Interview of Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan to the Lithuanian LRytas TV17 September, 2019
Question: The last visit of the Armenian Foreign Minister to Lithuania was paid in 2013, why did you decide that now is the time for it to happen again?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: We have very good dynamics of bilateral relations with Lithuania, we regularly discuss various issues at different bilateral meetings and we have an excellent dialogue and good report with my colleague and friend Minister Linkevičius. We have been planning this visit for some time now and I am very happy to be here. We have a lot to discuss, including issues of bilateral, regional and global importance. This is an important visit that will ensure harmonious relations and friendship between Lithuania and Armenia. We have mutual respect and in our function as representatives is to consolidate and to take forward our relations.
Question: Why do you think there was a relatively long six-year break between the visits?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: It gives a lot of ground for analysis, but since our government took over power after the Velvet Revolution in April-May, we have been actively pursuing relations that are important to our country. And Lithuania is one of the countries with whom we have an important agenda. Our government considers relations with Lithuania a priority, thus we will continue to strive for the best.
Question: What was the agenda for this visit?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: There are indeed many issues to discuss, bilaterally we have an ongoing very active political dialogue, we have a long-term and active political dialogue between our governments and parliaments. I am delighted that the Lithuanian authorities will soon visit Armenia in early October. We will look forward to the Prime Minister's visit to Armenia, and we will also work for the visit of President of Armenia to Lithuania later next year, so we have a good plan of sustaining this good political dialogue. On the bilateral agenda, speaking specifically with Minister Linkevičius and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, a great opportunity was provided to critically assess the current situation. We have a lot in common, including similar internal development plans, we are also interested in the priorities that Lithuanian government attaches to smart development, where indeed we have taken a good interest in upcoming conference on Fintech, which is of interest to us, we have an interest in issues on biotech science, we would certainly want to take a stock of opportunities and see how we can use this bilateral cooperation. We are interested in some experiences of Lithuania in the reform process. We are constantly cooperating through various trainings, for instance, European trainings, military trainings - the list is very long on a bilateral agenda.
We also have very important agenda of cooperation in respect of Armenia’s relations with the European Union and we deeply appreciate Lithuanian support for Armenia-EU cooperation and communication based on the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. The agreement provides an area for political cooperation as well as in the fields of justice and freedoms. Such cooperation with member countries through various programs and trainings are very important and appreciated. I am very grateful that Lithuania expresses its strong support in the Armenian-European visa liberalization dialogue. I think our people deserve stronger and more accessible relations with their colleagues and friends in Europe. It will also bring people closer together. So I am very grateful for the strong support of Lithuania in starting the visa liberalization dialogue with Armenia.
Question: Where is the EU among Armenia's foreign policy priorities?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: The EU has traditionally been a very important strong partner and supplier of security to Armenia. It is a part of our national security architecture. The Velvet Revolution in Armenia in April-May of 2018 was purely a domestic affair. We have restored our commitment to democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law. This is what the revolution was about and it was strictly about Armenia’s domestic affairs. We haven’t introduced any changes in foreign policy. We have a well-established national security structure with important partners that anchor our national security. The EU, with its various programs, commitments and active involvement in Armenia's development and security, has been and continues to be an important part of our foreign policy. So, nothing has changed.
Question: Armenia is in dialogue with the EU and also has trade and other relations with Russia, well, they pretty much have to remain close in some senses. How do you see it being handled?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: As I said, we have been and are quite consistent in maintaining the integrity of national security, our relations with past and present partners. Russia is a particularly important partner in delivering security and cooperating with Armenia. We value this very much and we will work also in other formats of cooperations such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasia Economic Union. I have already had the opportunity to speak about the great importance of the EU, and in many ways it is also a player in our regional and national security. Contribution is very important to us: it strengthens our national institutions. Smooth relations with the EU are very appreciated by Armenia.
Question: Is there a possibility that deeper integration into the EU and deeper dialogue with the US will affect your connection with Russia?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: An important principle of our foreign policy is not to build relations with one partner at the expense of another. It is indeed damaging and detrimental. We are not a source of conflict between our partners, we just want to absorb the conflict. Such a desire stems from our national interests. So we will continue to work with the EU, continue with the US, but we will not build relations that will damage our relations with other partners. Likewise, we will continue to work with the Russian Federation, Iran and Georgia, but in a way that does not harm our relations with other partners. I understand that this is a difficult challenge, but it is what our job is about and this is what our national interest is about.