Remarks and answers of Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to questions of journalists at a joint press conference with Nikos Kotzias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece10 March, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to welcome in Armenia my colleague and my good friend, Nikos Kotzias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece. This is a good opportunity for continuing our active dialogue, discussing ways and steps aimed at further strengthening of cooperation between our countries and peoples.
We discussed a wide range of issues of bilateral and multilateral agenda first in a tete-a-tete format, followed by talks with the participation of delegations.
We attached an importance to high-level regular mutual visits that each time newly enrich the bilateral agenda and give a new impetus to close cooperation within different formats.
At the same time, my colleague and I shared the view that the current level of cooperation between the two countries lags behind the centuries old warm and friendly relations, traditionally deep mutual sympathy. We agreed to undertake additional efforts in all areas and directions to give a new impetus to the further expansion and strengthening of relations.
We touched upon the ways of a further deepening of cooperation in political, trade and economic, military-technical, education, science, culture and other areas.
Together with my colleague we discussed the Armenia - European Union relations and the efforts taken towards their development.
Few minutes ago we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece on cooperation in the field of education and training of the diplomatic personnel. This is a new area of cooperation.
We also discussed the urgent regional and international issues. We touched upon the Cyprus issue. Minister Kotzias presented the recent developments with regard to it.
I presented the situation over the resolution process of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, the efforts being exerted by Armenia and OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries for advancing the settlement of the issue.
We mutually stressed that the existing problems have no military solution and should be settled within the framework of the agreed formats.
Once again I welcome my colleague.
The floor is yours, Nikos.
Athens new agency. My question is addressed to the Foreign Minister of Armenia. Have you talked about Turkey and do you see any possibility of improving your relations? What message would you like to address in this regard?
Edward Nalbandian. We have already mentioned that we have discussed various international and regional issues. Naturally, we cannot analyse our common large region without looking at our and Greece’s relations with Turkey. Armenia has undertaken enough steps aimed at normalising the relations with Turkey. You know about the initiative put forward by the President of Armenia to normalise relations with Turkey without preconditions. But Turkey has backtracked from those agreements. Despite the signed protocols Turkey refused to ratify and implement them. In fact Turkey demonstrated disrespect towards one of the main principles of International relations, the principle of “pacta sunt servanda”, which means that agreements must be respected. Armenia has always been open to normalization of relations with Turkey without preconditions and we hope that one day Turkey will also have the same approach, the same position and will respect the agreements reached with other partners and other countries.
Public radio. Mr. Nalbandian, Mammadyarov states that Armenia suspended the negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Would you comment on this?
Edward Nalbandian. Regarding the negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution, in fact, negotiations are not being conducted today because of Azerbaijan’s new aggression against Artsakh in April last year which dealt a very serious blow to the peace process, and I can say that the negotiation process suffered a serious setback. And that is the very reason that Armenia and Co-Chair countries exerted steps and continue their efforts towards creating conducive conditions for the advancement of the negotiation process. This was the aim of Summits held in Vienna and St. Petersburg, and the agreements reached at those summits.
It is widely known that the international community, Co-Chairs and Armenia speak in one voice, while Azerbaijan speaks in another voice, because it is Azerbaijan who refuses to implement the agreements reached at Vienna and St. Petersburg Summits. You know when meetings are held, agreements are reached and then those agreements are not implemented, a big question arises on whether the Azerbaijani side is really ready to settle the issue through negotiations and implement agreements reached during those negotiations. This is the biggest issue.
However, the negotiation process has no alternative, and that is the reason why the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs try to advance the negotiation process with Armenia and Azerbaijan. That is the reason why the Co-Chairs visit Baku today and at the end of this month, on 27 March, they will arrive to Armenia and will also be in Artsakh. Indeed, we should try to move this process forward. But, first and foremost, events like those which took place last April should be excluded. Therefore, more favorable, conducive conditions should be created for the negotiation process.
Independent Balkan News Agency. Both Greece and Armenia have large diaspora spread all over the world. Do you have any plans to push the people of diaspora to have cooperation with the aim to help Greece and Armenia and for better understanding of the civilisation and common grounds between those two countries?
We also have many historical events, mainly tragic ones, such as Armenian Genocide. And it would be great to construct a memorial in Greece or in Armenia which would reflect all of this, this history, the Armenian Genocide, the Smyrna tragedy and other aspects of our history.
Edward Nalbandian. Of course, Nikos has already mentioned that there is an eight million strong Greek diaspora around the world, the same is our diaspora. Two thirds of our nation lives in all the corners of the world, in one hundred countries. Indeed, by combining the potential of the Armenian and Greek diasporas, and it should be noted here that both our nations have similar approach towards this issue which concern them, and, naturally, both diasporas also have a similar approach. Therefore, by combining the potential of both sides we will create great opportunities for further strengthening and deepening of our cooperation within bilateral and international platforms.
Armenians and Greeks everywhere have very close ties. Of course, we are in favour of closer cooperation. I think that we can explore the possibility of how to move this cooperation into a more practical field.
Regarding the joint efforts towards prevention of genocides and crimes against humanity, first of all, our nation, being the victim of the first genocide of the 20th century, feels an obligation to undertake efforts with the aim of preventing new genocides and new crimes against humanity. That is the reason why we take steps in this direction within various international platforms, including the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. There have been many resolutions adopted within the UN, the last one that was adopted in 2015 is on the prevention of genocides and crimes against humanity. Besides, upon our initiative the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring December 9 as the International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide. I think, in this regard, the Armenian and Greek peoples can jointly undertaken considerable efforts.
I would like to note that the mentioned resolutions were adopted by consensus. Which means, that indeed a lot of work has been done by our diplomats together with diplomats from other countries, and dozens of countries have joined our initiatives. I think that bearing in mind the tragic pages of Armenian history and Greek history we can further consolidate and unite our efforts in this direction.
Aysor.am. Mr. Nalbandian, contrary to Baku’s approach, the Armenian side always returns the bodies even of the Azerbaijani saboteurs. Do you consider this unilateral step to be correct? How would you comment on that?
Edward Nalbandian. We cannot lower ourselves to the level of Azerbaijan. It is with values and humanism that the civilised world differs from Azerbaijan, the country where saboteurs, murderers and executioners are declared national heroes. Both Armenia and Artsakh have always been committed to international humanitarian law and conventions, as well as to the obligations arising from those conventions, one of which is the return of bodies of the dead. But in this context we are talking not only about respecting conventions and international law. People should stay human after all, even if the adversary doesn’t behave like human. This is the fundamental difference that exists between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azatutyun. Mr. Nalbandian, recently both you and the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan visited Moscow and had meetings with Foreign Minister Lavrov. After the meeting with Mammadyarov, Lavrov said that “the Karabakh conflict can be settled, first of all it is security issues, humanitarian issues, the issues of return of the regions around Karabakh, which now are not under control of Azerbaijan, determination of the status, while taking into account the opinion of the people who live there.” Lavrov then added that, however, there are two-three particular topics under discussion that are essential for the final package. My question is the following: Mr. Nalbandian, what two-three essential issues are currently being discussed and taking into account the negotiations that you and the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan have had with your Russian colleague, has the Russian side come up with some initiative on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Is there such an initiative or not? Thank you.
Edward Nalbandian. First of all, you should compare what Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan says during his visit to Moscow with what Foreign Minister of Russia himself says. I do not ask you to compare with what the Armenian side says. You will see how different it is. On one side, we have the position of the international community, on the other - the stance of Azerbaijan which represents its own interpretation of the negotiation process, turning it upside down. Azerbaijan speaks only about one or two points while pretending that the whole process is about these points.
However on various occasions, not only this time, but for years it has been said time and again that those principles and elements, that have been prepared by the Co-Chairs and now are on the negotiation table, have been elaborated as an integrated whole and one principle or one element can not be separated from the other. Besides, there were five statements on this issued at the level of the Presidents of the Co-Chair countries. We say that those statements are consistent with our positions and we have expressed readiness to move forward towards the settlement on that basis.
Due to time constraints, I did not touch upon other statements, but look at the statements issued at the ministerial level during the OSCE Ministerial Council. As you know, each December such meetings take place and such statements have been issued for the last at least eight or nine years, and Armenia says that it welcomes all these statements and can move forward towards settlement on that basis. If you have followed the developments, then you have definitely noticed that after each of those statements Armenian Foreign Minister or Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia have commented on all of them, paragraph by paragraph, since those statements do not contradict our approaches. And what does Azerbaijan say?
Regarding the question on what provisions we did not reach an agreement, you know, this is a negotiation process. If there was a need to present the points we have or have not agreed to, then the negotiations probably would have been meaningless, and we would have negotiated through newspapers and would not have had meetings.
As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, our approaches are consistent with the approaches of the international community and the Co-Chair countries. The latter have relevant authorisation, a mandate given by the international community for conducting that mediation and they present certain proposals. It is not Armenia that rejects them or steps back. It is always Azerbaijan. And not only with regards to the essence of the negotiations, but also such issues as measures for restoring and strengthening the confidence.
I mentioned the agreements reached at the summits in Vienna and St Petersburg. What are they about? In Vienna a statement was made at the level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the United States, Russia and France, wherein it was clearly stated, that the sides had agreed on these points. And in St.Petersburg, if you look carefully, the statement made reaffirmed the agreements reached in Vienna. And the major issues discussed and agreed to were the following: the 1994-1995 trilateral agreements between Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia, which have no time limitations, should be respected, an investigative mechanism of ceasefire violations and incidents on the Line of Contact and on the border should be created, and also the capabilities of the observers and, in general, of the team led by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office should be expanded. Who is against all of this? It is Azerbaijan.
So, over and over again the international community witnesses that whenever we are reaching a certain milestone, when we agree on something, and not only during bilateral meetings with Azerbaijan, but also during meetings with participation of the representatives of the highest authorities of the three UN Security Council permanent member states - the United States, Russia and France, the countries which act as mediators, Azerbaijan always steps back and makes such comments regarding the agreements reached, that the Co-Chair countries sometimes are compelled to say that this is a distortion and not a truthful comment.
Azatutyun. Is there any initiative from the Russian side to organize a meeting?
Edward Nalbandian. If there is such an initiative, we will inform, since we never keep secrets from the public and we speak openly about everything. It is Azerbaijan that represents everything the way it wants, although it becomes clear in the end that not everything is as they present. At the moment, we speak only about the visit of the Co-Chairs to the region and we will see what possibilities for the meeting might be in the future. Armenia has never refused to meet neither at the level of ministers nor at the higher level, but those meetings should be properly prepared. And here it is not only the question of preparation but rather that the Azerbaijani side should be ready for negotiations instead of simulating that it conducts negotiations, while in reality speaking with the language of blackmail. It is impossible to conduct negotiations with the language of blackmails; they have put themselves in a deadlock and now are trying to justify themselves in the eyes of their public by saying that on some issues they have the same position as the international community. The reality is completely different.