The Armenian Ambassador to Athens, Fadey Charchoghlyan, commented on the latest developments in Artsakh with Penta Postagma, condemning the actions of the Azeris and presenting conclusive evidence to crimes they have committed.
Turkey is trying to turn Azerbaijan into a launch pad for influencing a wider region (South Caucasus and Central Asia), while the credibility of NATO and Europe has been jeopardized due to the inability of the organizations to influence the Turkish president.
In addition, Charchoghlyan expressed Yerevan’s satisfaction with Greece’s strong support for Armenia.
The interview in detail:
The latest information from international media indicates that Armenia has lost control of the border with Iran, as well as control of the southern part of Artsakh. What is the situation for Armenian forces at the moment?
On October 20-21, 2020, Azerbaijani forces, violating the humanitarian ceasefire, carried out attacks in the northern direction of the Line of Contact, using air and artillery strikes. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces also launched a large-scale offensive on the southern front. As a result of the countermeasures taken by the Artsakh Defense Army, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces retreated in a southerly direction towards the Hudaferin dam and suffered heavy casualties. Early in the morning, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces resumed bombing settlements, including the town of Martakert and neighboring villages, using banned weapons. The Artsakh Air Defense Forces in the southern direction shot down an Azeri aircraft.
On the afternoon of October 23, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces resumed bombing of the capital of Artsakh, Stepanakert. Residential buildings and a gas pipeline were damaged. The town of Martuni and the community of Avetarants in the Askeran area were also targeted. On the same day, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia shot down inside the airspace of the Republic of Armenia with a manned aircraft of Azerbaijan (northeast direction).
On October 24, Azerbaijan once again attacked peaceful settlements in the Republic of Artsakh. Smerch and Grad systems hit the town of Martuni and the community of Tahavard. The city of Martakert was bombed using military aircraft. The Artsakh Defense Army destroyed Azerbaijani military equipment, including one TOS-1 and one manned aircraft.
On the evening of October 24-25, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces fired artillery in the direction of Karmir Shuka, Taghavard, Gishi, Spitakashen in the Martuni region and the village of Avetaranots in the Askeran region, as well as in the direction of farms.
According to data from October 25, 2020, the casualties among the civilian population has reached 40 people and 120 injured. 13,100 properties, infrastructure and factories have been destroyed or damaged.
Turkey is clearly supporting the Azeris by transferring Islamist mercenaries. Are there any indications of Turkish tactical forces in Artsakh?
Yes, there is a lot of evidence that fighters are there. The difference from the war of the early 1990s is that at that time there were some jihadists – mercenaries from Afghanistan and elsewhere, but they were numbered. This time they are Islamist fighters or terrorists, terrorist groups, which are banned by different countries. They are now in the territory of Azerbaijan, fighting against the Armenians of Artsakh and all this is organized by Turkey. The evidence has been confirmed by the intelligence services in France, Russia and other countries. There are videos, photos, recordings, etc.
Let us not forget that the Armenian side has repeatedly warned its partners, international organizations and the public that Syrian mercenaries could be a factor of long-term destabilization in the region and a serious threat not only to the South Caucasus and neighboring countries, but for other regions including the EU. We note with regret that countries outside Europe are preoccupied with other issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and others.
Now we should not think about the evidence, which already exists, but think about the Turkish involvement and the fact Turkey is fighting against the Armenians in Artsakh on the side of Azerbaijan. They have F-16s, unmanned aircraft, they are actively involved in military and civilian operations, as they bomb civilians.
We would like to urge all those who are raising alarming questions these days “why this war is going on, why the Azerbaijani side is not stopping it while the international community is calling for a ceasefire to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.”
How do you interpret Russia’s inability to actually support Armenia in this critical period, as stipulated in the signed defense agreements?
Russia has signed political and military agreements with Armenia. We have signed these agreements with Russia because Russia remains an ally of Armenia and has been for many years. Historically, Russia has proved that the relations between Armenia and Russia are one of the most important for the two peoples. There is mutual trust between us. Russia also has good relations with Azerbaijan – and in this respect, because unlike Turkey, Russia is not actually involved in this conflict – Russia can become an impartial mediator between the two sides. This is exactly what Russia is trying to do. As a result of President Putin’s statements and political decisions, the Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Sergei Lavrov invited the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan to a meeting under their auspices. They negotiated for over 11 hours and signed a ceasefire agreement. But the next day, the Azeri side simply ignored it. They have shown once again that stopping the war, bombing civilians, returning to talks and resolving the issue peacefully is not in Azerbaijan’s interests, but in this case it is probably not even more in Turkey’s interests.
Probably, Turkey has completely different plans and ideas. That is why the presence of Turkey in this conflict does not allow Azerbaijan to keep its promise, to faithfully follow the maintenance of the ceasefire.
Russia is an ally of Armenia. In recent weeks, it has been the leading diplomatic force negotiating a ceasefire, which, however, has not yet been achieved. We appreciate what President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are doing.
Armenian officials have repeatedly said they see the conflict not only as a territorial dispute, but also as a continuation of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, during which more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire. We do not agree at all that Russia or any other country should be involved in hostilities.
First of all, the Armenians of Artsakh have already shown that they can defend their country, and they did so even during the first war in the 1990s. People in Artsakh live in their homeland. They adopted Christianity in 301 when Azerbaijan and Turkey did not exist. They continue to defend their land, their family, while Turkey has a different approach and ideas. Turkey’s ideas are not just about Artsakh. They are also messages to Armenia, to Armenians around the world, and to Europe.
Is there satisfaction in Armenia for Greece’s attitude towards the Turkish-Azerbaijani invasion?
On this occasion, on behalf of the Armenian people, I would like to express our deep gratitude to the friendly Greek government and the brotherly Greek people for their support and assistance to the Armenian people in this difficult time.
From the beginning of the hostilities, an operational communication was established between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries. Telephone conversations have taken place between the Ministers, where Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Dendias, expressed the support of the Greek government and stressed that Greece condemns any intervention of third parties that incites tension.
On September 30, Greece called for an emergency convening of the OSCE Permanent Council to discuss the escalation of the Artsakh conflict.
The Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Dendias, submitted the relevant request in a letter to the Albanian Presidency of the OSCE and this is something that can contribute to the immediate de-escalation of the tension.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias spoke during a recent telephone conversation with his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and expressed his readiness. Also, during this telephone conversation, the close ties of friendship between Greece and Armenia were confirmed.
During this difficult period for the Armenian people, there were regular contacts via teleconferences between high-ranking officials of the two countries, Foreign Ministers, politicians, intellectuals, representatives of local government and ordinary citizens.
On October 16, 2020, Greek Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias paid a working visit to Armenia. The media of the Greek Republic at the operational level covered all the events, reacted and did objective assessment. At all levels we feel the sincere and unconditional support of the Greek people’s eternal friendship to the Armenian people. We are grateful for that.
In recent weeks we have witnessed the targeting of political structures and civilians by Azeris. Is there a plan to appeal to international organizations and submit evidence for the purpose of punishing those responsible?
On 17 October 2020, the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement stating that the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have decided to conduct a ceasefire for humanitarian purposes, starting from 18 October 2020 at 00:00 local time.
This decision was taken following the declaration of October 1, 2020 from France, Russia and the U.S. – which are co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group – following the declaration of October 5, 2020 by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and on the basis of the Joint Declaration adopted in Moscow on October 10, 2020.
However, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan, once again severely violating the humanitarian ceasefire on October 18, 2020 at 07:20 and after heavy fire in order to occupy favorable positions, launched an attack in a southerly direction.
For the second time, Azerbaijan is violating the ceasefire agreement reached through the personal intervention of the President of the countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, thus proving to the international community its insidious nature, which we have been facing for decades.
Armenia will continue to take all necessary measures to enforce a ceasefire, while establishing clear and effective mechanisms for maintaining and controlling the ceasefire on the ground.
How do you interpret the cold response of European diplomacy, both for the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and for Ankara’s illegal interventions in Artsakh, as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean?
A few days ago, the UN Security Council discussed the issue, while the US Secretary of State met with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington on October 24.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with US Deputy Secretary of State Steven Bigan on October 24 to reaffirm their commitment which was confirmed in a statement made in Paris on October 17 and is in line with the statement of US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin from October 1.
The humanitarian ceasefire was to take effect on October 26, 2020 at 08:00. However, we receive information that the Azerbaijani side is not observing the ceasefire and continues to launch missiles against Armenian territories.
We expect NATO and the European Union to put pressure on Turkey and Azerbaijan to end the war and implement a ceasefire. And when there is a ceasefire then it will be possible for the parties to return to the negotiation process with the three Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group. The primary and key issue for the Armenian side is the clarification of the final status of Artsakh.
Turkey and Azerbaijan say their war is aimed at liberating occupied territories, which are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but this is an illusion and a lie.
They are waging a war of ethnic cleansing to clear the area of Armenians. We therefore call on the international community to recognize the right of the Republic of Artsakh to self-determination in order to limit the genocidal ambitions of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Armenia is trying to present the current war in Brussels as part of Turkey’s growing self-affirmation, which has put Ankara in conflict with EU member states throughout the region. In Libya, Turkey intervened on behalf of the UN-backed government against military leader Khalifa Haftar, who enjoys French support, while in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish ships sought energy in waters belonging to Greece and Cyprus.
There is an impression that Erdogan is creating instability everywhere and breaking the status quo. In this sea of instability, Turkey seems to swim very loosely, as it is allowed to play with everyone.
Europe and NATO cannot influence Ankara, which jeopardizes the credibility of the organizations.
We believe that the Turkish intervention will now change the geopolitics of the South Caucasus, turning Azerbaijan into a platform for projecting Turkish influence to a wider region.