STEPANAKERT (Journal Du Parlement)—Bako Sahakian, President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was interviewed on August 12 by the French Journal du Parlement newspaper. The interview has been translated from French and can be read below.
Mr. President, Nagorno-Karabakh isn’t recognized by the international community as a state. The conflict seems to get increasingly waterlogged. What needs to be done for restore dialogue and have advancement in the conflict settlement issue?
Several political, legal and psychological steps are necessary for restarting dialogue. In the political context, it is first necessary to respect the provisions of the 1994-1995 ceasefire agreements, as well as calls on the international community and mediator countries to settle the conflict by exclusively peaceful means.
In the legal point of view, the complete format of negotiations process should be restored, where the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is recognized as a side of the conflict. The OSCE agreed to these provisions at the 1994 summit in Budapest. It is impossible to settle the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict in the absence of Nagorno-Karabakh – one of the direct sides. Regarding the psychological part, here the main obstruction is Azerbaijan’s revanchist policy. Azerbaijan must find the strength to renounce the racial stereotypes towards Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian people and respect fundamental rights and freedom of other peoples, as well as refuse unpromising and adventurist policy.
What other diplomatic concessions would you be ready to make in order to ease the tension?
Any settlement of the conflict, especially one that is as complex as the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, can be resolved in a comprehensive manner through concessions. Reasonable and adequate compromise if needed. We are ready to compromise facts, since they cannot jeopardize our security and cannot allow the opponent the opportunity to launch a new aggression.
Do you think there has been progress in international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh? And what consequences can it have on the stability of the South Caucasus?
The process of international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh is very active and we have already achieved certain results in this direction. Currently, Nagorno-Karabakh has already been recognized by the U.S. states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Louisiana, California, Georgia and Hawaii, the Australian state of New South Wales South by the Spanish Basque Country, the Fresno and Los Angeles county of California, and several cities and local authorities. We will have more success in the near future. I am sure that the international recognition of our country will have a positive impact on stability in the region, integrating it even more with the international community.
There has been a ceasefire since May 12, 1994. Why was it broken in early April?
Azerbaijan violated the regime of cease-fire by triggering a large-scale offensive that has been called the Four Day War. The main reason for this aggression is based on the state policy of Azerbaijan with an ideology of hatred towards Armenians, but also because of their dictatorial and totalitarian regime. As world history has testified repeatedly, such states still lead an aggressive policy.
What is the situation of refugees today?
A number of Karabakh homes have suffered as a result of Azerbaijan’s aggression; hundreds of people from neighboring areas have lost their homes and were temporarily moved to Stepanakert and in some cities of the Republic of Armenia. The Government is implementing several projects to improve the living conditions of the refugees and to rebuild their homes.
What are Nagorno-Karabakh’s recourses? How is the financial situation developing in the region? Do French or European companies operate there?
The economic development of Nagorno-Karabakh is based on its own resources and on the support by the Republic of Armenia and the Diaspora. Before the war in April, the average annual growth rate of our economy reached 9%. Obviously, the war has had a negative impact on economic development, but we will do our best to resume growth. One of the most dynamic sectors in Nagorno-Karabakh is the banking sector. Various bank branches are represented in our country and we hope that their number will grow. Although French and European companies have branches in Karabakh, they mainly proceed through the members of the Armenian diaspora.
You ask for self-determination for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Does this mean that in your eyes, any minority grouped in a geographic framework is allowed to demand for self-determination?
All peoples have the right to self-determination: it is one of the fundamental principles of international law. The Karabakh people have fought for 67 years to free themselves from the colonial yoke of Soviet Azerbaijan, a power that was foreign to us and that we had been imposed artificially. Let me remind that the decision had been adopted and implemented, contrary to the will of our people, by the Caucasian branch of the Bolshevik Party. In 1988, we realized our right to self-determination. In 1991, we created an independent state. We were forced to defend against aggression from Azerbaijan, and for a quarter century we have been building a sovereign, independent, democratic and social state.
Obviously, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has earned the right to be recognized by the international community.
Finally, what message would you send to the French and European political class through the Journal Du Parlement and the European Committee?
We are frequently asked this question, and it reflects the vision of relations between Europe and Nagorno-Karabakh. The fact that we belong to a common civilizational is undeniable. Some even claim that Europe ends in Nagorno-Karabakh. We think Europe begins in Nagorno-Karabakh.