The special representative of the Russian Foreign Minister for Nagorno Garabagh conflict, the Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Igor Popov’s exclusive interview to the Moscow correspondent of ONA
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's expression “Nagorno Garabagh people” during his last visit to Yerevan, as well as his statement reading as “No agreement, will be achieved without consent of Nagorno Garabagh people” were negatively evaluated in Azerbaijan. Was the Azerbaijani population of the region taken into consideration while using the "Nagorno Garabagh people" expression?
- I am acting from such a provision that the Nagorno Garabagh conflict cannot be settled without the consent of all interested parties. The opinion of the whole population of the region should be taken into consideration. Indeed, based on all versions of the main settlement principles, the refugees and the internally displaced people have the right to return to their former places of residence and accordingly to take part in the identification of their future fate. The procedure and the time of implementation of this right will be decided by the parties.
-Does the Russian Federation support the idea of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to change the format of negotiations dedicated to the settlement of the Nagorno Garabagh conflict? Has any change occurred in the position of Russia regarding this issue?
- Russia’s position regarding the format of the negotiations has always been consistent. We have repeatedly stated that the parties should resolve between themselves the issue of agreement and identification of the membership of the format of the negotiations. At the initial phase of the consultations and negotiations, during the cessation of hostilities, after signing of the ceasefire agreement, the Nagorno Garabagh was a participant relevant agreement and negotiations. Later on, it was decided that Yerevan will represent the interests of Karabakh. If in the course of time the parties agree to the involvement of Nagorno Garabagh representatives in the process of negotiations, we will support this decision.
- In the recent statements of the Russian Foreign Minister, it was emphasized that there has been a slowdown in the negotiation process. Does Russia intend to take any steps to advance this process?
- Russia has always kept the position of active meditation. Helping the sides for the settlement of the long-lasting conflict is one of the unconditional foreign policy priorities of the Russia Federation. We work in this direction actively. 1994 ceasefire treaty which is still crucial for the ceasefire is among the documents signed with the direct assistance of Russia. The adoption of the Moscow Declaration signed by Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders in 2008 which is the first and the only document for the settlement of Nagorno Garabagh conflict so far was the important step of Russia in its way of mediation efforts. As you know, Russia played a crucial role in ending large-scale military operations in 2016 by inviting Chiefs of Staff of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Moscow. We hold our mediation mission in close contact with our French and American partners. In April of this year, the meeting of Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers was held by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov in Moscow with the participation of OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. On the basis of the agreements reached between Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan in Vienna in March of this year, concrete proposals aimed at creating an atmosphere conducive to the resumption of the negotiation process on the substance of the settlement were developed. Among them, there are measures on stabilization of the situation in the conflict zone, the facilitation of the fate of the persons detained in the sides. The agreement has been reached on reciprocal visits of media representatives, several difficult problems of the settlement have been reviewed. Some of these offers have been implemented. The condition in the border and conflict zone remains relatively quiet. The hotline between Baku and Yerevan have has been restored. There is progress on the issue of reciprocal visits of the journalists. Zaven Karapetyan and Elvin Ibrahimov which were in hostage have been returned. The measure of returning other prisoners also continues. International Committee of the Red Cross has joined this process. We consider that all these indicate the intention of the sides to take concrete steps towards preparing the population to peace. However, the main theme of our mediation is to help the parties on the achievement of the sustainable solutions of the conflict. More than 20 trilateral meetings with the attendance of the president of the Russian Federation have been dedicated to this. The ministers continue to work. There are reasonable suggestions that all co-chair countries support. New Armenian leadership needed time to understand all the details of the Garabagh process that is not simple. This subject has been discussed during the last visit of the Russian foreign minister to Yerevan. It is hoped that a substantive conversation will resume between the parties in the foreseeable future. We will provide necessary help together with French and American co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group by our side.
- Another issue that aroused the discontent of the Azerbaijani party is the functioning of the permanent representation of the so-called “Nagorno Garabagh” entity in Moscow and the visits made to Moscow and the meetings held there by the representatives of the separatist regime. The last time, even an exchange of diplomatic memoranda regarding this issue took place between ministries of foreign relations of Azerbaijan and Russia. How correct is the functioning in Moscow of the representation of the unrecognized illegal entity considered as an occupant by Azerbaijan which is reputed as a friend by Russia?
- We have repeatedly emphasized that the so-called “Permanent representation of Artsakh in Russia” acting as a diplomatic mission of any sovereign state hasn’t been registered by the Russian government because our country does not recognize the Nagorno Garabagh Republic. Therefore, any claim addressed to the Russian party is groundless. A detailed answer to this question is given in the commentary of the Information and press department of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated November 8, 2019.