Ruben Rubinyan

Armenian Foreign Relations Committee Chair Rubinyan Comments on Azerbaijani Attacks

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YEREVAN – Ruben Rubinyan, chairman of the Armenian parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Relations, on October 7 spoke about various international relations aspects of the current Azerbaijani attacks against Artsakh and Armenia.

He pointed out that Nagorno Karabakh obtained its independence from Soviet Azerbaijan in full compliance with the constitution of the Soviet Union, according to the clause which stipulated that if a republic initiates withdrawal from the Soviet Union, autonomous entities like that of Karabakh may conduct referendums for this purpose, which Karabakh did do.

Legally, he said about a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions on Karabakh which were passed in the 1990s, “Azerbaijan always likes to underline what it likes but does not underline the most important part of those resolutions, which is about the fact that fighting should be stopped, meaning that the use of force is unacceptable. So Azerbaijan has been consistently acting against those resolutions.”

Furthermore, he said that the most widely accepted format and framework of talking about the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is that of the Minsk Group of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). For decades, negotiations have taken place in this framework, and the principle of self-determination was and is one of the basic principles of this framework.

As far as the current fighting goes, Rubinyan said that simple logic indicates that it is Azerbaijan which is the party interested in starting a conflict. There were many statements made this year by Azerbaijani officials pointing in this direction, and at non-public reactions, Rubinyan said most of Armenia’s international partners recognize this.

There are also public reactions, such as President Emmanuel Macron of France averring publicly that Azerbaijan started the war. Rubinyan said, “During this war, there has been a certain shift in the understanding of this conflict among our international partners.” He gave as an example the statement of High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell on October 7 in the European Parliament. Borrell said that when he spoke with the foreign minister of Azerbaijan it was worrisome that the latter put forth preconditions to a ceasefire.

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Rubinyan  concluded, “So, generally speaking, in the context of this war, we could say that the international community overall does recognize the fact that Azerbaijan started this war and even more actively does recognize that Turkey is a major destabilizing and involved party in this war, and that jihadi terrorists were indeed transported by Turkey to the war zone.”

Rubinyan remarked that the Turkish F-16 jet which shot down an Armenian military plane over the territory of the Republic of Armenia, the presence of Turkish soldiers on Azerbaijani soil, including operators of drones, are further evidence of Turkey directly fighting in this war. He said, “Regarding an even more active involvement, there is such a risk, because Mr. Erdogan is unpredictable in his aggressiveness and the destabilization of the regions around Turkey, so when I say this conflict is not only an Armenian issue any more, I mean exactly that: Turkey has become an issue for all countries in the region.”

Ending the War

Rubinyan said that after international mediators and actors called for a ceasefire, Armenia said it is ready for one, but the problem is that even after it has made such statements, Azerbaijan and Turkey have made their intentions clear about continuing the war. He said, “Regarding negotiations, the position of Armenia is clear: you can’t negotiate while the other side is shooting at you. As long as Azerbaijan does not agree to a ceasefire which the [OSCE Minsk Group] cochairs have called for, negotiations are impossible.”

Under these circumstances, Rubinyan said, “Everything depends on the armed forces of Nagorno Karabakh. We don’t have much hope that Azerbaijan and Turkey will suddenly become peace-loving, but the armed forces of Nagorno Karabakh are able and will defend the people of Nagorno Karabakh.”

In other words, he said, “The ideal outcome of any war is the end of the war, but given the situation and the level of aggressiveness of Azerbaijan and Turkey, right now it seems that the only way that this war could stop is an Azerbaijani-Turkish defeat by Nagorno Karabakh forces, which could theoretically of course include military advances, also geographical.”

He said that the fear is that ethnic cleansing and genocide could occur if the Karabakh forces stop fighting, but that “winning in this war is more than realistic.” As far as the borders of the Republic of Armenia itself are concerned, Rubinyan stated, “Armenia’s borders are defined by the mere fact of Armenian independence. They are internationally recognized borders. The fact is that they are not contested by Turkey, but should Turkey try to invade Armenia, there are countries around, including Russia, which are allies and have obligations in those cases.”

The question of Armenian recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, or Artsakh, was discussed from day one of the current war, Rubinyan said. “It is still an open question, but the development of this war shows that the international recognition of the independence of Artsakh becomes a necessity because it is the best way to ensure the security of the people of Nagorno Karabakh,” he added.

Missiles and similar military equipment are being used by both Azerbaijan and Karabakh at present but Rubinyan distinguished between the way each party was acting. He said, “the Nagorno Karabakh armed forces have been using them solely to destroy military objectives in Azerbaijan as a means to defend themselves, because the Azerbaijani armed have been shelling civilian towns and villages in Nagorno Karabakh.”

There were some complaints recently by the Iranian government of damage across its border during the fighting. Rubinyan said that the Armenian Defense Ministry has explained that Azerbaijan is deliberately moving its equipment and soldiers along the border with Iran in the hopes that Nagorno Karabakh’s armed forces would be reluctant to shoot at them, but they are not, and to Rubinyan’s knowledge, the damage on Iranian territory was not caused by Karabakh Armenian actions.

Meanwhile, Rubinyan said that Armenia’s other neighbor, Georgia, “is fairly neutral so far, which we do appreciate.”

Rubinyan’s Career Background

The thirty-year-old Rubinyan was born in Yerevan, and after graduating from Yerevan State University with a specialization in international relations, obtained two master’s degrees, one from University College London and a second from Jagiellonian University in Poland, in related fields.

He said, “I am a founding member of the Civil Contract Party. We created the party and then we did the revolution with the people.” Afterwards, in May 2018, he was appointed deputy foreign minister of the Republic of Armenia. He served in this post until January 2019, but then was elected as a member of the Armenian parliament. As such, he became chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Comparing his two most recent positions, he said, “As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I am at least as involved, or even more involved, in making foreign policy.”

Rubinyan explained that “The committee is basically in charge of parliamentary diplomacy, which means interparliamentary contacts, on bilateral levels or on the level of interparliamentary platforms such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, or contacts with the European Parliament.”

According to the Armenian Constitution, parliament has a role in creating foreign policy, although the policy is conducted by the prime minister. He said, “There is a certain synergy between the Foreign Ministry and the parliament as a whole when it comes to foreign policy.” The representatives of the Foreign Ministry, including the foreign minister himself at times, are invited to the committee frequently to present plans, budgets, and specific situations. The committee discusses the budget, and in the end the entire parliament must approve the budget for the government as a whole.

Rubinyan continues to serve as vice president of the governing board of the Civil Contract Party, and is responsible for the foreign relations of the party itself, which basically concerns inter-party contacts.

US Armenians

Rubinyan said, “I would like to greet our compatriots in the US and thank them for being with us. I am very happy to see that unprecedented amounts of money are being donated to the All Armenian Fund. At the same time making this issue salient and deepening the understanding of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in countries where Armenians reside is important.” The conflict was traditionally viewed as a somewhat frozen post-Soviet conflict, but it has a different and new context, he said, which hopefully can be better understood. He stressed: “This conflict is not about Armenians any more but it is about the whole Eurasian region.”

The United States can be more involved too as a mediator. Rubinyan said, “We do appreciate the role of the US as one of the three cochairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and we hope that the United States will be more active in stopping Turkish aggression against Armenia.”

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