Interview with H.E. Mrs. Fusun ARAMAZ,
Ambassador of Turkey in Romania
Vasile SIMILEANU: Your Excellency,
What is Turkey’s position with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh issue and the recent conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia?
Fusun ARAMAZ: Turkey has adopted a consistent attitude regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since the beginning. We continue to support a solution to the problem on the basis of international law, within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
Our approach applies to the recent developments as well.
This armed confrontation in the first place occurred by the illegal occupation back in 1992, of Azerbaijan’s internationally-recognized territories, violating all principles of international law, first and foremost the Geneva Conventions.
This most recent wave of conflict initially started last July by Armenia’s attack in Tovuz region of Azerbaijan. This aggression was not responded adequately by the international community. Hence, shelling against Azerbaijani army positions and civilian residential areas by the end of September was the second step. We strongly condemned these attacks, which constitute yet another clear violation of international law and have caused civilian casualties.
Last but not least, we finally witness attacks against the civilian targets in Azerbai-jan cities by Armenian forces. Attacks targeting the civilian population are yet a new manifestation of disregard of law. We condemn these attacks against the civilian settlements beyond the regions that are scene of armed confrontation.
As per the current conflict and the attacks that target civilians deliberately, we support the stance of the Azerbaijani administration not to respond to provocation, but to exercise its right to self-defense, arising from international law within its inter-nationally-recognised borders, and that it is making every possible effort to prevent harm to the civilian population. These provocations reached to a level that directly targets international an regional peace and stability.
V.S.: Where does your relation with Azerbaijan stand in this approach? To what extent is your special bond with Azerbaijan a determinant factor in your attitude?
Fusun ARAMAZ: Turkey fully supports Azerbaijan with unwavering solidarity in this process. Our support stems not only from the special relationship between the two countries, but also because Azerbaijan is the party whose righteousness has been officially confirmed in the framework of international law.
We support Azerbaijan not just due to our special bonds, but also because interna–tional law is on the side of Azerbaijan. Armenia is not withdrawing from the Azerbaijani territories it occupies by violating the international law and it does not recognize UN Security Council and OSCE resolutions.
What needs to be underlined is that Azerbaijan is using its right of self defense which is enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, in order to protect its people and its territorial integrity and that Azerbaijani Armed Forces are conducting an operation inside its own territory from a legal point of view. The objective of Azerbaijan’s military operation is to protect its population, to restore its territorial integrity and to urge Armenia to come back to meaningful negotiations.
V.S.: What is your evaluation on international community’s involvement through a retrospective point of view?
Fusun ARAMAZ: For 28 years, 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory remains under illegal Armenian occupation and more than 1 million Azerbaijani IDPs have been awaiting to returning to their homelands.
The OSCE Minsk Group is the main body established to reach a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, co-chaired by Russia, USA and France. We are also in the Minsk Group, along with a number of other actors including Azerbaijan and Armenia as parties to the conflict.
Minsk Process, since its outset, has not made a concrete progress towards a solution. In this regard, we understand and consider right the disappointment of Azer-baijan due to the failure of the Minsk Process to make concrete progress towards a solution.
In this framework, it should be seen that standing at an equal distance both to the offensive party and to the victimized one under the name of neutrality means to reward the invading party, and that this approach is neither legally nor morally correct.
We call upon the international community, in particular the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group, to exert pressure on Armenia in a way that would induce her to meaningful and comprehensive negotiations. The international community should stand with the righteous and the real victim.
V.S.: How would you see a way out of this conflict through multilateral means?
Fusun ARAMAZ: Turkey supports a peaceful and negotiated settlement to the conflict in accordance with international law. Obviously, returning to the negotiating table is what we all want in the end. The Minsk Group Co-Chairs have done much work. But the end-result is not much. Yet, we value the good intention on the side of main actors among the international community for de-escalation of the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions. In this respect, we noted the statement by the three Presidents.
But at this stage, the issue is not just about establishing another ceasefire. If we do not aim at fulfillment of the UN resolutions and OSCE decisions, nothing much will change.
Armenia is illegally settling in the regions it occupies ethnic Armenians, some of whom have been brought from the Middle East, and tries to change the demographic structure of the territories it occupies. These are clear violations of international law, setting the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the region as such.
Requesting Armenia to abide by the UN and OSCE decisions cannot be interpreted as “preconditions”. In other words, if ending the occupation is not accepted as the key point, any ceasefire will be fragile and temporary; there will be other eruptions in the future.
Unfortunately, Armenia has so far portrayed itself to negotiate but in reality tried to make its occupation permanent. International community can help the Armenian leadership understand that negotiations should be held in a constructive manner so as to produce an outcome. If we do not aim at fulfillment of the UN resolutions and OSCE decisions, nothing much will change.
We need to reinvigorate the Minsk Process with a new mindset. Ending the occupation is key. Mediators should not remain at an equal distance to the occupier and the occupied.
In this sense, I would also like to ask the question; how is this consistent with our rightful reactions to Transnistria, Crimea, Donbas, Abkhazia or South Ossetia? We react to defend the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. This is a righteous and moral act, and a must on our side if we talk about the rules-based international order and law and principles. Thus, we should adopt a consistent stance when it comes to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
V.S.: How would you respond Armenia’s accusations against Turkey with respect to the ongoing conflict? To specify, I respond to the allegations of Turkey’s direct in-volvement and the allegedly shooting down of an Armenian by Turkey, or bringing in FTFs from the Middle East to fight alongside Azerbaijan?
Fusun ARAMAZ: These are disinformation, fake news and smearing propaganda against Turkey. This is a deliberate campaign conducted by Armenia. Such allegations are unfounded, with no proving evidence. We already refuted these claims at various levels. Azerbaijani authorities also refused all of them at the highest level.
On the contrary, the main alarming news is that Armenia is bringing the terrorists of PKK in Iraq, and those of its affiliate organization in Syria, the YPG, to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh along with the Armenian forces. PKK is a very dangerous organization, that is designated terrorist by NATO and the EU, and the YPG is its Syrian offshoot. PKK is one great risk against regional stability in the Middle East, and YPG is its affiliate. Thus, Armenia should primarily clarify this rather than acting as the guilty and mighty at the same time. Otherwise, this will set yet additional evidence to Armenia’s actions against security and stability in South Caucasus. This precarious circumstance is what we have to investigate and inquire with the Armenian authorities about.
In order to play victim, Armenia resorts to deviating the realities on the ground. Armenia wants to conceal its own irredentism. In this regard, it is also apt here to refer to Armenian Defence Minister David Tonoyan’s announcement of the “New War for New Territories” doctrine last year. Hence, Armenian leadership tries to make forget the violations of the law and its own aggression, and conceal its irredentism.
V.S.: I would finally like to ask you to share your views briefly on the implications of this conflict through a political-economy perspective, as well as the prospective future of relations between Turkey and Armenia.
Fusun ARAMAZ: Political economy perspective is indeed one of the main aspects of this conflict with serious global implications. Tovuz and Ganja regions of Azerbaijan, where Armenia attacked, stand on the natural gas and oil pipelines, as well as connectivity lines. Therefore, this irredentist aggression jeopardises Europe’s energy supply security.
On the other hand, the current situation prevents these countries from utilizing the real potential of the region. This brings in devastating economic effects, which have adverse influences mostly on the people of Armenia.
Relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia are very important for us. If the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is solved and relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia come through and ameliorate, our relationship with Armenia may reach to a different phase in the future.
In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our position that the issue can only be settled through diplomacy and negotiations. Hence, if we lose sight of the UNSC resolutions as the point of departure, a viable resolution of the conflict will become out of sight. International law should prevail, occupation of Azerbaijan’s internationally-recognized territories should end, and more than 1 million Azerbaijani IDPs return to their homelands. This would help peoples and governments alike.