Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s interview to BBC Newshour
BBC: Minister Mnatsakanyan, why did Armenian force break the ceasefire?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Don’t put the blame on us. Armenia has been fully committed to its agreement that we have reached yesterday to establish a ceasefire. Now if you are blaming us then I am putting a question - put the verification mechanism in place; make Azerbaijan agree to it and then find the blaming person. So, they are the perpetrator. So that is exactly the policy of Azerbaijan to exchange blames and to get the license to continue the aggression. This is what they are doing, they have been doing all the time and doing it now: total disrespect and disregard of their commitments, continued aggression, continued devastation of the civilian population. This is appalling. This is absolutely unacceptable.
BBC: So you deny categorically what the Azerbaiajni defense ministry is saying which is that it was you- the Armenian army, that broke the ceasefire first just after it came into force.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: It came into force at midnight. We have already been registering violations from the Azerbaijani side minutes after the enter into force of this agreement. There has been relative calm at night. At 7:20 they have started the massive operation, offensive operation against Nagorno-Karabakh. About 7:20 in the morning this was the case which our defense ministry and the defense forces of Nagorno-Karabakh have reported on which we have made a statement. This is verifiable clearly. We have been very clear about this: there is no way we will accept any blame; there is no way we will accept these equation marks that are, you know, offered. And which is basically a license for Azerbaijan to continue this aggression.
BBC: Right, so you didn’t fire first. You can say it now. Can you?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Well, I have been saying this for the past three minutes or so.
BBC: Given everything you said and the clear breakdown of trust and the fact that the ceasefire lasted just a few hours, what now? I mean it doesn’t bode well for the future, does it?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: It absolutely elevates the risks of further destabilization for the entire region and this is what we have been voicing consistently over these past three weeks. Military solution that Azerbaijan has chosen since September 27 when they have unleashed this aggression against our compatriots in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is bearing all the risks of further destabilization of the situation in the entire region, in the broader region.
BBC: Why is Armenia targeting civilians in Ganja- Azerbaijan second city.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: When it comes to the civilians we have been very vocal about it. For three weeks Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Sushi, Martakert, Martuni, Hadrut and hundreds of villages have been under consistent fire, consistent shelling, consistent bombing by UAVs, Turkish made Bayraktars, air controlled by the Turkish air force. Rocket launchers, Grad, Smerch, tanks, the aviation everything has been falling on those civilian settlements and civilian infrastructure. The situation for our compatriots is absolutely dire. There are many, many displaced people. People are living in shelters. Electricity, water have been destroyed. This much suffering day after day everyday this is happening to our compatriots in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan doesn’t understand the language of civility.
BBC: Ok Minister, that was not quite my question. Why are civilians being killed in Ganja?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Hang on. The military are entering our civilian settlements. They are mutilating bodies. They are beheading our compatriots there. This is all recorded. They have recruited terrorists from Syria and from Libya via Turkey and those terrorists are fighting our people. This is all recorded. This is all available to the international community. And those equation marks are absolutely unacceptable. We are again facing alone three enemies- Turkey, Azerbaijan and the foreign terrorist fighters.
BBC: It is being denied, particularly the presence of Syrian fighters. What you said all that justifies firing rockets at civilian areas in Ganja.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I am again saying I am looking after this big damage that is done to our compatriots: the suffering, the enormous suffering to the Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh. Again we are facing this alone against those three enemies.