STOCKHOLM—On Tuesday, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian delivered an address on the foreign policy of Armenia at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Representatives from Swedish state agencies, diplomatic missions, research centers, and universities attended the event. Nalbandian answered numerous questions raised by the attendees regarding the foreign policy of Armenia and Armenia’s approaches to regional and international issues.
Referring to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Minister Nalbandian mentioned that Armenia shares the OSCE Minsk Group’s approach, that there is no alternative to a peaceful resolution.
“The more the international community appeals to the sides of the conflict to prepare populations for peace and not for war, the more we hear from the Azerbaijani leadership increasing bellicose warmongering, anti-Armenian hate-speech, and persecution of those civil society activists who pursue confidence building and reconciliation projects,” Nalbandian told the audience.
“The more oil and gas revenues are enriching the Azerbaijani budget, the more weaponry and armaments are purchased by Baku,” Nalbandian added.
Over the last decade, Azerbaijan’s military budget has ballooned from $163 million to $3.6 billion, more than 20 times. Baku is now bragging that, in the upcoming year, the military budget will increase by 27 percent to reach $4.8 billion.
“The disproportionate military spending and acquisition of excess armaments by Azerbaijan poses a serious threat to regional and international stability and security,” Nalbandian said.
“Baku rejected all versions of the Basic Principles of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict proposed by the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group, including those presented at the Saint-Petersburg [June 2010], Astrakhan [October 2010], Sochi [March 2011] and Kazan [June 2011] summits,” the Foreign Minister said. “The Kazan summit was followed by almost 2 years of stagnation in the peace process. During this period Azerbaijan increased ceasefire violations and provocative actions along the Line of Contact between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan and along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“But the most notorious case was the pardoning and glorification of Azerbaijani officer Safarov who beheaded a sleeping Armenian officer with an axe while both were participating in a NATO course in Budapest.”
Azerbaijan’s actions have damaged the negotiations process, Nalbandian said.
Immediately after the most recent Paris meeting of the two countries’ presidents, the leadership of Azerbaijan raised another wave of anti-Armenian provocative rhetoric, and the Defense Minister of Azerbaijan claimed again that his country would solve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue through military means.
“The recent shooting down by the Azerbaijani armed forces of the helicopter of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army during a training flight, which took the lives of three young servicemen, is Baku’s latest criminal provocation,” Nalbandian said. “The Azerbaijani army for almost ten days continuously kept the area of the helicopter shooting under intensive fire, hindering rescue teams, the OSCE, and International Committee of the Red Cross representatives to approach that site and evacuate the bodies of the killed crew members.
“Facing this yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law by Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army had to undertake a special operation to evacuate the body of one of the crew members, the remains of two pilots of downed helicopter.”
All these facts demonstrate that Azerbaijan has become a serious threat to the security and stability in the South Caucasus, Nalbandian explained.
“We fully agree with the Minsk Group Co-Chairs that the use of military force cannot resolve the conflict. The sooner the Azerbaijani leadership understands this, the more the negotiation process could bring results for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Nalbandian concluded.