Foreign Minister David Babayan of the Artsakh Republic

Artsakh Foreign Minister Babayan Discusses Situation at ADL Party Press Conference

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WATERTOWN — Artsakh Foreign Minister David Babayan spoke about the complex realities on the ground at a Zoom press conference organized by the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) press, on February 2.

A native of Stepanakert, Babayan is also president of the Conservative Party of Artsakh.

Sevag Hagopian, editor of the Beirut-based ADL newspaper Zartonk, served as the moderator of the nearly two-hour session. After introducing Babayan, the latter spoke on current conditions in Artsakh and then proceeded to answer numerous questions from the audience.

Babayan said that Artsakh has lost all but 20 percent of its territory, and is practically completely surrounded by Azerbaijan, which is supported by Turkey. He compared Artsakh with a man who is heavily wounded but alive and in the course of recovery. Azerbaijan cannot physically destroy it due to the presence of Russian peacekeepers but instead attempts psychologically to oppress it, he declared. With faith and love, Babayan said, everything can be preserved, but, as he has often done in the past, he called for the unity of Armenia, Artsakh and the diaspora as essential.

He added during the question-and-answer session that there have been some attempts in Artsakh, just as on the border of Azerbaijan and southern Armenia, to enter Armenian-held territory, but both the Artsakh defense forces and the Russian peacekeepers have made them fail. The destruction of Armenian monuments in the territories occupied by Azerbaijan actively continues, and although the Artsakh state wants international bodies like those connected to the United Nations to visit and investigate, Azerbaijan does not permit it. Babayan added that a few places, like Dadivank, are protected directly by Russian peacekeepers, but when Azerbaijanis cannot openly destroy such monuments, they try to reidentify them as Caucasian Albanian, not Armenian. On the other hand, he said an Azerbaijani attempt to get the Russian Orthodox church involved by calling Shushi’s Armenian churches orthodox failed.

Babayan declared that Artsakh is in favor of the Russian peacekeepers remaining after 2025 and said that he believed that indeed they will continue in their mission in an even more stable fashion, even if Azerbaijan attempts to disturb the situation. On the other hand, he did not think that diplomacy alone will be able to achieve the return of the territories that Azerbaijan occupied in the 2020 war, as he did not believe Azerbaijan willingly would return even one millimeter of land.

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Even after any regime change in Azerbaijan, Babayan said he did not think anything would be altered for Armenians. He said that domestic policies and the clans controlling Azerbaijan might be different, but fundamental change would be hard since Pan-Turkism would remain the chief ideology.

He underlined the strategic importance of Artsakh not just for Armenians but the world, stressing that if it ceases to exist, all Transcaucasia will fall into Turkic hands and the Turkic world will be connected all the way to China.

Babayan noted two points about the current Artsakh constitution of 2017 (the first was in 2006) which he found undesirable and even dangerous. He said he raised those points during the recent electoral campaigns in Artsakh several years ago. According to the 2017 constitution, both the president and the National Assembly of Artsakh are elected on the same day. This will cause problems if one of these institutions wishes to declare a lack of confidence in the other or if the president dies or resigns shortly after election. The state machinery potentially could be paralyzed so the dates should be different for the two elections. Secondly, while in the former 2006 constitution, elections were considered as valid if over 20 percent of the electors participated, this limit was removed in the current constitution. This could cause problematic situations so the qualifying limit should be restored. For example, a village head might be elected under the current rules even if only one person voted in the municipal election.

There are still over 20,000 Artsakh refugees at present in Armenia, chiefly from the occupied regions of Hadrut, Karvajar, Kashatagh, Martuni and Askeran, Babayan said, but many homes have already been constructed for them and within 2 ½ years, according to plans, no person will be left without housing. Economic progress is necessary for them to have employment, and here Babayan said the role of the diaspora is important.

The majority of the Artsakh state annual budget after the 2020 war comes from Armenia, said Babayan, just as after the first Artsakh war of the 1990s, when everything was in ruins. However, despite the decrease in its economic abilities, Babayan said that with intensive work Artsakh can again become self-sufficient.

Babayan said that he was not opposed to Armenia entering into dialogue with Turkey, as long as it was done intelligently, with Armenian national interests kept foremost in mind. Two red lines that should not be crossed are Armenian recognition of Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan and relinquishing efforts at recognition of the Armenian Genocide. If this happens, Armenia would become an object and not a subject or actor of international politics, Babayan concluded.

He ended the press conference proclaiming his hopes of keeping strong ties always with ADL newspapers and the other participants, and reminded all, “We do not have the right to let Artsakh be destroyed. The destruction of Artsakh means the destruction of the Armenian state.” Moderator Hagopian concurred, calling for all to travel to Artsakh and to work together.

The ADL press consortium offers a second Zoom press conference open to the public at noon on February 19 with Yerevan State University Professor Ruben Safrastyan, director of Yerevan’s Institute of Oriental Studies, speaking on “Turkish-Armenian Relations in the Regional Maelstrom” (register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMpc-6spz4iHdT4jSvmiJKKW7D7YrxOQObJ). The moderator will be Hagop Avedikyan, editor of Yerevan’s Azg newspaper. The ADL press sponsors include the newspapers Azg, Abaka, Arev, Zartonk, Nor Ashkharh, Baikar, Armenian Mirror-Spectator, and Sardarabad.

 

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