ArmInfo.The European Union should significantly increase the number of members of its civilian mission in Armenia. Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated in an interview with the Public Television of Armenia, in response to the remark that the EU is ready to provide only diplomatic and humanitarian assistance to the RA.
"I understand that many people in Armenia are disappointed that the Russian peacekeepers failed to prevent the aggression against Armenia and the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh. But, you are right, the Russian peacekeepers are here. I have no doubts about this. However, my goal here is to encourage EU to increase the number of the existing mission. We should not forget about the usefulness of the EU monitoring mission in terms of preventing further Azerbaijani aggression. However, I believe that the EU needs more specialists for this mission. I discussed this issue here with the ambassadors, and upon returning to Brussels, I will raise this issue there," he said, adding that there should be a clear fact-finding mission so that facts and figures related to the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh can be identified.
In this vein, the former NATO Secretary General stressed that Azerbaijan refuses to accept the fact that there is a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. "I believe that we need an independent international mission that will present reality behind the blockade to the international community. I'm talking about a mission with a strong mandate, which will have the opportunity to work with both sides, not only with the Armenian side, but also with Azerbaijani side," he said.
Touching upon the role of Turkey in the region, Rasmussen expressed hope for the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey. "I don't think it's in Turkey's interests to keep the border closed or to have tensions in relations. On the contrary, I think that Armenia has taken a very important step by sending aid after the earthquake. I believe that over time it will be possible to improve relations if we continue to move in this direction," he said.
At the same time, he agreed that it is necessary to restore the military balance in the region. The former NATO Secretary General believes that as long as Azerbaijan feels stronger in the political arena due to the agreement with the EU in the energy sector, as long as the US is busy with relations with Iran, and as long as it feels its military superiority, the threat of new aggression against Armenia will always be there. According to him, that is why, at meetings with the top leadership of Armenia, he discussed issues related to the possibility of strengthening relations between Yerevan and Brussels in the field of security. "I can't provide details. I can't talk about the problems with weapons, but I think that there are prospects for strengthening relations, including other sectors," he said, adding that the European Peacebuilding Platform could be a good platform for assisting Armenia. To the remark that there is an opinion that the EU mission aims to oust Russia from the region and to clarify whether this is so, Rasmussen noted that he is here, not in order to work against the Russian Federation. "When it comes to Ukraine, I do not hide that I am against the Russian invasion. But I also understand that Russian peacekeepers play a role in Armenia and in some way were able to prevent further Azerbaijani aggression. But, we also saw that they could not prevent the blockade and last year's aggression.
Therefore, this is an addition to Russia's efforts, supplementing them with Western ones. This is definitely not against Russia, but the EU mission enables Armenia to diversify its relations, increase the number of friends, prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Nagorno-Karabakh and further aggression by Azerbaijan," he is convinced. To the remark whether Armenia's membership in the CSTO is an obstacle in these efforts, the former NATO Secretary General noted that it is definitely not an obstacle at this stage. "There is no contradiction in the fact that Armenia will remain a member of the CSTO and will have relations with the EU, the US and others. At the same time, I will not hide, there are borders that cannot be crossed because Armenia is a member of the CSTO. But I am not here for calling on Armenia to withdraw from the CSTO, because this is Armenia's internal matter and its decision," he said, adding that he is here to increase the number of Armenia's friends in the West.
Rasmussen also did not agree that NATO was indirectly involved in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia through Turkey. "The fact that Turkey is participating on the side of Azerbaijan does not mean that NATO is involved, this is Turkey's national participation. We have seen this behavior of Turkey in other places, for example in Syria, we have seen that Turkey is buying weapons from Russia, we see that Turkey blocks the membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO.
Therefore, NATO has its own challenges when it comes to Turkey, it is not NATO's decision that Turkey can support Azerbaijan," the former NATO Secretary General assured. When asked whether he considers it realistic to deploy an international mission in Artsakh, Rasmussen noted that if it is not possible to reach a mission with an international mandate, then it will be impossible to reach an agreement on a peace treaty, since this is the key to success.
"For a long-term peace treaty, this is necessary. There must be a mechanism for an international peacekeeping contingent that will monitor respect for the obligations undertaken by all parties. Of course, a mission with an international mandate should include Russia, it is difficult to obtain such a mandate without Russia's participation. Firstly, Russian peacekeepers are already here, secondly, Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We need a UN mandate that implies the active participation of Russia," Rasmussen concluded.