BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (Agencia Prensa Armenia) — Robert Avetisyan, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh to the United States, arrived in Argentina last week at the invitation of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). During his stay in the country, he gave a talk at AGBU on June 12; a round table at the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires with Roberto Malkassian, coordinator of the Free Chair on Holocaust, Genocide and Fight against Discrimination on June 14; and was received by national authorities. During the night of Wednesday, June 13, he gave an interview to the Prensa Armenia news agency about his work in the United States and his vision of Latin America.
Q: What are your duties as Permanent Representative of Artsakh Republic to the United States?
A: We came to the United States in 1997 and were registered in 1999 by the Department of Justice of the United States. The office is doing pretty much anything you imagine of any representation of any country. We maintain contacts and work with the political sphere of the United States. That can be divided into Executive and Legislative, the Congress and some people in the State Department. We also work with the Armenian diaspora, of course.
Q: Do you work with the State Department?
A: We do maintain certain level of contacts with the State Department, too. Not to the extent we would like to be, because we are not recognized. But we want to make sure that any information and questions about Artsakh find an answer. With the Congress, it is easier because they are not bound by any restrictions. Also, because we have very strong and vibrant Armenian diaspora organizations which help us deliver our message to the elected officials. We also try to maintain levels of contacts with the Armenian community, fostering economic and cultural ties between Artsakh and the Armenian community in the United States. That is pretty much the function of the representations around the globe. We raise awareness of Artsakh through various discussions or try to stop the lies and misrepresentation of reality by the Azerbaijani supporters. It is pretty much what you would imagine of any kind of mission representing a state.
Q: Do you find any obstacles with the Azerbaijani lobby?
A: Yes, Azerbaijanis are very active just like around the globe. We know they have huge resources to buy and lobby their ways through. We have an advantage that the Azerbaijani state doesn’t have: a strong Armenian diaspora. For instance, if they lobby in Argentina it would be countered by the Argentine people of Armenian origin, which is a different say. It is a heavy and stronger political voice because they are the citizens of Argentina versus a foreign government. The same happens in the United States and elsewhere. They try to spread misrepresentations of the conflict, they lie, they use propaganda and sometimes they even find politicians in the structures which agree to promote Azerbaijan. But our argumentation is very clear, we can answer any lie they spread.
Q: What is the relation between your office and the diaspora organizations in the region?
A: We are all members of the same family. We have a common agenda and a perfect understanding that Armenia, Artsakh and diaspora are the three pillars of the Armenian homeland. We want to make sure that we help each other to be as strong as possible. The relations are on the highest possible level. We have the same agenda: recognition of the genocide, recognition and security of Artsakh and the strengthening of Armenia, Artsakh and the diaspora. When we realize that the problem of Artsakh is the continuation of the Armenian Genocide, the message becomes more clear for many people that are diaspora because of the genocide.
Q: Is there a possibility to open a permanent representation of Artsakh in Latin America?
A: The general vision of the Artsakh authorities is to expand the foreign presence and to make sure we offer our perspective, protect our interests and join hands with our diaspora with as many communities as possible.
Q: So it hasn’t been discussed in Artsakh to open a permanent representation in Latin America?
A: No, not particularly. There is a general vision that we need to move forward representing our foreign policy agenda. And whether we are recognized or not, we are ready to offer mutually beneficial contributions to many communities and to engage in a dialogue which will strengthen peace and stability in the region.
Q: Argentina has nine journalists on the Azerbaijani blacklist for having visited Artsakh. What is your opinion regarding this Azeri policy?
A: I want to thank those Argentine journalists who disregarded the threats by the repressive government of Azerbaijan and still visited Artsakh to share the truth. Any community which values the freedom of information would not be doing these things. I want to assure our colleagues who are already in the list or those who will be added that they will be joining a group of very noble and outstanding personalities from all over the world. They decided to see Artsakh with their own eyes and get to know the truth from the first source. We are sure that all those people who are on the list don’t feel sorry about it. The truth, the human values and dignity are the sentiments and values which can not be conditioned by any suppressive regime.
Q: How do you deal with these matters in the United States?
A: We see a flow of visitors from the United States from various levels. We normally deal with people who are firm in their beliefs and principles to disregard any attempt to restrict their travel. The right to travel and visit anywhere you want is one of the fundamental rights of the humans. Artsakh has always been open and we have been always glad to receive visitors, tourists and families, and we will continue building our lives and become more attractive to the people, with the hope that eventually the Azerbaijani authorities will see that this idea of blacklists and restrictions is absolutely useless and it only brings more people wanting to come to Artsakh.
Q: What is your opinion about this new Azerbaijani policy to denounce to Interpol when some citizens visit Artsakh?
A: It is not a new policy. They have been trying to do this for a while. One of their hopes is that the people or the journalists who might read about this would stay away from visiting Artsakh because of the possibility of being prosecuted by Interpol. But Interpol has always replied that they are not doing these politically charged cases. So it is mostly done to create an atmosphere of fear and scare people off. They can address Interpol a thousand times, but Interpol is not dealing with politically charged cases. Everybody is welcome in Artsakh.
Q: The MFA of Argentina sent a note to Argentine Secretaries reminding them that Argentina doesn’t recognize the Republic of Artsakh and recommending to them that they not meet with you. What is your stance on this?
A: I haven’t seen the statement, but one thing is sure: we are first and foremost grateful to the Argentine government for being such a warm home for the huge Armenian diaspora here. This country has always been friendly and received the Armenians after the genocide. We hope that these relations continue also with the Artsakh people, we are the same Armenians. I’m not here to be against something — the only thing I’m against is aggression and the lack of dialogue. I am here to present dialogue and satisfy the interest of my compatriots here who have the rightful concern about the future of Artsakh and the present Azerbaijani aggression against Artsakh. As the diaspora has suffered the genocide, we all have concerns that genocidal attempts against Artsakh are still possible by Azerbaijan and their supporters. The message is only positive. We are not here to undermine anything — we are here to extend our friendship and positive messages to our diaspora here, to members of our community and to the Argentine authorities who have always been friendly not only to the Armenian people. We share the same values of freedom, human rights, democracy and dignity.
Q: What is your message to the people of the diaspora who visit Armenia and doubt whether or not to visit Artsakh?
A: In Artsakh, we are doing our best to ensure their time in Artsakh would be pleasant and hospitable and you would return to your homes safe with stronger feelings for the Armenian family. We have capable armed forces which are ready to protect our home and our freedom. We would never invite people to visit Artsakh should we have the slightest reservation about the security. We are sure we can protect not only us living there, but also the visitors. Despite all the aggressive stances of Azerbaijan, we continue to live there. We continue to expand our families, to give birth to new children and get married despite all the threats. If we stay there, it means that everybody can visit us freely and safely to enjoy the beauty of the land which is part of the Armenian homeland.