Statement and answers to the questions of journalists by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia at a press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia

21 November, 2017

Dear friends,

As you know we very often meet with Sergey Lavrov, both in Yerevan, and Moscow, as well as at various international fora.

Today I am glad to once again welcome in Armenia my colleague and friend, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov.

The official visit of the Foreign Minister of Russia is deeply symbolic. This year we celebrate a number of important, significant dates for us. April marked 25 years anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations, and in August we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Federation.

The first one in the row of events dedicated to these anniversaries was organised in February, when we, together with Sergey Lavrov, opened an exhibition of archival documents in Moscow.

Then, in the course of my official visit, we agreed on holding a number of events dedicated to these dates. I am glad that all these agreements are being successfully realised. Today a large-scale historical documentary exhibition "Armenia-Russia: friendship, proven through centuries" will be opened in the National Gallery of Armenia.

During today's negotiations we have discussed almost the entire spectrum of our bilateral relations.

We had a detailed discussion with regards the course of implementation of high political agreements reached in the result of three bilateral meetings of the Presidents of Armenia and Russia held this year.

An additional impetus to our bilateral cooperation has been given by the official mutual visits of the heads of parliaments and governments of our countries.

With my colleague we commended the intensification of cooperation in the economic sphere, the growth of bilateral trade turnover, and the deeper involvement of the regions of two countries in these processes.

We have rich humanitarian ties. Last year the Days of Russia were successfully held in Armenia. Literally few days ago, in the Tretyakov Gallery the heads of states launched the Days of Armenian Culture in Russia.

We reviewed at length the course of implementation of agreements on coordination of our actions within the framework of the UN, the OSCE, the EAEU, CSTO, CIS and other multilateral international platforms.

At the meeting, we discussed a number of issues of the regional and international agenda, issues of security in our region.

Special attention was paid to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the efforts of Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, aimed at implementing the agreements reached at the 2016-2017 summits of Vienna, St. Petersburg and Geneva on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, aimed at preventing the escalation of the situation, observing the trilateral ceasefire agreements, taking additional measures to reduce tension in the conflict zone and intensifying the negotiation process.

I should note that our negotiations took place in an atmosphere of full mutual understanding, which is natural for the allied countries.

I thank you for your attention and I give the floor to Sergey Lavrov.

Question: Mr. Nalbandian, my question is addressed to you. According to media reports, during the meetings in Baku, specifically Mr. Lavrov’s meeting with Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani side stated about its aspiration for the earliest settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. If Armenia has the same willingness, then what is the problem? What hinders the process?

Edward Nalbandian: The problem is that words should not differ from the actions. What is happening? Let me recall a few such stages of the settlement process. Kazan: before Kazan we met three or four times at the level of Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia in order to agree on the text of basic principles which then had to be present to the presidents.

And literally before the summit, about ten days before, we received, as agreed, the accompanying letter, and the texts, in which our mediator, Foreign Minister of Russia, had clearly written that there won't be any changes to the text.

However, as you know, and we have repeatedly stated about it, the Azerbaijanis came to Kazan with ten, but, in fact, with twelve changes. Thus, they were backtracking from the reached arrangements.

And this was not the first time. Before Kazan, the same scenario unfolded in Sochi (March 2011), and before that in Astrakhan (October), in St. Petersburg (June 2010). I am not going to go deeper into history. It happened afterwards as well. To not recall all the meetings and summits, I should remind you that we have agreed on something during the last meetings in Vienna and St. Petersburg. Azerbaijan again took a step back: after returning to Azerbaijan from the Vienna meeting, they said that no agreement was reached, or the Co-Chairs, who were, by the way, represented at the Ministerial level - the Foreign Minister of Russia, the US Secretary of State and the Minister for European Affairs of France - those ministers misunderstood, and that is the reason why they made statements, where they clearly stated what we had agreed on.

If you recall, those agreements referred to the establishment of mechanism, expansion of the team of Kasprzyk, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Again a step back. Even after this, many times the country chairing in the OSCE contacted the Azerbaijani side at a fairly high level, and each time they confirmed that "no problem, we will agree to financing the expansion of the Kasprzyk`s team."

Can you imagine, they have agreed at a high level, and have blocked this funding in the Commission on Budget and Finance for four times? That is again a step back. And this is not the first time. By the way, regarding the three principles as the basis for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, we have agreed with Azerbaijan on the three principles on non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and self-determination. And there is Azerbaijan's signature under the statement at the Athens meeting of the OSCE Foreign Ministers, a joint five-party statement with the Co-Chairs, but there was another statement - a general statement adopted by consensus in the OSCE, where all Ministers said about these three principles.

So what happens next: now the Azerbaijanis, by hook or by crook, don’t want to accept these three principles. We have agreed on a ceasefire, and by the way not only Armenia, but Karabakh, Azerbaijan first of all, and Armenia. Three agreements were signed in 1994-1995 on a ceasefire. And what happened? The Azerbaijanis are trying to get away from these agreements by all means. That means, it's not the first time, so I would say it again, that indeed it would have been good if words matched the actions, especially when we most recently in Geneva talked about the necessity to take additional measures to reduce the tension. This concerns precisely those measures that were agreed upon in St. Petersburg and Vienna, and they (Azerbaijan) do not implement it. Or when we say that we need to intensify the negotiations. Negotiations on what?

Negotiations on the basis of principles and elements voiced in the five statements of the Co-Chair countries at the level of the Presidents. Armenia has always stated, and we maintain that approach, that we are ready to continue the negotiations on this basis with the aim to find a resolution to the conflict. Azerbaijanis by all means are trying not to mention these five statements. This is the real state of affairs in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. Let us hope that Azerbaijanis will change their position, and will really translate their wishes into actions. As for Armenia, Armenia is determined, and we have never backtracked from the reached agreements, to continue with Russia and Co-Chairs countries the efforts aimed at exclusively peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Question: My question is the continuation of my colleague's question. Based on yesterday's and today's talks, could you tell whether it has been possible to reach any breakthrough, in some small issues at least, towards preparation of decision on the settlement of the conflict? And since the meeting of Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan should take place this December in Vienna, is it possible that any document would be prepared by that time?

Edward Nalbandian: I can say that as of today I, as the Foreign Minister of Armenia, do not have such information that a meeting of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will take place in December.

That’s first. Second, regarding any breakthrough, it is not a matter of breakthrough. During my last press conference here in Yerevan a week ago, I said that it is hard to invent a bicycle here. The basic principles, the basic elements of the settlement are on the table and there are some drafts and working documents - everything is on the table. We have conducted negotiations for a long time on the basic principles of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan says that we should not negotiate on basic principles. And here you say about "some kind of breakthrough." This is the issue.

Nevertheless, despite such, to put it mildly, not quite constructive position of Azerbaijan, it is indeed necessary to continue the negotiations, since there is no alternative to the negotiation process. Negotiations should be continued, and Armenia is determined to meet with the Co-Chairs in a most constructive way, and we have never refused meetings at the level of Ministers or Presidents. Therefore, when the need is ripe and relevant preparations are made, then there will be a meeting at the level of Presidents. However, such perspective for the upcoming December has not been discussed. Thank you.

Question: Mr Nalbandian, my question is addressed to you. Baku regularly voices statements that the agenda of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement includes the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions. Could you please clarify what this is about?

Edward Nalbandian: The four resolutions of the Security Council were adopted with one main goal; there were also other goals, however the major goal was to cease military actions. Unfortunately, the cessation of military actions was achieved not due to those four resolutions. Exactly four resolutions were adopted, since after each one Azerbaijan failed to implement it. The ceasefire was established due to trilateral agreement on cessation of fire signed in May of 1994, an agreement which has no time limitation.

Regarding the statements coming from Azerbaijan, alleging that we discuss the issue of non-implementation of some provisions of the Security Council resolutions, as far as I remember during the last 10 years we have never discussed anything like that. Since the Security Council resolutions have nothing to do with the settlement but were dealing with issues of cessation of military actions. We have that cessation of military actions.

With regards the elements, principles of settlement, they have been enshrined in numerous working documents, presented by the Co-Chairs, and the core content of those proposals were voiced, including in the five statements of the Presidents of the Co-Chair countries, those well-known statements, which I have repeatedly recalled. 

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