by Marco Gombacci
We spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan before the signing of the armistice, which shocked the Armenian public as Christian Armenia and Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh, with the intervention of Russia and Turkey, suffered severe territorial losses.
DEMOKRACIJA: A month ago, the war in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up again. What is happening now?
PASHINYAN: First of all, we must remember that Turkey was the one that re-started the conflict, sending mercenaries and terrorists from Syria and Pakistan, transferring part of its armed forces to Azerbaijan and supplying military equipment to the Azerbaijani forces. They wanted a quick and rapid war to overtake Nagorno-Karabakh. According to their calculations, the war was supposed to last a maximum of a week or ten days, but Nagorno-Karabakh has defended itself and will continue to do so. Turkey did not intervene to only help Azerbaijan, but rather to pursue its own imperialist policy. Here, Turkish policy continues to be implemented as in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece, Cyprus, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Armenians in the South Caucasus are the latest obstacle to a new Ottoman dominance in the region. If the international community fails to stop Erdogan’s expansionist goals, it risks finding the Turks at the gates of Vienna again in the near future.
DEMOKRACIJA: What can Europe realistically expect given that some countries are still blocking sanctions against Turkey?
PASHINYAN: We are relying only on ourselves and on countries that are strong allies of Armenia. The security of the country and the Armenian nation is our responsibility. The security of Europe, on the other hand, is not my job, but do not blame us saying we had not warned you. Europeans do not see what is happening. Just because they do not use artillery, this does not mean the war has not already started. The war in Europe is happening as we speak!
DEMOKRACIJA: What kind of war are you talking about?
PASHINYAN: Look at what is happening in France. Did you not perceive the tone in which Turkish President Erdogan addressed Macron? Have you ever thought that any president of the country could speak to the President of France in such a way and say such things about France? Who could have imagined this fifteen years ago? I do not remember, even during the Cold War, that any leader of the Soviet Union addressed the President of a European country in this way. People are being beheaded on the streets of Europe. What is this, if not war?
DEMOCRACIJA: You have recently stated that there are no diplomatic solutions to this conflict. Do you still think so?
PASHINYAN: How can we even talk about diplomatic solutions when truces are systematically violated? The armistices, mediated by France, Russia and the United States, expired minutes after the signing. If the agreements are not followed, it is impossible to talk about a diplomatic solution.
DEMOKRACIJA: The war reached a new peak when you came to power. Is there anything we could do to prevent the escalation of violence?
PASHINYAN: The situation has not changed since 2011. The problem is that something can be prevented only by giving in, but not only on the one side with the other side not moving from its positions. The reason is simple: the other side has more money to buy weapons. I could not be defending our interests and the interests of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, but would I avoid a war by doing so? No. Because Azerbaijan would always demand more and more. The situation is similar to that in Europe at the dawn of World War II under the Munich Agreement. European countries thought that by handing over Czechoslovakia to Hitler they would pacify Nazi Germany and the war would not break out. We know how it ended. If we continue with the historical comparison, we will never extradite Czechoslovakia.
DEMOKRACIJA: Are you planning to ask Moscow for Kremlin support? And for what kind of support, military or humanitarian?
PASHINYAN: Russia is a strategic partner of Armenia. I am in favour of deploying Russian peace observers to the conflict areas. The only problem is that all parties involved must agree to this. This is acceptable for Armenia, but Azerbaijan must give its consent as well. It is also important to know that Russia has made it clear that, in the event of an imminent threat to Armenia’s territorial integrity, it will abide by the pacts it binds, including through military intervention.
DEMOKRACIJA: Is it not the reason for the battered impression of the international community about the Armenian defensive position the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh forces are bombing civilians in Ganja ?
PASHINYAN: No. One has to ask why Ganja is being bombed (a city under the Azerbaijani control). Nagorno-Karabakh’s defense forces have legitimately focused only on hostile military positions. It is possible that civilian objects were also damaged in the process. But even here, in the city of Shusi (at the time of the conversation still under the Armenian control), they bombed a church – certainly not a military target.
DEMOKRACIJA: What message do you want to convey to the world and to Europe?
PASHINYAN: Nagorno-Karabakh is a reflection of the war on terror. Why do you think they continue to bomb Stepanakert (the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh)? For one simple reason: they want people to stop believing they can live there. This is just an introduction to the ethnic cleansing and genocide that could happen to Armenians after the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.
Nikol Pashinyan was born in 1975 in Ijevan, Armenia. His basic profession is a journalist who has later in life ventured into politics. Before being re-elected as Prime Minister last year, he was the leader of the reformist opposition with his Social Contract party. He and his wife Ana have three children.