JERUSALEM — Israeli weapons sold to Azerbaijan are used to target Armenian civilian infrastructure, and arms sales between the countries should be stopped immediately, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan has told The Jerusalem Post.
In an interview in the midst of the ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan, Mnatsakanyan said that while Israeli-Armenian relations have improved in recent years – the Armenian president visited Israel in January – Israel’s continued supply of advanced weaponry to Azerbaijan remains an outstanding issue for the countries.
In 2016, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev revealed that his country has signed $5 billion worth of long-term contracts over the years to buy weapons and security equipment from Israel.
Following is the text of Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s interview with Jerusalem Post:
Question: How did this recent round of violence break out? What do you think Azerbaijan is trying to achieve?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: This recent July violence by Azerbaijan didn’t happen in a vacuum. On the eve of the escalation Azerbaijan at the level of highest political-military leadership has been consistently voicing threats of war, territorial and historic claims against Armenia, coupled with very vocal dissatisfaction of the work of the international mediators – the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
It was the second attempt of Azerbaijan to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict exclusively on their terms. The recent escalation demonstrated that show of force by Azerbaijan and its perceived military advantage dramatically failed and we have a clear case of miscalculation.
Question: Is Armenia prepared for a ceasefire?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Unlike Azerbaijan Armenia agreed to all proposals of the international mediators to strengthen the ceasefire by putting on the ground more monitors and introducing investigative mechanisms into ceasefire violations. Armenia continues to advocate those and other measures to reduce risks of escalation.
Question: We are seeing a lot of Israeli weapons (drones, missiles) being used by Azerbaijan. Have you conveyed concern about this to the Israeli government? Have you asked that Israel reconsider selling Baku these weapons?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Arms trade to Azerbaijan is fatal, because Azerbaijan never hesitates to use those weapons against civilian infrastructure, the civilian population.
We will consistently pursue this issue, it will always be an integral part of our agenda both on bilateral and multilateral platforms. Israel should stop this deadly business with Azerbaijan.
Question: Armenia has reportedly had success shooting down Israeli-made drones during the recent fighting. What can you tell us about this?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: For us those weapons are deadly as they kill our people. Our military has neutralized Azerbaijani weapons regardless of their perceived origins. Facts about weaponry obtained by Azerbaijan and used against civilian infrastructure and population of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are numerous and the July events serve as an additional proof.
Question: Israel has for years flip flopped on recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Is that something you still expect Israel to do? Have you brought this up recently with your Israeli counterparts?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Recognition of the Armenian Genocide by a nation who survived the horrors of the Holocaust is a moral issue. It’s on your conscience. I know that many Jews – public personalities, intellectuals and ordinary people – strongly share this point of view. However, it is up to the authorities of Israel to recognize the Armenian Genocide or refrain from doing it. It’s not only about Armenia but Israel as well.