Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s briefing with journalists after the meeting of the participants of the Annual Conference of MFA Apparatus and Heads of Diplomatic Service Abroad in the National Assembly29 August, 2019
Question: The Ambassadorial meeting, which is supposed to outline the priorities of the foreign policy, is being held these days. Why was it decided to make such clarifications in this exact stage?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: This is the first conference after the Velvet Revolution, and also after the parliamentary elections following the establishment of the new Government.
We have developed the Government’s program which outlines the foreign policy. We have formulated all these priorities. I think holding this conference is a great opportunity to broaden and to have an extensive discussion on our foreign policy for making the best use of our potential in implementing the Government’s program.
This is a good opportunity for our international partners, for our community and for us, for my colleagues, who implement the Government’s program both locally and in the central apparatus as well as in the Embassies to more clarify what derives from the Government’s program, what’s been expressed by the Prime Minister of Armenia on different occasions, what’s been outlined by me, the Foreign Minister, and by the other members of the Government, in order to implement, to summarize the program and make it more clear and understandable.
We are guided by values, we have national interests, values in action aimed at serving Armenia's national interests internationally in this changing world. We also clarified the principles which are sovereignty, pan-Arminianism and collaboration.
Our goal is to clarify the method, the principles and priorities of foreign policy. Both myself and the Prime Minister broadly touched upon our geographical and thematic priorities in our remarks.
I would like to reiterate that it is very important to emphasize and specifically address the fact that our foreign policy, our engagement in international affairs serves the national interests of Armenia, the improvement and strengthening of our domestic resources by using the international cooperation.
Question. Mr. Mnatsakanyan, do you know why Prime Minister Pashinyan declined the invitation to attend the events in Warsaw? Is there a Russian influence here?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: No, this is an expression of sovereignty. We did not decline. Prime Minister has his agenda of visits, which is being implemented and has his domestic policy priorities. While comparing visit proposals, we just need to decide how to move forward on many issues related to the visits, foreign affairs, and internal priorities. Accordingly, we did this. You mean he was under the pressure? In which sense?
Question: Lukashenko also refused to participate. Russia was not invited..
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. The issue is different here. It is an issue of principle. In the case of World War II, we represent a country that was directly engaged and involved. I am convinced that there is no need now to speak extensively about the great contribution the Armenian people, Armenians had during World War II as a part of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Army. Of course, we have some sensitivity on how this question is, in its essence, fully represented on different platforms.
Our grandparents, our compatriots, being part of the Soviet Army, have directly participated in it. We had victims, we have had heroes, we have had generals, marshalls, we have had huge casualties. The casualties of Armenian people are very high if compared per capita. At that time we were part of the Soviet Army and fought against Nazism and defended our great united homeland. Of course, we might be sensitive to these issues. Thank you.
Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, pravda.ru issued an article entitled “Armenia, being a member of the CSTO, being a member of the EAEU, is waging a hybrid war against Russia”. How would you assess it?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Frankly, I haven't seen that article, and according to what you say, I don't even want to see it. Armenia is very consistent in its policy. Armenia is a member of the CSTO, Armenia is a member of the EAEU. Being a member of the CSTO and the EAEU, based on the principle of sovereignty, based on our national interest, we work and deeply cooperate in these two structures.
We have cooperation in many other structures, and today, in the Parliament it was also discussed. Yes, we are a country that has the EAEU membership and has the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union. Armenia is a CSTO member and at the same time cooperates with various other partners in the military political sphere.
Today, I had the opportunity to note that this derives from our national interests, our priorities, and our most important goal and objective is to ensure that engagement, involvement and collaboration in such a way which prevents facing a situation when we have to build our relations with one partner at the expense of the other.
Question. Mr. Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan has responded to your recent assessment of the anti-Armenian policy, saying that Armenia is escalating the situation around the conflict.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Apparently we are quite consistent in our positions. We've spoken about the status. I have noticed some comments stating that we maximally opened up the frames. I think we had many opportunities to speak about this. We've spoken about it, we've discussed it in a broader and more open manner, but we've always spoken about the same thing. For us, the negotiation process is continuous, we have our approaches, our positions, we have spoken about the need for approaches, the coordination of positions, the parity of commitments, we have spoken about what does the status mean, what does the security mean, what does the “no alternative to peace” mean, what does the “conducive environment” mean, what does the “participation of Artsakh "mean.
We've spoken about all these issues. I can refer again to my speech, to the Prime Minister's speech. The Prime Minister spoke about it in the framework of the consensus voiced in his remarks in Stepanakert: in the "Consensus Number 6" he touched upon it very clearly. In this respect, we are extremely consistent.
All these comments are even more unacceptable when they extend beyond the limits of politeness. However we are consistent and we work very calmly around our agenda.
Question. Do you think that recent comments on the escalation have exceeded the limits of politeness?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Which one? The ones after Stepanakert? They are unacceptable to me.
Question. No, after your recent statement, your recent speech.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. I don't even want to give too much importance because it means entering a field of no interest to me.
Question. At what stage is the negotiation process at present, Minister?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. The negotiation process, in my assessment, has been quite dynamic this year, and this reflects the intention we have always expressed very clearly.
Question. Don't you see any coldness at this moment?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. We have no intention. We have not taken any break since last May, we have not had any problems, we have been immediately engaged. And in this regard, we are planning the next meeting in the near future. Here once again I must apologize, we will announce it simultaneously and in an agreed manner.
Question. And what about at the level of the leaders?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. At this moment I wouldn’t say that we plan it at the level of the leaders. We continue to work, and now our goal is to continue that dialogue at the level of Foreign Ministers.
Question. At the meeting with the Ambassadors, Mr. Minister, the Prime Minister announced that the Velvet Revolution of 2018 in Armenia was literally an event of worldwide importance and the Ambassadors should have used it to promote the image of Armenia...
Question. And Edmon Marukyan also said that nothing has changed in foreign policy since the Revolution.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. As for the change, it depends what we assess as a change because the Government's plan more that clearly expresses what has been clearly stated by the Prime Minister: Armenia has not and will not make any shifts in foreign policy, and this is reflected in the Government's program, which reflects the Government's clear objective.
If we are speaking about no change, in what sense has that change not happened? We had no intention of making any changes in our foreign policy that could put us in a situation that would contradict the programme we declared.
As for the clarification of our principles, it is even more important here to clarify the principles, the methods through which we implement our foreign policy, including the principle of sovereignty, when we emphasize our approach based on Armenian-centrism, the implementation of our foreign policy based on the interests of Armenia. All the directions, geographical and thematic, derive from our national interest. This is underscored in the activities of the Government, this is emphasized in the work of our diplomatic service.
When it comes to democracy and human rights as being one of our most important values, which was also emphasized in my remarks, indeed, it is expressed in our foreign policy, in our activity, it reflects the immense potential which is transferred to foreign policy to accomplish that function: when you have inner strength, that inner strength is very clearly transferred to foreign policy.
Question. Did the Ambassadors manage to convey this message in their countries that this was a global event and thus raise Armenia's image? The Prime Minister said Ambassadors should be able to do that.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Yes, this is the function of Ambassadors, but it is not limited to that. They represent Armenia in its entirety, which is also represented by its democracy, human rights and this most important change in Armenia - the Revolution. If the Ambassador does not do so, it means that he is not doing his job properly.
Question: Did they manage to do it effectively?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. To my assessment over the past year, it was very important for us, first and foremost, for the central apparatus to institutionally strengthen the implementation of this synchronized and comprehensive foreign policy. To my assessment, we have been quite successful in moving forward in terms of policy implementation based on the Government‘s program. Today's meeting, as a first such meeting after last year's events was more than important in terms of strengthening those foundations, so that we could further strengthen our potential for a comprehensive foreign policy. That was the main goal of this conference.
Question: Prime Minister was speaking in the past tense - “might have been”...I mean he was not very satisfied until that moment...
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: We have discussed it several times with Prime Minister, we always touch those questions very clearly. We have occasions of both criticism and satisfaction, and we are closely working on it. Prime Minister, being the head of the Government, has his own assessments, has his approaches, and we as one united team of the Government, are working very clearly, are assessing what is good and what is bad. If view the entirety in a good or bad light, then…
Question: Mister Mnatsakanyan, political appointments were much spoken about, that previously Ambassadors were appointed for political reasons. Is it possible to avoid such appointments in the future?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I would like to repeat, that Prime Minister is very consistent in that and is a big supporter in the context of strengthening the potential of the institute, which is carrying out diplomatic service and foreign policy. He is very consistent, and I think permanent strengthening, the professionalization of the potential of our profession, institute, statehood is a great, very important issue for me.
Questions: Are there countries where the change of Ambassadors is expected in the near future?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: It would be right if I don’t touch that subject because I won't let myself to simply speak about such issues, because the appointment of Ambassadors is about a decision of one state and an agreement of the other.
Question: In the case of appointment- yes, but in the case of recall?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Recall means the implementation of a rotational function. The recall is when a diplomat completes his/her mission in one state, moves to another state or returns.
Question: Or appears in the personnel reserve?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Frankly speaking, the reforms of the process of personnel management is one of the most important issues for us. We try to use our resources in the best way. I mean, if there is a situation when the resource can not be used, it is not obligatory. The reform being implemented is also about that: to reduce the unused resources or not to have them at all.
Question: Minister, is it clear whether the meeting between the US President and the Prime Minister of Armenia is possible during the New York visit?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I will not rush with this answer.