The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan gave an interview to the leading Egyptian AlQahera News Agency. Its full text is available below.
Question: What is the nature of the relationship between Egypt and Armenia? And what do the coming days hold regarding this cooperation?
Answer: The relations between the two countries are, of course, based on the historically friendly ties between Armenian and Egyptian nations. Starting from the Middle Ages our compatriots have played a significant role in the political, social and cultural life of Egypt. During the World War I, escaping the Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire, Armenians received a safe shelter in the Arab countries, including in Egypt where they found a new home. This will never be forgotten by the Armenians. And I am proud to note that during my recent visit to Cairo both political figures and religious leaders of Egypt once again emphasised the great contribution of the Armenian community to the progress and development of Egypt.
Based on these ties, the two countries have been demonstrating willingness and commitment to further develop bilateral relations on the state level. During the last three decades, since the independence of the Republic of Armenia, we have developed close relations with the Arab Republic of Egypt, which have constantly been growing and expanding.
So far, this year has been very significant in bilateral relations and in particular in terms of political dialogue, starting with President El-Sisi’s historic visit to Armenia in January. Earlier last year the President of Armenia visited Egypt to attend COP-27 and on March 8, as you know, in the margins of the session of the Council of the League of Arab States at the ministerial level I had an opportunity to discuss questions of mutual interest with my colleague, Minister Sameh Shoukri.
There is willingness on both sides to further deepen our cooperation, including in the economic sphere. The next session of the Armenian-Egyptian intergovernmental committee, along with a business forum, is planned later this year, and we hope that it will bear several tangible results. A business forum between Armenian and Egyptian tour operators was already organised in Cairo in February, the next one is expected in Yerevan. We are convinced that there is huge untapped potential with Egypt that we should explore and firmly realise it.
Question: What about political cooperation with the Arab world?
Answer: Armenia attaches great importance to its relations with the Arab world due to the geographical proximity, historical and cultural ties, the presence of large Armenian communities in Arab countries as well as regional security issues. Armenia’s relations with the Arab states have always been based on mutual respect and sincere friendship. A good manifestation of that was my participation and the speech delivered during the Session of the Council of the League of Arab States, as mentioned above. This was the 1st time that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia delivered a speech during the Ministerial Session of the Arab League. The decision within the Arab League was taken by consensus of all member states, which already speaks about a certain political understanding between Armenia and all the members of the League.
Armenia is strongly committed to further strengthen political, economic as well as cultural relations with all the Arab States. We notice a similar approach on the partners’ side and think that there are no major obstacles on our way. It is important for us to be well understood by our Arab brothers and not let any speculation by third parties shadow our century-old relations.
Question: What is the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on Armenia?
Answer: The situation in Ukraine clearly shows the deterioration of the security architecture in Europe. And I believe that it first became clear back in 2020 when many stayed indifferent to the fact that Azerbaijan unleashed a large-scale war against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh trying to solve the conflict by the use of force. The absence of an equivocal condemnation by the international community of the use of force brought us to the situation the whole world is facing now.
Moreover, since February 2022, as the whole attention was concentrated on the developments around Ukraine, Azerbaijan has been using force frequently. The most blatant example of that was in September last year, when the Azerbaijani armed forces conducted unprovoked aggression against the Republic of Armenia, violating the territorial integrity and occupying around 150 sq km of the sovereign territory of my country. I do believe that certain rules, particularly refraining from use of force or threat of use of force, respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity have to be followed by everyone.
Question: What about Armenia's willingness to intensify dialogue with Azerbaijan towards the normalisation of bilateral relations? What specific issues are being discussed?
Answer: After the war in 2020, for the last two years the Armenian government, having the political will to find a real lasting and comprehensive peace in our region, has been engaged in talks with Azerbaijan in good faith. There are separate tracks of negotiations: first, the opening of all transport communications in the region, second, delimitation and border security and the third, the treaty on establishment of peaceful relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Regarding the connectivity issue, our position is clear: Armenia is ready to open all communications at the very moment when Azerbaijan accepts that the roads should be operating under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the states they are passing through. With regard to delimitation of borders, regrettably, months after the establishment of the commissions on the delimitation of borders in 2022, Azerbaijan not only raised new territorial claims, but also launched another invasion into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia and then tried to justify its aggression with a fake argument that the border is not delimited.
Coming to the agreement on establishment of peaceful relations, I should mention that since December 2022 we have exchanged proposals on the draft treaty and tried to move ahead with the process to find fair solutions to the core issues.
Here, among Armenia’s suggestions is clarification of parameters for the delimitation of the state border, as we think that without clearly agreed parameters on the delimitation of the international borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan, countries cannot specify which territorial integrity they mutually recognize, and this will lead to another fighting instead of establishing peace.
Next is the distancing of forces from the state border and the creation of a demilitarized zone along the borderline as a confidence-building measure and security mechanism, helping to ensure prevention of any possible future escalation. We also believe that the treaty should establish a mechanism of guarantees, which will ensure the implementation of the obligations, as well as outline ways of resolution of possible misinterpretations and disputes.
Of course, as a key component, there should be an international mechanism to address the issues of rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Unfortunately, in response to our efforts we face not only the dismissive and maximalist approach by Azerbaijan during the negotiations, but also aggressive actions on the ground despite the ongoing negotiations. Most recently, following the ceasefire violations on March 2-3, three servicemen of the Police of the Nagorno-Karabakh were killed in the Lachin corridor on March 5 as a result of a pre-planned ambush by Azerbaijan. These actions once again demonstrate the lack of sincerity in Baku’s approach to the normalisation process as well as continuous recourse to use of force.
In parallel to these actions, Azerbaijan regularly steps back from agreements, continues its hate speech and xenophobic rhetoric, as well as rejects to resolve humanitarian issues such as the release of confirmed 33 Armenian prisoners of war who are still held hostage in Azerbaijan. The fate of many more Armenians is still unknown, and we have submitted to our partner organizations cases of enforced disappearances. The Armenian religious and cultural heritage, fallen under the Azerbaijani control in 2020, is facing an imminent threat of total erasure. All this is challenging the efforts towards establishing lasting peace and stability in the whole region.
Question: What is the solution to the blockade of the Lachin corridor, in your view?
Answer: First of all, the blockade of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan is a blatant violation of the Trilateral Statement of 9 November 2020 which envisages that Azerbaijan “shall guarantee safe movement of citizens, vehicles and cargo in both directions along the Lachin corridor.”
One would think that a legally binding decision of the International Court of Justice, which was adopted on February 22, could have resolved the situation as the Court ordered Azerbaijan to take all necessary measures to ensure unimpeded movement along the Lachin corridor. It is regrettable that so far the decision has not been implemented.
Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that the Lachin corridor is not only a road, but a 5 km security zone. Thus, the sabotage attack of March 5 in the Lachin corridor, which I mentioned earlier, violated not only the ceasefire agreement, but also the contact line and the security zone of the corridor.
In current circumstances, I would like to stress the imperative of strong international engagement and pressure on Azerbaijan to implement the ICJ decision and lift the blockade. Armenia has been calling for an urgent international fact-finding mission to be dispatched to Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor to assess the situation on the ground. It’s also not a secret that the proposal of such a mission was repeatedly rejected by the Azerbaijani side, clearly showing the absence of willingness of Azerbaijani leadership to be transparent and accountable towards the international community.
Question: Is there any recent dialogue or international action regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh issue?
Answer: In parallel to blocking the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting the Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, for more than three months and creating a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan continues to terrorise the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh by creating unbearable conditions for living in their homeland with the ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing. Along with the humanitarian crisis, Azerbaijan has also provoked an energy crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. In cold winter conditions, the authorities of Azerbaijan repeatedly disrupted and continue to disrupt the gas and electricity supply.
The actions of Azerbaijan as well as the aggressive and minimalistic rhetoric have proven the absolute necessity of international engagement to address the issues of rights and security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as to prevent the clear attempts of Azerbaijan aimed at the ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh. The position of the international community, including our partners and friends in the Arab world should be clear against any narrative and actions perpetrating another genocide, the international system cannot afford to sustain yet another such failure.
To conclude, despite all the risks and the fragility of the situation around my country, Armenia remains determined to make its contribution to creating a stable region where our generations won’t just dream about living in peace.