Azerbaijan keeps targeting towns and villages in breach of agreement on ceasefire – Armenian FM

The Nagorno-Karabakh defense forces are absolutely resolute to continue their defense, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“They are defending this methodic, meticulous attack on the civilians, on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” he added.

The full text of the interview is provided below:

Question: We heard our correspondent Sinem telling us that an Azeri official is saying that it was clear the rockets that were fired in Ganja came from inside Armenia, and that Nagorno-Karabakh’s military officials have denied attacking the city. Is Armenia breaking the ceasefire?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: That is a total lie that is coming out in batches from Baku. Armenia has not been doing that. And that has been rejected by the Ministry of Defense.

We have achieved an important statement yesterday night to establish a ceasefire for the humanitarian purposes and to start working on that. But a few hours later, in the early hours of the morning on Saturday, Azerbaijan has been continuing with its military operations in every direction, mostly in the south. Most appallingly, they have been continuously targeting and hitting the civilian settlements, towns and villages, the civilian infrastructure of Nagorno-Karabakh in a methodic way. This has been going on for the entire morning all the way to the afternoon. After 12pm., when we were supposed to have the ceasefire established, these operations have been continuing on the Azerbiajani side. This is a premeditated attack on what we have been trying to achieve with this ceasefire.

Question: I want to clarify one thing with you sir. If Armenia is not responsible for the attacks on Ganja (another one happened on October 4), but if it is not responsible for this latest attack, who, do you think, did it?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: The Nagorno-Karabakh defence forces are absolutely resolute to continue their defence, you have to understand. They are defending this methodic, meticulous attack on the civilians, on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Question: Now, If I can understand you, let me interrupt you, because I really want to be clear on this.You are saying that these are not Armenian forces that are firing these missiles, these are forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, the defence forces there, who are defending Nagorno-Karabakh while the ceasefire is in place. Is that correct?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: The ceasefire has been violated by Azerbaijani forces before 12 noon and specifically after 12 noon. They have been continuing their military operations and most appallingly they have been hitting the cities and towns. You must send your people to Stepanakert and to other towns and cities to register the way in which those towns and cities are raised to the ground, in which people have been spending two weeks in the shelters, in which there is a refugee flow, in which they are again doing what they have been doing in the 1990s. – ethnic cleansing, erasing these people from the earth. That will not happen. Defense forces of Nagorno-Karabakh will continue to resolutely defend. And Armenia has been and remains a guarantor of their security.

Question: Armenia has been determined to bring in international support. It has been looking for support from foreign countries. Would that be easier to get if Armenia decided to stop any breach of the ceasefire and lay down its weapons to allow the humanitarian ceasefire to go ahead and exchange of prisoners and the exchange of bodies to go ahead?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Don’t shift the blame on Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh is faithful. We have negotiated this statement in good faith. The Nagorno-Karabakh government, the president have absolutely, unequivocally supported the ceasefire. This is a very important function for the very minimum to do – the humanitarian function of this. There are many serious humanitarian issues that have to be resolved immediately. The return of the bodies, the return of the prisoners of war that has to be done. The ICRC is involved. The Armenian sides – Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia – are absolutely interested in that. And we have been in good faith with the ceasefire.

Question: To allow the process of the humanitarian work to go ahead, our correspondent Bernard Smith was telling us that no date had yet been said for that to begin because it was dependent on there being a ceasefire. Is there a way that Armenia can bring pressure on whoever it is that is firing rockets into Azerbaijan to stop doing that so that the humanitarian action can take place? 

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I am coming back to the same question: Armenia is faithful to its commitment; Nagorno-Karabakh is faithful to its commitment. I am just repeating myself again in a very unequivocal way: since morning yesterday, all the way to the very-very late hours of the night, Azerbaijan has been shelling, targeting Stepanakert and other towns and villages. They have inflicted enormous damage to the civilians, to the civilian infrastructure all over day, when the ceasefire was emplaced. They don’t apparently understand what the ceasefire is about. Ceasefire does not mandate them to kill civilians and to hit civilian settlements. That’s what was happening after 12 pm. Let’s be very clear about it. 

This once again brings in a very important question: verification mechanisms. We want the ceasefire, we want verification mechanisms on the ground, which will indicate the perpetrator, which will demonstrate the party, which is not faithful to this ceasefire. We have been saying this for a long time and I repeat this again. 

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