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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 II


Public television: Mr. Nalbandian, two questions, after the Krakow meeting, it was announced that the decision has been made in principle to expand the capacities of Kasprzyk Office. I would like to ask you to open the brackets: at what stage is the process of establishing an international mechanism for investigating the ceasefire violations after the Vienna meeting?

Edward Nalbandian: As for the expansion of the office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, you know that Armenia has always supported it, as it is the only institution that conducts monitoring in the conflict zone. Of course, increasing either the number or the effectiveness of the monitors, making the mission more intensive, might be conducive for the reduction of tension in the conflict zone and promote the implementation of the ceasefire agreements of 1994-95.

You know that this agreement was reached in Vienna and following that several proposals were made by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, at that time it was Germany. Armenian sides, both Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, have given their consent, and it was impossible to implement due to numerous obstacles put forward by Azerbaijan, so the capacities of the Kasprzyk team has not been expanded.

In Krakow, we have agreed in principle at the Ministerial level to make a step forward and to increase the international staff of the Kasprzyk team by seven people. The Co-Chairs mentioned this in their statement after the meeting in Krakow. And we did the same. You know that, unlike Azerbaijan, which constantly presents its unique, let’s say, creative approach after these meetings, expresses its special opinion or gives a unique interpretation, which is completely different from the statement that not only Armenia, but also the Co-Chair countries make. The same happened after Krakow.

Azerbaijan is still silent, wouldn’t say anything, that such an agreement has been reached. In the coming days the Co-Chairs will be visiting the region, will be in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Artsakh. Let's see how the things will go. Let's hope that this agreement will be implemented and the Azerbaijani side, once again, will not backtrack from it, as it happened many times.

As for the mechanism of investigation, on which there was an agreement reached not only at the Vienna Summit, but throughout at least last eight-nine years we are speaking about this proposal made by the Co-Chairs, and many times we came to an understanding that this mechanism should be created, but again, it was Azerbaijan who backtracked from these agreements. Even the Co-Chair countries have stated publicly at least twice that Armenia has given its consent and they expect Azerbaijan to also agree to the creation of this mechanism.

That issue remains on the agenda and let's hope that it will be possible to make it a reality in the future. This could be an important tool not only for the investigation of incidents, but also for the prevention, an important tool for the reduction of tension in the region. Mr. Nalbandian, my question is about the recent statements of the President of Azerbaijan. Particularly, are you aware about his statement that handing over Yerevan to Armenia by the Azerbaijani authorities in 1918 has become a bleeding wound for Azerbaijan? What is your opinion regarding this?

Edward Nalbandian: These statements from Baku are not a novelty. It's not the first time they make such statements.

It is nearly the same as when they say that Artsakh is a territory of historical Azerbaijan. I think that it would be useful to give an opportunity for the Azerbaijani leader to come to the celebration of the 2800th anniversary of Yerevan, perhaps on the ground he could learn the history more closely.

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the First Republic and the victories in May, 1918 battles. Which victories? The ones when thanks to the courage of our soldiers and the sacrifice of our people we managed to defend Yerevan and protect our right to live freely and independently.

And what will Baku celebrate this year? The occupation of Baku and other cities by the Caucasian army created by Turkey? This is the historical reality. In the beginning of 1980s, father of the current president of Azerbaijan visited Sardarapat complex in Armenia. There are photographs of it. I think perhaps one day it will be possible for the current president of Azerbaijan to visit it as well. My second question is about the consequences of the stalemate in the settlement process of the Armenian-Turkish relations. It is known that Armenian citizens are having problems in Turkey mainly because of the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Are any steps taken to resolve these problems in case if the normalisation of diplomatic relations doesn’t happen?

Edward Nalbandian: The fact that the Armenian-Turkish relations are not normalised is not because of us, it is Turkey’s fault. Certainly, if the relations were established, the process also means the establishment of diplomatic and consular relations. Within this framework, it would have been possible to protect the interests of our citizens on Turkey’s territory more effectively. But there are no relations, neither diplomatic, nor consular. When such problems arise, of course, the Foreign Ministry takes all possible steps to protect our citizens, it does not matter whether it is in Turkey or any other country with which we do not have diplomatic relations.

However, I would like to mention that today there are very few countries with whom we do not have diplomatic relations. We have diplomatic relations with 175 countries. There are only about two dozen countries we don’t have relations with.

The citizens of Armenia, and not only citizens, but also people of Armenian origin, when having problems, we have stated our commitment to protect both our citizens and those Armenians in general who found themselves in crisis situations.

Armenpress: As an important event of this year, I would like to ask you to touch upon la Francophonie Summit and present the envisaged general plans. We know that a number of high-level visits are expected, I would like to ask you to specify how many heads of states will visit Armenia.

Edward Nalbandian: Throughout the years of independence, Armenia has had many opportunities to chair various international organizations. We chaired in the CSTO, the Council of Europe, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, and other institutions. All these chairmanships were based on the principle of rotation. This is the difference. There is no rotational chairmanship in La Francophonie. In quite intense competitive conditions we managed to be chosen as the host of the Summit and to assume the chairmanship of this organization.

This year we mark the fifth anniversary of Armenia's full membership to La Francophonie. Prior to that we have been an observer, an associated member. We, one of the youngest members, were given the opportunity to host the summit, to chair this structure, which have a 50-year-long history and 84 full and associate members and observer states and governments. Of course, this demonstrates the confidence and solidarity of the international community towards Armenia. Concerning the number of participants, as I mentioned there are 84 full, associate members and observers. The participation of that many delegations is expected at the Summit, but also from la Francophonie agencies and partner structures. We have also extended invitations to a number of international organizations. The total number of delegations will exceed 100. We hope that a large number of delegations will be headed at the highest level.

You know, we have already assumed the presidency of the Ministerial Conference, and of course, holding of La Francophonie Summit in Armenia in October gives an exclusive opportunity to represent Armenia to the international community, to expand our ties, geography of relations, to deepen cooperation with the states members of Francophone family.

I would also like to mention, though in this regard I have repeatedly presented the details, but would like to highlight, that we are preparing a new fundamental document of La Francophonie - "Living Together" pact, which is going to be quite a comprehensive document. We have already started elaborating it and discussing with member states and the OIF Secretariat. At the Summit, a final declaration, which will be called the Yerevan Declaration, will be adopted. In addition, about ten resolutions on various issues will also be adopted.

I would like to especially note that within the framework of this Summit we intend to hold a Francophone business forum that will give an opportunity to strengthen the institutional and, in general, contacts between the entrepreneurs of Francophone countries. It will also give Armenia an opportunity to further expand cooperation and implement various projects with these countries in the economic sphere. One of our goals is to create a business network of Francophone countries. We plan to hold it during our chairmanship and it is an exceptional opportunity for all the Francophone countries, including Armenia.

Armenpress: You presented the summary of activities throughout 2017. I would like to also ask you to present the priorities for 2018.

Edward Nalbandian: The priorities in foreign policy do not change year by year, not only in Armenia, but generally in other countries as well. Priorities are long-term. Certainly, among our priorities have always been and will continue to be the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and we will continue our efforts together with the Co-Chair countries.

As you know, Armenia, in the opinion of various international structures, has become a pioneer in the efforts aimed at preventing crimes against humanity and new genocides. 2018 will mark the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, and in this regard Armenia makes efforts to adopt a new resolution within the framework of the UN Human Rights Council. You know that in 2015, when we were commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we managed to present such a resolution, which received a very serious support of everyone. More than 70 countries, have become co-authors, and the resolution was adopted by consensus, meaning that no one dared to come out against that resolution on prevention of genocides that we had initiated. This year we have also initiated a resolution, and we already work on it, and I hope a new resolution will be adopted.

In December we plan to hold a new Global Forum dedicated to the prevention of genocides. It is symbolic because upon our initiative December 9 was declared by the UN General Assembly as the Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide.

We should take into consideration, as I mentioned, that we are already chairing the Ministerial Conference of La Francophonie, the Summit of the organization will take place here in October. Since December last year we are chairing also the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. There are a lot of things to do.

Everything , which we have mentioned in our report for 2017, which is already available on our website, and, hopefully, will be released tomorrow in the media. In all the directions mentioned there, we will continue our efforts towards developing, strengthening and expanding our relations both in bilateral format and within various international structures, numerous international platforms, addressing regional and international challenges.

Armenpress: Mr. Nalbandian, Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan published an annual report, in which it, particularly, specifies that Armenia has set preconditions for continuing negotiation process and claims as if Armenia was forced to come back at the table of negotiations. I would request your comment on this claim.

Edward Nalbandian: It is not the first time they claim that Armenia had preconditions and we were forced back to negotiations. You said, they wrote it in the report. Probably because they think the paper doesn’t blush, so they write what they want.

You know, if that was the case, if we had put forward these preconditions …

What are we talking about? They pretend that the agreements reached in Vienna, Saint Petersburg were our preconditions. Even after Vienna, they said that no agreement was reached. That it was the imagination of the Co-Chair countries.

If we had put forward those preconditions and were forced to renounce them ... let us suppose it is true. We went to the negotiations. What is being discussed during these negotiations? You know as well, that after negotiations the Co-Chair countries have made statements emphasizing the importance of implementing the agreements reached at Vienna, St. Petersburg and Geneva summits. They do not just say that it is important to implement, but also make efforts to bring those agreements into reality. This is what we were talking about in Krakow recently - about expanding the capabilities of Kasprzyk’s team. Azerbaijani side did not even mind the Co-Chair countries making a statement about it. The Co-Chair countries, on behalf of Armenia and Azerbaijan, stated that the Ministers agreed in principle on expanding the capabilities of the Kasprzyk’s team.

Either there were no preconditions and Azerbaijan invents some new hypotheses, or, if there actually were preconditions, it seems that Azerbaijan itself was obligated to come and proceed with negotiations based on these preconditions.

I should emphasize: there were no preconditions on part of Armenia. And to present the agreements reached at these summits as preconditions, is not serious at least.

Azerbaijan, simply, after the meetings, and not only the last three meetings but even before, many times tried to backtrack from the agreements reached at the summits and meetings at the ministerial level.

Last December in Vienna, in my speech at the OSCE Ministerial Council, I enumerated the nine obstacles created by Azerbaijan which hinder the advancement of the settlement of the conflict.

In those nine points I specifically pointed out that Azerbaijan backtracks from the agreements. The agreements reached should be respected and implemented. There is no alternative to the negotiations, and we, together with the Co-Chair countries, will continue our efforts aimed at the exclusively peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Radio Liberty, RFE/RL: Mr. Nalbandian, I have two questions. First, in an interview to the Moscow "Kommersant" periodical, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Karasin said that Armenia has appealed to Russia with regards to the Russian-Georgian negotiations, in order to open the roads through Abkhazia and South Ossetia as soon as possible. I want to understand: what information do you have? At which stage the negotiations between Russia and Georgia are? We are aware of their arrangement with the Swiss company. How visible, how tangible is it, that in a foreseeable future we might have a connection through any of the directions, either Abkhazian or South Ossetian?

Edward Nalbandian: As for Russian-Georgian negotiations and our interest in it, in relation to which we have repeatedly stated that opening of alternative routes is of crucial importance for any country. Of course, these issues have been repeatedly discussed both with our Russian our Georgian partners. A statement has been made recently, that the Georgian side signed an agreement with the Swiss company based on which this issue can move towards settlement. The Russian side announced that soon, after completing relevant procedures, the agreement with the Swiss company will be signed by the Russian side as well.

This is a quite delicate negotiation process, and if there was anything more to be announced at this moment, it would have been announced even without your question.

This is it at this moment. When the process reaches its final stage, in which we are interested, it would be possible to provide additional information on the issue.

Radio Liberty, RFE/RL: And the second question, Mr. Nalbandian, I am sure you are aware that the public is concerned about your former advisor Ruben Tatulyan, nicknamed Robson in Russian and Armenian media. My question is, what kind of advice does he give you or used to give, and are you not concerned that your advisor's name is associated with the criminal world?

Edward Nalbandian: As to Mr. Tatulyan, yes, Mr. Tatulyan has been a non-staff advisor to the Minister since the mid 2016 until the end of 2017 and he dealt with the issues of supporting the Armenians in the southern regions of Russia. Mr. Nalbandian, let me briefly ask two questions. one of them concerns the Artsakh issue. I would like to hear your comment on the statement made by President of France Macron, according to which settlement of the Karabakh conflict requires bold concessions and concrete actions. How would you comment on this? For example, should the Armenian society understand this as a signal/hint for territorial concessions implied by the President of France under the name of bold concessions.

Edward Nalbandian: You imply that with regards the Nagorno Karabakh conflict Macron said that some territorial concessions should be made. Macron said nothing like that, I was present at that press conference and negotiations. This was not the case.

As for the compromises, the process of which Co-Chair countries speak about, including France, as it is one of the Co-Chair countries, they have a unified position, which has been expressed in five well-known statements at the level of the presidents, and that is the approach of the Co-Chair countries. You can get acquainted in details with these compromises through those statements. We have commented on this compromise approach, which is a package approach and this is a serious conceptual change in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement in recent years. The Co-Chair countries state that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be settled through the free expression of will of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh with the aim to determine the final status which must have an international binding legal force. It is clearly stated. No need for double interpretation here. The multilayered security guarantees are also clearly stipulated. The rest of the questions are derivatives, which can have a solution. And allow me to ask the second question. Last week, Russia’s State Duma held a roundtable discussion against glorification of fascism and 200,000 signatures were already collected to demand to take Garegin Nzhdeh's statue out of Yerevan. What is your approach towards such steps of our ally Russia and the collection of signatures? Can it possibly have any influence?

Edward Nalbandian: These are certainly speculations made by our opponents, and it is clear why these speculations are being made. They are being done deliberately, and one should not fall into that trap.

Republic of Armenia has made statements on this at different levels and there is nothing to add or distract here.


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