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The humanitarian crisis requires the immediate intervention of the international community, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Politics

17 January, 18:06

On January 17, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan made a speech at the special session of the OSCE Permanent Council initiated by Armenia, in which he said, in particular:

"Mr. President,
Dear ambassadors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Mr. President, let me begin my speech by congratulating you and, through you, my esteemed colleague, Minister Bujar Osmani, on North Macedonia's assumption of the OSCE chairmanship, and wishing you success in your challenging task of leading this largest security organization in the face of unprecedented setbacks in our shared security zone and in times of crisis.

We welcome the people-centered concept of security, the landmark approach of the presidency of North Macedonia under the slogan "for the people." It is best formulated because this organization was created primarily to serve the people's interests and ensure their rights and security.

I assure you that Armenia will support all your efforts to create a safer and more secure environment for people living in the OSCE area.

I would also like to thank you, Mr. President, for convening this extraordinary session and allowing me to talk about the situation in our region and, in particular, the blockade of the Lachin Corridor.

Mr. President,

I want to present here at the Permanent Council Armenia's achievements in the process of successful implementation of large-scale reforms in the field of strengthening democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, from the judiciary to the police, from the fight against corruption to the improvement of social cohesion and justice. And believe me; I would have a lot to say.

Unfortunately, the security crisis and challenges caused by Azerbaijan's 2020 war against Nagorno-Karabakh and the subsequent aggression and occupation of Armenia's sovereign territory threaten Armenia's democracy, undermining the Armenian government's efforts to establish peace, stability, and security in the South Caucasus.

Since it is the first time after the 44-day war and the occupation of the territory of Armenia that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia is speaking at the Permanent Council, I would like to briefly refer to the impact of this unprecedented large-scale use of force for conflict settlement, the OSCE, its principles, and obligations, comprehensive and on the perception of the concept of integral security.

War crimes accompanied the 44-day war, widespread violations of international humanitarian law, and targeting of civilians and infrastructure. Destruction of cultural heritage was not adequately investigated, and no one was held accountable.

Over the decades, the OSCE has developed several tools or toolkits for early warning and conflict prevention. Unfortunately, we must admit that the OSCE could have implemented this toolkit more effectively and promptly.

Moreover, the lack of a proper and precise response led to impunity for using force as a means of conflict resolution, violating the OSCE principles and the obligations laid down in its primary documents, leading to the legitimization of violence in interstate and intrastate relations.

On November 9, 2020, after the signing of the tripartite declaration on the cessation of military operations in Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia spared no effort to normalize relations with Azerbaijan and address the issue of the rights and security of the people of Nagorno Karabakh. Unfortunately, the Azerbaijani side continues its destructive policy instead of participating in the negotiations in good faith. Immediately after the signing of the tripartite declaration, the Azerbaijani side violated the ceasefire and cessation of all military operations. It attacked Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in two more villages being captured and Armenian service members being arrested. In May and November 2021, as well as in September 2022, the Azerbaijani side unleashed aggression against the Republic of Armenia, occupying about 150 square kilometers of the sovereign territories of Armenia. Today, the Azerbaijani side has created a humanitarian crisis by blocking the Lachin Corridor, pursuing far-reaching goals.

On December 12, 2022, a group of Azerbaijanis, claiming to be environmental activists, closed the Lachin Corridor, the only lifeline connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and the rest of the world, effectively isolating 120,000 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, 30,000 of whom are children. More than 1,000 people, including 270 children, cannot return home to Nagorno Karabakh. Some children were separated from their parents and temporarily found refuge in Armenia.

It is evident from the beginning that this blockade was a pre-planned operation, directed and financed by the Azerbaijani authorities, using the cover of so-called "eco-activists" for a credible denial of their actions.

These actions of Azerbaijan clearly violate point 6 of the tripartite statement of November 9, which clearly states that: "Lachin Corridor remains under the control of the peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation. The Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees the safety of the movement of citizens, vehicles, and cargo in both directions through the Lachin Corridor.

It has been more than a month since the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have been under a de facto siege. The supply of food, medicine, and electricity to Nagorno Karabakh has been almost completely stopped. Previously, about 400 tons of essential goods, including grain, flour, rice, vegetables, fruits, medicines, and baby food, were imported from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh every day. After nearly five weeks of lockdown, all essentials are in dire need.

Moreover, the deliberate interruption of gas supply for three days in the cold winter conditions, followed by the continuous breakdown of electricity and telecommunication lines throughout the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, is another evidence of the pre-planned actions of the Azerbaijani authorities. This seriously affects people's daily lives and leads to several adverse humanitarian consequences, such as the lack of electricity, the disruption of the educational process in schools, the functioning of government departments and businesses, and the failure of heating in hospitals and other vital institutions. People need more heating and hot water. The authorities have introduced restrictions on the sale of fuel and now also on the sale of food and necessities.

The humanitarian crisis is intensifying daily and requires the international community's immediate and targeted intervention. We cannot stand aside and watch people slowly starve to death because of political games and perhaps geopolitical calculations. The time to act is now.

At the request of Armenia, this issue was discussed in the UN Security Council. We informed the Security Council members and the Secretary-General about the dire situation and urged our partners to intervene and stop the unfolding humanitarian disaster.

Of course, I welcome the unequivocal statements and positions of our partner countries, which call on Azerbaijan to immediately and unconditionally lift the blockade and ensure free and unhindered movement through the Lachin Corridor. Let's increase the pressure on Azerbaijan so that it fulfills its commitments. Azerbaijan must be held accountable for its actions.

The blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh is not an isolated episode. It should be considered part of Azerbaijan's large-scale and systematic policy aimed at ethnic cleansing the people of Nagorno-Karabakh by creating unbearable conditions for life. Azerbaijan seeks to force the population of Nagorno-Karabakh to leave their native land and homes. The latest statement of the President of Azerbaijan, where he proposes to deport those Armenians who do not want to become citizens of Azerbaijan, proves their intention to carry out ethnic cleansing.

It is imperative to send an international fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin Corridor to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground and ensure uninterrupted humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh for relevant UN bodies.

Dear Colleagues,

Showing the political will to normalize relations with Azerbaijan, the Armenian government conscientiously embarked on three-way negotiations with Azerbaijan, which are opening all transport links in the region, border demarcation and border security, and a peace agreement or settlement of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In the first direction, which refers to restoring economic and transport links in the region, we have formed a tripartite working group headed by the RA Deputy Prime Minister. Several meetings were held in this format, and issues related to possible roads and railway communications were discussed, as other details associated with unblocking regional contacts.

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan's approach to this process could have been more constructive. Despite its clear commitment in the tripartite statements of November 9, 2020, and January 11, 2021, Azerbaijan put forward an unfounded demand for an extraterritorial corridor through the sovereign territory of Armenia. I want to clearly state that Armenia has never undertaken any obligation or agreed in any way to the provision of any extraterritorial corridor through its territory, and all the claims of the Azerbaijani side are a noticeable distortion and manipulation of the content of the tripartite statements.

Recently, the president of Azerbaijan admitted that he introduced the term "Zangezur Corridor" to the international agenda and threatened to open it sooner or later, regardless of whether Armenia wants it. And he said that he introduced this term after the signing of the Trilateral Declaration on November 9

I want to make it clear again that we exclude any extraterritorial corridor in the territory of the Republic of Armenia, and we will not provide any hall to anyone. This is a moral and irreversible position, entirely consistent with the relevant provision of the November 9 statement. Moreover, the decision to provide a connection between the western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan can be made quickly once Azerbaijan accepts that all communications must operate within the jurisdiction and legislation of the Republic of Armenia.

In this context, I would like to let you know that recently another attempt to find a final agreement on the opening of railway communications failed, as the Azerbaijani side proposed new conditions that contradicted the prior understanding of the parties regarding the regulations. This was the second time that Azerbaijan's actions undermined progress in this matter. A preliminary agreement to resolve the railway connection issues was first reached in December 2021. This fact was even included in the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, statement on December 14, 2021.

The second direction of relations regulation is the work of border demarcation and border security commissions. The commissions were established on May 12, 2021, after the invasion of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia by the Azerbaijani armed forces and the subsequent occupation of the parts of Armenia.

The commissions held meetings to discuss the criteria for the demarcation of the interstate border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are convinced that with clearly agreed criteria for border demarcation, it will be possible to achieve lasting peace. In this regard, the agreements reached in Prague and Sochi are significant, mainly referring to the Alma-Ata declaration and subsequent protocols. However, in his further comments, the President of Azerbaijan, claiming that Armenia thus recognized Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, did not confirm the recognition of Armenia's territorial integrity.

Azerbaijan obstructs the work of the commissions. First, despite the agreements reached during the second tripartite meeting of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on November 26, 2021, in Sochi and hosted by the President of the European Council, the commission should have a dual mandate and work on border demarcation and the stable security situation in the border areas, Azerbaijan refused the title of the commissions. He included the term "border security," which indicated his true intentions. Then, on September 13, 2022, Azerbaijan's armed forces launched an unjustified military attack in the southern and southeastern directions of the Republic of Armenia, which led to the occupation of other parts of the sovereign territory of Armenia. More than 200 soldiers died. The towns and villages of the border provinces were shelled indiscriminately. During this aggression, the Azerbaijani armed forces committed war crimes and extrajudicial killings and subjected Armenian soldiers, including women, to the most shocking and terrible humiliation and torture. These facts were recorded by the Azerbaijani servicemen and posted on various social websites, obviously aiming to intimidate the Armenian side. It should be noted that during the 44-day war, there were also large-scale violations of international humanitarian law.

In this context, I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Polish Presidency, the Secretary-General, and the OSCE Troika. The Security Cooperation Forum Presidency for sending the OSCE Needs Assessment Mission to Armenia to assess the situation on the ground, as well as to appreciate the efforts of all the supporters of the mission. The Mission's report revealed the destruction's extent and depth. We noted the conclusions and recommendations included here, which should be a starting point for further work and engagement of the OSCE executive structures with Armenia.

I would also like to thank the European Union for sending an observation mission to Armenia. We are ready for further cooperation in this matter.

The September aggression, as well as the attacks and provocations of Azerbaijan in the preceding period, should be considered with the obvious threats of the use of force in Armenia, including the capital Yerktsvam.

So far, we see no sign of a change in this political line, namely Azerbaijan's willingness to abandon territorial claims and belligerent rhetoric and to remain committed to peace. Under these circumstances, we have every reason to believe that even after the signing of the relations settlement agreement, Adrian will continue its absurd territorial claims against Armenia.

The third direction of negotiations refers to the text of a possible agreement or peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which should comprehensively address all issues and create a favorable security environment to continue discussions in different directions.

The Armenian side presented several fundamental proposals, in particular, regarding the clarification of the criteria for the demarcation of the interstate border, the removal of armed forces from the state border and the creation of a demilitarized zone, as well as the formation of the institution of guarantors of the peace treaty. Sadly, Azerbaijan rejected all the proposals of the Armenian side.

Along with all this, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should also be resolved. The rights and security guarantees for people living in Nagorno Karabakh will be addressed. Nevertheless, taking into account the Azerbaijani proposal to discuss this issue separately from the peace agreement, the Armenian side proposed to create an international dialogue mechanism between Stepanakert and Baku.

We must recognize the enormity of this problem, given that there has been virtually no relationship between the two countries for more than 30 years. But we are convinced that the regulation of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations is crucial for the security and stability of the region and its prospects. However, the resolution of the problem can only be achieved with the political will to address the root causes of the conflict, fundamental human rights, and work toward reconciliation.

The blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which is a step in the opposite direction and further removes the prospect of any progress in all these directions, once again proves the absolute necessity of international engagement in addressing the rights and security issues of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Dear Colleagues,

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues to be a serious challenge to regional and international peace and stability. The aggressive attitude of Azerbaijan confirms this fact, as the anti-Armenian rhetoric directed against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia and the blockade of the Lachin Corridor.

2020 More than two years after the signing of the tripartite declaration on November 9, Azerbaijan refuses to repatriate all Armenian prisoners of war and other detained persons, violating the obligations assumed by the Geneva Conventions, the Tripartite Declaration, and the constant calls of the international community. According to information confirmed by Azerbaijan, 33 people are still being held hostage in Baku. I must also highlight two dozen documented cases of enforced disappearance. We possess the indisputable, recorded facts of the capture of Armenian prisoners of war, but Azerbaijan rejects their capture.

Armenia is also very concerned about 2020 with the state of Armenian cultural heritage in the territories that came under the control of Azerbaijan after the war. The fact-finding mission of UNESCO to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, on which discussions continued in 2020. since November, is still rejected by Azerbaijan.

It is clear that the OSCE is not experiencing the best days, and the situation in the South Caucasus is one of many crises the Organization is facing. At the same time, all conflicts in the OSCE area of responsibility should be the subject of due attention of the organization and its bodies. The OSCE, together with the co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group, has been involved in the political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from the beginning. Despite all the challenges, the Minsk Group still has a responsibility because the political settlement of the competition has yet to take place.

The OSCE can play an essential role through the involvement of its structures, not only in achieving peace but also in maintaining it.

Thank you."

 

 

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