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Poles are certainly interested in your relations with Russia. And I know very well that considering such a sensitive topic, heads of state answer so as not to say anything. Still, I would like to know the real relations between Yerevan and Moscow.
(silence). Do you want an honest answer?
That's why I came here.
Currently, they are very complicated and extremely difficult. Last year, ruthlessly and with malice aforethought, we were attacked by Azerbaijan. The scale of the invader's cruelty was shocking. Lots of Armenians lost their lives. And although we have signed three agreements with the Russian Federation - which clearly state that the Russian armed forces must intervene in the event of an attack on Armenian grounds - Russia has done nothing to keep its promises.
We have provided a special place in our territory where we have built Russian military bases. Russian soldiers, stationed in those barracks, saw the cruel death of our citizens and did not take action. This situation creates a real problem; Because why bother and sign any alliance treaties if later they are not put into practice? We are holding talks at the highest level because we expect specific explanations. What was that supposed to mean? How are we to respond to this? Is it a denunciation of the treaties?
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I want to guarantee the security of my citizens. How can I do this if the international arrangements are not implemented? I understand that Russia's global situation is more complicated today than in those days when the safety guarantee documents were signed with us. And I understand that after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the position of Azerbaijan in the West [supported by Turkey, against Russia - ed.] changed in favour of this country. However, Russia's obligations towards our people should still be fulfilled.
It's obvious why Moscow didn't come to your aid. Because - having been waging war in Ukraine for a year – it’s looking for help itself. But in the current situation, does Armenia still want a strategic military alliance with Russia?
Yes! We want to continue cooperating with Russia, and we very much care about it. We want Russia to defend us against Turkey and Azerbaijan. Although, of course, we see a greater threat from Baku than from Ankara. Moscow's support is one of the reasons why in 1991 we decided to have the most solid economic, military and political relations with Russia. As my friend used to say - he unfortunately passed away - you cannot pursue international politics based on imaginary ideals instead of real actions.
How do you want to cooperate with Europe, since it is Russia that is the most crucial ally for Armenia?
I know that the approach to Russia in our country is quite different than in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It’s just that we have such and no other geographical location. I am trying to find a happy medium for cooperation between the European Union and Russia at the same time. I think the EU countries, including Poland, want to have good relations with us on every level.
Moscow, however, does not hide its distaste towards Poland, and we fear that it will want to destroy our country, just as it’s destroying Ukraine now. And there, Russia kills civilians, shatters entire cities, and transports Ukrainian children deep inside its country. How do you want to cooperate with the European Union and the United States of America, having Putin as your crucial partner?
Armenia has nothing to do with this conflict! We have strong and friendly diplomatic relations with Kyiv. We never took sides. Moreover, as a peace-loving country, we firmly call for ending this military dispute.
One more issue is critical from our point of view. The fact that almost half a million Armenians live in Ukraine.
Azerbaijan claims that you are a hidden ally of Russia. You mediate in the supply of weapons and drones, e.g. from Iran.
Azerbaijan says many untrue things about us. I have already heard fake news that our soldiers, our citizens, are recruited into the Russian army and sent to Ukraine. I also heard that Russian troops defend the Armenian borders against the Azerbaijani invaders. And in this case, I would like this to be true.
The Azeris want to discredit us in the international arena. They want to draw us into the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. We perfectly understand what policy they pursue against us. But our position is clear: we did not take sides on the Kyiv-Moscow line. And as the president, I'm doing everything possible to help to end this dispute as quickly as possible.
After World War II, Poland lost historically and culturally important cities - Vilnius, Lviv, and the entire Eastern Borderlands. The Germans lost Szczecin, Wrocław. Austria-Hungary was the greatest power in Europe, and today the countries that used to make up this empire are tiny states. But no one in Europe - apart from Russia – has been thinking about changing borders. And you, Armenia and Azerbaijan, have been unable to reach an agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh region for so many years.
If you ask me whether Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Armenia or Azerbaijan, I can clearly answer to whom! And indeed, you are also right that for several decades, practically it has not been regulated so that we could live peacefully and without problems for the civilian population.
I perfectly understand your comparison of our situation to Europe. But how can this problem be overcome in our case? Through the identity of the inhabitants of this region? Should it be solved by historical arguments or according to rules based on international laws? Or maybe other criteria? Everyone can interpret this to their own advantage. What should I say about Karabakh? That Azerbaijan officially occupies it?
The problem is that several hundred thousand Armenians have lived there for a long time. And they should have the right to live where they want to and how they want to. And above all, they should be safe there. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan cannot provide them with this security, and it has been that way for over four months. That's why we turned to independent international organisations to solve this problem.
But the president of Azerbaijan says precisely the same thing; the only thing is that he accuses you...
No, his position is different. He considers our compatriots to be ethnic citizens of Azerbaijan. It deprives the national minority that does not accept it and wants to be Armenians. Azerbaijanis say that if someone does not agree with this approach, they should leave "their" territory.
If they came up with a sensible idea to resettle our citizens, we might consider it. But the behaviour of the Azerbaijani authorities - and they make it impossible for ordinary, poor people to live there normally - means that today we must all strive for the existence of every inhabitant of Karabakh.
Just imagine that their government has led to a situation where for over four months the native citizens have been living there without electricity, without gas and the food supplies are rationed. What must these people feel like? Besides, could they leave their homeland just like that? Their land, which they have cultivated for generations?
They don't accept it, and neither do we. And many of our partners don't agree with this either. I suggested that we sit at the table and talk about it, but Azerbaijan does not want to. In their opinion, the matter is solved – by means of war from last year.
So what is the real solution to this problem, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
The fundamental question is whether Azerbaijan really wants peace or rather plans an armed invasion of Armenia. Their politicians openly say that they consider our cities to be Azerbaijani. Therefore, they want to attach them to Azerbaijan. What should we do in such a situation? Should we present a thousand years old maps proving that Armenia is here?