Opening remarks of the Acting Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian and answers to the questions of journalists during the joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov06 May, 2021
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Let me once again welcome the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, my colleague Sergey Lavrov, who is in Armenia on a working visit.
Although this is the third tete-a-tete meeting this year, the range of issues discussed, that predetermines the Armenian-Russian allied cooperation, was quite impressive. During the substantive negotiations, which took place in an open and trusting atmosphere , the main issues of both bilateral cooperation and partnership on multilateral platforms were touched upon.
In the context of bilateral relations, the sides highlighted the intensity of interstate dialogue at all levels, including at the highest. There is an evident active interaction also among ministries and departments. We hope that based on the results of the meetings of the intergovernmental commissions on trade, economic and military-technical cooperation to be held in full-time format, joint steps will be developed aimed at cooperation, increasing trade and the subsequent development of integration processes.
We focused on the issues of increasing the frequency and extending the topics of inter-ministerial consultations.
I also indicated the interest of the Armenian side in promoting partnership in the fight against the Covid-19, including through the use of the Russian anti-virus vaccine.
Indeed, we paid due attention to the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, outlining the directions in which joint efforts should be intensified. We discussed in detail the situation that developed after the November 9 statement signed by the heads of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, aimed at ending the Turkish-Azerbaijani aggression and deploying Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, whose presence played a key role in preventing further mass atrocities against the people of Artsakh.
We highly appreciate the efforts of the Russian Federation towards the implementation of the agreements, among which the issue of the return of prisoners of war is extremely relevant. Through these efforts, the return of some of the Armenian POWs to their homeland became possible. At the same time, almost six months after the end of the hostilities, violating the international humanitarian law Azerbaijan torpedoes the implementation of the provisions of the statement and refuses to return prisoners of war and forcibly captured civilians. In this regard, I familiarized Sergey Lavrov with the international reaction and the appeals aimed at redirecting the neighboring country to the legal track.
I reaffirmed the inviolability of our position, based on the fact that the issue of the political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been resolved and still remains valid. We presume that only through negotiations it is possible to reach a solution that will take into account everybody’s rights and bring peace and stability to the South Caucasus. Such a settlement should, first of all, be based on the determination of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh through the right to self-determination of its people. Such a basis has been developed by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship, and we express our interest in even greater consolidation and addressing of the activities of this international mandated format. The Armenian side shares the consolidated position of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which in its statement made on April 13 this year, once again emphasized the need to pay “special attention to the achievement of a final comprehensive and sustainable settlement on the basis of the elements and principles well-known to the sides."
In the context of the efforts undertaken towards the restoration of the living conditions in Artsakh, I would like to once again gratefully acknowledge the efforts of the Russian side.
Today, it is extremely important for the people of Artsakh to solve the issues concerning the return of people to their homes, the restoration of the infrastructures and housing, the establishment of a normal life and healthcare.
Within the exchange of views on the issue of involving relevant international organizations in the rehabilitation of the region, I stated that the issue of humanitarian access to Artsakh should not be politicized: it is about protecting human rights, no connection with the status.
There is an imperative for preserving the numerous cultural, including religious monuments of Artsakh, which have fallen under the Azerbaijani military control. This issue is even more clearly manifested in the light of the latest acts of vandalism perpetrated by the Azerbaijani side.
The development of the situation in the region was at the center of our attention. Having considered the topic of unblocking economic and transport links in the region, it was noted that the opening of regional communications can change the transport network of the region, diversify the logistics link between Armenia and Russia. The January 11 Tripartite Statement sets out a clear framework for this process.
We touched upon the issues of interaction within the UN, OSCE, PACE, EAEU, CSTO, CIS and other multilateral international platforms, where new opportunities for even broader foreign policy coordination are obvious.
We exchanged views on a number of issues on the regional and international agenda.
I would like to once again welcome Sergey Lavrov and his delegation, and pass him the floor.
Question: My question is addressed to the two ministers. Today, Sergey Lavrov has already mentioned these important dates: the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. In this regard, are there any plans to expand cooperation during the next year, can new road maps be elaborated?
And the second question: during the recent intergovernmental council in Kazan, our prime ministers, Nikol Pashinyan and Mikhail Mishustin, mentioned about a 10% reduction in trade turnover as a result of the pandemic, and stressed the need to develop a proposal to increase trade. Have any proposals been already elaborated? Are there any ideas?
Ara Aivazian: I can only add that, indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic had its impact all over the world. As you have mentioned, our bilateral relations registered a 10% drop in trade, but there is a mutual willingness and determination to reduce the sharp decline, and as Sergey Lavrov noted, at the Kazan meetings the prime ministers instructed the relevant departments to intensify our economic cooperation. I fully agree with Sergey Lavrov that the implementation of the January 11 agreements opens new opportunities for diversification of transport and economic potential not only for Armenia but for the whole region. For my part, I can add that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia attaches special importance to the activation of economic diplomacy. In that regard, we attach great importance to the presence of the large Armenian Diaspora in Russia, which is known for its business activities. I am sure that they will take a very active part and the results will be visible soon. Thank you very much.
Question: I address my first question to Mr. Aivazian. There are already many cases of Azerbaijan’s vandalism acts towards the Armenian historical-cultural heritage in Artsakh, which are manifested both by the distortion of identity and, as we have seen, even by the total destruction of the church. Recently, information was spread about the change in the appearance of St. Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. Apart from the Foreign Ministry's statements, what other steps are being undertaken towards preserving the Armenian historical-cultural heritage in Artsakh?
Ara Aivazian: Thank you. With regards to your question, I should note that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has commented on this issue on numerous occasions, and today I can reiterate that the issue of preservation and protection of the historical-cultural heritage of Artsakh has also become part of the peace process. In their statement on April 13, the Minsk Group Co-Chairs touched upon the need to protect and preserve the historical-cultural heritage.
We work closely with UNESCO, we are expecting an assessment mission to visit the region in the near future, and hope that UNESCO will undertake active steps towards implementing that mission.
Well, the protection of historical-cultural heritage is first and foremost about the protection of human rights, it is not accidental that on February 2 of this year the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights addressed this issue with their appeal to Azerbaijan. In their letter, they stressed the need to investigate the targeted shelling of the Cathedral of the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots on October 8, while at the same time they have emphasized the importance of the role of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the reconstruction of the Cathedral.
Today we see that Azerbaijan has not responded to the call of the UN experts, moreover, with one-sided gross intervention Azerbaijan demonstrates that it disregards the norms of international organizations, especially the UN, the international community and international law. I should clearly state that Shushi’s Cathedral, which is one of the largest Armenian churches, must remain a place of worship of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Thank you.