SERZH SARGSYAN, President of Armenia, noting that his country highly appreciated the mediation efforts of global and regional organizations, said the success of mediation hinged on the articulation of a clearly defined mandate, such as in the case of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Another key factor was the mediators’ role in preventing conflict escalation and resumption of hostilities, an aspect that was sometimes overlooked, yet no less important. Congratulating South Sudan on being elected to the Organization, he said its people had exercised their right to live sovereignly and independently, a choice also made two decades ago by the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. They had withstood the war unleashed by Azerbaijan and survived bloodshed to earn their right to live in freedom.
Azerbaijan’s unwillingness to reach an agreement and its “everything or war” position, however, had stalled peace talks, he said, adding that it had rejected the previously elaborated arrangement. “Baku has turned ‘armenophobia’ into State propaganda,” he said, and even more dangerously, “armenophobic” ideas were being spread among young Azerbaijanis. The Azerbaijani propaganda machine regularly overwhelmed international and domestic audiences with lies about so-called “Armenian brutality”. A number of documents had been signed, including the Meindorf, Astrakhan and Sochi Declarations, which stressed the need to boost confidence-building measures between the parties, but Azerbaijan had turned down repeated international proposals related to the non-use of force.
As a nation that had survived a “genocide” — the most extreme form of racism and xenophobia — Armenia was morally obliged to act to prevent such future atrocities, he said. Eliminating racism and xenophobia would succeed only with a clear prescription of liability and the global community must denounce any expression of intolerance. Unfortunately, Turkey continued to deny the genocide of Armenians perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire. He unequivocally welcomed the international community’s position to preclude any possibility of immunity or pardon for the perpetrators of genocide or other crimes against humanity.
He went on to say that, in 2008, he had expressed hope that the process to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey — initiated by Armenia — and to open borders closed by Turkey would become the first steps in starting dialogue and overcoming the “air of mistrust”. But, Turkey had aborted the ratification and implementation of protocols Armenia initiated in 2009. In other areas, he urged honouring international commitments to turn the South Caucasus into a region of cooperation and prosperity. The link between security and development was not simply an abstract theory for his region. The time had come for the leaders of regional countries to “stand above the dictates of a narrow political agenda” and move towards solutions aimed at a peaceful and prosperous future.
Recalling that just two days ago, Armenia celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its independence, he said that period had been one of great change and he thanked all States that had supported its construction of statehood. Gains had been made in the fields of democratization, human rights, economic reforms and the establishment of the rule of law. “We are convinced we are on the right path,” he said. Concluding, he said Armenia contributed to international counter-terrorism efforts and would continue to do its best to create a safer world.
Exercising his right of reply, Armenia’s representative said Azerbaijan’s references to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh could only be attributed to the imagination of the speaker, who presumed that cold war propaganda could be effective in strengthening his country’s position in the Minsk Group. While preaching adherence to international law, he had single-handedly misinterpreted the United Nations Charter, statements by the Armenian President and the Minsk Group Co-Chairs on the field assessment mission to the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. He regretted that Azerbaijan was misusing the field assessment report to justify its military rhetoric, saying that Azerbaijan’s own interpretation of that report contradicted the Co-Chairs’ recommendations. His accusations were not only baseless, they endangered the negotiation process.
He went on to say that none of the four Security Council resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh contained a word on the so-called Armenian aggression. Azerbaijan had launched a large-scale offensive against the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh as a response to their constitutional expression of the right to self-determination. Nor did those texts contain wording about the withdrawal of Armenian military forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, simply because they had never been there. Also, the Defence Army of Nagorno-Karabakh controlled only 8.5 per cent of the Azerbaijani territory that served as a security buffer zone, not the 20 per cent quoted in Azerbaijan’s statement. Azerbaijan controlled 15 per cent of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
Azerbaijan had claimed that there were 1 million refugees in that country, he said, which did not correspond to any official data from an international organization. Such distortions undermined the United Nations work and artificially delayed steps to meet the needs of the people in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia had always supported conflict settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh exclusively by peaceful means and had proven that in practice.