Avigdor Lieberman: "From the point of international law, historical facts and interests of Israel - the truth is on Azerbaijan's side"
Fierce clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue in Nagorno-Karabakh. As a result of the hostilities, there are casualties among military personnel and civilians on both sides. Israel officially adheres to neutrality in the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict. However, the former Foreign Minister and ex-Israeli Defense Minister, leader of the NDI party Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Vesti Israel that "from the point of view of international law, historical facts and, most importantly, the interests of the State of Israel, the truth is on the side of Azerbaijan."
- Israeli politicians are usually extremely cautious in their assessments of conflicts outside the country. However, this time you are quite clear in favor of one of the parties. What caused this position?
- I understand that each of the warring parties has its own vision of this long-standing conflict, its causes and driving forces. The historical perspective shows that even before the creation of the Soviet Union, almost all the time Nagorno-Karabakh was a part of Azerbaijan.
In modern history, this conflict entered an active phase in 1988, when, on the wave of perestroika and glasnost, the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was part of the Azerbaijan SSR as an autonomous region, openly demanded annexation to Armenia. This reached its climax in 1994, when the so-called Karabakh war began - a full-scale armed conflict that claimed almost 30,000 lives. After that, the conflict took on a chronic stage.
To resolve the conflict within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the so-called "Minsk Group" was created, co-chaired by the United States, France and Russia. Against the background of modern threats to humanity (the migration crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, nuclear Iran, etc.), the Nagorno-Karabakh problem seemed to have faded into the background - to the margins of world politics, but it has not gone anywhere. Expectations of positive shifts that were associated with the election of Nikol Pashinyan to the post of Prime Minister of Armenia (and he is the first prime minister not associated with the clans in Nagorno-Karabakh) did not come true. Not only did no progress follow, but, on the contrary, Pashinyan took the toughest position, stating that Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia. And the point.
- However, Yerevan states that the majority of the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh are Armenians, and they want to be part of their homeland. Isn't it logical?
- At the same time, it is silent that the Armenians captured seven regions that have nothing to do with Nagorno-Karabakh. It is quite understandable that in such a frozen state, the conflict cannot exist for a long time, and sooner or later there will be escalations. Which is exactly what happened. From the point of view of international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan. That is why no UN member state (including Armenia itself) recognizes the sovereignty of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- And from the point of view of Israel?
- From the point of view of Israel - the State of Israel - the situation looks like this. First, Azerbaijan is one of the most tolerant countries towards Jews. The good attitude towards Jews on the territory of Azerbaijan has not changed over the centuries. Even in the midst of the frenzied Soviet anti-Semitism, there was no anti-Semitism or prejudice against Jews.
Secondly, after the establishment of the independent Azerbaijani state, relations with Israel were at the highest level. Azerbaijan has proved itself as a serious, reliable partner, which has never violated its obligations on bilateral relations and behaved very restrainedly in the international arena.
Therefore, from the point of view of historical facts, international law and Israeli interests, our position is extremely clear. And it was very consistently implemented all this time - regardless of who was at the head of the Israeli government, who was the minister of foreign affairs. Thus, the topic of Azerbaijan, the attitude towards Azerbaijan is in the consensus of the Israeli political establishment. We support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, believing that there can be no talk of a settlement in the region without the restoration of this territorial integrity.
- The Israeli media express concern about the involvement of Turkey and Erdogan in the conflict on the side of Azerbaijan. How should this be viewed from Israel?
- Azerbaijan is historically located at the junction of three, albeit former, empires - Persian, Ottoman and Russian. This is a very tangled mess. And now this entire historical triangle is again in motion. It is clear enough that Turkey unconditionally supports Azerbaijan, and Iran - Armenia. And in this case, the Turkish-Iranian disagreements are manifested in a new quality - I think that Israel will not express great sadness in this regard. Most likely, Turkey, Iran and Russia will carefully check their steps in this conflict.
I would not expect any progress after the UN Security Council meeting. I don't think you need to invent anything new here. There is the "Minsk format", within the framework of which many good proposals have been worked out. Apparently, the co-chairs of the group - the United States, France, Russia - need to take a more active role and broadcast a clearer position.
- And nevertheless in Jerusalem they keep silence about this ...
- It is clear that Israel does not want to interfere. Nevertheless, I repeat, our relations with Azerbaijan are broad, deep, strategic, while with Armenia they are at a minimum. We view Azerbaijan as an example of a modern Muslim Shiite country with which we have very close relations. Therefore, I repeat, we fully support the position of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. And from all points of view - historical, international and national interests - this is Israel's official position.