Photo: Daro Salukauri/Bloomberg
War can break out “at any moment” in Nagorno-Karabakh and there’s little prospect of talks to resolve the conflict, the President of Armenia said.
A Russian-brokered truce may not be enough to prevent fighting “on an even larger scale” after four days of war between Azeris and Armenians this month that involved “several hundred tanks” and 30,000 artillery rounds, Serzh Sargsyan said in an interview with Bloomberg at the presidential residence in Yerevan.
It’s “unreasonable” for Armenia to resume peace talks with Azerbaijan without security guarantees because “the situation is entirely different now,” he said.
“On the one hand we’d be talking somewhere while, on the other, military officials would be engaging in war here to try to settle the conflict,” he said.
Speaking about Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Armenia, President Sargsyan said “Lavrov didn’t “bring any new proposals” because “he realizes very well that it doesn’t make sense to talk about negotiations immediately after a four-day war.”
Battles raged along the full 200-kilometer length of the front line as Azerbaijan tried to punch through to Nagorno-Karabakh itself and then “issue an ultimatum” to Karabakh, he said.
Sargsyan said Azeri troops took “very small pieces” of land in the north and south of the contact line that “had no strategic importance” for Armenian forces, who didn’t try to reclaim them “to avoid additional losses” of life, he said.
While the chief of the defense staff in Moscow mediated the cease-fire talks, there’s no place for Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone to separate the two sides, Sargsyan said. Talk of deploying Russian forces “wasn’t entirely without grounds” in previous peace negotiations, though “I don’t see any such opportunity” now, he said.
“If there are no negotiations, how can Russian forces appear in Karabakh or between Azeri and Karabakh forces?” Sargsyan said. Russia’s pursuing a “balanced policy” between Armenia and Azerbaijan while seeking to avert “large-scale military conflict,” he said.
Sargsyan said Russian, U.S. and French mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe must put in place “confidence-building measures” before any new peace talks, and particularly “an investigation mechanism for violations of the cease-fire that would pinpoint exactly which party” was responsible. Armenia also requires “assurances that these kinds of violations will not happen again,” he said.