Full restoration of the ceasefire regime is a must, Armenian Ambassador says

Tigran Mkrtchyan, Ambassador of Armenia to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, authored an op-ed on the recent Azerbaijani aggression on the border of the Republic of Armenia, which was simultaneously published in the largest periodicals of the three countries.

In Lithuania, Ambassador Mkrtchyan’s article was published in Lietuvos rytas, the country’s largest daily, on the cover of Neatkarīgā, one of Latvia’s biggest daily newspapers and on its nra.lv website, and in Estonia, in the print edition of “esti Päevaleht”, which has the largest audience, and on its webpage.

Below is the translation of the article:

‘Full restoration of the ceasefire regime is a must! On July 12th the Azerbaijani border forces started provocative actions on the state borders of Armenia in the north-eastern direction. Civilian population, gas pipeline, factories, including one that makes masks necessary to fight COVID 19 pandemic came under attack.

Anyone who has ever crossed the Armenian-Georgian border on a car knows that the situation in the region situated northeast of Armenian-Azerbaijani border is extremely unpredictable. Azerbaijani military oftentimes would start shelling the nearest areas, keeping the population tense. Travelers even might be asked to divert from their route so as not to endanger themselves. In spite of all this, we must admit that the last few days is a different story altogether. Targeting civilian infrastructures is a clear sign of violation of the international humanitarian law.

Still, a few days after the renewal of hostilities, which had to be responded by the Armenian side, we read the mind-blowing threat by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry about the possibility to launch missile attacks at the Armenian Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. The threat was a flagrant violation of the International Humanitarian Law in general. Such actions are an explicit demonstration of state terrorism and genocidal intent.

There are members of the international community and organizations that have refrained from pinpointing who the aggressor is, and who the victim is in the absence of independently established facts. Such a stance, which might perhaps look like an appeasement for an aggressor, can be explained by the fact that there are no local ceasefire violation monitoring measures. And here we come to the biggest question mark of the entire situation. Why aren’t there any such measures on Armenian-Azerbaijani borders?

It would be unjust to blame the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (the USA, France and Russia), the single internationally mandated organization which mediates between the sides seeking a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Diverting hereby I should emphasize that, in 1990s, Azerbaijan, even though it was fighting to gain control over Nagorno-Karabakh, annexed to it by Stalin’s authoritarian decision in 1921, eventually embarked on a total fight and blockade against Armenia. Armenian territory was shelled from all possible angles where it borders with Azerbaijan.

Armenia has repeatedly stated and continues to insist that there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. There are specific proposals for security and confidence-building measures, including an increase in the number and permanent deployment of international observers on the ground, a direct line of communications and the introduction of a mechanism to investigate alleged ceasefire violations. Their implementation will help avoid further escalation renewals.

However, Azerbaijan has rejected these control mechanisms, the absence of which contributes to both an increase in civilian casualties and baseless accusations against the Armenian sides. I would like to emphasize that in the current situation, efforts to end hostilities, unconditionally and fully restore, preserve and strengthen the ceasefire regime signed between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan are imperative.

After the outbreak of COVID 19 at the end of March, the UN General Secretary made an appeal “for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world”, adding that “it is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” Hours later the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan applauded and welcomed this idea. The Azerbaijani side chose to ignore this appeal, as well.

Moreover, over the years the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have time and again reiterated that it is an indispensable need to prepare the societies for peace and refrain from war rhetoric. This is an extremely important point, not to be ignored by anyone longing for peace. The Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan soon after the Velvet Revolution in 2018 has adopted the audacious stance that any conflict resolution must be based on mutual compromises and be acceptable to the peoples of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

This idea was never appreciated by Azerbaijan. Moreover, there have been continuous threats, often by the leader of that country claiming Armenia’s capital and other parts of this cradle of ancient civilization as “Azerbaijan’s historical lands” and demanding that “Azerbaijanis must return to these historical lands.”

The dangerous development of poisoned public opinion could be felt soon after the recent clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Tavush region. The mass rally in Baku where nationalist slogans of Armenophobia could be heard soon enough morphed into anti-governmental appeals, upon which it was immediately dispersed by the Azerbaijani police. Apparently freedom of speech in Azerbaijan is acceptable only when it includes expressions of hatred towards Armenians.

While majority of countries in the world and international organizations are appealing to both sides to refrain from any escalation and return to the table of negotiations, NATO member state Turkey adds fuel to the fire unconditionally supporting Azerbaijan and inciting further actions against Armenia.

Sometimes one may get the impression that the leadership of Turkey feels that the Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Young Turks in 1915, has not been “carried out” fully and that the Republic of Armenia should concede to every wish and whim of the Turks and their ethnic brothers, even at the cost of our total annihilation.

It is worth noting that even in the 21st century, Turkey chooses to build its policy in our region on the traditions of justification of the Armenian Genocide and the impunity of that crime. Turkey’s provocative and biased stance seriously undermines the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and proves that Turkey can’t be involved in any international processes related to the conflict and first and foremost within the OSCE framework. With its approaches, Turkey is an existential security threat for Armenia, and should revisit this dangerous behavior as soon as possible.

Summarizing, I would like to note that it is never too late to embrace the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs proposals on the establishment of ceasefire violations mechanisms and it is never too late to accept and respect ceasefire during and after the COVID crisis. For any conflict to be resolved we need political will of all leaders involved and constructive support of international players. History is a witness to this axiom!

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