Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan

Ambassador Nersesyan Comments on the Current Azerbaijani Attacks against Artsakh

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WASHINGTON – Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan, the representative of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, discussed on September 28 the ongoing Azerbaijani aggression against Artsakh which began on Sunday, September 27. He noted that its scale is much larger than the April 2016 clashes and that given the reckless nature of the dictatorships in Baku and Ankara, it is not possible to predict whether the violence might spread to the territory of the Republic of Armenia.

When asked what was the cause of this crisis, Amb. Nersesyan responded, “I would say it was a very calculated attempt on the part of Azerbaijan and Turkey.” He emphasized the premeditated nature of the attack, citing several supporting factors. He said, “This is a very well-prepared act of aggression against Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan has recently accumulated enormous amounts of military supplies and weapons and conducted largescale war drills just weeks ago with Turkey.”

He pointed to a false flag operation with an historical parallel, declaring, “In preparation for this war, Azerbaijan carried out the same maneuver conducted by Adolf Hitler in 1939 prior to invading Poland. Germany staged a false attack by Poland against Germany. Right now, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, according to this same logic, before its own attack accused Armenia of concentrating forces along the Azerbaijani border. This is a completely false narrative.”

In further support of this, as Nersesyan reported during the July 2020 clashes, he noted that Azerbaijan has openly disregarded and refused the proposal of the cochairs of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Minsk Group to establish a mechanism to monitor ceasefire violations and discover which party is responsible each time. Nersesyan said, “The fact that Azerbaijan has refused this vociferously and continuously, and Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh have agreed to it, is a key piece of evidence that shows that Azerbaijan is attempting to avoid its responsibility for this ceasefire violation and the concomitant crimes of attacks on civilian infrastructures and the people of Nagorno Karabakh.”

Not only has Azerbaijan declined to accept such monitoring but, Nersesyan said, in preparation for this attack, its president and leadership in general have been publicly denouncing the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group in general, calling them meaningless and useless, and proclaiming that Azerbaijan may resort to force at any time to carry out its will.

Connecting the dots, Nersesyan concluded, “The current attacks are nothing but the implementation of a decades-long policy of aggression on the part of Azerbaijan. It is on the record and the responsibility cannot be avoided.”

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Another secondary factor is the seemingly deliberate timing of the attacks. They were begun during the relative inactivity of the weekend. Furthermore, Nersesyan said, the international community is very busy right now with many issues. Here in the US there is also a presidential election forthcoming which may distract attention from international affairs.

Some international organizations and media have followed the usual practice of condemning the fighting while avoiding pointing out which party initiated it. Nersesyan said that while it is diplomatic practice to maintain balance, sometimes artificially so, “the international community knows very well which party launched this attack.” There are also some international statements directly condemning the Azerbaijani aggression, such as that of the Organization of American States issued on September 27, along with various members of the US Congress.

Nersesyan said that the Armenian diplomatic services have gotten feedback in private communications confirming that in general the international community is aware of the responsibility of Azerbaijan in this situation.

Turkey’s Role

Nersesyan said, “Turkey plays an extremely dangerous role in this situation. It is Turkey which is instigating this conflict. This time the people of Nagorno Karabakh are not just fighting against Azerbaijan. They are fighting against Turkey, and Turkish-sponsored ISIS mercenaries. The latter have been brought into Azerbaijan with Turkish help and right now are fighting against the people of Karabakh.”

Turkey has deployed military personnel and advisors in Azerbaijan who are now fighting against Karabakh, he said. It promised to open a military base in Azerbaijan, which at present is basically operational, with Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft, said Nersesyan. Meanwhile, Turkish-made drones are flying over Karabakh’s airspace, and some have already been shot down.

Armenia has been warning the international community about Turkey’s arming of Azerbaijan and encouraging the latter to attack for some time now through diplomatic and other channels, Nersesyan said. He explained Turkey’s motivation: “It is not a secret that modern-day Turkey, following some illusions of Neo Ottomanism, has been conducting a reckless policy in the entire region, not only in the South Caucasus but in the Mediterranean, in Syria, in North Africa and specifically in Libya. Turkey right now is pursuing a goal of promoting its interests in the South Caucasus, of projecting power both through Azerbaijan and directly. Most likely this is a calculated attempt to destabilize the South Caucasus and implement certain policies in the region.”

The International Community

Nersesyan said, “Of course, we are looking for the international community, including the United States, to condemn first of all the perpetrators of the violence and to force Turkey to stay out of this conflict, and of course these are things on which we are working within our dialogue with the United States government.”

He stressed the importance of the international mediation of the Minsk Group, and said, “We need to work within the format of the OSCE Minsk Group cochairs to work out a mutually acceptable solution such as what the Prime Minister of Armenia has proposed, a solution acceptable for the peoples of Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan.” More immediately, he said, “We hope the international community steps in, condemns the Turkish and Azerbaijani aggression against Nagorno Karabakh, and forces these two countries to stop the violence against Karabakh. The cochairs are working on this but this is an extraordinary situation and the international community needs to undertake much more forceful action.”

The Cyber World

Along with the aggression against the border, the Azerbaijan government has unleashed cyberattacks against Armenian government and nongovernmental websites as well as some Armenian media sites and emails. Nersesyan said that this is not disrupting fundamental activities, whether diplomatic or public relations. It may create minor delays and issues but damaged websites are quickly restored.

The US and US Armenians

There was a statement last week by the US State Department warning Americans to stay away from Armenia’s border regions. Nersesyan said, “The fact that the US issued a warning obviously speaks for itself, indicating that there was certain information about the looming crisis.”

Nersesyan said, “We are always very much appreciative of the US role as one of the cochairs of the OSCE Minsk Group from the beginning and throughout the course of the conflict, alongside the Russian Federation and France. Yesterday, the State Department made its position clear when it issued a statement, which is positive. It calls upon any third-party external forces not to intervene, and I think that it is clear to whom that message is directed.”
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Edward Biegun has called the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nersesyan said that the conversation with Armenia’s foreign minister was very constructive. He said, “We know that the US government is taking a lot of steps and we appreciate it a lot.”

As far as what US Armenians are doing, Nersesyan said, “I think American Armenians are already doing a lot, and I don’t have to tell them anything. The community here has always been at the forefront of political and humanitarian support to Armenia and Artsakh. We have been receiving so many calls from American Armenians, and we are inspired by this. Worldwide, the Armenian diaspora stands behind Armenia and Artsakh and we are proud of it.”

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Ultimately, Nersesyan concluded, “Armenia is a guarantor of Nagorno Karabakh’s security and the safety of the people of Karabakh is paramount. Armenia and Karabakh reserve the right to take all necessary measures to defend themselves and enforce their right to live peacefully on their ancestral lands. All possible measures have been attempted through diplomacy. Armenia and Karabakh are committed to the peace process. However, if we are attacked and left with no other way, we will undertake all necessary measures militarily, first, to defend the lives of the people of Karabakh, and, if the attacks do not end, to force the violence to stop.”

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