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 Thursday, January 26 2023 11:27
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Real goal of the Azerbaijan-enforced blockade is political coercion  of Artsakh - Ruben Vardanyan

Real goal of the Azerbaijan-enforced blockade is political coercion  of Artsakh - Ruben Vardanyan

ArmInfo.The real goal of the Azerbaijan-enforced blockade is political coercion of Artsakh, Ruben Vardanyan, Artsakh State Minister, said in an interview with  Meduza.  

"We are being forced into recognizing that the Republic of Artsakh  does not exist and Artsakh must become part of Azerbaijan. They are  not even concealing their goal - President Ilham Aliyev announced all  that at his press conference. It is crystal clear. And by means of a  stick-and-carrot policy, they are sparing no effort to break down  Artsakh's resistance, which is impossible. And it is even much more  obvious now, I think," Mr Vardanyan said. 

"As I have said a country incapable of ensuring its own people's  human rights cannot ensure a national minority's rights. What rights  can the despotic Azerbaijani sultanate ensure for its own  population?" he added.  

All that has happened to the Artsakh people since 1988 [when the  Karabakh conflict broke out] has proved that it is an independent  area with indigenous ethnic Armenians living here. "The people are  living in their own land. In this respect, the territorial integrity  principles, as [Russian FM Sergey] Lavrov said, can be perfectly  applied only when all the people living in one area can enjoy equal  rights. Otherwise, the right to self-determination must dominate -  and we have at our disposal a great number of facts of the hatred for  Armenians in Azerbaijan's society. We can hardly imagine ways of  preserving ourselves or our traditions in a country displaying such  intolerance to all the human rights. However hard it may be,  Azerbaijan's leaders must find the strength to conduct civilized  dialogue with us, and we are ready for that," Mr Vardanyan said. 

As to whether Artsakh feels sufficient support on Armenia's part in  the context of Armenian Premier Nikol Pashinyan's statement of  January 12, which contained a request that the republic should not  provoke Baku into hostilities, Mr Vardanyan said that Armenia's  premier clearly defined his stance: "It is public: they are willing  to provide both financial and legal support - and they are doing so.  But they cannot interfere in military matters. Part of Armenia's  society is concerned and trying to help. I am grateful to them. Other  people are indifferent, but we can see it not only in Armenia, but  also throughout the world. The world has become much more  indifferent," Mr Vardanyan said.  

As to whether he would be "more effective" as a philanthropist than  as a government official, Mr Vardanyan said that he is happy in  Artsakh despite all the difficulties. "I was perfectly aware of where  I was moving - in terms of difficulties. Azerbaijan has always sought  to make Artsakh 'unseen and unheard'.  But in recent days I have  given interviews to ABC, France24, The Economist, Financial Times,  Kommersant, RBK, RTVI. And I dare hope that my arrival here will  raise global awareness of Artsakh.  True, it is not enough for  solving the Artsakh problem, but it will at least be better heard  of," he said. 

As regards public disappointment with the Russian peacekeepers'  "inaction," Mr Vardanyan pointed out that Artsakh is being surrounded  by Azerbaijan with its 10,000,000-strong population, with 80,000,000  living in Turkey, which is Azerbaijan's ally. 

"We are only 120,000 here in Artsakh, with 2,000 Russian soldiers  staying with us here. Do you want me to throw a stone at them thereby  exacerbating the situation? That is folly as regards the instinct of  self- preservation. 

"I would prefer to see 20,000 Russian soldiers, and Hindu or European  peacekeepers, because the line of contact between Artsakh and  Azerbaijan is 540-km-long. A task hard to accomplish for any  peacekeepers," Mr Vardanyan said. 

"I would like to see not only Russia, but also England and France to  take on hard-line stances! What is Aliyev still being invited to  Davos? He has laid siege to 120,000 people, but they are shaking his  hand in Davos. And in this respect I have many questions to put to  many countries. 

"Sanctions must be applied against the decision-makers in Azerbaijan  rather than against the state itself.  Sanctions must be applied  against the persons whose children are studying in England and  France, against those considering themselves part of the civilized  club," Mr Vardanyan said. 

An air corridor would be one of the ways of lifting the blockade of  Artsakh. Sarajevo and West Berlin in 1947 are examples. 

"I view it as the only solution so as international humanitarian  organizations state: 'Honorable Mr Alyev, Republic of Azerbaijan, you  can do whatever you want, but we are not going to let people starve  to death in the 21st century. So airplanes will from now on fly  there. You can shoot them down, in which case you are sure to turn  into a rogue state,' humanitarian parties from Switzerland, Russia  and even from Africa must be able to land in Artsakh," Mr Vardanyan  said. 

As regards the experts stating Baku is "raising the stakes" prior to  signing a peace agreement and not ruling out a new war, Mr Vardanyan  believes that it will prove a hard decision for Azerbaijan as it will  have to war against civilians. "That would be a war against women,  children and old people, beyond all the bounds.  I think Baku is  perfectly aware of that and is hating the very idea. 

"So I think they will focus on squeezing the population out of  Artsakh. Difference between our peace model and Aliyev's peace model.  We say 'we are living side by side, but not together,' whereas they  believe that 'peace is Artsakh without Armenians'," Mr Vardanyan  said. 

He disagrees with the claims that his movement to Artsakh was the  cause for the blockade. Azerbaijan disrupted gas supply to Artsakh  last March, captured the village of Parukh and other heights. 

"They pursued a salami strategy, and my arrival did not allow them to  go on, and, I am sure, made them even angrier," Mr Vardanyan said. 

He recalled his involvement in the restoration of a Shushi mosque and  in many other projects. 

"My son served in the army here and my daughter worked here. I am not  a stranger here, so to say," Mr Vardanyan said. 

Artsakh's situation is similar to a "fork in the road." "If you ride  to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you  will lose your head. If we leave we will lose our homeland, and if we  agree to live in Azerbaijan, we will lose our identity and pour  dignity. We will be part of a state humiliating us and seeking to  destroy us and our rights." 

As to the Russian-Ukrainian war, Mr Vardanyan said that he is  strongly against any wars. "As co-founder of the Aurora Prize I  believe the world will be saved if all of us, people of common sense,  make the fundamental humanitarian values the basis of our lives  again." 

He is impressed by the Artsakh people's endurance. 

"And it is a great honor to live together with people who outclass  all of us due to their endurance. One of the things you come to  realize while living in Artsakh is that real people are living here!  They have their strong and weak points, but they are able to  differentiate between reality and fakes. 

"These people are really down to earth and sensible. They are  attached to their land and are not going to lose it. And they must  never be betrayed," Mr Vardanyan said.   

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