By, Christine Aghakhanian
GLENDALE – In a press conference held on October 21, at the Office of the Consul General in Los Angeles, Ambassador Armen Baibourtian discussed the current situation in Artsakh and urged the Armenian Diaspora to continue supporting the much needed humanitarian efforts in Artsakh.
The Ambassador started the press conference by discussing Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s wide-scale attacks on Armenia and Artsakh and stated that their continuation of committing war crimes is creating a serious humanitarian crisis. “They have destroyed and eradicated countless buildings, recently renovated structures, cities and villages in Artsakh. Residential buildings have also been destroyed in Armenia as well,” said Baibourtian.
“The Armenian people of Artsakh have not been receiving international humanitarian aid. All the international bodies, for political reasons, have been restricted from providing humanitarian aid to Artsakh, which is currently suffering during this critical time. The absurdity of this situation is that there are people who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, however international organizations and governments are unable to provide humanitarian aid particularly to the women, children and elderly population in Artsakh who need it the most,” he added.
Baibourtian also discussed the catastrophe of Azerbaijan’s deliberate neglect of their soldiers’ remains on the battlefield, which according to experts, creates a disastrous situation with repercussions outside the borders of the conflict zone. He added that it has been proven that Azerbaijan and Turkey are utilizing internationally banned/war crime weapons, such as cluster munitions.
“Azerbaijan is claiming that Armenia is using those types of banned weapons. That is a categorically false assertion and I am not only disputing that false statement, but I am also stating that the use of cluster munitions and other internationally banned weapons by Azerbaijan and Turkey have been corroborated by international organizations, one of which is Amnesty International. As much as Turkey tries to deny it, it has been clearly proven and established by experts and international humanitarian organizations that they are using these banned weapons. These types of weapons do not exist in Armenia and Artsakh,” he said.
Discussing the two humanitarian ceasefire agreements, Baibourtian stated that the first agreement was through the efforts of Russia on October 10, which both parties agreed to, but was soon violated by Azerbaijan, as they continued shelling Artsakh. He added that the second humanitarian ceasefire agreement was a collaborative effort by the United States, France and Russia, rejected by Azerbaijan under Turkey’s influence.
“There is clear evidence provided by the Armenian Ministry of Defense that Azerbaijan violated the ceasefire. Under this context, both Armenia and Artsakh are working towards a humanitarian and military ceasefire. Members of the US Congress, particularly Congresswoman Judy Chu have urged The OSCE for the presence of monitors at the border to record ceasefire violations. Azerbaijan and Turkey have rejected this proposal and continue to reject the idea of border monitors. This has been taken into account by mediators in Moscow. The Armenian side finds the border monitors to be of utmost importance and has been urging Russia to take this step,” said Baibourtian.
Regarding Turkey’s aggression, Ambassador Baibourtian urged the Diaspora that there is a lot of work to be done to combat the aggression, especially with Turkey’s ambitions of Pan Turkism through ethnic cleansing and genocide. He stated that it is not a coincidence that we are reminded of the continuation of the Armenian Genocide, as announced by Turkey’s president Erodgan, who openly proclaimed that he will finish what his ancestors started. “They are not even hiding it. There’s an important point here, that Turkey is doing everything in their effort to reject the idea of peace. Turkey’s ambitions include taking over Azerbaijan’s energy resources, pipelines, railways and immediately controlling them and increasing their influence in the region, which is highly threatening,” he added.
Ambassador Baibourtian believes it is unacceptable for Turkey to be a member of the OSCE Minsk group, particularly due to their active and direct involvement in the unprovoked aggression against Artsakh and Armenia. He added that these actions disqualify Turkey’s membership and that the US, France and Russia recognize the issue and are taking all necessary steps to have Turkey removed.
“Azerbaijan is stressing that since the May 12, 1994 ceasefire agreement, the European Union (EU) has not been able to successfully resolve the conflict and that is why they are engaged in a war. The reality is that Azerbaijan has constantly violated the ceasefire, and has rejected the OSCE Minsk group’s suggestions on any negations for a peaceful settlement and have instead, resorted to engaging in war,” said Baibourtian.
The Ambassador further stated that the Helsinki Accords of 1975 were one of the most important humanitarian agreements – rejection of the accords was evidence of a nation’s anti-democratic principles. He stated that Azerbaijan has always been actively and openly against the Helsinki Accords. “Let us not forget that Turkey is also undemocratic and they are actively recruiting terrorist mercenaries from Syria and other regions in the Middle East to fight against the Armenian military in Artsakh. They are actively committing war crimes and encouraging terrorism,” he added.
Baibourtian reiterated the importance of the US, France and Russia’s collaboration to enforce a humanitarian ceasefire and end the military attacks from Azerbaijan and Turkey. He echoed the statement made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging that there should not be a third party involved in the war between Artsakh and Azerbaijan, particularly referring to Turkey. Baibourtian believes that Pompeo’s statement suggests that this is the only way to establish peace and to bring all the parties to the negotiating table, adding that Pompeo also stated that Artsakh must defend itself.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s October 23 meeting with Pompeo, along with his Azeri counterpart was mentioned. “Pomepo has expressed hope for a ceasefire as a result of these meetings. I specifically want to mention that the US involvement with France and Russia working towards a peaceful agreement and ceasefire is very important. We are optimistic about a positive outcome,” said Baibourtian.
“This is not a typical war. This war threatens the self-determination and democracy of our people. The intent of this war is to ethnically cleanse the Armenian people, to not only eradicate the Armenians in Artsakh but to commit genocide against all Armenians,” he declared. “The courageous Armenian military under the strong leadership of the governments of Armenia and Artsakh, are reporting from the battlefield that our powerful military has the capability to push Azerbaijan and Turkey to negotiate a peaceful agreement. Today, those two nations [Turkey and Azerbaijan] are not interested in a peaceful agreement, not because of a lack of international intervention, not because there has been no suggestion for a ceasefire – Azerbaijan and Turkey are rejecting peace. It is the duty of our nation to establish peace through establishing those mechanisms,” he added.
Ambassador Baibourtian spoke of the importance of The Republic of Artsakh’s international recognition and the self-determination and independence of Her people, adding that Azerbaijan is making territorial claims. “In 2005, at the UN World Summit, it was established as international law the responsibility to protect people who live in undemocratic nations who are endangered by their governments and give them the ability of remedial secession. The four causes of remedial secession are 1) genocide 2) war crimes 3) military/anti-democratic crimes 4) ethnic cleansing,” he said.
“In 1991, Artsakh declared independence under clear established international edicts, because Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) has never been a part of independent Azerbaijan. There is ample evidence that Artsakh has the right to defend itself. This gives us the legitimacy to protect our land legally, internationally and to reach our goal for peace. It is extremely vital that we make this goal a reality and ensure every step, small or large is taken towards this endeavor,” Baibourtian declared.
Urging the public to be more vocal about boycotting those nations who supply weapons to Azerbaijan and Turkey to murder Armenians, the Ambassador announced that the import of Turkish goods has officially been banned by the Armenian government and believes there will be a huge impact when there is a large scale, concerted effort towards this movement.
Baibourtian called on the Diaspora to duplicate their efforts in helping the humanitarian crisis in Artsakh adding that the $137 million (USD) raised so far is a small amount, considering the dire situation in the Homeland. “When we are sending young men into the battlefield and the enemy is destroying our sacred lands, we here in California and in general the western region in the US, need to double our efforts, because from what I see, it is evident that can work harder… Let us all use all our resources to help our people in this time of war.”
The Ambassador also urged the Armenian community to participate in a campaign launched today by ArmeniaFund where individuals can donate $50 USD on a monthly basis aimed at helping with humanitarian efforts and ensuring the security and peace of Armenia and Artsakh. He stressed that all monetary donations sent to ArmeniaFund are being appropriated by the governments of Armenia and Artsakh for humanitarian relief.
Baibourtian expressed his gratitude to the organizations in charge of chartering two cargo planes transporting humanitarian aid to Artsakh. He stated that there are specific supplies, including medical supplies and equipment that are needed in Artsakh and provided an updated list along with quantities (list is below). He reiterated that individuals can make monetary contributions to ArmeniaFund if they are unsure of what to send.
“We need to be very vocal about what we are demanding. We have to prove ourselves on the battleground since Azerbaijan is not acknowledging an international request for a ceasefire. Those of us in the US and in California must participate [in ArmeniaFund] so that we can be victorious. Today Azerbaijan and Turkey have proven that they have many issues with other nations. We are going to be victorious and prove to the world that we want peace and can secure our self-determination and independence. We must be united in our efforts,” the Ambassador proclaimed.
During the question and answer session, Baibourtian stated that Prime Minister Pashinyan does not see a resolution as of now due to Azerbaijan and Turkey’s refusal to engage in peaceful negotiations. “At this time it is not foreseeable that there will be a peaceful resolution. It is important that besides Congress, all levels of US government recognize Artsakh. The State of California has recognized Artsakh’s independence. Six years ago, the City of LA recognized Artsakh and most recently, the city of Fresno. It is a very important step for Artsakh’s independence,” said Baibourtian. He reiterated that international humanitarian assistance is not reaching Artsakh. “People are dying, they are leaving their homes and their right to live is being threatened. ICRC (International Red Cross) is the only international organization that is helping Artsakh.”
The Ambassador was asked if the United Nations can end the war, especially after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ request on March 13 that the war end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Azerbaijan ignored the UN security council’s request. They purposely chose to attack during a pandemic when the world is occupied with the pandemic. Russia, US and France as a part of the UN, must continue working to ensure international security,” he said.
On the recognition of Artsakh, Baibourtian stated that today, now more than ever, it is important for governments to recognize the self determination of Artsakh, adding that it has not been recognized internationally. “It is the 25th day of the war, the recognition of Artsakh can happen immediately, in the US and the world. The international community is witnessing what Turkey and Azerbaijan are doing. We have to fight for recognition on the Federal, State and local level.”
Items needed for Artsakh:
Winter overcoat uniform: 15,000 sets
Combat boots: 5,000 pairs
Waterproof raincoats: 20,000 units
Sleeping bags: 20,000 units
Cotton shirts: 50,000 units
Cotton briefs: 50,000 units
Warm undergarments: 50,000 sets
Cotton socks: 100,000 pairs
Warm gloves: 25,000 pairs
Thermos: 5000 units
Flashlights: 5000 units
Backpacks (dark colors): 5000 units
Tents for 40 people/ Tents for 20 people
Underarm crutches: 200 units
Elbow crutches: 200 units
Walking canes: 200 units
Professional binoculars: 200 units
Medical items needed:
GE AMX Digital Radiography (DR) Portable System: Quantity 1
GE Logiq E Portable Ultrasound Unit with two probes (General/Abdominal and Vascular applications): 2 Total
Portable Digital X-ray: 7
Surgical X-ray complex (C-ARM): 3
Surgical tables: 5
Surgical lamps : 7
Anesthesia apparatus: 5
Surgical suction: 7