Statement by Vahe Gevorgyan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, at the 44th Meeting of Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC17 December, 2021
First, I would like to express our gratitude to the Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Chairman-in-Office of BSEC, H.E. David Zalkaliani and all Georgian colleagues for the successful chairmanship and facilitating result-oriented regional economic cooperation. Our appreciations also go to the Secretary General H.E. Lazăr Comănescu and his team in PERMIS for their tireless efforts in promoting the Organization’s visibility and making it project-oriented.
In run up to the 30th anniversary of the BSEC, we find it as a good opportunity to review the past performance of the Organization and discuss how to move forward to turn BSEC into more dynamic and efficient organization.
Proper functioning of the thematic working groups, which are the main pillars of this Organization, is of paramount importance. We share the view that without substantial involvement of the line Ministries and the expert-level participation in the meetings of working groups we will not be able to increase their efficiency and ensure tangible deliverables. We also see a merit in the optimization of the Working Groups through decreasing their number by merging, as well as through holding joint and back-to-back meetings.
Armenia advocates for stronger synergies between BSEC Organization and its related bodies pursuing the same goals for the benefit of coordinating and complementing efforts and avoiding unnecessary duplications. Having said this, we believe that the ways need to be explored to achieve synchronization of the chairmanships both in the Organization and PABSEC - inter-parliamentary consultative body of the BSEC. Moreover, as we approach this important anniversary we are of the view that the BSEC economic agenda of 2012 needs to be updated to reflect the new tendencies created by Covid-19 and the wider global economic agenda including sustainable development goals. It is our belief that further strengthening of the organization can be achieved by a comprehensive and continuous revitalization process.
As member states have been informed on 10 November jointly with the ICBSS we organized a regional stakeholders’ webinar on cultural tourism and digital transformation by bringing together policy-makers, representatives of business, academia and civil society from the BSEC region and beyond to exchange on good practices and lessons learned in the cultural tourism sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic with a special emphasis on
digitalization and innovation.
As the current country coordinator of the BSEC Working Group on Energy Armenia in the first half of 2022 intends to put together another webinar on “BSEC Green Energy” to discuss how renewable energy can help nations achieve sustainable economic development.
COVID-19’s impact on Armenia has been significant, however, the path to progress to the recovery has been also considerable. Foreign trade continues to increase along with exports in agriculture, textile, IT products and minerals. The Armenian Government outlined a series of actions to address the pandemic’s socio-economic impact. For instance, the Government established a loan program aimed to support agriculture, small businesses and tech industries. Armenia’s domestic investments offer stability to citizens in need. Growing vaccination rates and other restrictive measures in place allow us so far to fight the pandemic without shutdown or lockdown.
The use of force has never been a way to peace and economic development particularly in our region. War can come as a unilateral choice but peace always requires consent of all sides. We are ready to embark on peace process under the mandate of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship for comprehensive settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of well-known principles and elements.
The use of force both against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia and continued occupation of Armenian territories by Azerbaijan created new obstacles towards regional economic cooperation. We firmly believe that the framework and modalities of economic projects in and around Nagorno-Karabakh should be done in even and non-discriminatory manner without creating impediments for international partners to work in Nagorno-Karabakh. In this regard, the access to Nagorno-Karabakh for international organizations is crucial in creating conditions for sustainable peace. The continued attempts to impose economic siege on the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh clearly show the level of sincerity of those who speak about peace and end of the conflict but on the ground are guided by the same conflict driven approaches.
Armenia has repeatedly stated its interest in unblocking all transport and economic communications in the region in line with the Trilateral Statement of November 9, 2020, January 11, 2021, and November 26, 2021. There is no any obligation, condition or agreement for the Republic of Armenia to provide de-jure or de-facto corridor to Azerbaijan. The distortion of the letter and spirit of those statements and commitments, threat or use of force will be detrimental to the goal of opening regional communications.
As a landlocked developing country, Armenia underlines the importance of unfettered, efficient and cost-effective access to and from the sea by all means of transport, on the basis of the freedom of transit, as well as development of regional connectivity and sustainable transport systems in the BSEC region by effective utilization of the existing regional transportation links and infrastructures.
We consider BSEC as a forum primarily for regional economic cooperation and partnership, and attempts to over-politicize and inject claims including biased conflict narratives into the agenda of the Organization particularly at the level of working groups are counterproductive.
To conclude, I would like to congratulate the Republic of Moldova, the incoming Chairmanship-in-office of BSEC, wishing all the success in their endeavors and pledging our support.