Are we handing the liberated territories to the EU?

Even the official Yerevan considered 2216 Resolution adopted by the European Parliament as non pro-Armenian. In regards to this, the opinion of the director of the Center for European Studies at YSU, PhD in law, Associate Professor Artur Ghazinyan, who stated in the media that he basically agrees with several statements of the Resolution, was quite unexpected.  “A1+” talks with A. Ghazinyan.

You have expressed an opinion which is unacceptable for at least the majority of  Armenian society. Why do you think that today the international community endures 7 liberated regions to be under Armenian control? 

I need to clarify one thing. The regions are controlled by Nagorno Karabakh’s self-defense army, but not by Armenia. I am a lawyer and I believe that this legal definition is very important.  The EP has expressed a viewpoint, according to which NKR’s current status quo was established by force and contradicts the international law.  I did say that I basically agree with this viewpoint. Why?  Because we know that the status quo was established by the 1994 cease-fire agreement reached by force.  Second, currently NKR’s forces control Azerbaijani territories which, as far as I know, the official position by Armenia has never considered as their own.   It is completely different when politicians declared them ours.  What I imply here refers to official statements. We call them security zone to justify why we keep them. There is no other way, as it is very difficult to occupy another country’s territory and  to be fair and sincere in front of the international community on this issue.

We did not occupy them, but we liberated them during the forced war.

 Yes, indeed, we defended, we liberated those territories which were included in NKR. It is not within my competence to speak on this topic. There is Karabakh, a self-determined entity, a fact which cannot be doubted. As impossible as it is for those territories to be permanently controlled, so too it is impossible for Karabakh to be  part of Azerbaijan.  So we have landed in a situation when NKR self-defense forces control territories which we call security zone, while the international community – UN, the Council of Europe, EU label them as occupied territories in a number of resolutions.  I state this not as a politician but as a lawyer.

Don’t you contradict yourself? First you say that NKR is an independent state, which makes its own decisions, then…

The top priority for those responsible for Armenian’s foreign policy officials is to make NKR a party to negotiations immediately and to ensure the realization of NKR’s right to self-determination.  This issue has moved to another platform. Following NKR’s exclusion from negotiations, the issue turned into a territorial conflict between two states with some elements of a self-determination principle. Armenian diplomacy should do its best to fix this fatal mistake even to the extent of refusing to participate in negotiations stating that the NKR people should decide.

If the NKR population is to decide then what is the difference whether NKR or RA authorities negotiate?

At first glance there seems to be no difference but what is the problem here?  Only the international community does not want to negotiate with three parties, because it is more difficult. Besides that NKR’s non-participation in negotiations was grounded in the fact that if RA participates in negotiations, then NKR can just be an observer and as a result of internal consultations it would be possible to present a common position.  To me, the exclusion of NKR from the negotiations was a strategic error: a time bomb, which was put under the negotiation process, and today it can explode at any moment.  Analyzing all those geo-political developments taking place in our region during the last two years, one can deduce that the international community has decided to establish lasting peace and stability in the South Caucasus. They have big plans and long-term projects concerning this region and to implement them it is necessary to solve all the conflicts and controversies existing in the region as soon as possible.

In such circumstances, don’t you consider that Armenia should think about recognizing NKR’s independence rather than thinking about returning liberated territories?

This option has been offered several times by the Heritage party.  But this can be the last measure taken by Armenian authorities, realizing that this can lead to war.  Anyway, in such a situation the important point is not the agreement of two presidents upon some problem, which is not difficult to reach, but the ability of nations to accept it, and the problem is the level of readiness among these nations to accept it. If nations and societies are not able to embark on a dialog, this means that the agreement is just a piece of paper… We are neighbors and we cannot live like this forever. At some point we need to come to some compromises.

During Soviet times the issue also seemed to be settled, but the reality was that the people of Attach protested.

Yes, you are right. It was as a result of Soviet authorities’ irrational thinking and acting, which moved the issue to a platform of temporary containment and the creation of an illusion of being settled. This policy served as the mainspring in the NKR issue and as a result in 1988 it exploded with the full force that had cumulated during 70 years. We have already seen the consequences. With this resolution the EU urges the Council of European Union to use EU’s Common Foreign and Defense Policy as an instrument to carry out peacekeeping mission in the territory of Karabakh. When they speak about the withdrawal of Armenian forces, it doesn’t imply the re-location of Azerbaijani ones. The same security zone will remain: it will not be controlled by the NKR defense army, but by EU’s peacekeeping troops of Rapid Reaction and Observer Missions, which, in my opinion, are currently the most serious and stabile missions in the world. If we consider that peace and stability are established under EU aegis, then nobody will be interested in starting a war. Thus, the mission will ensure the return of a peaceful population, there will be investments, and complex infrastructural network will be set. I strongly believe that after the withdrawal of Armenian forces and the placement of European Mission’s peacekeeping forces, Azerbaijani military rhetoric will transform into propaganda oriented towards the establishment of tolerance and stabile cooperation.

Don’t you think what you present as a lawyer is just the same that has been offered by the co-chairmen of OSCE’s Minsk Group in the Madrid principals?

-I am not acquainted with the Madrid principles” text.

It is nearly the same as what Armenian side doesn’t accept.

-Who doesn’t accept? I haven’t heard any official statement about not accepting it. There is also no statement that it accepts.

Don’t you think that what happened in 1998 when Levon Ter-Petrosyan resigned will repeat itself?

-I would abstain from making any statements on this issue, as I can’t predict society’s reaction. There will be powers that speculate over this, create the atmosphere of intolerance, which, to me, is not a constructive approach. We have to realize that it is us, first, who need the stability and peace offered by the international community. I disagree with the opinion that we can develop for 100 years in the isolation. It is not a serious approach. If the decision on this issue of settlement is taken to the international level, then our opinion will be considered for some period, some solutions, suggestions will be proposed, and everything will be done to hold the parties from undertaking extreme steps. If negotiation resources are exhausted the current status quo will not endure, and the international community will have to apply harsh methods, for which international law and practice possess sufficient mechanisms and necessary leverage.  As a result we will have to leave those territories under pressure of the international community with all the economic and political consequences.

Why don’t you mention the fact that Armenian side has also lost territories?

I just present what the European Parliament said. If the Parliament raised this issue I would have only commented on its being right or wrong. Raising such a question is the task of our foreign ministry. I am only an expert who expresses his opinion about this Resolution and is highly concerned about critical and abusive responses voiced in Armenia towards the European Union. In my opinion it was the result of non complex analysis of the Resolution while total attention was focused on those statements which seemed non pro-Armenian at first sight. So I just couldn’t remain silent on that point  and tolerate it. 

So you have spoken as an EU expert?

No, I have spoken as a person who sees Armenia in Europe and as a European law expert. I know that Kirilovs (the authors of the Resolution) do not shape EU foreign policy, which is set on other levels. It’s only a position. It is difficult to say who is to be blamed for the EU taking such a position, because it’s not easy to change it when we speak about such an influential institution like the European Parliament.

Doesn’t the EU accept that the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue lies within the framework of the OSCE mandate?

It accepts but expresses its own position too.

Therefore the position is not binding in its implementation

For us it is not, but it is already becoming compulsory for foreign policy of the EU 27 member- states. I’m sure that some statements will be softened since parliamentary statements are usually stronger than diplomatic ones. However the content will remain the same. What is the essence of the issue? We must make a corridor to tie central Asia to Europe and to realize long-term geopolitical and economic projects to that end. It can only be done under the conditions of a normal, stabile society and politics.

Why does Armenia always have to concede?

It doesn’t.

Isn’t the ceding of liberated territories a concession?

You misunderstand the word to concede. We don’t give them to Azerbaijan. According to the spirit of the EU resolution we pass them off to the European peacekeeping forces. It creates a stable basis for a later referendum to determine the final status of NKR. It’s unavoidable. The Karabakh people should express their position and the EU taking on the role to safeguard peace and stability in the region, should form such political and legal mechanisms which would guarantee the full realization of the NKR people’s right to self-determination under reasonable terms. In this regard today the EU possesses all necessary tools to create such an atmosphere. At the same time we should carry out such policy that in the nearest future the population of Nagorno-Karabakh doesn’t decrease. Rathervice versa it will increase as much as possible which hasn’t been recorded for the last 20 years.

A referendum has been already held , hasn’t it?

EU doesn’t accept the referendum results.

But they can never recognize them.

The EU will accept only the one held under its own aegis as it happened in Kosovo.

They always state that Karabakh is not Kosovo.

Yes, Kosovo fought for its independence till the end by fully keeping all practical elements of international law necessary for the realization of their nations’ right to self-determination. During the struggle Serbian authorities, conducting intolerant and aggressive policy, convinced the international community that Kosovo can never be a part of Serbia

As a lawyer do you think it is possible to use Kosovo’s example in the Nagorno-Karabakh case?

 Only If Karabakh declares that it does not accept the negotiations that Armenia conducts on its behalf.