YEREVAN—Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian spoke in an exclusive interview with Armenia’s “Banadzev” (Formula) television program following his latest meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev over the weekend in Sochi, with the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sarkisian explained during the interview that the recent flare-up of violence in the Artsakh conflict zone was not discussed at the meeting “because preventing incidents is part of the negotiation process.”
Asked about the possibility of a new ceasefire agreement, the President said: “I don’t think there is sense in a new agreement. What’s the difference whether the agreements are being signed now or were signed in the past? The sides must now honor the agreements signed in 1994-1995. Another question is if any new provisions are proposed and an agreement is signed based on the new provisions on absolute non-use of force. This is a higher level than the ceasefire agreements. And both the mediators are we raise such issues from time to time. But we do not yet see Azerbaijan’s positive response.”
Sarkisian also said that he and Armenia’s leaders do not see a need for any interference from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance led by Russia, but added, “The CSTO always acts when a country applies.”
“I am sure there was no need for that. If anyone thinks the CSTO’s reaction would have put Azerbaijanis off, such a person is mistaken. As to the CSTO’s position, it is quite clear and is stated in a document approved in 2012, which remains in force,” Armenia’s president said.
The General Secretary of the CSTO, Nikolai Bordyuzha, is schedules to visit Yerevan in the near future.
“I do not think similar incidents will reoccur as intensely as they have recently,” Sarkisian said. “The recent events have shown that Armenia’s armed forces are in full control of the situation, and all the attempts by Azerbaijan failed – some of them with losses.”
President Sarkisian broached his support for a mechanism for international investigation of ceasefire violations. “International mechanisms of investigation into incidents could prove to be the most effective way of preventing violent incidents,” He said. “Such mechanisms would mean identifying the guilty party and informing the public, including the international community. So we should work towards it.”
Sarkisian also added: “We are conducting negotiations over the document signed in Kazan, in 2011. At the last meeting, the Azerbaijani president refused to sign that document. The document is based on the Madrid principles and envisages a settlement of the conflict on the basis of three fundamental principles – peoples’ right to self-determination, territorial integrity and nonuse of force.”
Sarkisian also said that by escalating the situation at the line of contact, so near the trilateral presidential meeting in Sochi, Azerbaijan pursued a number of goals.
“The chief and major aim was to convince the international community that the war is not over. The Azerbaijani president is not concealing this. Urgent measures need to be taken to resolve the problem. We all have been convinced of that. We do not know any instance when Azerbaijan did not provoke more intense incidents prior to or following important meetings.
“The second aim Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces and leadership are pursuing is to make Armenians fear. They wanted to show both themselves and others they were strong enough, that their armed forces are efficient and capable of, as they say, ‘punishing’ the Armenian armed forces. But you see their illusion did not do anything good for them.
“The third aim is a domestic political one. The Azerbaijani leadership is seeking to justify its hard-line policy inside Azerbaijan, capitalizing on the issue of unfinished war. Other reasons could be cited as well, but I think these are the primary ones,” President Serzh Sarkisian said.
With respect to a recent statement by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense that it is ready to carry out a missile attack and “raze even Yerevan to the ground,” Sarkisian said that at the Sochi meeting the President of Azerbaijan said the sides are well aware of their potential.
“Yes, we are well aware of Azerbaijan’s potential and that country’s leaders are well aware of ours.”
“If hostilities resume, [attacks] by Azerbaijan’s armed forces from Nakhijevan could reach the outskirts of Yerevan, but such actions will never remain unpunished, and Azerbaijan’s leaders are well aware of the Armenian armed forces’ potential.
“If they do not fear for their own safety and decide in favor of large-scale military operations, let them think of their own responsibility,” the President said.
Speaking on the Azerbaijani leadership’s sabre-rattling, President Serzh Sarkisian said: “Sometimes I have the impression that some persons in Baku play war games after work in the evening. But they must realize the reality is entirely different.”
Asked about prospects for the presence of Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh, the President said, “It is for the first time that I have heard about the deployment of only Russian peacekeepers. The Madrid principles envisage the deployment of peacekeepers along the Line of Contact. But it is not a subject of the negotiations. At present, it is only the principles that must be discussed, that is, whether peacekeepers will or will not be deployed.”