Briefing with journalists by the Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan at Yerablur28 January, 2019
Question. My question is about your meeting with Mammadyarov held two weeks ago, also followed by a press release, which made a reference to preparing populations for peace. I would like to ask you to provide some details about the process.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. As stated in our press release, and it is good that the same messages were indicated in the relevant press releases of the other side and the Co-Chairs as well - it is a continuous, consistent policy which we pursue. First of all, it’s not something new for us, we have always emphasized the need for an environment conducive to peace. I am confident, everyone understands that it is impossible to negotiate peace on one hand, and sow hostility, moreover, increase of tension on the other. In that sense, we pay attention to all the circumstances concerning the environment conducive to peace, they are quite important, essential elements in this process.
Question. Under which conditions do you discuss peace, what was on the table? There should be elements and conditions under the peace dialogue, peace negotiations.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. You are well aware of what we said - we won’t deviate from anything we once have stated. I'm sure you've heard it many times and our position is still the same. We have highlighted all the basic principles with regards to the strictly peaceful negotiations, peaceful settlement, strictly within the framework of the Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship, we have emphasized the importance of the environment conducive to peace. Most importantly, we state that the status and security of Artsakh remain priority issues for Armenia. There has never been anything that you are not informed about. The negotiations, this dialogue, goes around it.
In this sense, it was very interesting for me to monitor the comments, and I was quite surprised - do we have a defeated spirit or are we losing our self-confidence? I am sure, that there is no such thing in our society, and there is not need view all these in a way that something is going on which will make as to change our position. It is really offensive to our society and for all of us. We have not been and will never be defeated, especially in terms of self-confidence. I would also add that the presence, as well as the decisive voice and engagement of Artsakh is an consistent work. This is also a practical issue. If everything doesn’t happen at once, it doesn’t mean that we have forgotten and passed over it. I emphasize once again that it’s clearly a practical issue for us - to be more practical and pragmatic to ensure a progress in that negotiation process.
Question. Is there any mutual understanding in terms of status and security, because the Azerbaijani side speaks about some kind of mutual understanding? Following one of the meetings with you, the Azerbaijani side stated, that a certain understanding exists. I would like to clarify: is it with regard to the status and security, you mentioned that it’s a priority for the Armenian side, but the other side...
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. I find it difficult to comment on the issue addressed to the other side. I am confident that the scope of mutual understanding is enough to understand the approaches of Armenia. And we make it clear in our logic, in our dialogue what we mean.
Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, are there any steps being undertaken to prepare the population for peace….. ?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: We made it clear, that as a principle it is essential, there is nothing new. If you follow carefully, during the past years, it has been stated many times…
Question: The UN as well made a statement on this point...
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I would ask you to be more careful, such statements have always been issued by the UN Secretary-General. I can assure you, that the UN Secretary-General always had a position, which contributes to the peace, through unconditionally supporting the negotiations within the framework of the Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship. Making a contribution by supporting the outcome of negotiations and the statement made within the framework of Co-Chairmanship, is actually the expression of Secretary General’s support. I highly appreciate it because this is also an input - it demonstrates the solidarity of international community to the peace process.
Having this said, I would like to reiterate that we work for peace, but our determination should not be questioned. We have clearly stated: it does not mean that we have lost our determination, it means that there is no alternative to peace. The alternative to peace is a catastrophe. We bring this forward very clearly.
Speaking about preparing population for peace, we have different functions in this context, I can’t say that we have a clear formula about how to implement it. But this is a principle, which should indeed be developed.
Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, is there any memorandum or any document being elaborated for the future?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Whatever we do, we do it quite openly and transparently. If there was any, you would have known. There is a confidentiality framework which is quite logical, because of the substance of negotiations and the essence of the issue. We haven't invented this mechanism. But if we move forward, the society will be aware about it.
Question: It is already for a second or third time, that the meetings between the leaders of two countries are held without direct participation of the Minsk group Co-Chairs. That is why some comments presumed that the format is shifted.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I wouldn’t say so. First of all, there were three meetings held, rather unscheduled, the two leaders were participating in the same event. This is commendable, there have been occasions for the two leaders to see each other, to sense one another, to exchange approaches. And it is very positive, in terms of making it easier, it creates a greater opportunity to feel better and work more efficiently.
Prime Minister Pashinyan spoke about it, and it is very good that the leaders had a chance to exchange views on various issues to better understand each other’s approaches and visions.
Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declared in Moscow that “Only Artsakh can negotiate on behalf of Artsakh, we negotiate on behalf of Armeniа?” What does it mean, how likely is the return of Artsakh to the table of negotiations.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: It is not about being likely or not. For us this is a practical issue, for us this is a matter of effectiveness of negotiations, where the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia as the leader chosen by the people of Armenia, represents our positions. And Nagorno-Karabakh as a political entity has all the bodies elected by its people who are responsible for the society. This is a practical issue. We don’t avoid our responsibility and we continue bringing this issue forward. This does not mean that we escape from our responsibility and don't engage in negotiations. It doesn’t mean that the process formed throughout this 20 years would change immediately - everybody agreed and the issue was resolved that way.
Question: Mr Mnatsakanyan, a regular informal meeting was held in Davos. Generally speaking, what was the benefit of that informal meeting with Aliev? How does it affect the process?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: It was definitely useful. The meetings have a positive impact on the process, because the leaders of two countries have a better chance to sense, to understand each other. An environment is being created where the leaders can understand each other better and see more clearly how we can lead the path of securing peace. That is to say: it is exclusively positive. You know, the meetings were held with no agenda and the goal is to acquaint the leaders with each other, to create an environment where they would enjoy a higher level of confidence on how it will be possible to move forward.
Question: After the Foreign Ministers’ meeting it was noted that the steps will be taken to organize a meeting of the leaders of the two countries. Approximately when will be possible to held a meeting in such format?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: We should be very careful, because these are delicate questions in the sense that, as you know, we will make every effort to have a good outcome of the meeting. That is why we will continue to work with the Co-Chairs to prepare grounds so that it will lead to positive outcomes and not to creating any risks.
Question: Concerning the agreements reached in Vienna and Saint Petersburg …
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Concerning the Vienna and St. Petersburg. Good question. A very important question. What are they aimed at? The core of negotiations relates to the settlement of the conflict, and there are issues on the environment, what is called an environment conducive to peace. The escalation, dissemination of hatred does not contribute to the negotiations. Whatever concerns Vienna and St. Petersburg actually refers to risk reduction. Now we have Vienna, we have St. Petersburg. We are often asked if we have renounced them. We consider them risk reduction mechanisms and Dushanbe is an addition to them. During this period we reached the situation, when there are fewer risks, normalcy in line of contact and at the border. This is productive and we keep our focus on that. No issue is left behind. Are you speaking about packaging, whether it is packed as Vienna, St. Petersburg, Dushanbe or about the result? Risk reduction has been and remains as one of the most important issues, whatever you will call it. We will use the one which actually works. Today, we managed to have some mechanism that work for minimizing these risks. And this is very important, very useful.
Question: Speaking particularly about the negotiations of January 16, which principles of conflict settlement were they based on?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I would repeat, our priorities are the status and security. This principle is a priority for us. Do you want me to speak about other principles? I am speaking about a priority principle for me - the status and security.