Armenia’s PM: Conflict with Azerbaijan becoming ‘a struggle against international terrorism’

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said the situation is becoming a “struggle against international terrorism” for Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

Faced with an intractable problem which long predates his time in office, and with rumours of Syrian mercenaries come to join the fighting, Mr Pashinyan is calling the latest explosion of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh a civilisational issue.

He told Sky News: “Firstly, Turkey has become fully engaged, encouraging and inciting the conflict.

“Turkey has also transported mercenaries and terrorists from the territory of Syria to the conflict zone which is changing the whole context.”

He added: “This is becoming essentially Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia’s struggle against international terrorism.”

Azerbaijan and Turkey – which has promised unqualified support to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in his efforts to reverse the country’s defeat in the last war in the early 1990s – deny engaging mercenaries in the conflict.

Sky News has not been able to prove the presence of Syrian mercenaries in Azerbaijan, but the allegations continue to circulate in international media reports and the Armenian government has been quick to seize on them.

Mr Pashinyan also accuses Turkey of backing Azerbaijan to pursue a genocidal policy against Armenians and further the country’s expansionist ambitions.

He said: “Let us look at what Turkey is implementing in the Mediterranean in Libya in Syria, Iraq. To me there is no doubt that this is a policy of continuing the Armenian genocide and of reinstating the Turkish empire.”

Behind these historically loaded accusations, which will play well with the public at home and the diaspora abroad, the prime minister provided little in the way of fresh ideas to resolve a crisis which has rapidly flared into all-out war.

He repeated his negotiating stance that any peace settlement should be acceptable to the peoples of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, even though the Azerbaijani leadership has refused to negotiate with the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh leadership.

He also refused to acknowledge that Armenia had any obligation under international law to withdraw troops from territories conquered in the conflict in the early 1990s, saying that had applied to the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous forces and had nothing to do with Armenia.

Turkey’s stance has added a new dimension to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, but at heart it remains a territorial dispute which successive governments in Armenia and the Aliyev father and son dynasty in Azerbaijan have failed to resolve.

Despite international calls for a ceasefire, violence prevails at an already substantial cost militarily, with a growing civilian loss of life.

From his comments today, Mr Pashinyan gave no indication that he was in the mood for peace overtures any time soon.

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