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Press conference

Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s remarks and answers to questions of journalists during the annual press conference for the 2016 diplomatic year - Part II


Sputnik Armenia: Mr. Minister, what is your opinion on the Lapshin’s case? Can it set a precedent?

Edward Nalbandian: I don’t know who can gain and what from the Lapshin’s case, but I am sure that it will not add to anyone’s prestige. Right the opposite. It is an infamy, when people are being persecuted for exercising their fundamental rights of freedom of movement and speech. In some cases that infamy already became a distinctive feature of their identity.

I don’t think that it can set a precedent or disturb anyone. People have always visited Artsakh, will continue to visit and will do it in bigger numbers. Because if we take a look at the black list the Azerbaijanis have compiled, it includes, I believe, more than 500 people. Who are they? The state officials, politicians, representatives of civil society, famous and world renowned cultural figures. Can anybody cooperate with Azerbaijan on that issue, or hand them over or hamper their visits? Of course no.

There can be exceptions, but I have already said what I think about these exceptions, whom it can benefit or what can be the benefits. Recently, despite the hysteria of Azerbaijan, not only private visitors, but also tourists are visiting Artsakh more and more frequently. Artsakh has indeed become а pulling power. The more obstacles they put, the more they advertise it and everyone wants to go to see it. And then Azerbaijan loses its temper and finds itself in such situations. But, I guess, this only harms the reputation of Azerbaijan and will do the same to all those who will try to cooperate with Baku on such issues.

“The Republic of Armenia” Daily: Mr. Nalbandian, Azerbaijani diplomats accused you of distorting the nature of ceasefire agreements of 1994-1995. What could you say in this regard?

Edward Nalbandian: I believe that holding a diplomatic post doesn’t make a person a diplomat any more than having ten fingers makes him a pianist. I am talking about those diplomats, who speak such a nonsense. As for the ceasefire agreements of 1994-1995, they are not classified, and one can get acquainted with the content of the agreements through corresponding websites. They are published. And there is no doubt that whatever we say hundred percent corresponds to reality. Azerbaijan tries to distort the reality, but the lie has no legs.

A couple of days ago, Ambassador Kazimirov, the author of those ceasefire agreements, noted in response, that the comments about the ceasefire agreements by Azerbaijan, or the attempts to distort them are either a matter of low professionalism or of a cheap propaganda aimed of gaining some questionable dividends. I believe, one cannot say it more precisely and accurately, especially when it is said by the author himself. It is hard to add anything here.

They suffer from partial amnesia. They remember the one part of something, do not remember the other part, and interpret yet another part in completely different way. And they do it all in a self-confident manner. You know what is the situation with media there, how everything is under control and as a result the public opinion starts believing, which, as I have already mentioned, leads to displays of mass madness with unexpected consequences. Mr. Minister, eventually which option of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement is acceptable for Armenia: the step-by-step or the packaged deal?

Edward Nalbandian: Maybe 20 years ago that question would have been justified and would have made sense. I would not like to return to deliberations that took place 20 years ago, because since 2007 we are negotiating over the Madrid principles. And the Madrid principles, as you know, were elaborated and put forward by the Co-Chairs, who have noted repeatedly that they should be seen as an integrated whole. It means, that the elements and principles enshrined in the Madrid document form a package. So we are talking about a solution that is based on a package approach.

Indeed, we have stated on numerous occasions that any package settlement, in its turn, requires a step-by-step implementation. However, it is unequivocal that the general approach is the packaged one.

Hayots Ashkharh: Mr. Nalbandian, both you and the President always state that the approaches of Armenia are understandable, comprehensible and acceptable for the Co-Chairs and that to a great extent we have no disagreements with them with regards to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Meanwhile, the statement of the Co-Chairs over the year-end diversionary incursion attempt was quite dubious. The statement not only followed the logic of putting equation marks between the parties, but even more, it clearly stated that the body of a slain saboteur (of course, their wording was different) is on the Armenian side and the Armenian side should immediately return it. Do we have an omission here? Will we continue after that to say that our positions coincide? Or whether the return of the saboteur’s body is already viewed as a humanitarian measure?

Edward Nalbandian: I would ask you to get acquainted with my comment with regards to the Co-Chairs’ statement. I have clearly outlined several points.

You know, the diplomatic language differs from the language of journalists. I don't criticise the language of journalists, I am just stating that they are different. There are approaches in the diplomatic language, that require special skills for their presentation. I am not defending the Co-Chairs and in my comment I have stated that their statement should have been issued earlier, immediately after the incident, so that Azerbaijan would not get an impression that such actions would be tolerated and that they could spread a lie claiming that it has been Armenia who organized a diversionary intrusion attempt, and not Azerbaijan. This was a peculiar lie - they were claiming that Armenian soldiers crossed the border, passed to the Azerbaijani side, then killed that one person and took him with themselves. It turns out as if our three soldiers were killed there, then our killed soldiers grabbed a body and came to the other side. It is not possible to fool anyone like this. Indeed, none of the Co-Chairs had a doubt who did it and how.

As to the issue of returning the body, Armenia has never been against the return of bodies. We have come to an agreement with Azerbaijan on that issue on numerous occasions, back in Astrakhan and other places. But it was Azerbaijan itself that refused to implement those agreements. I would like to remind one of the most vivid cases, when back in 2014 the Azerbaijanis shot down the Armenian helicopter. How could there be a talk about the return of bodies, since they were shelling the location where the helicopter crashed not allowing to approach it. It was not even clear whether the crew of the helicopter was dead or alive. The Armenian side had to initiate a special operation, a very successful one. Unfortunately, the crew members were dead. The Armenian side returned the bodies of the pilots. And the Azerbaijanis were having doubts about that, saying that the Armenian side could not have executed such an operation.

We hear Azerbaijan saying that the body should be returned as a humanitarian gesture. What humanism they are talking about when they capture Armenian soldiers and not only soldiers, then they conduct Daesh-style interrogation in front of cameras. How many times we have witnessed that after the return of bodies of Azerbaijani saboteurs, who had murdered people, they are declared national heroes and are set as an example for the youth to follow. This is a terrible thing.

As Azerbaijan refuses to establish investigation mechanism for ceasefire violations, Armenia together with Artsakh has to undertake on their own all the steps necessary for the investigation, which could have been possible to do after each incident if that mechanism was established. And those relevant investigation related steps are not completed yet.

RFE/RL Armenian Service: I have several questions. How would you assess the situation when Armenia’s ally, Belarus, arrests blogger Lapshin and has an intention to hand him over to a country which is in war with Armenia - Azerbaijan? Second, I would like to ask you to assess the situation when because of the absence of the President of the same Belarus during the recent CSTO summit, the representative of Armenia was not elected to the post of the Secretary General of the Organization. The third question, in relation to the OSCE Yerevan Office there was an information in media, that in response to the situation around the Yerevan Office, Armenia threatened or warned that it would veto the activities of the OSCE Offices in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Is this true or not? And the last question, there is an information that upon Russia’s initiative a trilateral meeting between the Foreign Ministers or Presidents of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan is being prepared. Is it so or not?

Edward Nalbandian: I have already provided my answer regarding the Lapshin case.
Probably you are young and don’t remember it. At a time it was Zhvanetsky, I suppose, who used to say: ”We still did not hear the Director of the Transportation Department.” However, “the Director of that Transportation Department” already spoke about Lapshin for around ten minutes.

Regarding the question on the CSTO Secretary General, if you have questions to Lukashenko, you should address them to him. However, I don’t think that Lukashenko was absent at the summit for the very reason derailing the issue of Secretary General’s appointment. There were different issues there, if you would read those days’ media a little bit more carefully, you would understand what was the real reason.

Regarding the issue of the OSCE Office, once again, I have already addressed it in details. It is a blatant lie that we used the right of veto or hindered any issue.

In December our approach was that the issue of the OSCE Yerevan Office should be discussed as one package together with other issues. That was our approach, as it was not clear yet what was going on. Now, it has been clarified, and the OSCE Permanent Council made a rather clear cut statement as to who demonstrates a constructive approach and who is hindering this everything. Azerbaijan appeared in a total isolation. However that was not our goal.

We support the OSCE Office’s activities and we are interested in their continuation. It was obvious, that in this issue Azerbaijan goes against 56 countries. After closing the office in Baku, now they don’t want for an office to operate in Armenia.

Regarding your last question, I have already said that I don’t know of any other upcoming meeting, besides the one proposed by the Co-Chairs to hold just before the Munich Security Conference. However, as I have already mentioned, I cannot confirm whether that meeting will take place or not. Indeed, a meeting with the Co-Chairs will take place. The possibility of meeting with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan depends on how the latter will act. I have a question regarding US President Trumps’ recent executive order on refugees. Do you consider any countermeasures in this regard or are you going to make statement on this issue? Second question; what is your vision with regards to the relations between Armenia and the Sunny world taking into account that Azerbaijan has managed to pass an anti-Armenian decision during the Islamic Conference held in Istanbul? What are you going to do in that direction? And what is your vision of Armenia-Sunny world relations taking into consideration the absence of relations between Armenia and Saudi Arabia?

Edward Nalbandian: Regarding the first question, I would like to abstain from commenting the decision made by the new President of the United States.

Regarding the second question, on relations with Saudi Arabia or other countries. You are asking rather general questions. As for the Istanbul decision, this is not an issue of passing a decision - they are “in their usual environment” and they adopt some statements. Within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation a number of statements were adopted, which had no impact on the settlement process of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. And that same Islamic states, for example, within the framework of La Francophonie have adopted completely different statements. One should not have a simplistic approach here.

Regarding relations with other countries, you have asked specifically about Saudi Arabia. We do not have diplomatic relations with that country, however we are ready to have one. But Saudi Arabia has not demonstrated any willingness yet. I don’t think that with the establishment of diplomatic relations serious changes will occur. When such willingness will be demonstrated, then we will establish the relations.

Yerkir Media. Barack Obama during his presidency failed to use the word Genocide. What are the expectations of Armenia from the Trump administration? And since this press conference summarizes the activities of 2016, I would like to ask you to outline the main achievement and the main failure of Armenia’s foreign policy in 2016.

Edward Nalbandian: Your question is from the category of ”the Director of the Transportation Department has not been heard again.” I will make a reference to our extensive report where everything is presented in details. And in my opening remarks I have mentioned the main events that took place in 2016.

As for the issue of Obama administration not using the word genocide, we have made numerous statements in this regard, including immediately after the former US President used the word “Yeghern” - a word, that we are using as well. We don’t always say the Armenian Genocide, we also say Mets Yeghern. At that time the Foreign Ministry also issued a statement with relevant comment. I would like to suggest you to re-read that comment.

As to the issue of what will be the new administration’s approach, I believe that the efforts of the international community aimed at recognizing, condemning and preventing genocides are irreversible. Look at the initiative put forward by Armenia at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the resolutions that were adopted. Those resolutions were adopted unanimously by an institution, which includes the United States, Russia, France, China, other countries, and each country has its unique approach. So, reaching an agreement on such a document is quite a difficult process. It is not only about the Armenian Genocide, but about the genocides in general. We always direct our efforts towards strengthening of the international instruments for the prevention of genocides, and in terms of prevention, the recognition and condemnation are of primary importance.

And those resolutions, which were adopted upon Armenia’s initiative, prove that. We will not halt that process and will take new steps in this direction.

A1+: Mr. Minister, I would like to ask you to asses the speech of Levon Ter-Petrossian made on December 17, and, particularly, with regards the concerns expressed thereof. To what extent do they correspond to the reality and whether Armenia has a reason to be concerned over the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, as it was presented by Levon Ter-Petrossian?

Edward Nalbandian: I would abstain from commenting the assessments made by Levon Ter-Petrossian. He is our former President and we should show respect for his words and opinions. He had his approaches, however, I would like to remind, that it was 20 years ago. We have moved forward and during this period dozens of meetings were held. Not only the meetings, which I have mentioned - Kazan and others, which were held at the level of Presidents. But if we also include meetings between Ministers, then the number will multiply, as the Ministers prepared meetings between the Presidents. Those meetings did not happen just like that, there were many developments throughout this whole process, which led to the statements which I mentioned. One should proceed based on that reality. And, of course, these statements, negotiations, developments took into consideration the previous experience as well.

Kentron TV: Mr. Minister, my colleagues today attended a discussion where the international affairs experts noted that Armenia does not have a foreign policy concept. Does it correspond to the reality? If not, what is that concept?

Edward Nalbandian: The issue is not about elaborating a document, which will later become a concept paper and we will constantly be guided by it. If you look into our report published today, you will see that in the preface it is clearly outlined what serves as a basis for our foreign policy and the main directions and approaches of our foreign policy. That is our concept. Mr. Minister, you have touched upon Lavrov’s statement, which was followed by Mammadyarov’s statement who said that if Russia would undertake more efforts towards the settlement of the conflict, the status-quo would change. How would you comment on that? What do you think, what are the limits of Russia’s influence on the settlement process?

Edward Nalbandian: Russia’s possibilities as a mediator country are wide, as wide as the possibilities of the United States and France. And this is the process where the United States, France and Russia work together by exerting quite extensive efforts in that direction. Neither the United States, nor France, nor Russia, nor Yerevan, nor Stepanakert should be blamed. We should look who is hindering the process and the answer is - Baku.

When Azerbaijan will have a little bit more realistic approach, instead of creating new obstacles and every time putting the blame on someone else, when it will want to really solve the issue exclusively through peaceful means, based on the fundamental principles of international law and all the elements proposed by the Co-Chair countries, then it will be possible to move forward. What does the Azerbaijan say? That the settlement of the issue should be based solely on the principle of territorial integrity. What does the international community say? It says, that the settlement should be based on the three principles and proposed elements, which are an integrated whole. Azerbaijan says that if the issue is not settled the way they want, based only on the principle of territorial integrity, even more, based on their interpretation of that principle, then they will have to go for a military solution. The Azerbaijani leadership has lost the sense of reality and, as I have already mentioned, it is time to sober it up.

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