Levon Ter-Petrosyan says precondition was laid down before Armenia

Armenia’s first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan has given an interview to ilur.am website.

How would you explain Armenia’s apparent passivity amid Azerbaijan’s intensifying provocations along the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Karabakh and Azerbaijan, which in addition to causing panic, also results in irretrievable human losses both in the army and among civilian population?

Yes, Armenia’s restrained and inadequate reaction to Azerbaijan’s military harassment is apparent, which, in my opinion, can be explained by the following factor. The Armenian side is wary of adequate response, thinking that the situation may get out of control and the response firing may lead to the escalation of situation, if not to the resumption of war. On the other hand, Azerbaijan is making use of Armenia’s restraint and discretion and becoming more impertinent and attempting to further aggravate the situation on the contact line. Armenian authorities are facing a serious dilemma, the solution of which requires tremendous efforts and exclusive political finesse.

If it is not a secret, what advice would you give to the Armenian authorities in the given situation?

Any advice by me would be unserious at the moment because, as I have already said, I do not know everything about the matter. I would like to add that on the one hand, Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions are connected with the West’s distrust of Armenia after the abortion of the European association process. On the other hand, they are connected with Armenia’s still unclear status within the framework of the Eurasian Union.

Why is the determination of the status delayed given the fact that Armenian authorities sought to sign the Eurasian Union accession agreement on July 3? Then it was announced that the date had been rescheduled for July 30. And now they say that the agreement will not be signed until the end of the year.

I do not think that the delay was caused by technical problems which the Armenian side claims to have solved long ago. Nor can the reason be economic one, as the small volume (about 20-30 million dollars) of trade between Armenia and Karabakh cannot have a positive or negative impact on the huge market of the Eurasian Union. The answer, therefore, should be searched in the political sphere. Clearly, the founding members of the Eurasian Union set a precondition before Armenia to place checkpoints on its border with Karabakh. That’s why Armenian leadership is facing a dilemma and has to consider the serious consequences of any decision, which does not require a rich imagination. If they do not meet the term, Armenia, which has already spoiled its relations with the West, will appear in a political and economic vacuum. In case Armenia meets the precondition, a panic and psychological state of abandonment will be felt in Karabakh, fraught with a serious threat of straining relations between Armenia and Karabakh. Thus, we should not blame Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus for delaying Armenia’s membership to the Eurasian Union: but the blame should be laid on Armenia itself as the country has been unable to find a solution to placing checkpoints on its border with Karabakh.

Many expect positive changes in the Karabakh peace process if the meeting initiated by the President Francois Hollande between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders takes place in Paris. What do you think about the initiative?  Do you think that the expectations are justified?

Let me say that any meeting between the leaders of conflicting sides is already a positive step. However, I cannot say what outcome the meeting initiated by the French President can have, besides creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding. On this occasion, I would like to recall an episode from my personal experience. In 1996, a similar initiative was made by Jacques Chirac who organized a three-party meeting between three presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and France. I told Mr Chirac that the meeting was a waste of time and would not yield any result if Nagorno-Karabakh President Robert Kocharyan did not participate in it, considering the fact that the OSCE Budapest summit in 1994 recognized Karabakh as the third full and equal side of the conflict. Chirac accepted the validity of the argument and promised to persuade Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev to agree with the format proposed by me. However, Aliyev did not agree, and the meeting never took place. Anyway, I believe that the meeting of the three presidents [Hollande, Aliyev and Sargsyan], can be considered as satisfactory if it can, at least, alleviate the tension on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.