WATERTOWN, Mass.—Lernik Hovhannisyan, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) parliamentary faction in the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh), is currently touring the Armenian communities of the East Coast. Invited by the Artsakh Fund of the Eastern U.S. together with the Hairenik Association, Hovhannisyan has been speaking about the recent developments in Artsakh.
In 2013, Hovhannisyan was appointed NKR deputy minister of culture and youth affairs. In 2015, he was elected to the NKR Parliament as a member of the parliamentary faction of the ARF. Since being elected, he has served as deputy chair of the parliament’s Standing Committee on Defense, National Security, and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Below is the English translation of a short interview with Hovhannisyan recently conducted by the Hairenik Weekly.
Q: How do you interpret Baku’s large-scale offensive against Artsakh in early April?
A: Baku wished to have some success on the frontlines, so that it can be in a more favorable position at the negotiation table, and put conditions on us and the international community. Thanks to our army and the unity of our people, Azerbaijan’s plans failed.
Q: There has been talk of pulling out Armenian forces and deploying peacekeeping troops instead. Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov has made several recommendations in this respect. Is this type of retreat acceptable?
A: The deployment of peacekeeping forces in Artsakh must be ruled out. Our people witnessed Soviet peacekeeping troops in 1991. The Armenian Armed Forces are the only true guarantors of our security. The recent military operations are proof of that. No one can question the territorial integrity of Artsakh.
Q: On May 16, Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met representatives of the Minsk Group co-chair countries in Vienna to discuss a peaceful resolution to the NKR conflict. Afterwards, it was announced that similar meetings would take place in the near future. Is it possible to solve this issue through negotiations and diplomacy?
A: Frankly, I do not have great expectations from the negotiation talks, since we are dealing with an unpredictable and untrustworthy enemy. Aliyev’s latest statements are evidence of that. It is essential to put the negotiations on a new platform. The Republic of Artsakh has clearly expressed and continues to express the importance and necessity of participating in the negotiation process, especially since it is impossible to make any decision or come to a conclusion without Artsakh’s consent.
Q: What lessons can the “Four-Day War” [of April 1-5, 2016] teach us from an internal political perspective?
A: The war united us all. Artsakh is a key factor in the existence of the Armenian people and their right to live and prosper on their land. Failure in Artsakh will have irreversible consequences for the entire Armenian nation. A strong Artsakh will ensure the survival of our people.
Q: There have been calls for the inclusion of Artsakh at the negotiation table. What is your opinion on this issue?
A: If the international community really seeks a peaceful resolution to the conflict, then Artsakh must become a full side in the negotiations, as I already mentioned. This will also recognize Artsakh’s independence. Only then can we expect real progress.
Hovhannisyan’s East Coast tour has taken him to New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Washington DC, and Rhode Island. He is scheduled to speak in Massachusetts on June 9 at 8 p.m. at the St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church Hall (38 Elton Ave, Watertown, Mass.), and in Michigan on June 11 at 7 p.m. at the Armenian Community Center (19310 Ford Rd # 1, Dearborn, Mich.).
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West