Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s opening remarks and answers to the journalists’ questions during the press conference on the events dedicated to the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide21 April, 2020
My colleagues have already presented the events to be held in commemoraiton of the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The message remains unchanged: the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide is the common mission of several generations and all Armenians, and a huge work has been accomplished in this regard. Today's political message is even more emphasized that, indeed, we found ourselves in an abnormal and difficult situation due to this pandemic. However, as in previous years, we had different conditions and experienced difficulties as well, but we never delayed, we never stopped paying tribute to our victims, and we have raised our united pan-Armenian voice against genocides.
In this regard, I think the format chosen for this year demonstrates this important message: the Armenian people in Armenia, in Artsakh and in other countries and parts of the world will have a chance to jointly participate and once again raise the united voice saying that after 105 years, the Armenian people continue fight for restoring justice, that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide is not an issue concerning merely Armenians, but an important tool in terms of prevention of genocides and crimes against humanity.
I am truly thankful to my colleagues for jointly creating this format while observing the message, and the power of the message, meanwhile doing all this in conditions when we are fighting against the pandemic. Thank you.
Question. Is it possible to remove the “demand" part from the slogan "I remember and demand"? Is there such a discussion within the Government? Did such a decision take place, even if not officially?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. [in addition]. Let's be very clear. The issue of recognizing the Armenian Genocide is a pan-Armenian issue and concerns every Armenian. The mentioned slogan, "I remember and demand", is a pan-Armenian slogan adopted through the Pan-Armenian Declaration. There is no room for another approach. This is a pan-Armenian issue, and the decisions are made within the framework of that format.
Question. The Foreign Minister of Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov said today that the proposals made at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia in Moscow last year are being actively discussed. They presume a stage-by-stage settlement. How would you comment on this statement, what document and what stage-by-stage settlement are we speaking about?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Thank you for the question, and I assume that it is a combination of a series of questions. I am very glad that this question arises.
I also heard that statement or that comment. I would say the following. During these two years, we - our Government, Prime Minister Pashinyan, have been more than transparent, and we have expressed our positions and approaches in a very clear manner. I would be more specific. Since we are speaking about specific matters, I will speak more specifically about the following: yes, there have been references to many documents in this comments, from the Key West till recent ones. There was also reference on documents which have been around in the last two years.
Let's be very clear. Such approaches were brought forward in 2014, 2016, and these approaches have not been acceptable for the Armenian sides. Starting from 2018, the consultations have been limited to discussing and evaluating the parties' approaches to individual elements. The version discussed in 2014 is not a document on the negotiating table today. We expressed our positions in a more than a clear manner: the security component is of the highest priority for the Armenian sides. As for the "territories", mentioned in the commentary, first of all, it is a security zone and defensive lines. It is impossible to assume that any of the Armenian sides can make concessions that might endanger the security of the people of Artsakh.
The second most important element in basic principles is the principle of self-determination, which is the primary priority for the Armenian sides in this negotiation process. We have repeatedly called it security and status, and now I would say more openly that the expression of the right to self-determination means the clarification of the status, the right to free will without any restrictions.
The peaceful settlement is possible through compromise. There have been no concessions and there will be none. In any case, the Armenian sides will never take an approach, which would imply a security breach, a threat to the people of Artsakh, especially since that threat still remains real and existential. The reflection of the principle of self-determination in the peace process is more than a priority for the Armenian side.
There should be parity of compromises, in which the Armenian sides find the full expression of the elements of security and status. This has been and remains the approach of the Armenian side. Throughout these two years, we have spoken more than clearly about this, and we speak about this during the negotiations. If someone assumes that we can do something during the negotiations and tell the public something else, he is deeply mistaken. This never happened and will never happen. It cannot be logical, because no representative of Armenia would do anything like that.
Finally, the third most important element: the Armenian side has always stated that it bears its responsibility, is fully involved in the negotiation process on its part, and will fully carry out this work. At the same time, the authorities of Armenia do not enjoy a mandate received from the people of Artsakh. The parliamentary and presidential elections in Artsakh have been completed recently, and the Artsakh authorities have received the relevant mandate through competitive, free, democratic elections.
If you remember, throughout these two years, the Armenian side has consistently and closely worked and consulted with the Artsakh side. And everything I’m speaking about, was discussed in detail with the Artsakh side. We have been working together and continue to work with new authorities. We have already established the dialogue.
No decision concerning the people of Artsakh can be made without the people of Artsakh. These are the clear principles which guide the Armenian side in the negotiation process.
My colleague presented his approach, and I presented our approach, which we have consistently pushed forward over the past two years.
And one more element: peaceful settlement has no alternative, because the Armenian sides will resolutely defend their people, their security. In this sense, the settlement is possible only through peaceful means.
We remain committed to this principled position and will continue to adhere to it. Yesterday, a video conference was held with the Co-Chairs, today, most likely, a video-conference will be held with the involvement of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Co-Chairs.
Today’s priority issue is the only one: while our countries, our region, the whole world are focused on the fight against coronavirus, observing the ceasefire regime and the exclusion of any risks in these conditions is more than a priority. And, naturally, we have been working in this direction.
Question. What are the further steps taken by Armenia for the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. The process of recognition of the Armenian Genocide, as I said, concerns us, the Armenian people, in its entirety, as the Armenian people have been fighting for the restoration of justice for 105 years. Denied justice cannot be a solution to this problem. 105 years ago, the Armenian people found themselves left all alone against the perpetrators. The Armenian people were supposed to have been annihilated from this planet. The Armenian nation is a winner because it does exist, it prospers, has its statehood, its Diaspora, it is a success. But the denied justice remains a wound and remains a serious challenge. In that sense, the Armenian people will continue the struggle in their unity.
Regarding the process of the recognition, the efforts of the Armenian people are complemented with the process of international recognition of those steps. First and foremost, it’s the prevention, because if the perpetrator assumes that the crime would be unpunished, then that crime will be repeated. This is the most important message of recognition. This important function has been and remains one of the most vital goals for all of us. The most important thing is, indeed, the ability of our neighbor Turkey, to face the past. Thank you.
Question. What are our steps to prevent genocides? Every year a UN resolution on genocide prevention is adopted. Is such a thing expected this year? What do you expect from international partners with regard to April 24 this year? Announcements, resolutions, etc.? What work has been done in this direction?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. The prevention agenda has already been rooted in Armenia's foreign policy since 1998 when the UN General Assembly for the first time adopted a resolution dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Since then, the Republic of Armenia has consistently, through our diplomatic potential, created a rather deep international agenda for the prevention of crimes against humanity and genocides. Through Armenia's efforts, ongoing work has been carried out in various UN bodies, first within then Human Rights Commission, and the Council, and the resolution adopted within those bodies were aimed at complementing relevant international instruments, the capacity of the international community to prevent genocides and other mass atrocities.
This year, by the way, Armenia, as a member of the Human Rights Council, presented another resolution, which summarizes the previous works and outlines the next stage of work for the international community to further strengthen those international tools and capacities. That resolution is now on the agenda. Due to the COVID19, the activity of the Human Rights Council is currently suspended, and immediately after the restoration of work, the process will be completed. In other words, we consistently work towards that direction.
Thanks to the efforts of Armenia, December 9, the day when Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted in 1948, was declared the International Day of Remembrance and Dignity of the Victims of the Genocide. Armenia has created various other formats and platforms, of which I would like to specifically emphasize the Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide.
We intend to hold the fourth forum this year. The third one was held in 2018, the fourth will be held in 2020. This is already a permanent platform to unite the potential of the international community, experts and society, to work together within the framework of this forum, to develop the ideology, to develop these certain tools, which provide an opportunity to implement the prevention process at national and international levels. This has been and remains one of the priorities of our foreign policy, which is expressed in the Government's program. This is a continuous work that has never been interrupted, and we will continue working in that direction. I have already presented our plans for this year.
Question. Have there been any problems with students studying abroad? What discussions have been or are being held on this issue? The spring semesters will end soon, and students will face difficulties if the situation does not change in the very near future.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Earlier today, my colleague, Deputy Minister Adonts, presented some statistics from this same platform, according to which about 22 000 our compatriots have returned to Armenia since March 14. The number was much bigger before the State of Emergency. But when the regular flights were cancelled, and, of course, the problems started to occur.
The problem is comprehensive, and it is very important for us to assess the situation correctly and find solutions according to the available opportunities. This doesn’t only concern the opportunities of Armenia but also depends on the situation, the right ways to use those opportunities, because the process includes many actors. There are number of issues, such as transportation, how costs are covered, how we receive our compatriots in Armenia, how we provide the healthcare safety for them and our population, how the quarantine issues are being solved, how much medical resources are available for quarantine, how many seats and resources do we have? This is how it is being assessed..
Indeed, the question becomes more sensitive when it comes to children and students. Now, I would like to take this opportunity to present some statistics, and Mr. Sinanyan also mentioned that we are organizing and ensuring the transfer from different places. 67 people returned from Rome on March 15, 24 from Angola on March 26, 4 from Poland on March 28, 68 from India on March 31, 234 from Moscow on April 6 and 30 on April 30. 226 people from Moscow, 10 people from Tel Aviv on April10, 35 people from Washington D.C. on April 20, 73 people from Turkey on April 11, 230 people from Moscow on April 12, 8 people from Sudan on April 13. 100 people from Krasnodar on April 19, 100 people from Rostov-on-Don on April 20, and we expect 18 people from the UAE on April 21. In the coming days, three more flights will be organized, to bring about 700 people back to Armenia. All this is organized in all possible dimensions. It happened that Armenia sent a plane at its own expenses.
In the other case, we collaborated with our various partners. We have cooperated with the United States and Georgia, and when we transferred our citizens from China, we cooperated with Kazakhstan and Russia, we are cooperating with Iran, and so on.
An assessment is made according to the situation. In addition, these charter flights were organized, and also our compatriots had a great contribution to support and ensure the return of our compatriots. For example, the costs of about 1000 returning citizens out of 1886 have been covered with the support of our compatriots.
Each situation is assessed and solutions are provided through this situational, common strategic policy so that we can arrange the return of our citizens. However, we take into account our capacities to receive and handle the situation in a smooth way in Armenia, as this is one of the most important issues. This means the 14 day quarantine, medical aid, facilities and all other issues. All this must be combined and this policy should be carried out in a reasonable way.