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David Babayan and Manuel Ochsenreiter. Photo: FWM

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict: ‘This is an attack on the civilized world’

In the early morning hours of September 27, the conflict in the South Caucasus escalated. Azerbaijan attacked the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic. Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to be on the verge of war. In an exclusive interview, Manuel Ochsenreiter spoke with David Babayan, the international relations advisor to the President of the Artsakh Republic.

Published: September 28, 2020, 1:06 pm

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    Mr Babayan, in the early morning of September 27, the conflict between the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Azerbaijan suddenly escalated. The Azerbaijani armed forces attacked Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, with rockets. In addition, the Azerbaijani army has crossed the border with Artsakh and attacked. The conflict has been going on for decades, why is this escalation coming now?

    Babayan: The timing was very favorable for Azerbaijan. A Turkish-Azerbaijani maneuver has just been held there, so there are Turkish forces in the country. Turkey is Azerbaijan’s main ally. Due to this strategically favorable location, it was probably Turkey that urged Azerbaijan to carry out this terrorist attack on the Republic of Artsakh. But it is not just an attack on Artsakh and Armenia, it is an attack on the civilized world.

    What do you mean?

    Babayan: Turkey had already flown in hundreds of mercenaries and Islamist terrorists from Syria and Iraq into Azerbaijan in advance. These people are fighting Artsakh now. By the way, that’s not surprising. Turkey operates in many conflicts with mercenaries and terrorists. Already in the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1992-1994), many terrorist groups of irregulars fought on the side of Azerbaijan, including the Turkish “Gray Wolves”. Today we know their names and we know which terrorist organizations are supporting Baku in the fight against us. But Turkish military advisors were and are also involved.

    But wasn’t the Russian-Armenian military maneuver “Caucasus 2020” held in Armenia just recently? Against such a background, aggression on the part of Turkey and Azerbaijan is a high risk?

    Babayan: That’s right. Therefore this attack must also be seen as a provocation against Russia, which is also part of the civilized world. We have to be clear about this: if Artsakh were to be destroyed by Azerbaijan, Armenia would also be destroyed. The whole region would turn into a terrorist emirate. That would be the logical consequence. No civilized country in the world can have an interest in it. This region is strategically important.

    There was a change of power in Armenia two years ago. Has Armenia’s attitude to the Republic of Artsakh changed with the new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan?

    Babayan: All governments in Armenia, whoever supports them, have a special relationship with Artsakh. It’s not just about the political relationship between Yerevan and Stepanakert. Artsakh is not just any country, it is an idea. And this idea is the basis for the statehood of all of Armenia. Artsakh is also the core of our national identity. This country symbolizes the fact that we Armenians have repeatedly been able to defeat an overpowering enemy – Azerbaijan. Because of Artsakh, our national self-confidence was also able to recover.

    In what way?

    Babayan: For decades the Armenian people lived with a kind of inferiority complex. After the Turkish genocide and the period of dependency and subordination, the Armenian self-image suffered. But it was the Artsakh victory in the 1990s that paved the way for us to shake off this inferiority complex. Therefore this country is existentially important for us. With an inferiority complex we would not be able to survive in this region. Therefore, Artsakh is not just any country for us, but a great national idea. And every government in Yerevan is bound to follow this logic.

    Mr Babayan, Armenia’s Prime Minister Pashinyan has a good relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron. What do you think: does the Armenian government want the EU to become more involved in the region?

    Babayan: We are very aware of how hard the EU is trying to remain neutral in this conflict. Of course, we would like more clarity. There are declarations and pronouncements, but no real political action is being taken. But you can also see the dilemma in which many European countries and EU structures obviously find themselves. There is a conflict between ideals and interests. They like to talk about the ideals of democracy and human rights, but in the end it is unfortunately often about economic interests and advantages. By taking a clear position, however, Europe could contribute to peace and stability in the region.

    Mr Babayan, thank you for talking to us.

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