Remarks and answers to the questions of journalist by the Foreign Minister of Armenia at the joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands23 January, 2020
Dear Minister and members of the delegation,
I am glad to welcome Stefan Block, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Netherlands. I am also pleased to note that since the establishment of diplomatic relations, this is the first bilateral visit of a Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands to Armenia,
Mr. Block is visiting Armenia on the occasion of the opening of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Yerevan as well as ahead of Armenian Prime-Minister`s visit to the Netherlands. All these developments demonstrate that Armenian-Dutch relations and mutually-beneficial friendly cooperation received a new momentum after the democratic changes in Armenia since May 2018. And the fact that the legislative body of the Netherlands unanimously decided to apply to the Government, in order to open an embassy in Armenia attests to it. Indeed, this fact will open a new page in our bilateral relations.
Economic and trade ties between our two countries are on an upward trajectory, more specifically the export from Armenia to the Netherlands has increased by approximately 26% per year. The positive developments in our country, as well as centuries-old culture, attracts Dutch citizens. The number of visitors from the Netherlands has increased dramatically. No doubt, in case of the launch of direct flights this sphere will develop even more.
Parliamentary cooperation has its important role in interstate relations of Armenia and the Netherlands. In October 2019, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia paid an official visit to the Netherlands. During this visit the Armenian-Dutch friendship circle, with the participation of politicians, businessmen, scientists and cultural figures, was established.
There is great potential in the economic sphere as well, especially in agriculture, high technologies, health, recycling and waste management as well as management of water resources.
It is notable that Armenian-Dutch cooperation is exemplary in the fight against illegal migration. Armenia has a leading position among countries that successfully cooperate with Dutch authorities on this issue.
We attach importance to our bilateral agenda also because of our partnership with the European Union. At the end of the last year, the two chambers of the Dutch Parliament have unanimously ratified the Comprehensive and Enlarged Partnership Agreement. This shows that one of the EU founding members supports the deepening of our relations with the EU.
I am happy to state that we have also been deepening our cultural ties. The fairy tales of the renowned Armenian poet Hovhannes Tumanyan, that have been translated into Dutch, attracted Dutch readers, the visits of Armenian and Dutch cultural figures to our respective countries have become more frequent. Last year we celebrated the 150 anniversary of Komidas Vardapet in Hague and other parts of the Netherlands.
Surely, with my colleague we also touched upon the prevention agenda and the importance of its promotion. We also have a good record of cooperation within the framework of international platforms. We are committed to take practical steps towards further development of our cooperation.
There is a huge potential to strengthen our cooperation also in the following fields: justice, health, education. We are already implementing some projects to this end. We plan to enlarge our cooperation, encompassing such new spheres as the environment.
Indeed, during our meeting we also talked about burning issues of international agenda, taking place in the immediate neighborhood of Armenia. We share the view that all the stakeholders should put their best efforts to stabilize the situation and decrease the tension.
Certainly, we spoke about the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. I informed my colleague about recent developments. Here, I want to highlight the balanced approach of the Netherlands, one of the leading members of the EU, supporting the peaceful settlement of the conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship.
I hereby would like to conclude, Mr. Block, dear colleague, the floor is yours.
Question. Mr. Mnatsakanyan, which shifts have been recorded since the change of тхе EU leadership. Is there a threat that these relations can become colder? And if possible, another question to Mr Blok. Can the visa liberalisation with the EU be accelerated with the opening of the embassy? What is the Netherlands ready to do for that?
Answer: Thank you for the question. The depth and the volume of EU-Armenia relations are so large and the number of issues ranges from political to economic, from scientific-educational to sectoral cooperation, and it is enshrined in a very important agreement. There is such a deep experience of cooperation over the years, such a deep scope and engagement, that this kind of relations do not change in a day. Our intention as well as the intention of the EU is to work together to deepen and strengthen those relations. Today, we have new leadership in Brussels, new Chairman of the Committee, new President of the Council, Commissioners, including, of course, the new High Representative in external action and new Commissioner in neighbourhood relations. It has been hardly two months since the new Commission is engaged and it has been very active. We have very solid and deep directions established over the years, and this is a normal continuation for us. For us and Brussels, the issue has never been otherwise, because, I must repeat, we have a very serious, deep, broad and practical agenda, which is also enshrined in the most serious agreement. All this outlines the continuation of our work for this year. We have all prerequisites to have the necessary high-level contacts and maintain what is the most important points of our national and international agenda.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: In addition to the response of the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands; I would like to add that human rights are also our most important direction both in national agenda and international relations, in our international engagement. As you are aware we are a member of the UN Human Rights Council and you know that we cooperate and are members of different organizations, where human rights are top priority in the agenda, such as the Council of Europe. We have a very important agenda with the EU in this sphere. I can also highlight other different structures - the UN in a general sense… Let me note that throughout these years Armenia and the Netherlands established a very good cooperation in terms of working together on international platforms. You know that the prevention agenda is an extremely important direction for Armenia, and I would like to underscore the consistent support of the Netherlands in this regard. We have the same approaches about the prevention agenda. We have similar approaches in different spheres, particularly in terms of freedoms, freedoms of different groups, such as women, children and others, and in this regard we have a well-established partnership with the Netherlands.
Question: Mr Mnatsakanyan, at the end of last year, Foreign Minister of Artsakh Masis Mayilyan stated about the negotiations on having reciprocal visits of the relatives of detained Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian hostages held captive in Azerbaijan. Is there any news in this regard? Thank You.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Yes, this is an agenda issue, and I hope we will identify and finalise the format, as well as the steps to have an opportunity for such humanitarian steps. This is, certainly, a humanitarian step, humanitarian initiative, but besides being humanitarian, I hope it has its role in the context of confidence building measure. At the same time let me remind you about the sensitivity of this issue, because people are involved here; on the one hand there is the one who directly committed the crime, and on the other hand, it is a very sensitive and extremely sad moment for us when we have our compatriots in this situation. It is quite difficult to find formats and solutions. The format of visiting relatives is something I hope we will be able to finalize. This is really a humanitarian step. And we will continue to work to find a solution. The most important issue for me and for us is to finally return our compatriots to Armenia. Thank you.