During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict
Karabakh Defence Minister Does Not Expect War
BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom, April 11, 2001
Source: Azat Artsakh, Stepanakert, in Russian, April 7, 2001
The defence minister of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has said that at present there is no danger of a resumption of war with Azerbaijan. Interviewed by a Karabakh newspaper, Seyran Oganyan said that although there was a balance of forces between the two sides, Karabakh's morale was stronger. He said that the peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan might be more fruitful if Karabakh were included in the talks. Asked about public concern at the mobilization of servicemen in the reserve, Oganyan said there was no need for panic as the reservists' military capacity would be monitored in just one day of exercises. He stressed the importance of training and discipline within the army and the military and patriotic education of young people and said that he supported the idea of a professional army. The following is the text of Naira Ayrumyan's report in Nagorno-Karabakh newspaper Azat Artsakh entitled "Oganyan: `Our morale is stronger'":
[Correspondent Naira Ayrumyan] Minister, lately our opponents have been sounding belligerent and much sabre-rattling can be heard. There is much talk about the resumption of military actions. How dangerous do you think the current stage in the Karabakh settlement is?
[Karabakh Defence Minister Seyran Oganyan] I think that the high-level negotiations between [Armenian President Robert] Kocharyan and [Azerbaijani President Heydar] Aliyev are leading to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. I don't think that today there is a danger of the resumption of war. Firstly, because the military balance is maintained between our armed forces, I would even say that our morale is stronger. At the same time, I think that the negotiations might become more productive if the Karabakh side were included in them. After all, we are aiming at a resolution of the conflict by peaceful means and that refers to the army as well.
[Correspondent] What is the situation like on the Karabakh-Azerbaijani border?
[Oganyan] The situation is calm on the line of contact. All the requirements of the cease-fire are being complied with and planned monitoring is being conducted. Sometimes, however, sniper fire takes place.
[Correspondent] In view of the calls for the resumption of war, a certain degree of concern can be seen among the population in connection with the spring conscription. Some concerns also exist in relation to the amendments to the law "On conscription" last December. How is the mobilization process taking place?
[Oganyan] First of all I would like to say that the spring conscription is a planned procedure that is carried out with the aim of filling the ranks of the armed forces. This year it will start by the end of April, after the relevant decree has been signed, and will be implemented in full compliance with the plan. I would like to mention that in the course of the 2000 conscription the maximum implementation of the legal requirements and military regulations was conducted. Bearing this in mind, one can state with full conviction that this year's conscription will be carried out at a higher level. On the issue of amendments to the law, starting already in March, in compliance with my order, 26 conscripts - the only sons of martyred soldiers - were demobilized. During the conscription all other legally binding requirements will be observed.
[Correspondent] The rumours about the muster of servicemen in the reserve also caused some concern. Is it a planned or unusual action?
[Oganyan] I think everyone of us should realize very clearly that the achievements of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are sacred and it is our duty to do the utmost to defend those attainments, maintaining loyalty to national ideas. And our state should be ready to resist any sort of provocation. The basis of that readiness, apart from the army, should be formed by the economic progress of the state, the military capabilities of the reserve personnel and by the military-patriotic upbringing of the growing generations.
In accordance with the plan for military events in the realm of command headquarters and strategic military training, we monitor the state of military capability in the reserve, since the guarantee of the army's military readiness rests on its gradual reinforcements. The planned events for April include examination of the capabilities of servicemen in the reserve and that should not cause panic among the population. All the more so as those events will only take a day.
[Correspondent] The calls for war from the other side of the border are echoed in Armenia. Certain forces speak of the necessity to create an "alternative" volunteer army consisting of veterans, who consider the current Karabakh armed forces to be an army of 18-year-olds. What's your assessment of the combat readiness of the NKR armed forces?
[Oganyan] First of all it must be noted that a warring state resists the enemy using all means. We have already talked about the significance of the combat readiness of the reserve. It should be added to this that qualitative changes are taking place in the army today, in particular in the sphere of discipline. Discipline has reached a conscious level. It is no secret that in the first stages of military actions, amongst some volunteers a very low degree of discipline was recorded and this, along with other reasons, led to the idea of forming a regular army. If our army is to be compared with the armed forces of other countries, then it must be noted that in Israel, for example, the permanent involvement of reserve servicemen is avoided on the assumption that it has a negative effect on discipline. I well remember reading that in a book, I found on the margins of the pages notes made by [late Armenian prime minister and Karabakh war hero] Vazgen Sarkisyan saying "it must be avoided". I am "for" a contract army, I can say with conviction that today Karabakh has an army that is ready to combat the enemy.
[Correspondent] One of the key issues of army building is personnel policy. What are the principles for personnel selection and what steps are taken to improve their qualifications?
[Oganyan] I would like to repeat that the army is a unique school where activities are carried out according to annual programmes that are derived from the situation in the region and the equipment level of the army. This is everyday creative and painstaking work that requires fresh approaches. Today personnel policy in the army is based on a firm foundation. A system has been created that provides continuous professional training for officers. Servicemen study and improve their proficiency in training centres and educational establishments in the NKR and Armenia as well as abroad. In the army we have an incontestable principle: to be appointed to a position one must be professional and decent, have organizational skills and, of course, profound knowledge. In order to keep a situation under full control, to guide and especially to train and educate others an officer must possess all the aforementioned qualities.
It is no secret that to a great extent the officers of our army are not professional servicemen, necessity forced them to become commanders on the battlefield. They are part of our staff and we have to organize their education properly. It is worth mentioning that due to the improper organization of education there are negative phenomena, such as extraordinary events and ill-treatment that sometimes lead to crime.
It must also be mentioned that for more than a year we have not had what are known as "personnel upheavals" in the army and when a commander goes to another military unit he does not take all his "boys" along. We think that one of the most important qualities of a commander is the ability to consolidate new people and ensure the performance of all tasks in a new team.
[Correspondent] You mentioned the importance of military-patriotic education of young people. It is no secret that after the collapse of the Soviet system this issue took its course. What has been done in this direction?
[Oganyan] Right after my appointment as defence minister a new division dealing with public organizations and patriotic education was organized within the Defence Ministry. All military units are attached to educational establishments and several schools have military patriotic clubs. We help organize lessons on initial military preparedness. I would like to mention that with our assistance a military chair has now been established in Artsakh state university and now we are helping to equip rooms.
To give a new impetus to military patriotic education we have asked the government to accept a proposal to open a cadet college in Stepanakert. It will probably be opened at the beginning of next year and pupils in classes 9-10 [15-16 year olds] will study there. The college will function in today's army headquarters building. I see here a symbol of continuity among generations.
In response to insinuations and rumours that our young people will not be able to carry on our work, I would like to confirm that they will be better and more educated and will serve the country equally selflessly and devotedly.
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