Ruben Vardanyan, former State Minister of Nagorno Karabagh: “I see no chance of peace when Azerbaijan does not stop its aggression”

Ruben Vardanyan, former Minister of State of Nagorno Karabagh

Since last December when the Azerbaijani government decided to block the Lachin corridor – the only pass between Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh – tension between Baku and Yerevan has not stopped increasing. A situation that, prior to this blockade, had been maintaining a certain stability after the agreement signed by the parties, with the mediation of Russia, after the 2020 war. However, in recent weeks the possibility of an escalation of the conflict. That’s why, The West has been working with the Armenians and Azerbaijanis to reach an agreement and reduce tensions.

The first to speak of “tangible” progress between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno Karabagh enclave was the United States, through its Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. The European Union (EU), meanwhile, agreed for this Sunday a meeting in Brussels between the leaders of both countries, Nikol Pashinian and Ilham Aliyevwho will be received by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

Until last February ruben vardanyan He served as Minister of State for Artsakh, the official name of this independent republic with an Armenian majority. Shortly after leaving the government of the president Arayik Harutyunyanthe official spoke with a group of Argentine media, including infobaeabout the situation in that region of the South Caucasus and the diplomatic actions initiated by the West.

“I don’t know the details, but I have a very strong opinion about this situation. I do not believe in any peace agreement if it is only signed in writing, and it is not a mechanism.”he remarked.

Nikol Pashinyan Ilham Aliyev
Nikol Pashinian and Ilham Aliyev will be received by Charles Michel in Brussels (Getty Images)

He also considered that it would be difficult to achieve a lasting peace agreement, “since basically the Armenian government cannot represent the people of Artsakh because we ourselves decided our independence from Azerbaijan”: “It was a decision of the people who have lived in our homeland, and not from the Armenian government.”

“For this reason, I do not have high expectations of this negotiation”Vardanyan stressed. And he added: “There is no substance, there is no control mechanism of who and how both parties will maintain what is signed.”

In this regard, he recalled that Azerbaijan repeatedly violated what was signed on November 9, 2020 after the war with Armenia: “How can we believe that any peace document can be real if it does not respect any international decision or norm?”

For his part, he announced that a firm and lasting agreement will not be made “without the people of Artsakh making their own decision about how they want to live.”

“I really don’t see any chance of peace when one of the parties doesn’t stop their aggression.; and he says ‘we don’t care about your rights, we don’t care about your government’. So I don’t think there are good conditions for peace yet, unfortunately, ”he concluded.

A few days ago the secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, spoke of these first steps towards a possible agreement or understanding to reduce tensions in Nagorno Karabagh. When asked by the local press whether Yerevan is ready to sign a peace treaty with Baku under the auspices of the West or Russia, he replied: “As for the final signing of the peace agreement, it has not been decided in any way in this moment. We will sign it where there is an opportunity to move forward and reach a definitive agreement”.

Conflict Armenia Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijani military keeps the Lachin corridor blocked, in violation of what was signed in 2020 after the war with Armenia (AZERBAIJAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE) (AZERBAI MINISTRY OF DEFENSE /)

Regarding the fact that the title of “peace treaty” is changed to “agreement on the normalization of relations”, he said: “The title is not so important, what is important is the content. There are several important issues; And if we are able to find solutions around those questions, it doesn’t matter what the title is.”

Grigoryan pointed out that “Stepanakert – the capital of Artsakh – and Baku must discuss issues of rights and security.”

The first step will be taken this Sunday, in the capital of Belgium. According to the statement released this week by the EU, Pashinian and Aliyev also agreed to meet with the leaders of France and Germany on the sidelines of a European summit to be held in Moldova on June 1. In addition, they promised to meet in Brussels “as often as necessary to address developments in the situation on the ground.”

Last Thursday, May 4, Blinken commented that Armenia and Azerbaijan “discussed some very difficult issues”, achieving “tangible progress towards a lasting peace agreement”, after four days of closed-door talks between the foreign ministers of both countries.

“I hope that (both parties) see, as I do, that an agreement is in sight, within reach. Achieving such an agreement would be, I think, not only historic, but would profoundly benefit the people of Azerbaijan and Armenia. (…) None of this is easy, but the commitment, the determination to move forward to address the remaining challenging issues is real,” said the head of US diplomacy.

A man walks down a street in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno Karabagh (POLITICA ARMENIA AZERBAIJÁN INTERNACIONAL CELESTINO ARCE LAVIN / ZUMA PRESS)

While waiting for how these rapprochements will develop and while the tension persists, the population of Nagorno Karabagh continues to suffer the consequences of the blockade imposed by Baku. This situation became even more critical after the closure of the Lachin corridor last December. Such Aliyev’s policy led to severe food and medicine shortages, and subjected people to a “harsh winter” with virtually no access to gas and power.

Vardanyan said that Baku is seeking to carry out “ethnic cleansing and drive us out of the place where we have lived for thousands of years.”

“Destroying Artsakh is not just destroying a small place where 120,000 people live, but it is a place where one of the most important cultural and religious patrimonies is located. This is something that people should take into account,” he said. And he warned that, despite the threat and siege by Azeri troops, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are a “very strong” people: “People really know how to fight and defend their own homeland. When you are in crisis you have three options: run away trying to escape the problem and you get paralyzed, do nothing or fight. People don’t want to leave their house.

Armenia and Azerbaijan arrive for meeting in Brussels after hours of tension after last Thursday they accused each other of attacks on the border. The Armenian Ministry of Defense reported three soldiers injured by an Azeri attack with artillery and mortars.

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