PARIS, France (A.W.)—A live television debate on the conflict in the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh) took place on April 12 between Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau member in France Mourad (Franck) Papazian and Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to France Elchin Amirbayov, on France24 television network’s Le débat (The Debate) program.
During the debate, Papazian noted Azerbaijan’s countless violations of the 1994 ceasefire over the years, detailed the history of the anti-Armenian pogroms that took place in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and reiterated the people of NKR’s right to self-determination, saying that the population should be given the right to hold another referendum under the auspices of the international community.
“Today, there is a population of 150,000 Armenians; there are no longer any Azerbaijanis [in Karabagh],” said Papazian, adding that this was the result of a war brought on by Azerbaijan against the people of Karabagh, as well as the massacres perpetrated against Armenians.
Azerbaijan has refused the solutions proposed by the Minsk Group, said Papazian, adding that Baku has blacklisted scores of international diplomats for setting foot in Nagorno-Karabagh. “This shows that [Azerbaijan] is a dictatorship. You can find in all the international media President Aliyev’s bellicose declarations of war against the Armenians. Furthermore, President Aliyev considers me an enemy of Azerbijan,” said Papazian, then turned to the Ambassador and asked, “Am I an enemy of Azerbijan, Mr. Ambassador?” “Of course, you are,” replied Amirbayov.
Papazian noted that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group remains the only internationally mandated format for negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict and that Azerbaijan has continuously rejected any calls for peace since the 1994 ceasefire.
Amirbayov called Armenian s liars, adding that he had decided to take part in this debate in order to counter the “uninformed” French-Armenian lobby. In response, Papazian noted that it was his intention to participate in the debate, to disprove the lies being spread by Azerbaijani state propaganda.
“Today, Azerbaijan is a caricature. It is condemned by the entire world,” said Papazian, listing the names of human rights organizations that have criticized Azerbaijan for its dismal human rights record and lack of media freedom.
“Even if you say 1,000 times that Karabagh belongs to Armenia, it will not be true. Karabagh has always been historically part of Azerbaijan,” said Amirbayov.
Amirbayov said that the international community was on the side of Azerbaijan, since the status quo is unacceptable. He added that the Presidents of the countries holding the co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group (France, Russia, and U.S.) said on many occasions that the “occupation of Azerbaijan” is inadmissible.
The moderator challenged the Ambassador, asking whether the reason for any support in actuality lies in the strategic importance of Baku in terms of oil exports. Amirbayov responded, “The answer is much simpler: It’s international law.”
The Ambassador went on to talk about territorial integrity, to which Papazian responded by stressing that Artsakh Armenians have the right to self-determination and to hold another referendum.
The debate had been originally scheduled for April 7, however Amirbayov pulled out of it last minute.
In an April 5 statement, Papazian said that the ambassador’s withdrawal from the original scheduled debate proved that he is was not prepared to discuss the issue. “Having refused to participate in the debate, the Azerbaijani ambassador shows that he is afraid. I greatly condemn this cowardly decision, which comes at a time when the Azerbaijani Army continues to violate the ceasefire announced on April 5,” read a part of Papazian’s statement.
In the same statement, Papazian went on to call on French Armenians, as well as Armenians across the world, to show their support through rallies and demonstrations aimed to shed light on Azerbaijan’s aggression in NKR.
Papazian is a long-time leader in the French-Armenian community. He is the president of the Mediaschool Group based in France. He was elected a member of the ARF Bureau at the party’s 32nd World Congress, which took place in January 2015 in Armenia.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West