Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive on September 19 in Nagorno-Karabakh to regain control of this enclave lost thirty years ago, mainly occupied by an Armenian population but on Azerbaijani territory. The separatist forces who were defeated in barely 24 hours agreed to lay down their weapons. Since then, 65,000 residents have fled to Armenia, fearing “ethnic cleansing”. A week after this defeat, the self-proclaimed Republic announced its dissolution from January 1, 2024.
Why are you organizing this gathering?
Bishop Gollnisch: It is first of all a symbolic gathering. We want to show our support for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. What is happening is incredibly serious, we cannot remain silent in the face of this tragedy.
But this approach also aims to alert our politicians and the international community. There is an urgent need to send aid to the residents who have taken refuge in Armenia – there are currently around 50,000 of them. Without forgetting to dispatch observers to the region to monitor both the fate of the Armenians who remained there but also the heritage of the region which includes numerous churches. It is a very rich historical territory.
Finally, we want to challenge the international community on the protection of Armenian sovereignty. A large part of the population now fears that Baku will attack their country.
That’s to say?
IF Nagorno-Karabakh has just fallen into the hands of Azerbaijan, it is now Armenia that is targeted. The President of the Republic, Ilham Aliyev, and his Turkish ally, Recep Tayyp Erdogan, have never hidden their ambition to see the establishment of a “Western Azerbaijan” in place of Armenia. Ankara wants to set up a corridor which would connect it directly with Baku via current Armenia.
Your association is present in this region of the Caucasus. How are you helping the people of Nagorno-Karabakh?
For several months, the only corridor connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh has been blocked by Azerbaijan. I visited there for the last time before the Baku offensive in September 2020. At the time, it was already very difficult to get through. Today, it is impossible. For security reasons, we can no longer send employees on site. Our help therefore goes through the Armenian Catholic Church which itself provides assistance, on site, to the entire population. We also work in close collaboration with the Caritas association which works with refugees.