Artsakh Foreign Minister David Babayan giving a speech at a September 19 Capitol Hill event Salute to Artsakh’s Independence, cosponsored by the US Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of the US (Eastern Region)

Artsakh Foreign Minister Babayan Assesses US Trip as Positive

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WATERTOWN — Foreign Minister of the Republic of Artsakh David Babayan completed a brief visit to the United States at the end of September, accompanied by Lernik Hovhannisyan, Artsakh Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, and Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh Permanent Representative to the United States and Canada. During the visit, Babayan visited Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. 

From left, Artsakh Permanent Representative to the US and Canada Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh Foreign Minister David Babayan, Congressman Adam Schiff, and Artsakh Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Lernik Hovhannisyan in a meeting on September 25 in Washington

Speaking before his return to Artsakh, he said that though some time was necessary to understand the long-term outcomes of the trip, “in general, the results are already really positive. We met with local Armenian compatriots and diasporan organizations. You know that the Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora trinity is at the heart of our state-building process and foreign policy. Within this context, it was a very important visit because we cemented our ties further and we think that such contacts are very important, especially taking into consideration the role of the Armenian-American community in the development of Artsakh and Armenia, and its active role in defending our national interests in the US and globally.” 

In addition to meeting American-Armenians, he said, “The second layer of the trip was relations with and interactions with US political, public and analytical circles. We consider this to be very expedient because we have to understand the current reality and see the reality as it is, not to look at it with rose-colored spectacles. We need to know what to expect, what to anticipate.” 

While Babayan was unwilling to reveal any specifics, proclaiming his slogan to be “Be quiet, work more,” he did say that the trip allowed explaining the Artsakh position to American circles and pointing out the destructive policy of Turkey. He said, “We also got a general impression, and to some extent even precise data – a picture of possible developments…meetings gave us answers to many, many questions.” 

When asked how he interpreted the recent indications of greater US involvement in the Caucasus, he replied: “Every great country has a role to play in the region, and they are playing it actually. But here I would like to underline one crucial point. We don’t have to choose between the US and Russia, or any other country. We don’t have to develop relations with one of them at the expense of the other. It would be a catastrophe for us, not only geopolitical but internal. Look, we are a diasporic people. More Armenians live outside our historic lands than inside.” 

He continued that with such large Armenian communities in many countries, we do not want to cause problems for any of them, and Armenians must maintain unity. He said, “There are only two people who can afford to keep normal, very close fraternal relations with many countries which even have problems with each other. They are the Armenian and Jewish peoples. If we don’t do this, it means that we lack either professionalism or patriotism. We should be very, very wise here not to become a battlefield of great powers, because we do not have the resources to even survive in this case.”

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Aside from maintaining close relations with these countries, he suggested that there must be some geopolitical “specialization” in the region. He explained: “For example, we can’t envisage the future of Artsakh without Russian peacekeepers because they are the only component which can maintain relative peace and stability in the region and somehow contain Azerbaijan. This is the reality. If there are no Russian peacekeepers there will be no Artsakh. Consequently, anybody who is against Russia on the Armenian side, saying bad things about Russia, is actually doing the same thing against Artsakh and Armenia.” 

Similarly, he said that Artsakh would envision strong US involvement through the containment of Turkey. He said, “There is only one country in the world that can still contain Turkey by political means, and that is the United States. This window of opportunity is narrowing at a really rapid pace. In 2-3 years, Turkey will be an independent geopolitical player.” He compared Turkey with Hitler’s Germany, tricking both the West and the Soviets, and turning into a major world danger.   

Babayan added that those who consider Russia at fault in the 2020 war for not saving the Armenians were wrong and were giving the wrong signals to the Russians. He said, “Who is going to suffer from that? I don’t think that the Azerbaijanis or Turks will suffer. We have to be really wise. Our country is entering maybe the most difficult period of its history. I don’t think that we have the right or luxury to target any country.” 

He concluded that in any case, “In the 2020 war, we were not defeated by Turks and Azerbaijanis. We were defeated by ourselves.” 

In connection with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s recent statements that it might be possible to have a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan not dealing with Artsakh, he declared, “We are not against any peace treaties, whether between Armenia and Azerbaijan, or Armenia and Turkey. Who can be against peace treaties? The problem is the price of such peace treaties. We think there could not be any peace treaty at the expense of recognizing Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, or a peace treaty with Turkey refuting the 1915 genocide. It will lead to catastrophe and we will lose our statehood.” 

He stressed, “Artsakh has no future in Azerbaijan. It has only one future: destruction and genocide. After the destruction of Artsakh, there will be no Armenia. Do not cherish any hope that it could somehow guarantee security.” 

Babayan stressed that as a nation, not only military defense but a correct foreign policy are necessary. Meanwhile, he said, “We have to be both realists and optimists at the same time, because this is the basis for success. What we have to do now is to recover from this devastating war, to construct houses and apartments for refugees and internally displaced people, and to provide jobs. There are some very large-scale projects taking place in Artsakh, and hundreds of houses and apartments have already been constructed. The state adopted a project to finish that in maybe two or three years. After that, the social situation will somehow be stabilized. But we will also need to conduct very profound economic reforms in order to accommodate to the new situation.” 

He said that the assistance of the entire Armenian nation, in Armenia and diaspora, was needed for this effort. He  praised in particular the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund as one of the most organized pan-Armenian structures. Despite some criticisms of it and difficulties, he said, “What we have to do is to make it very effective again, and cement the three parts of the world organization, Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora.” 

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