President Serge Sargisian met with the ambassadors of the nations participating in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group on April 4. The following are his remarks to the visiting ambassadors, representing Russia, the US and France. The remarks are edited for space.
I appreciate your quick response to my invitation and thank you for being here. I am confident that all of you are informed about the situation on the Nagorno Karabagh line of contact. The purpose of inviting the Ambassadors of the OSCE participating states is to provide you with firsthand information.
As you already know, over the night of April 2 at around 3 am the Azeri side undertook a pre-planned and unprecedented provocation along the entire line of contact with Nagorno Karabagh, carrying out massive military actions and employing the entire complex of their arsenal – armored vehicles, heavy artillery and air force.
From the first hours of the hostilities, the adversary also targeted civilians. Schoolchildren were killed and wounded in the schoolyard; elderly people were viciously killed in their homes – all of them peaceful residents, including a 92-year-old woman. And it was carried out by the so-called sabotage and reconnaissance group because no regular unit of the Azeri armed forces entered into any residential area. It is true, that right after this, the group was eliminated, however this is the fact. Footage featuring this scene also appeared in the mass media yesterday. You can watch that footage and juxtapose with the repeatedly uttered words of the leader of the neighboring state on the protection of the rights of the people of Karabagh within “the island of tolerance — Azerbaijan.”
Timely and professional actions of the NK Defense Army allowed to bring the entire situation under control.
Hostilities of this magnitude have not been registered since the establishment of the ceasefire in 1994. Provocative attacks of the Azeri side resumed the next morning and continue as we speak. Azerbaijan continues to target civilians, using multiple rocket launchers and mortars. After the so-called “unilateral ceasefire,” the Azerbaijani armed forces continued their active military actions along the line of contact as well as shelled the residential areas of Nagorno Karabagh.
The Republic of Armenia, as a party to the 1994 Ceasefire Agreement, will continue to fully implement its obligations to ensure the security of the people of Nagorno Karabagh. Moreover, I have instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work with Nagorno Karabagh to elaborate an agreement on mutual military assistance. And here I would like to state what I have declared on many occasions — should military actions continue and escalate into larger scales, the Republic of Armenia will recognize the independence of Nagorno Karabagh.
Further escalation of the military actions may result in unpredictable and irreversible consequences, including an all-out war. It will obviously affect the security and stability not only of the South Caucasus but also the entire European area.
Clearly, the cessation of the hostilities and a peaceful resolution of the issue, in general, stem from the interests of the European states. The OSCE, as a structure which plays a crucial role in preserving the security in Europe, has a special role.
Regrettably, multiple warnings from the Armenian side that sooner or later Azerbaijan would become hostage to its own Armenophobic rhetoric and would plunge into a new military adventurism and therefore the aggressor must be contained by all possible means, fell short of desirable results. When Azerbaijan was bragging about the acquisition of arms and weaponry in profound quantities, the international community remained silent or almost silent; when statements about seeking military solution to the problem were being made at the highest levels, the international community remained almost silent, when Azerbaijan was derailing the work of the OSCE Minsk Group and turning down the proposals to create confidence building mechanisms, the international community again kept silent. And today, the international community is again silent as we see how Azerbaijan uses heavy artillery and bombards the peaceful population. By the way, literally minutes ago the Azeri armed forces for the first time used heavy flame-thrower system, “ognemyot” in Russian, called TOS-1. Meanwhile, when the Defense Army of Nagorno Karabagh is taking counter measures against the armed forces of Azerbaijan that has manifold numerical superiority over NK, they are urged to “show restraint.”
I have three messages I would like you to convey to your capitals:
First, Azerbaijan was the one that initiated the offensive. According to their explanations, Azerbaijan attacked the Nagorno Karabagh Republic to resolve problems that assumingly had to be addressed through the peaceful talks under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs. We expect all the parties concerned with the regional peace to clearly demand an explanation from Baku concerning the launch of the military operations.
In recent days many heads of states and international organizations expressed their concerns over the situation, and made statements calling to establish peace. They cannot be effective as long as they are not directed to a specific addressee, the one who provoked the offensive, and as long as they do not foresee consequences for disregarding them.
Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are in favor of cessation of hostilities to and the 1994 ceasefire regime to be fully respected with all the parties returning to their initial positions as of April 1, 2016. To preserve the ceasefire the OSCE needs to come up with stabilizing measures.
Second, I have repeatedly stated that to settle any conflict, especially when it is a conflict concerning the destiny of peoples fighting for their right to self-determination, it is necessary to address the cause of the conflict and only after that to proceed to other matters stemming from that cause.
The Armenian side has never declined reasonable concessions to resolve the conflict. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and the ambassadors of those countries that are present here are well aware of this. But talking about them is meaningful only when the root cause of the conflict is solved and the Nagorno Karabagh Republic is freed from the threat of being re-colonized and annexed. No one can force a people to live within a state that does not reflect aspirations and values of that people.
And third, one of the recent manifestations of the cynical behavior of Azerbaijan was the statement of Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, according to which Azerbaijan unilaterally suspends the “counter-offensive” against the “enemy” due to the humanitarian concerns and starts implementing the program of fortifying the protection of the “liberated” territories. I can assure you that Azerbaijan “hasn’t liberated” any territory. At this moment along the whole line of contact there is only a tiny segment in the south and another tiny segment in the north (which hopefully will no longer exist by the end of this meeting). This means that Azerbaijan has made an advance of merely 200-300 meters. For every meter they have lost more than one person. It is obvious that by this Azerbaijan is again misleading the international community and trying to create preconditions to guise both the hostilities it has unleashed and further continuation thereof.
I believe that every incident of violation of the ceasefire must be thoroughly examined and evaluated since that is the guarantee and motivation of effective negotiation process.
As an OSCE participating state Armenia finds necessary to call upon all the OSCE participating states to be principled in their positions. If there is a will and desire to fix the situation, effective measures have to be implemented to that end and respect of the 1994 ceasefire regime must be enforced upon Azerbaijan.
And finally, one of the OSCE participating states, Turkey, is acting from a position of inciting a great war in the region and is explicitly encouraging the adventurist policy of the Azerbaijani leadership. Azerbaijan is bragging about its alleged victory and Turkey congratulates it on that occasion, while the international community condemns the use of force in Nagorno-Karabakh although only in words. Turkey is the only country to provide unwavering support to the Azerbaijani adventurism. The statements made by Ankara before and after this situation- through which this country seems to compete with Azerbaijan with its anti-Armenian stance – can form a new hotbed of tension in the region, something of which Turkey has experience in the Near East.
To conclude with, I would like to once again thank you for being here and express my hope that my messages and concerns will be heard in your capitals.