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Press conference

Remarks and answers to questions of journalists by Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian at the annual press conference for the diplomatic year 2017 - Part I


Good afternoon,

Throughout the year 2017, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia continued its activities based on the foreign policy guidelines outlined by the President of the Republic of Armenia and his assignments, as well as on the programme of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, coordinated and contributed to the deepening of external relations of Armenia’s state bodies.

Armenia, along with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, has continued efforts towards creating conducive conditions for advancement of the process of peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and implementation of the agreements reached at the Summits in Vienna, St. Petersburg and Geneva.

The summit of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place in Geneva on October 16, 2017. Throughout the year the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan held five meetings. The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have visited the region three times, during which they have met with the President and Foreign Minister of Armenia. They have also visited Stepanakert, where have met with the leadership of Artsakh.

14 statements have been adopted within the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. In particular, in December, within the framework of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vienna, the heads of delegations of the Minsk Group Co-Chair countries adopted an annual statement, where they reiterated full support to the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict based on three fundamental principles of international law: non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity, equal rights and self-determination of peoples. They stressed that the agreements reached at Vienna and St. Petersburg Summits should be implemented. They called for the expansion of the monitoring capabilities of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, etc. These are the provisions to which Armenia has repeatedly expressed its support, unlike Azerbaijan.

The international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the active involvement of Armenia in the efforts of the international community to prevent new genocides and crimes against humanity have been among the priorities of the Armenian diplomacy. On April 25, the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide. In 2017, four more US states recognized the Armenian Genocide, thus bringing the number of US states which recognized the Armenian Genocide to 48.

Our efforts with regards to developing bilateral relations have been aimed at further strengthening of allied, strategic relations with the Russian Federation in all directions, development of the Armenian-American friendly partnership, practical steps have been taken to expand the relations with the neighboring countries - Georgia and Iran. Deepening of cooperation with the European Union continued to remain one of the main directions of foreign relations of Armenia. On November 24, the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement was signed.

Steps have been taken to further develop relations and cooperation with CIS countries. Efforts have been made to strengthen the cooperation with European countries. Expansion of the cooperation with China, India, as well as with Japan, Korea and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region has been in the focus of our attention. Steps have been taken to enrich with new areas the cooperation agenda with the Middle East partner countries. Works have been carried out towards deepening the cooperation with countries of the American continent.

The active cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organization was continued. Yuri Khachaturov, the representative of Armenia, has been appointed CSTO Secretary General.

In 2017, Armenia maintained the close cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

We have been actively involved in the UN and several other multilateral platforms. Armenia assumed the presidency of the Ministerial Conference of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF). Our country has made significant contributions to the activities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe. The cooperation between Armenia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has continued.

One of the most important foreign policy directions was the development of Armenia's foreign economic relations both in bilateral and multilateral formats. In December, Armenia assumed the BSEC chairmanship.

Activities on expansion of the parliamentary diplomacy and decentralized cooperation, strengthening the Homeland-Diaspora ties have been carried out. An importance has been given to international cultural cooperation, preservation of the Armenian cultural heritage abroad.

Diplomatic relations have been established with seven countries, bringing the total number of the relations to 175. 73 international agreements have been signed. 143.000 documents have been circulated within the MFA system.

The protection of the rights and interests of citizens and legal entities of the Republic of Armenia abroad, assistance to Armenian citizens and ethnic Armenians in crisis situations has been high on the agenda of the Foreign Ministry. 151.000 citizens have received consular services.

In 2017, the President of the Republic of Armenia paid 21 foreign visits. 4 heads of the states had official visits to Armenia. The Chairman of the National Assembly of Armenia made 8 foreign visits. Heads of the parliaments of 3 states visited Armenia. The Prime Minister of Armenia made 8 foreign visits. Heads of governments of 8 countries visited Armenia.

The Foreign Minister paid 41 foreign visits. 19 Foreign Ministers and heads of international organizations visited Armenia. Foreign Minister of Armenia had 105 meetings with his foreign counterparts and heads of international organizations.

The steps aimed at raising the international awareness on foreign policy positions of Armenia and strengthening our country's reputation have been continued.

Armenia TV: Minister, I would like to ask you about the Armenia-EU agreement. What is our expectation, in your opinion? When do we expect it to be fully ratified and enter into force? And what are our expectations from that?

Edward Nalbandian: First of all, I would like to emphasize that the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU is a major, important milestone in our relations between Armenia and the European Union.

We should summarize the achievements we have accomplished with the European Union, and on that basis, outline steps for the coming years. Today, we focus on the ratification process of this important framework document. Armenia announced that it takes relevant steps to have it ratified by the April. Of course, we hope that it will be ratified by the EU countries without any obstacles. But we look one step ahead.

With our ratification, according to the relevant procedure, and the EU published this also on its website, that following our ratification, it could be possible to start the implementation of this agreement. Possibly, it could be as of May 1 or June 1.

We will continue our active engagement in the programs Armenia has joined or is going to join. I mean "Horizon 2020", "COSME", "Creative Europe", "Common Aviation Area" and others. And it is equally important to do utmost towards further development, expansion and strengthening of relations with the EU member states.

Armenia TV: And another question in this regard. For a long time Azerbaijan has been claiming that the Brussels Summit Declaration contains a clear wording on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Frankly speaking, I could not find what they were talking about. I would ask you to explain to what extent those claims are justified.

Edward Nalbandian:
As to Azerbaijan's claims that in the Brussels declaration some preference has been given to only one principle of the international law, especially in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution, clearly, it is not the case. Let me remind you, that the Declaration adopted at the Brussels summit reaffirmed the provisions enshrined in the previous document, the Riga Declaration, and commitment to implement them.

As you know, there was a paragraph in the Riga Declaration regarding the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, clearly supporting the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and referring to the statements made at the level of heads of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries from 2009 onward.

You are well aware, what statements those are and which provisions and principles they include.

In addition, the Brussels Declaration expressed support to existing formats, and it was about the conflicts in general. Azerbaijan opposed it as well. As you know, in Riga Azerbaijan expressed its opposition to inclusion of the reference to those five statements made since 2009. That is why the Riga summit was suspended. Azerbaijan was forced to make a separate statement. Nevertheless, the Riga Summit Declaration was adopted.

I should also mention, that in Brussels, on the very same day when the Summit was held, High Commissioner Mogherini made a statement exactly on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution, since the declaration of the Brussels Summit was much more concise and did not contain provisions on each conflict, including the Karabakh conflict. The Declaration contained generalized approaches.

And with regards to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict the High Commissioner Mogherini stated that the European Union supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs as well as their proposals and approaches. That is, a rather clear statement. I should remind you also, and we have repeatedly stated this, that the framework document we have signed with the EU, includes a provision on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement expressing support to the approaches of the Minsk Group Co-Chair countries and especially to the settlement based on three well known principles of the international law: non use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and right to self-determination.

Those are the very principles and approaches that Azerbaijan always tries to avoid making any reference or mentioning them. This is the reality about the Brussels Declaration.

Yerkir Media: Minister, the next regular supply of Russian weapons reached Baku these days. What do you think about the continuous supply of Russian arms to Azerbaijan, especially when the recent rumors in the media claim that Azerbaijan widely used Russian weaponry during the 2016 April events?

Edward Nalbandian: President of Armenia, as well as the Foreign Minister, more than once touched upon the issue of armament supplied by Russia to Azerbaijan. I do not think there is a need to repeat, but it is also obvious for what reasons the Baku propaganda machine exploits this topic with specific accentuations.

Armenia is doing its best to maintain the military balance, also using the advantages derived from our allied relations with Russia, buying weapons at more affordable prices.

Let me also recall, that in 2010 the 5th Protocol of the treaty of 1995 was signed, on the presence of the Russian military base in Armenia. With this Protocol some amendments have been made to the basic document. With those amendments Russia undertakes the commitment to become the guarantor of the security of Armenia, together with the Armenian Armed Forces, and also commits itself to provide Armenia with modern weapons and armament, in order to implement the very provision, that says that Russia together with the Armenian Armed Forces will guarantee the security of Armenia.

Let me also add one thing: it is obvious that Russia plays an important role in ensuring stability and security in our region, not only as the Minsk Group Co-Chair country, but also as a country which have a very important role in this region. Mr. Nalbandyan, I have two questions. First of all, after the statement of Lavrov on the Karabakh issue, namely that it should be solved step-by-step, some speculations started to circulate. What is your position, which option is on the negotiation table today: step-by-step or a package?

Edward Nalbandian: As to these speculations on the step-by-step or package options, I would say that maybe 20 years ago, such questions could have had some reasons, but today there could be no doubt in this regard. The Co-Chair countries have repeatedly stated that the problem should be solved based on the principles and elements elaborated and presented to the parties as an integrated whole. In other words, as a package, and attempts to separate one principle or one provision from the other, will make the conflict resolution impossible. This package approach is suggested by the Co-Chair countries, and it has been repeatedly stated, including at the highest level, by the presidents of the Co-Chair countries.

But, of course, we have to take into consideration, and we have repeatedly mentioned this as well, that the package resolution, naturally, means step-by-step implementation. What is your position on Turkey's military actions in the north-west of Syria?

Edward Nalbandian: With regard to the tension and those actions in the north-west of Syria, of course, it is a matter of concern that new tension emerged in this region that led to human casualties also among the civilians, including Syrian-Armenians.

This is a matter of serious concern, especially because the recent progress in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups, allowed to hope for a possible stability and peace in Syria. This tension can be a serious obstacle for this process.

We are, of course, always in favour of resolving the problematic issues through negotiations, of using the international platforms, which already operate or are being proposed. I mean both Geneva and Astana processes. Today, the Syrian National Congress has started its works in Sochi, which is another important platform. We hope that all this will give an opportunity to move towards addressing the issues through stabilization, establishment of peace and inter-Syrian dialogue.

Ararat TV:
Minister, to continue the topic of Azerbaijan: the Azerbaijani authorities relentlessly repeat that all those individuals, who visit Nagorno Karabakh, are most of the time victims of the Armenian propaganda. When they go back to their countries, they regret, even apologize to Azerbaijan and ask to be removed from the famous “black list”.

Edward Nalbandian: You know, if one believes in Azerbaijan's claims that the individuals, who visit Nagorno-Karabakh, and then return, regret and apologize, then the list would not have increased to include today about 600-700 individuals. According to their own information, 5-6 persons out of those 600-700 individuals may have asked to remove them from that list.

During the question-and-answer sessions in the National Assembly I once noted that after this horrifying incident with Lapshin, the flow of visitors to Artsakh, including bloggers, will increase much more, and that is exactly what happened. You are aware of that.

I think that these allegations of Azerbaijan, of course, have nothing to do with the reality, as the overwhelming majority of those included in the “list” consider it as a privilege to be in Baku's "black list", as they have stated themselves many times. Even those who allegedly asked to be removed or regretted for their visit later made statements, for example Lapshin, quite revealing statements about Azerbaijan's "black lists", prohibitions etc. You know, the times have passed when one can limit people's freedom of movement by force. That is impossible.

Ararat TV: Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan has recently repeated many times that the sides should move to logical negotiations, to conduct logical negotiations. In general, how do we understand this notion?

Edward Nalbandian:
Yes, we have heard, it is not the first time that the Azerbaijanis say that logical negotiations should be finally held.

One should not always look for a logic in the statements coming from Baku, even if they actually use the word "logic".

What logic do they speak about? The logic, when they come to an agreement, and then withdraw from that agreements, as it happened at Vienna and St. Petersburg Summits? The logic, when they reject the proposals made by the Co-Chair countries? The logic when they agree about the essence of the conflict settlement, as it happened in Kazan, before Kazan in Sochi, and before Sochi in Astrakhan, and in Saint Petersburg before Astrakhan, etc. and then take a step back? Or the logic when they agree to reduce the tension on the Line of Contact and along the border and then take new steps to aggravate the situation? What does "illogical" meetings and negotiations mean? Don’t they see in Azerbaijan that it is discrediting for themselves if for many years they have participated in a process with no logic.

You know there have been dozens of meetings at the presidential level. Were they illogical? Or sixty meetings at the level of Foreign Ministers were illogical meetings? Why did they come then? Why were they participating? What were they discussing?

I do not think the Co-Chairs share the same opinion. Azerbaijan approaches the negotiation process with its own unique logic, which does not correspond not only to the logic of Armenia and Artsakh, but to the logic of the Co-Chair countries, who represent the international community. Minister, I would like to ask you the following: at the end of last year, you and the President of Armenia mentioned in your speeches that we will enter the spring of 2018 without the Armenian-Turkish protocols. My question is: when it will be officially decided and publicly announced, and secondly, do you think that it will negatively affect the international reputation of Armenia?

Edward Nalbandian: About ten years ago, when Armenia initiated this settlement process, throughout these years, it has always been committed to both the process and the agreements reached.

It is not Armenia, but Turkey itself, that refused to implement the reached agreements. I have mentioned it previously, it was during my TV interview at the end of last year. I said that in recent years the international community has been stating that the ball is in the Turkey’s field, but today we can say that the ball is in the Turkey’s gate. If there is one party that should be worried that its reputation, international standing could be undermined, then it is not Armenia, not the Armenian side. As for the dates, we will make our position known within the dates announced by the President of the Republic.



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