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 Thursday, May 26 2016 09:28

Tatevik Shahunyan

Samvel Babayan: I am back to Artsakh and it is for the people to decide the rest

Samvel Babayan: I am back to Artsakh and it is for the people to decide the rest

The situation in the Karabakh conflict zone triggers concerns today, ex-defense minister of Artsakh Samvel Babayan says in an interview with 7.or.am portal.  

He stresses that in 2013, when he was abroad, he wrote a confidential letter to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, warning him of possible military threats by Azerbaijan. However, Babayan hints that his recommendations remained unheard.     

When analyzing the recent developments in the Karabakh conflict zone, Babayan thinks that the Armenian side's accusations against Russia about supply of military hardware to Azerbaijan are biased: "Russia has never refused to supply Armenia with modern weapons. Moreover, as a member of the CSTO, we have had an opportunity to purchase weapons on preferential terms. In the 1990s, both we and Azerbaijan purchased weapons from Russia. We won the war and Baku started complaining that Russia allegedly helped us. This is wrong tactics and unfortunately we have also fallen into error today. One should never pin victory hopes on foreign forces, it is first of all necessary to rely on one's own forces and capacities. Russia has never fought and will never fight in Karabakh instead of us," Babayan says, noting that Russia will always strive to develop good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. It needs both states. However, given Armenia's CSTO membership and the tense relations between Russia and Turkey, Moscow gives higher priority to the relations with Armenia. 

Babayan stresses that in international relations "the policy of so-called kindness" does not play or cannot play a serious role. "For instance, we liberated Kelbajar, Zangelan, Fizuli without any international "kindness". Quite the opposite, we did it in defiance of the will of superpowers and international community," Babakyan says. 
When asked why the Armenian authorities failed to purchase the necessary quantity of arms from Russia, Babayan replies that after the meeting in Kazan in 2011, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan made opposite conclusions. "Before that, Azerbaijan had managed to considerably modernize its arsenal and after the meeting that process received a fresh impetus. The leadership of Armenia, on the contrary, thought that refusing the proposed settlement principles Azerbaijan would find itself in isolation and would not dare to unleash hostilities. At that time, the Armenian authorities took a decision to focus on other problems.  Unlike the leadership of Azerbaijan, the political elite of Armenia did not consider security to be a priority before the April war," Babayan says. 

Meanwhile, Babayan thinks that Azerbaijan seeks to destroy the current status quo. "Azerbaijan will not make compromises during the negotiations. It wants everything and we can restrain it only by maintaining the military balance in favor of the Armenian party," he says. 

Babayan believes that the situation can be improved today, but it would be wrong to think that that there is much time for it. "It will take at least 10 months to completely modernize the army and to raise the management to a qualitatively new level. This also concerns purchase of modern weapons and ammunition", he said. Babayan promises to give more detailed assessment of the April war in the near future. When speaking of his upcoming plans, Babayan says that he intends to leave for Karabakh, because he states that "his key mission is to be conducted in Artsakh. The rest should be decided by the people". He stresses that he is not going to join a political force. "But I see people with a new mentality, who can seriously influence the political processes and I hope they will succeed," Babayan says. 

Samvel Babayan is a military, statesman and political figure, Lt.  General, Artsakh National Hero.  Since 1992 he had been coordinating the defense operations of NKR regions, participated in the development of Shushi liberation operation, participated in the international talks for settlement of the Karabakh conflict, was commander of the NKR Defense Army. He signed the ceasefire treaty of Armenia and NKR with Azerbaijan on behalf of the NKR. He was a member of the government and security council at the NKR President. In 2001, he was accused of organizing assassination attempt on NKR president Arkady Ghoukassyan that resulted in serious wounds of the Karabakh president, one of his bodyguards and the driver. He was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment but was pardoned by President Arkady Ghoukassyan on September 17 2010 on occasion of the 13th anniversary of the referendum of independence of NKR.  He founded the Justice opposition bloc in Armenia.

In March 2005, Samvel Babayan said in an interview with RFE/RL Armenian Service that the sides to the conflict are not able to go on big concessions. Specifically, he said, the sides cannot assume the responsibility for mutual concessions. In response to the question about what particular concessions Nagorno Karabakh could make, Samvel Babayan said: "It is a fact  that Nagorno Karabakh should go on concessions, cede some territories for peace, and peace not just in NKR, but also in the Caucasus, for the future. However, it depends on how high will be the guarantee of its security. Some link the security to army, but I don't think so. Security is connected with these very territories and there are serious issues that should be settled within these frameworks. In this light, the status of Nagorno Karabakh is a secondary issue," Babayan said. It is necessary to settle the issue of refugees, forced migrants. They should return to their homes and confidence-building problems must be settled politically. As for the possibility of the resumption of military actions, the ex-minister of defense of NKR said: "If the parties fail to resolve the conflict peacefully then a war between them will take place sooner or later." He said the steps taken by the Azerbaijan army show that it is preparing for war," Samvel Babayan said. 

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