Armenian President says he asked NATO to probe Turkey’s role in Karabakh conflict

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian said in a Bloomberg TV interview Friday that Turkey was “deeply involved” in the conflict and he’d asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to investigate the actions of its member state.

“I hope our colleagues in NATO will make their voice heard and put pressure on Turkey that they should not get involved,” Sarkissian said. While he’s thankful to Putin for organizing the talks, Armenia won’t have “any other choice” but to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence if fighting continues, he said.

Question: In Caucasus where more than 300 people have died and thousands have been displaced since a region fighting have broke about two weeks ago in Nagorno Karabakh. Now, the region is officially part of Azerbaijan but won by ethnic Armenians. Turkey’s intervention deviates unreserved backing to Azerbaijan has raised the stakes significantly. I mean, calls for ceasefire, multures from the US, Russia and France have begun efforts to try end the violence. We’re joining now to Armen Sarkissian, he is the president of Armenia. Mr. President, thank you so much for joining Bloomberg’s Relevance. Let me to put in that the Russian president has invited parties today to try and find the ceasefire, a way forward with your Foreign Minister and, of course, the Foreign Minister from the other side. Are you confident that you will be able to reach a ceasefire.

President Armen Sarkissian: I cannot say I am confident that we will reach a ceasefire because I think that the two foreign ministers are going to Moscow, they are going to enter a sort of a dark room in order to start negotiating and talking about ceasefire. But I am happy that this meeting is happening and I am thankful to the Russian Federation President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov for organizing this meeting because it is absolutely needed to stop the shelling and stop the fighting because there are hundreds and hundreds of losses on both sides, there is a huge humanitarian crisis there and the war is hitting civilians and so on and so force. I am thankful to the Minsk of Co-Chairs and the Russian Government, and I hope they will get a ceasefire.

Question: Mr. President, is Russia really the only power here that can break an agreement? Do you need Russia’s support? Have you spoken to President Putin?

President: Well, to make it clear, this is one of those conflicts that has a framework where it can take the negotiations to the peace finally. This is the Minsk Group of the OSCE, which was created more than 20 years ago when the first war of Nagorno-Karabakh was over and sides were negotiating on the peaceful outcome of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh. However for this or that reason Azerbaijan on the 27th of September decided that they would not go the path of peace or negotiations. They decided that they can solve it with arms and armaments. And, of course, Turkey’s intervention can be crucial there.

Question: Yeah, but do you want Russia’s support in it? Have you had any contact with Vladimir Putin since the crisis began?

President Armen Sarkissian: Well, we have a regular contact with Vladimir Putin but on our side, the negotiators on the Minsk Group platform are the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. On the Azeri side, it is the President and the Foreign Minister. The person who is in contact with the president Putin regularly is my Prime Minister because he is in charge, also on the Armenian side, not on the Nagorno-Karabakh side, because they have their own president. The Prime Minister is there and I have my own regular contacts with president Putin during my years of presidency. But again, the platform is the Minsk Group.

Question: Ok, you accuse Turkey in military involvement and support to Azerbaijan, something that they deny. Do you have proof that this has happened? Have you shown proof to France and NATO allies? What have they answered to do?

President Armen Sarkissian: Well, basically, neither me, nor my government, nor my ministers need to present proofs because proofs are there. They are in form of recognized announcements by the Azeri side, the Azeri officials. There are videos, photos, everything and even foreign intelligence organizations or departments of several countries, including Russia, have reported the presence of Islamic terrorists on the territory of Azerbaijan that were brought there by Turkey. And the presence of the Turkish military, Turkish drones, even F-16s that are in use now in the battle as well.

Question: So, what have you asked NATO allies to do in response to this?

President Armen Sarkissian: Well, I made it clear and I have asked the NATO to look at this very carefully because we have a situation where a member of NATO-an organization, which has a clear mandate of what to do-is taking part or getting involved in a conflict of third parties, which are not NATO members. Does Turkey have an authorization or a green light from NATO? If yes, we should know that. If not, then I hope that our colleagues in NATO will make their voice heard and put pressure on Turkey that they should not get involved into this conflict because their presence here is not helping at all, it is complicating the situation traumatically.

Question: Mr. President, Azerbaijan has it’s fighting to regain its internationally recognized territory that 30 years of talks haven’t actually helped that much. Why would they not be allowed to do that?

President Armen Sarkissian: Why would they not be allowed of killing people or starting a war? What is the question? I will try to answer in a different form. You have negotiations and those negotiations of more than 20 years have achieved a lot, and the scope and the scale of questions that sides had to negotiate is huge, tremendous. During these 20 years we have come to a couple of very important ones that needed political decision. A very hard work was done, and in the meantime there were changes of negotiators from both sides. On the Armenian side there were three presidents involved before and now it is the Prime Minister, who is in charge of negotiating. If you are a bit unhappy with negotiations, what do you do? Or you start a war or you start continuing because negotiating process with a complex story is a very tough job? And then what is the alternative? The alternative is death of people? Basically destroying infrastructure and creating a big uncertainty in the whole region? I do not think that we have exhausted all of the possibilities, and the time is to return back to negotiations. But in order to do that, I think, one of the important steps is to make sure Turkey is no longer involved there. It is just between Azerbaijan and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Artsakh.

Question: The Prime Minister of Armenia said that he may consider the independence of Nagorno Karabakh as a response to the conflict. Would that stop the fighting? Under what circumstances would that be done? Under what circumstances would you actually recognize the independence?

President Armen Sarkissian: It forces me to take you back a little bit into history. First of all, Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh is a part of historic Armenia, of historic land, a mountainous beautiful region where Armenians used to live for thousands of years and they still live there. The day they became Christian with all the other Armenians since the year 301, there are churches, Christian monuments and so on. It was only for 70 years that this region was given as an autonomous region to Azerbaijan. It was given by the Comrade Stalin. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, we got the first war and 30 years of negotiations. What is claiming the Azeri side is that they want us to free their territory. Free from whom? There are ethnic Armenians 100% living there, so you are freeing from them? In my vocabulary this is called ethnic cleansing. They want the land without Armenians. In case of Armenians, they are fighting for their life, for their heritage, for their religion and for what they believed, their houses, their parents and children. There are two different approaches to the same problem.

Question: I understand, Mr. President, but my question was would you consider independence or under what circumstances would you do that?

President : Yes, let me give the answer here and the answer is clear. From the day 1 of when the first war was over and a ceasefire was established in 1994, there was a question on the table whether Armenia and other states should recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh]? But the Armenian side, taking into account that there is a negotiating process, the Minsk Group with the three Co-Chairs, we restrained ourselves, giving a chance to negotiations to come to a final conclusion on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. But if this war continues, probably Armenia will not be left with any other choice but to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh and ask the International Community to recognize it as well.

Question: President, thank you so much for your time today. Armen Sarkissian, the president of Armenia.

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