Canada, but cannot see such manifestations in Israel? I think we will definitely see them over the time. I mean, we are getting closer to that moment.
The Jerusalem Post - As I understand you correctly, you are warning that at some point Turkey might mobilize Syrian mercenaries to march on Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – I am not warning about anything specific, but rather about the creation of a political environment and political atmosphere, and the gaps which have emerged in the international security system. And if there are gaps, corridors and loopholes, somebody will try to pass through them. And this won’t necessarily be in one area, or in two areas, there will be traffic in all possible directions. It will not necessarily happen in one or two directions. It will take place wherever possible.
The Jerusalem Post - And the last question, is there anything in terms of humanitarian assistance that Israel can do for Armenia?
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Humanitarian assistance by a country that is selling weapons to mercenaries, which they are using to strike a civilian peaceful population? I propose that Israel send that aid to the mercenaries and to the terrorists as the logical continuation of its activities.
The Jerusalem Post – Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for the interview.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Thank you.