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Interviews, articles and comments

Interview of Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to Greek newspaper ETHNOS


Question. What is it that brings you in Athens?

Edward Nalbandian. Armenia and Greece, our brotherly peoples are bound by the centuries old cordial relations, traditionally deep mutual sympathy, reciprocal support and solidarity.

I am here at the invitation of my colleague Minister Kotzias. Foreign Ministers of two countries have regular meetings. This year, I had a pleasure to receive Ministre Kotzias in Yerevan, then we had meeting in Tallinn and New York and today I am here in Athens to continue our dialogue. This visit provides another opportunity to discuss our extensive agenda aimed at further promoting effective cooperation between our friendly countries in all areas of mutual interest.

Earlier today I had an honor to meet with the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and to exchange views on the Armenian-Greek relations.
My visit started yesterday with the lecture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would like to thank once again for the provided opportunity to share our approaches on the regional issues and some of the Armenian foreign policy priorities.

At our meeting with my colleague we have reviewed the implementation of the agreements, reached during last year’s official visit of the Armenian President to Greece.

And of course we have an extensive exchange of views on a number of urgent regional and international issues.

Question. Your visit to Athens comes a few days after that of Turkish President Erdogan's. During his stay here, President Erdogan stressed the “need” for the Treaty of Lausanne to be “revised”. How does Armenia approach such positions with regard to the “revision” of Treaties?

Edward Nalbandian. I would not like to comment on any particular treaty or particular statement. However, the habit of backtracking from reached agreements seems to become a pattern of behaviour for Ankara. We can easily recall other examples when Turkey failed to respect its signature put under the agreements. Among others, we could recall the Zurich protocols, that were aimed at normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey.

Question. A Turkish NGO based in Washington claimed recently that supporters of the so-called “Fetullah Terrorist Organization” were coordinating with Armenian groups to lobby against Turkey in the US Congress. Pro-government figures in Turkey have also claimed in the past that Gulen is an “Armenian” as a form of accusation. Your comments?

Edward Nalbandian.
Unfortunately, this is yet another evidence of this centuries old habit of some Turkish politicians to identify Armenians with opponents and even enemies. Moreover, they sometime go as far as considering being an Armenian as an insult, which is merely an intolerant and racist behaviour.

The methods and ways of Turkish lobbying activities in the US are already notoriously known to everyone. However, that does not preclude them from targeting others for allegedly engaging in lobbyism against Turkey.

Question. A special event was held recently in New York, in observance of the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide. Have you seen signs of progress internationally when it comes to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide?

Edward Nalbandian. This day was set in the international calendar by the efforts of Armenia. In 2015 upon the initiative of Armenia the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a unanimous Resolution on the Genocide Prevention. Subsequently, again upon our initiative the UN General Assembly assigned December 9th as an International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Genocide.

On the next December 9th the International Day of Commemoration will gain even more significance since it will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. On this occasion Armenia is going to host the Third International Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide in Yerevan.

70 years passed after the adoption of the Convention, but the world is not immune from this “odious scourge”. In this regard is imperative to redouble the international efforts aimed at reinvigoration of the prevention agenda.

Question. Given the strong Armenian presence in Jerusalem, what are your thoughts on last week's decision of the American Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital?

Edward Nalbandian. Jerusalem has a centuries old Armenian presence, a rich Armenian historical and cultural heritage. Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the major guardians of the Christian Holy Places. Therefore, we attentively follow all developments with regard to Jerusalem.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most important issues on the international agenda and it could be solved through the negotiations within the context of the acceptable solution for the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This can pave the way for the establishment of a lasting peace and security.

Question. Is there a room for progress when it comes to the prospect of a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? What are the biggest obstacles?

Edward Nalbandian. Last week in my statement at the OSCE Ministerial Council I made a detailed enumeration of nine reasons why till now it has not been possible to advance the peace process despite numerous meetings on the presidential and ministerial levels, many rounds of negotiations, the tireless mediation efforts by the Co-Chair countries - Russia, France and the USA, and the strong endorsement of the OSCE and all others who have supported the efforts and approaches of the Co-Chairs.

In brief, the lack of progress in the settlement process is due to the uncompromising and maximalist stance of Azerbaijan at the negotiation table, its failure to implement what has been emphasised and agreed upon during the last three summits of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan held in Vienna, St Petersburg, Geneva, particularly on the exclusively peaceful settlement of the conflict, full adherence to the 1994-1995 trilateral ceasefire agreements, which do not have time limitations, creation of mechanism for the investigation of ceasefire violations, expansion of the team of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Azerbaijan made a step back and refused to reaffirm its commitment to the principles and elements proposed by the Co-Chairs of the Minsk group as a basis for the settlement.

Baku has backtracked from many other agreements and this pattern seriously questions Azerbaijan’s credibility as a negotiating party. Meantime, Baku continues the ceasefire violations and provocations on the line of contact. In April 2016 Azerbaijan unleashed an aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh that was accompanied by the grave violations of international humanitarian law, atrocities against the civilian population, including children, women and elderly persons, mutilation of the bodies, DAESH-style beheadings.

What has been proposed by the Co-Chairs and supported by Armenia has been rejected by Azerbaijan and this is the main reason that hinders the advancement of the peace process.

I would like to once again reiterate Armenia’s firm commitment to the exclusively peaceful settlement of the conflict based on the proposals of the Co-Chairs. There is no alternative to the negotiation process.

If Baku abides to the calls of the Co-Chairs to strictly respect the ceasefire, implements previously reached agreements, reiterates its adherence to the principles of the conflict resolution proposed by the Co-Chairs and constructively engages in the negotiations that will pave the way to move the peace process forward.

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