Interview: NKR Representative to US Discusses Baku Aggression

As Azerbaijan’s assault on the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh) continued, the Armenian Weekly Editor Nanore Barsoumian spoke with NKR Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan by phone on April 4 about the recent developments.


Nanore Barsoumian—How do you assess Baku’s strategy of violence and tactical escalation immediately after the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C. last week?

NKR Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan (photo: Public Radio of Armenia)
NKR Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan (photo: Public Radio of Armenia)

Robert Avetisyan—My assessment is that even after all the international efforts—be they bilateral or general—and the efforts of all three co-chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group], Azerbaijan showed that the country doesn’t respect anyone’s approach; that Azerbaijan will do whatever it wants. There is an absolute lack of international responsibility. We knew that Azerbaijan is hostile towards Artsakh. There was nothing new in that. Unfortunately, even the international powers cannot stop Azerbaijan from taking destructive action. Our [NKR] Defense Ministry, our political leadership has said on various occasions that we have been the subject of aggression by all those ceasefire violations, and as I said, we were trying to warn [the international community] of an escalation, which we are seeing now.

The current actions, the timing, the conditions, and the international preconditions prove that Azerbaijan is not a responsible player in this negotiation process—it cannot be a trustworthy partner in the current negotiations.

All of the statements [made by Baku] that Azerbaijan is tolerant towards Armenians don’t correspond to reality. The reality is that they are not tolerant towards anything Armenian, which significantly narrows the possibility of holding talks with Azerbaijan right now.


N.B.—How do you view the ceasefire violations that have increased both in frequency and intensity over the past two years?

R.A.—As we have said on various occasions, whatever is happening on the border between NKR and Azerbaijan is the culmination of a policy by the Azeri leadership that has been in place for several years to consistently undermine international efforts to reach a positive solution to the existing problem.

Azerbaijanis have been violating the ceasefire regime on a daily basis. We’ve been getting frequent reports of victims on both sides. We tried to raise the international attention towards this problem. We tried to make sure that we didn’t end up where we are now.

Together with the international community, we had a vision on how to move forward; the only country that was derailing and rejecting all those suggestions was Azerbaijan. They refused to implement confidence-building measures, which is a necessary component of any peace process; and they refused to implement the proposals in the Royce-Engel letter, which would have been—and can still be—a very effective mechanism to maintain the ceasefire.


N.B.—Some analysts are saying that Baku’s objective seems to have changed from shaking up the status quo to actually gaining territory. What are your thoughts?

R.A.—They think that all the weapons they have acquired and all the anti-Armenian hatred they have been instigating in society for decades has raised their self-confidence to the level that could allow them to be successful on the battlefield. They’re making the same mistake that they made in 1988 [the outbreak of the conflict]. We have to also consider the lack of proper international condemnation and clear signals to Azerbaijan that this is not something the world will tolerate. If we add all those subjective and objective conditions, Azerbaijan has launched this attack to blackmail the international community, to try to destroy Artsakh again. And just as they failed in the past, they are failing now.

It is our hope that the NKR Army will force Azerbaijan—once again—to be more receptive to the Armenian-led and international community-led negotiation efforts.


N.B.—Is there a path back to the negotiating table?

R.A.—The first option, which is what the NKR is doing right now, is to force the aggressor to uphold the ceasefire, to force the aggressor to realize that [its policy of] revanchism failed—every time—and that it cannot reach a solution to this problem by military means.

They will have to eventually negotiate peace with the NKR. That peace should be enforced by an international stance—by a clear signal; by naming the aggressor and calling a spade a spade; by calling out the Azeri leadership for doing all this; by accusing Azerbaijan of all the war crimes they are committing now; and by sanctions. These kinds of steps must be taken to make Azerbaijan more receptive to international efforts, and to force it to play a more constructive role in the negotiations.

Hopefully, this time Baku will finally understand—at a very high price—that there is no military solution and that they cannot conquer Artsakh.


Note: The NKR Defense Army and the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan reportedly agreed at around noon on April 5 to halt the fighting along the NKR Line of Contact, in light of the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations that were scheduled to take place in Vienna.

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).
Nanore Barsoumian

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  1. I would like to see Armenians in Yerevan and Washington, DC hold huge protest rallies demonstrations at the embassies of Armenia’s alleged “ally” Russia, which (with Israel) has supplied Azerbaijan with the weapons to kill Armenians.

    Russia has once again betrayed Armenia. Russia has not blamed Azerbaijan at all for the latter’s obvious aggression.
    These are not the actions of an ally.
    These are the actions of a Russian “Bolshevist”/Russian “Neocon” who will cave in to the Turks: at one time it was Ataturk and his Azeri friends.
    Now it is to Aliyev.
    Putin admits he was fooled by Turkey. He thought he could trust Turkey and that Erdogan “betrayed him”. How naïve is this man Putin?
    Does he know anything about Russian history?

    Now, Putin thinks he is going to make friends with another set of Turks: namely Azeris.
    Russia is led by a neo-Bolshevik/neo-Con.

  2. Interesting perspective. We should not cede one inch( sorry centimeter) of land to these pretenders. But honestly what has being” a responsible player in the negotiation process” done for Armenia/Artsakh. Despite the protocols of diplomacy, every occasion of Azeri Agression, is followed by statement blaming both parties. This may be understood in diplomatic circles, but is unacceptable to those who lost homes, family members, etc.
    It is time for us to inform the negotiating parties that if we are to continue this process, they must agree on process that assign accountability….such as monitoring equipment.
    Aliyev like his cousin to the west are politicians who know how to deal with the “civilized” approach of the OSCE.
    Rattle the sabre, attack the innocent, commit more atrocities…. And the most you will get is “both parties need to show restraint and respect”.
    No sanctions No resolutions, get away with murder. Oh right that happened before.

    What really gets under my skin is the attacks on Tavush…. An internationally recognized border of a sovereign state.
    Where is the CSTO? Where are the UN resolutions? Where is the OSCE?
    Nice people of Armenia get nothing while the murderes with false deed to the land( the 1922 theft by Stalin) get the world’s attention when they characterize the Armenians as “separatists” “breakaway” or part of a long feud. Artsakh was Armenian almost 2000 years before there was an Azerbaijan.

    Time to wake up Armenians. We need to respond to every distortion published. We need to influence the sources of these publications. We need to be tougher negotiation. We were attacked. We won the war. Our people live on the land. We have build a nation we are proud of. We need to negotiate with these factors on the table.

  3. You simply cannot under any circumstance depend, believe the azeris. They (the azeri government) do not understand what they are doing – they have no logic and integrity. It is a very simple explanation. You simply cannot TRUST the azeri’s under any circumstance. Talk to the leader of that country and you will understand his motives.

  4. The Armenian government and NKR both are in flagrant diplomatic contradiction vis-a-vis the aggressive spirit of Azerbaijan. The statement that ‘Hopefully, this time Baku will finally understand’ is totally undiplomatic. Both accept the incapability and drama played by the Minsk group, both say the international community turns a blind eye on the aggressor. The answer is Armenia and NKR should take the military solution to reduce the effectiveness of Azerbaijani military power. Do as Ataturk did. Sign whatever ‘scrap paper’ needs to be signed, take the aggressive initiative and blame the Azeris for having been the aggressor. Not beeing the aggressor and being blamed for being one, one might as well be the aggressor and be blamed as being truly the aggressor. Military blood is not permitted to be wasted by accepting the terms of the international community or Azerbaijan. Both shall need to pay for their immorality despite the hostility that it creates not to mention that such hostile attitude already prevails. Respect is only gained by military superiority and not by sentimentality. Cause as much damage to the Azerbaijani military reserve as possible. Foreign powers have no say in determining the will of a nation. Learn from the Lebanese experience, one only of many historical national freedom seekers. Learn from the 33 days war. ‘Lebanon- One small nation that’s keeping the whole world busy’ once said the President of the USA, the late Ronald Reagan. Have the guts to add Armenia in the list of Lebanon.

  5. Armenians, don´t care so much for the comments of the world on each attack of the azeris ! More than 1000 years before the first tartar arrived to the Armenian land called Artsakh, you have been living there.Even at the beginning of azeri aggression in 1990 75 % of Artsakh population have been Armenians. The West knows who is the aggressor. The only reason for the West as well as for Russia to always repeat this stupid “both sides should stop aggression” is the azeri Oil. Till the Oil is finished you have to show azeris, that each aggression costs many azeri lives. Don´t forget that you promised azeris to lose even more land, if they start a big war. Moslems like the azeris only understand the strong way, not the intellectual one !

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