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 Thursday, March 16 2023 13:09
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Rasmussen: EU should significantly increase number of members of its  civilian mission in Armenia

Rasmussen: EU should significantly increase number of members of its  civilian mission in Armenia

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.

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