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EU should enact measures to constrain actions of Aliyev regime to prevent aggression against Armenia -Ambassador Balayan


 The European Union has the necessary toolkit to impose sanctions against Azerbaijan without the unanimous consent of twenty-seven member states. Tigran Balayan, Armenia's Ambassador to Belgium and Head of the Mission of Armenia to the EU, stated this in an interview given to the correspondent of "Armenpress" in Brussels.

In an exclusive interview, the Ambassador has addressed Armenia-EU and Armenia-Belgium relations, the EU's mechanisms for applying sanctions against Azerbaijan, and the inconsistency of the latter's aggressive actions. Armenia-EU relations are at a high level, but Ambassador Balayan is still not satisfied. According to Balayan, dialogue in some areas, especially regarding the liberalization of visas, should start a second earlier.

- Mr. Ambassador, two weeks ago, the fifth session of the EU-Armenia Partnership Council was held, at the end of which the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, announced that relations with Armenia are at their highest and most active level ever. How do you assess bilateral relations, and what opportunities do you see for developing them?"

- I think our foreign minister Mr. Mirzoyan, during the press conference with Mr. Borrell, also presented Armenia's assessment of those relations. Yes, we see relations with the EU at the highest level, which, first of all, helps to strengthen Armenia in all possible areas. Speaking about security, it is necessary to emphasize the presence of the EU mission on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, on the Armenian side, which allows Brussels to have firsthand information about what is happening there, who is exacerbating the situation, and, I think, recently, the European side's unambiguous and clear statements are the result of this.

 Of course, it is good to say that our relations are  progressing positively but on the other hand, I am not entirely satisfied, because there are clear steps that could be taken, but have not been done yet. For example, one of them is the initiating a dialogue on the liberalization of visas.

We also need to focus on improving our economy, not only by enhancing the quality of our products but also by implementing reforms in the state system and providing appropriate education to specialists in various fields. Take, for instance, my department. The diplomatic school, established fifteen years ago with active support and assistance from the EU, now supplies high-quality personnel not only to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but also to other state structures.

- If relations are at the highest level, as stated by the High Representative of the EU, then why has the EU not taken practical steps to hold Azerbaijan accountable, particularly in terms of imposing sanctions?

- In the coming weeks, we will have the opportunity to witness quite practical steps in terms of supporting Armenia. As for sanctions, we observe a certain reluctance to acknowledge the dangers posed by the Aliyev regime, which has successfully carried out ethnic cleansing without facing any obvious consequences. This occurred in the 21st century, by a member state of the Council of Europe. Nevertheless, the powers of the parliamentary delegation were terminated in any case.

I believe the EU's mission for peace is already clear: it should curtail the measures of the Aliyev regime to prevent further military aggression and adventures against Armenia. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also emphasized this in an interview with France 24. I reiterate that it is evident Aliyev has no interest in pursuing peace, because the point of his regime's existence is constant violence against his own people, against Armenia.

In terms of sanctions, I think the EU has a very good toolkit, which does not even need the unity of the member states to start imposing sanctions on Azerbaijan, not only for its aggressive actions, but also purely in terms of human rights, which are in a shameful state in Azerbaijan.

 - A few days ago, European Commission's lead spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy Peter Stano in an interview to Armenpress noted that in order to apply sanctions, the unanimous agreement from all member states is required to apply sanctions. However, you mentioned an existing toolkit that does not require unanimity. What mechanisms are we discussing?

- There are contracts that can be partially or completely suspended. EU sanctions specialists know much better what they are, what they can be used for and under what circumstances. In this case, we are not reinventing the wheel. There are mechanisms that can be implemented. What's required is political will and a clear conscience. By the way, the European Parliament has this awareness.

- In one of your recent interviews, you described the attack in the direction of Nerkin Hand as an open challenge to the credibility of the EU in the region. Does the EU not see this, and have you had contacts regarding this issue? How do your European colleagues react?

- Of course, I have had contacts. I expressed the Armenian side's displeasure regarding the disproportionality of the European side's reaction. Just two weeks ago, we heard Mr. Borrell stating that Azerbaijan's new aggression towards Armenia would have irreversible consequences. Now, we have experienced a new aggression, yet there seem to be no irreversible consequences for Azerbaijan. It should be clearly understood that this operation was carried out by the border guard service, under the commander's command, to shoot Armenian soldiers. By the way, it occurred within the sovereign territory of Armenia, from occupied positions.

Since at least December 12 of the previous year, we had been warning that Azerbaijan was preparing for ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh. They told us we were exaggerating, that Azerbaijan would not take such a step, but Azerbaijan did exactly that. Aside from condemnations, which, of course, are important but never enough, what was the result?

Now, we openly assert again that Azerbaijan is preparing an attack against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Armenia. We state that its objective is to destabilize Armenia and achieve a violent change of power within Armenia. These are the messages we convey to our European partners. In response, they tell us they will assist us in stabilizing and strengthening our resilience. Yes, we acknowledge that, for which we are grateful, and we expect to deepen relations in that direction.

- But consider that the EU does not believe. In the interview with Peter Stano, he clearly stated that they do not believe Azerbaijan will attack Armenia.

- I don't think the EU doesn't believe.

- So is he turning a blind eye to it?

- They see and try to prevent it without burning bridges with Azerbaijan. But we are not talking about burning bridges. Dialogue must be maintained. We are not accusing our European partners of inaction, but rather suggesting that more active steps need to be taken, perhaps not publicly, to deter Aliyev's appetite toward new aggression against Armenia. The official rhetoric disseminated by Azerbaijan only confirms this. They have recently released a video in which they suggest they can already see Sevan and that it is very easy to reach it through the mountains. What is this if not preparation for aggression?

- You have mentioned that the EU observation mission is important because they receive firsthand information in Brussels. Besides this, what does the presence and expansion of this mission in Armenia offer us? Considering it does not restrain Azerbaijan, as we have recently seen with the example of what happened in Nerkin Hand?"

- Let me start with perhaps the most important aspect- contacts with people. Our European partners, situated in various regions of Armenia, communicate with our compatriots also outside the capital.

This is the foremost significant fact that should be noted. Secondly, these individuals, residing among Armenians, I would say, upon their return, they become ambassadors of Armenia in a certain sense, representing Armenia, its people, and culture. Thirdly, these individuals, living in Armenia, share their joys and difficulties with us.In fact, the deployment of this mission has been the most beneficial development for the region since 2008, when a similar mission was deployed in Georgia.

- Until recently, Azerbaijan had been avoiding negotiations on European platforms, but a meeting was held in Munich at the initiative of Germany. What does this signify? Has the West succeeded in bringing Baku back to the negotiating table, and what are the expectations regarding this?

- Our position is as follows: we are ready to negotiate on any platform. The issue is not the platform itself but rather the presence of goodwill. We have witnessed gross violations and breaches of agreements reached at the highest level with the mediation of President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. The problem lies in the mediator's ability to ensure the fulfillment of agreements reached through their mediation.

Reiterating the Prime Minister's stance, even if an agreement is reached with Azerbaijan, we need clear mechanisms for its implementation and mechanisms with international accountability. Once again, I would like to emphasize that the issue lies not in the platforms themselves, but in the genuine desire to achieve peace.

- Let's also talk about Belgium-Armenia relations. What level of political dialogue have you recorded during this half-year tenure?

- Our relations with Belgium are at a very high political level. Belgium already has an embassy in Armenia, a very active ambassador has been appointed. Mr. Eric de Muynck in addition to politics, is also very active in the cultural and economic spheres.

-How would you summarize the relations with the community?

-Excellent. A few days ago, I met with the new members of the Committee of Armenians in Belgium. We are discussing various cultural programs. We also maintain very good relations with the Armenian Apostolic Church.

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