TORONTO — Armenia and Azerbaijan are on the brink of all-out war over Nagorno-Karabakh. But it’s Turkey that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sees as his country’s real enemy in the conflict.
In an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Pashinyan said his country is on a “civilizational front line” – and that countries such as Canada that are allied to Turkey, via NATO, need to decide which side they are on.
Mr. Pashinyan said Turkey had encouraged what looks to be a full-scale attempt by Azerbaijan to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh. He said Turkey had sent Syrian mercenaries to aid the Azerbaijani side – an statement supported by Russia and France – and that the Turkish air force had also attacked Armenian positions.
“Turkey’s military personnel and the Turkish armed forces are directly engaged in the hostilities,” Mr. Pashinyan said by telephone from the Armenian capital of Yerevan. “Turkey’s NATO allies must explain why these F-16 jets are shelling towns and villages in Nagorno-Karabakh and killing civilian populations.”
Mr. Pashinyan also called for Western countries to reconsider weapons sales to Turkey.
He said Turkey’s role in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be viewed in the context of Turkey’s involvement in conflicts in Syria and Libya – where Ankara has backed factions in those countries’ lengthy civil wars – as well as Turkey’s “aggressive” stand toward Greece and Cyprus over maritime borders in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Terrorists imported from the Middle East are fighting on the side of Azerbaijan, under Turkey’s sponsorship. How could anyone propose now to leave the population of Nagorno-Karabakh unprotected, facing terrorists and extremists?” the Prime Minister said. “A ceasefire can be established only if Turkey is removed from the South Caucasus.”
Mr. Pashinyan cast Mr. Erdogan as a leader with dreams of restoring the Ottoman Empire. “A hundred years have passed and Turkey has returned to the South Caucasus, in order to continue the Armenian genocide here.”