The third article of the PEN Charter mentions peace, good understanding between nations, and respect. How realistic is this after the war?
The example of Iran is and will always remain a good one in this respect.
Despite the soul-wrenching and destructive war that lasted 8 years in the post-revolution period, the severest of sanctions, all kinds of serious internal political and economic breakdowns and border tensions, Iran continued to have good neighborly relations and diplomatic ties not just with its neighbors, but also with its sworn enemy, the United States.
We don’t know how to maintain relations with other nations (perhaps it is the same in our neighboring country, I don’t know); we have not learned this, we have always focused on the enemy as our first priority. We are particularly poor at relations with nations in Muslim states. This is, naturally, a result of the monoethnic and homogeneous nature of Armenia. We have a lot to learn, and the state has a very serious and challenging role to play here.
Before the Second Artsakh War, there were mutual visits and some contact at the level of non-governmental organizations and people-to-people diplomacy between Armenians and Azerbaijanis as well as Armenians and Turks. In your opinion, why was none of this able to plant the seeds of tolerance among the Turk and Azerbaijani people, why were they unable to reject this xenophobia?
I will try to respond to this question by also covering the one on the tenure of the previous three presidents.
When a system or mechanism is absent, each individual becomes a system or an experimental diplomat, and tries to create a mechanism to improve the world around them. Naturally, this cannot have a large-scale impact.
I think we have failed on the diplomatic front. Once we admit that we are weak in diplomacy—and not having a Foreign Minister in 2021 is one of the symptoms of this deficiency—then perhaps we will be able to put things into motion. One of our leaders said that he resigned in order to avoid a civil war, the other only delayed things, the third one asked questions about what we could get in return, and this most recent one only blames his predecessors. At this rate, we have a long way to go before we hit the bottom.
Our diplomacy needs to be backed by our economy, a strong and powerful industry. All we have is a service-based economy. Some might ask what difference does it make? But diplomacy is always defeated if you have nothing to offer besides land, and a dialogue is reduced to two monologues when there is no mutual interest.
So how can we establish good neighborly relations with Azerbaijan if they don’t return our compatriots that they hold prisoner?
The fact that our prisoners have not been returned is our own fault, and I have outlined the reasons above.
Can a writer’s words and text play a role in peacebuilding initiatives and succeed? Will these words be understood and accepted?
It causes me a slight smile to think that my work could have any kind of impact in our world today, but we must always talk about our issues and keep people on their toes, so that we don’t end up slipping into a perilous slumber.