Q. Mr Martirosyan, first of all, we would like you to talk about how your visit to Baku took place.
A. I had not lived in Armenia or Azerbaijan for a few months. I had been in Ukraine all this while. While I was there, I tried to do all I can for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be settled peacefully. Since I was only the head of an opposition movement, I set up my work through civil society. I think we have in the last few months been able to take a step—small, though—towards promoting civil society. For the first time, Azerbaijanis and Armenians living in ten countries raised peace placards together. For the first time, I heard of the construction of a “Peace Alley” symbolizing Armenian-Azerbaijani friendship by an Azerbaijani friend of mine who lives in Ukraine. This is a significant event and I think that after a few months we will get back to this issue again. Mr Rauf Zeyni did a great job by organizing this unique forum. Unique—because it was the first time in the last 25 years that Armenian and Azerbaijani public figures gathered together to discuss a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This, at the same time, was a dialogue between citizens rather than politicians. They invited me to this forum and I willingly agreed to come to this beautiful city of yours.
Q. What impressions did you get from this visit to Baku? As far as I know, you’ve had meetings with a number of officials. What did you discuss in these meetings? And what do you think of their results?
A. I’m not going to give you a military secret. As you know, this is not my first time in Baku. I’ve lived here for six months. Baku has always meant to me hospitality, a place of meeting with friends, and warmth. As for this visit, another unique event took place. During the forum, a number of Armenians living Guba, Zagatala, Sumgayit, and Baku came up to us and we sat together for a talk without drawing attention from the media. We had a rather long talk. A woman from Sumgayit invited us to her home. I asked the media not to accompany us because there is no need to publicize issues that reflect people’s sorrows. That Armenian woman has been living in Sumgayit since 1988. Her husband is Azerbaijani. They are a very good family. We had a talk. You are asking what the most memorable of this visit is. I would say it’s the meeting with the grandma. This is actually the uniqueness of the event (forum) organized by Rauf Zeyni. I said in my speech there that the Armenia media was not going to cover this forum in any way and so did it happen. It was a major blow to them and indicative of Azerbaijan’s government taking steps towards peace. These steps are being taken at a time Armenia’s illegitimate government doing the opposite. They are sowing seeds of hostility and committing provocations over trivial intrigues, bringing up the younger generation in the spirit of hatred towards Azerbaijanis. The events that took place clearly show that Azerbaijan’s reputation of tolerance is not just nominal.
Q. Do you think meetings between representatives of the two peoples are likely to contribute to settling the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A. You know, there are particular persons who have for the last 25 years been trying to contribute to settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, both within international organizations and through talks. Unfortunately, these efforts end up in failure because of the Armenian side. In any conflict, I think those who suffer directly from it are the leading figure. In any case, people suffer ultimately. Through such forums we try to help civil societies solve their problems. As a result, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will get settled thanks to the efforts of both nations, who have always been the ones suffering. Today they say ‘Stop’ to everything. This forum is a big step forward. Everyone is now waiting this 25-year-old conflict to finally come to an end.
Q. You currently live in a third country. What made you leave Armenia? What pressure did the Armenian government have on you?
A. There has been much talk about this. I became leader of the Armenian Intra-national Liberation Movement. There is an unwritten law in Armenia. If you’re an oppositionist, you’re offered an option which you cannot turn down. The option is that you should become part of the marionette opposition. Whoever disagrees with this finds himself in prison, as did a number of our counterparts including Volodya Avetisyan. They got arrested for refusing to become part of the “opposition theatre” led by Serzhik Sargsyan. I underwent the same thing. I got assaulted several times and my wife miscarried. I got injures from beatings. As these incidents drew more uproar than they had expected, they decided to come to agreement with me through known methods in order to prevent the incidents from being heard in Europe because we wanted to appeal to some international organizations. At the time a Belgian newspaper published an article about these incidents. After I turned down this offer, they opened a criminal case against me. Then I realized that I’m about to experience what others have already experienced. My friend has been in prison for seven years now. So I left Armenia. I’m in a third country now. I think living in a third country, non-European country, it’s more convenient to work much more effectively in this context. Unfortunately, such an opinion was formed in Armenia as a result of propaganda carried out over 25 years that if I talk to someone from Baku, they think that you are already controlled by oversee special services and you are under pressure.
Q. It is interesting to know your opinion on one issue. How would you assess the possibility of co-existence of Azerbaijanis and Armenians following the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement?
A. There have been such possibilities for decades, and there is still possibility. The friendship between the Azerbaijanis and Armenians was the strongest and closest one in the former Soviet space. Hundreds, thousands of facts can be found from any source to prove it. In this respect, we can emphasize mixed race families, close cultures, mentality, national theatres operating both in Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Soviet times. This suggests that whether we like it or not, we are close and we will always be friends and live together. We need only time.
Q. Your delegation's visit to Baku was not perceived unambiguously in Armenia. Can the participation in the peacemaking process evoke such a strong reaction and cause serious accusation?
A. Who are accusing us of treason? The Armenian authorities. You have already answered to your own question. The Armenian authorities are accusing of treason those fighting for peace. How are called those being against peace? Terrorists.
Q. Those who committed numerous acts of genocide against the Azerbaijani people in Nagorno-Karabakh are now represented in the Armenian government. Suffice it to remember the Khojaly genocide. You have already visited the Khojaly Genocide Memorial. Armenians claim that all of these acts were committed by the Azerbaijanis. How can you comment on it?
A. There is a proverb: “Everyone sees things from his/her own point of view”. They look at the issue from their point of view. The criminal provocation of this kind is in their style. I can give numerous examples. They committed similar actions against their own people. For example, they are deploying the most inexperienced soldiers on the frontline. Why? They want the Armenian side to suffer more losses in case of any military confrontation. In Addition, when soldiers die as a result of illegal actions in military unit located far from the frontline, they immediately register the deceased as soldiers of the military units located on the contact line of troops, and claim that those soldiers allegedly died from the enemy bullet. Now, they are accusing Azerbaijan of starting the conflict and the whole world is deferring to their opinion. I mean various international organizations while saying “the whole world”.
Q. You have touched on a very important issue. There is significant support to the Armenian authorities all over the world. Have these steps led to the continuation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? As you know, the four UN Security Council resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh remain unfulfilled.
A. Firstly, we need to understand a very simple thing. The Karabakh war didn’t break out between the Azerbaijani and Armenian people. This war happened as a result of provocations (Sumgayit events and others) committed by a third country. The continuation of the Karabakh conflict is in favor of certain forces. Our enemy is not only the Armenian authorities. They are inadequate, illiterate drug addicts. It is easy enough to deal with them. As for their patrons, it is a common problem. But for the Karabakh war, Serzh Sargsyan wouldn't have been a president. He would have been a craftsman or a drunk roaming the streets. Sargsyan appeared in the background of the Karabakh war. He knows that he could exist as an oligarch only with the Karabakh conflict. Thus, this person is looking for external support and somehow achieves it. I have recently observed positive trends. I observed that the Armenian diaspora is no more supporting him. Sargsyan is hiding from the Armenian diaspora in New York. He is concealing his visit to the Netherlands from the Armenians living there. As you know, the diaspora in the Netherlands denied Sargsyan’s entry to the country. These are positive trends. You are aware of the power of Armenian diaspora. I hope that our diaspora would influence to proper assessment of the situation in various countries.
Q. As you know, Billionaire Donald Trump won the presidential election in the US, which is one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. Can we expect from the Trump Administration positive trends in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A. Azerbaijan is committed to a peaceful resolution, and theses of peace and reconciliation. I expect drastic changes in the US approach to the conflict. Over the past year, more precisely in the summer, US co-chair of the Minsk Group James Warlick made a number of statements that have caused hysterics in Armenia. I think that there will be further changes in the format not involving only the Minsk Group, but also a superpower. Any change in the attitude of a superpower towards the Karabakh conflict would lead to sharp changes.
Q. Now, there is certain activation by both Russia and the US towards the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s settlement. We know that both countries have certain interests in the matter. What will the Azerbaijani and Armenian people benefit from the conflict’s resolution?
A. I think neither Russia nor the US can play a key role in the reconciliation of the peoples. These forces can settle the Karabakh conflict formally, that is, no document signed formally can eliminate divergences that have last for 25 years. I remember Heydar Aliyev’s offer to Robert Kocharyan to resolve the issue without intermediaries. There is no need for mediators who have a certain interest in the conflict. We are able to resolve this issue, that is, I mean the peoples, community leaders, civil sectors and politicians of the two countries. Unfortunately, to achieve a solution is impossible in the current situation in Armenia, because this country has long been turned into a colony of the abovementioned countries. A country is not considered independent, if it doesn’t own all of its strategic facilities. In this case, the Independence Day is nothing more than a date in the calendar that is celebrated.
Q. You have met several times with journalists and public representatives in Baku. Now you are living in a third country. Is there any threat to your life?
A. Firstly, I don’t have bodyguards. Everyone in Armenia knows in which city I was living in. If I were afraid of anything, I wouldn’t have visited Azerbaijan last year, but left Georgia for Europe. I chose to come to Azerbaijan. I legally crossed the Georgian border into Azerbaijan. There was an assassination attempt against me. It was non-professionally organized. Now I am waiting for another attempt.
Q. What will be the outcomes of your visit for the both sides and the peoples of the two countries?
A. There was a wall (covered with barbed wire) between our people. I believe that this forum could shatter a few stones of the wall. The April events showed to the Armenian people that time is passing by. Why I’ve said to the people? Because it doesn’t matter for the authorities. The deaths of 100-200 soldiers is nothing more than a figure for the government. I think we can make a big hole in this wall as a result of the cooperation of civil society, public representatives, art figures and scientists.
Q. The Armenian army suffered heavy losses in the April clashes. How can these clashes affect the resolution of the conflict?
A. The April clashes have shown to the whole world, especially the Armenian society what is going on within the country’s Defense Ministry. The myth uttered for several years by the defense minister, chief of staff regarding glory, combat readiness of the Armenian armed forces and alleged acquisition of new weapons was destroyed in a moment. Even, Serzh Sargysyan admitted in Germany that they have to fight with weapons of the 80s. You may remember these remarks of him. The losses once again revealed the criminal nature of the Armenian armed forces. For some reason, ninety percent of the killed soldiers were the children of those living in extreme poverty. Among them there was no single resident of Yerevan. They were deployed on the frontline as cannon fooder. They couldn’t solve the issue by dismissing a few generals. There is still tyranny in the army. Yesterday I read that the new defense minister has already started begging. He calls on every citizen to provide assistance to the army in the amount of 1,000 drams. I think that the best answer to your question is the letter of an Armenian soldier to his mother, which has recently been shared on social networks. He wrote: “I and all of my friends are asking: There is no enemy on the opposite side and if the enemy is in our rear, who should we protect? From what? If you are beaten, offended in Yerevan streets, then we should turn our weapons to the opposite side, they are our enemies”. I think this is the best answer to your question.
Q. In Armenia, a criminal case was filed against your colleague Susan Jaghinyan as well. In our interview with her, she expressed attitude towards this issue. However, we would like to hear your opinion on this issue. What do you think of it?
A. Jaghinyan’s arrival in Baku, as she mentioned at a press conference, is a slap in the face of Sargsyan. However, I would like to say that this [Jaghinyan’s arrival] is not a slap, but ‘a massive blow to the Armenian government’.
In her statement to the Azerbaijani media, Jaghinyan said she denied her Armenian citizens. After a while, pressures were exerted against her. A person with a certificate of death instead of a passport conveniently comes here passing through Nakhchivan. This once again demonstrates the rampant tyranny prevailing in the Armenian frontier troops. If I were in the place of the head of Armenia's National Security Service, I would resign on the next day immediately. As for the “treason” charges against Jaghinyan, this accusation concerns those who revealed military and state secrets. She was not aware of none of these secrets. Susan is neither a military nor a civil servant. This is absurd. Several criminal cases were also filed against me in Armenia. No normal country can take seriously any claims of Armenian law-enforcement authorities.
Q. You have a unique opportunity to give an interview to an Azerbaijani TV channel. Taking the opportunity, what would you like to tell your countrymen living under the strict control of Armenian authorities?
A. The Armenian people and my fellow citizens should realize a very important aspect putting aside all their doubts. I understand that it is very hard in case that the country’s all media outlets have carried out anti-Azerbaijani propaganda for 25 years. However, everyone should ask himself what has happened before the Karabakh war, during and after the military operations. What is the main thing here? What did the Karabakh war and those empty lands give to them nothing except grief, suffering, misery, death, disease, collapsed economy and hunger? If all my fellow citizens and every Armenian ask themselves this question and answer frankly, I think that then we will not only be on the half of the way to victory, but we will have just a single step to victory as well.
Q. Who do you think holds the key to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A. The key to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s settlement lies in our peoples’ minds and hearts. Let me tell you one more fact. I recently heard President Ilham Aliyev use the word “compromise” and make quite a rational proposal. Regrettably, no reaction came from Armenian authorities and these proposals were introduced to the people in a distorted form. The formed proposed by Mr Ilham Aliyev, which is granting Nagorno-Karabakh the status of autonomy within Azerbaijan in return of the liberation of the seven occupied districts, is one of the keys to the conflict. As for the main key, this lies in our peoples’ minds and hearts.
Q. Do you think the will expected from the two peoples will be able to resist the political barriers to settling the conflict?
A. It sure will. Because these political barriers actually emerged as a consequence of some weakness in the two people’s will, which, if strong enough, will break through all the barriers.
Q. You have already given some messages to the Armenian people. But what’s your message to the Azerbaijani people?
A. As for the Karabakh conflict and the artificially-created hostility between the two peoples, I suggest the Azerbaijan people do not give up their position. It’s my second time here. No one knew Susan in Azerbaijan. But she walks in the city without fear and even if her Armenian identity is understood she does not meet any negative reaction. This is indicative of your people’s high level of tolerance. Hope you always stay like this. We too want Armenia’s population to reach this level. Once again I want to thank for your hospitality. I feel in my home.
Q. Susan Jaghinyan told us that there is no solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unless sound-minded persons come to power in Armenia. What do you think of it?
A. She’s right in principle. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is supported by terrorists. We had a talk as to why the Armenian government accuses people who are striving for peace of treason. It seems peace means nothing to them. They are terrorists.