Only a change in Turkey’s stance can unlock Nagorno-Karabakh settlement — Armenian PM

Only a change in Turkey’s stance can unlock Nagorno-Karabakh settlement — Armenian PM
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Yerevan, Armenia Oct. 13, 2020. (Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure via Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 03 November 2020

Only a change in Turkey’s stance can unlock Nagorno-Karabakh settlement — Armenian PM

Only a change in Turkey’s stance can unlock Nagorno-Karabakh settlement — Armenian PM
  • Pashinyan accused Turkey of sabotaging the cease-fire
  • Since fighting flared on Sept. 27, Turkey has backed Azerbaijan strongly

YEREVAN: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Tuesday he believed that only a change in Turkey’s stance on Nagorno-Karabakh could prompt Azerbaijan to halt military action over the tiny region.
But, in his first interview since a cease-fire deal was agreed in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was agreed in Moscow on Saturday, he gave no indication to Reuters that he saw any sign of Ankara shifting its position.
Since fighting flared on Sept. 27, Turkey has backed Azerbaijan strongly and said Armenian forces must leave the enclave, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but governed and populated by ethnic Armenians.
Turkey said on Tuesday it should play a role in international discussions on the conflict, something Yerevan opposes. The cease-fire, brokered by Russia, is already badly frayed, with both sides accusing the other of attacks and crimes against civilians.
Speaking at his official residence, a huge Soviet-era building in the center of the Armenian capital Yerevan, Pashinyan accused Turkey of sabotaging the cease-fire and of trying to muscle its way into the wider South Caucasus region to further what he called its expansionist ambitions.
“I’m convinced that for as long as Turkey’s position remains unchanged, Azerbaijan will not stop fighting,” Pashinyan said.
Azerbaijan says it is open to the temporary humanitarian cease-fire agreed in Moscow to exchange prisoners and bodies of those killed in the fighting, but accuses Armenian forces of breaching it. Yerevan denies this.
Azerbaijan has said it envisages further fighting after the truce to capture more territory.
Pashinyan said Turkey had stated publicly, before the cease-fire talks, that it believed Azerbaijan should keep fighting, and that Turkey’s foreign minister had phoned the Azeri foreign minister after the deal.
Pashinyan suggested the purpose of the Turkish post-cease-fire call “was really an instruction not to dare under any circumstance to stop fighting”.
“EXPANSIONIST POLICY”
The Turkish foreign ministry said on the day of the call that the cease-fire would not be a lasting solution, and has since said Armenian forces should withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Turkey has come to the South Caucasus to continue the policy it is carrying out in the Mediterranean against Greece and Cyprus, or in Libya, or in Syria, or in Iraq. It is an expansionist policy,” Pashinyan said.
“And the problem is that Armenians in the South Caucasus are the last remaining obstacle on its path to implement that expansionist policy.”
The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war over the territory that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed, and killed about 30,000. It is being closely watched abroad, partly because of its proximity to Azeri energy pipelines to Europe and because of fears that Russia and Turkey could be drawn in.
Pashinyan reiterated accusations — denied by Ankara — that Turkey is carrying on the policies of the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th century, something he called a continuation of “the Armenian genocide”.
The Armenian genocide refers to the killing of 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.
If left unchecked in the region, Pashinyan warned that Turkish influence could poison the South Caucasus.
“The whole of the South Caucasus will become Syria and that fire would spread to the north and to the south rapidly,” he said.


Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 13 min 51 sec ago

Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities
  • Many migrants recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya

ROME: A charity rescue ship carrying 373 migrants picked up off the Libyan coast has been allowed to dock in the Italian port of Augusta, in Sicily.

The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities for its passengers to disembark.

The migrants — who included 165 children of which 21 were aged under four — had been plucked from four packed dinghies and where mostly from south Saharan countries in Africa. They had told rescuers they were fleeing from camps in Libya where they feared for their lives.

Many recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya, with some having already attempted sea crossings to Europe only to be intercepted and transported back to the Libyan camps.

One of those rescued, Kylian, 19, from Mali, told Arab News: “In Libya we were all crammed into one home and we weren’t free to go where we wanted. I was out when bandits came, and I wanted to run to warn the others in the camp. When they fired, I fell to the ground. They thought that I was dead, and they just left me there.”

The man said he was wounded but could not access medical care in the camp. “I thought I was going to die. This happens all the time in Libya. I was finally treated because a friend took me to a Cameroonian woman who was doctor.”

The teenager was speaking on the phone of a volunteer from the maritime humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee. All the migrants will be transferred to a quarantine ship after being tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Luisa Albera, rescue coordinator on the Ocean Viking, told Arab News: “From the survivors, we have heard gruesome tales of the inhumane treatment they had to endure in Libya.

“The last three days at sea have been extremely hard for those people, as the weather has worsened rapidly. Several babies and small children were on board; they have particularly suffered from seasickness.”

She pointed out that more than 1,200 people had died last year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“We are relieved that the 373 people on board our ship managed to reach a safe port, but the international community must do more to save people in the Mediterranean. Too many lives depend on this.

“EU member states must find a sustainable solution and set up a rapid disembarkation mechanism, supporting European coastal states such as Italy and Malta and working to respect international maritime law on our common coasts to the south,” Albera said.

Prior to the Ocean Viking being given permission to dock in Augusta, a heavily pregnant woman was taken from the ship to the Italian island of Lampedusa by an Italian coastguard vessel.

Italy has repeatedly impounded charity vessels for safety violations, a policy that charities claim is often a tactic to keep them from performing rescues.

The Ocean Viking is currently the only charity ship operating off Libya’s coast, although Libyan coastguard ships are also patrolling, assisted by the EU, and have intercepted 300 migrants and returned them to Libya this month.