STEPANAKERT—As the situation continues to remain tense along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the Line of Contact between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, Tert.am has interviewed Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan, the Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s Diocese in Artsakh, over the escalation of violence observed in the recent period and his expectations of possible outcomes. The patriarch expressed his high esteem of the Armenian youth’s military preparedness, citing the Azerbaijani military’s losses in the wake of the recent border incident. As for the elderly and experienced volunteers, the archbishop said he knows that many of them were even offended that they hadn’t been sent to the frontline to show their support to the border guards. His Holiness says he believes that the only and most important mission of Armenia is to ensure the strength of its own borders.
TERT.AM: Your Holiness, what are the prevalent moods in Artsakh in an extremely tense situation as this?
ABP. PARGEV MARTIROSYAN: It’s quite normal and routine; we have invited the volunteers — experienced guys who have reached a considerable age — to go and join [the defense operations]. We were to have sent 50 of them, but twenty people came from one region alone, with 200 others feeling offended that they weren’t sent. We do not have so many posts to assign them to, and those people remained resentful [laughing]. This is good; it’s a positive sign.
T.AM.: What specific operations are they willing to join?
P.M.: Defense operations.
T.AM.: Subversive acts are launched every day along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the Azerbaijan-Artsakh Line of Contact, with both the adversary and the Armenian side suffering losses and victims. What’s your opinion on the military preparedness of the guys as young as18 or 20 years of age?
P.M.: It’s excellent. This is what we see from the results in the wake of Azerbaijan’s aggressive operations in the past fortnight. Our guys simply demonstrate excellent behavior.
T.AM.: Well, what do you consider a cause of escalated war operations?
P.M.: There isn’t any war; there are active military operations provoked by Azerbaijan. And the country has two reasons for that. First, it has a special service … they have small military units, so to say, under the auspices of instructors and coaches from Turkey. And now they made a decision to demonstrate what they deserve. But the failures fall to their lot. This is the first thing to say. The second question is, why have they launched these operations? They have become kind of enthusiastic that the Ukrainian authorities used banned weapons in Ukraine, and so they now decide to check the West’s reaction. That’s my logic.
T.AM.: There is a hypothesis that the border escalation is incited by Russia.
P.M.: Sorry to say it, but I do not believe that Russia might provoke that. What’s even more, I rule it out. I have already mentioned two reasons: they check the special military units’ readiness, and the West’s reaction.
T.AM.: The countries co-chairing the [OSCE] Minsk Group made a statement again, condemning the violations [of ceasefire] across the Line of Contact. What message do you think Yerevan and Stepanakert have to convey to the mediators?
P.M.: The Minsk Group has always tried to maintain balance; they are not willing to take sides with anyone. That’s the Minsk Group’s style, so we must not resent them. They do not want to exacerbate [the situation] further, accusing someone or the other.
But what we have to do is to keep our borders strong, something that our guys, aged 18-20 do excellently. That’s our task and our mission.
The US Embassy to Armenia has called upon its citizens not to visit the Tavush region. So there is actually an adequate evaluation which suggests that the situation there poses hazards.
It’s 20 years now that we have known about the shootings in Tavush. They [Azerbaijanis] have started firing bullets more intensively in the recent period, so it is natural for all countries’ embassies to warn against going to places that come under intensive gunfire. This is quite normal, understandable and natural.
T.AM.: Do you imagine a negotiation process over Karabakh in such circumstances?
P.M.: Well, to the best of my knowledge, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev and [Armenian President] Serzh Sarkisian are meeting in just a couple of days.
T.AM.: Do you believe that Armenia, the diaspora and Artsakh have potential to consolidate efforts to become stronger against the backdrop of such extremely complicated socio-economic conditions and emigration?
P.M.: Our people faced more bitter hardships in 1990 and 1992 – earthquake, refugees [from Azerbaijan] and blockade. But we managed to achieve a victory. Our guarantee is consolidation, the willingness to gather together and become united to finally resolve the problem. And this depends on us, not on anyone else, so the social conditions and statements by different organizations have nothing to do with this.