The interview of the Minster of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian to Armenian Public Television, “Armenia” TV, “ArmNews” TV and “Kentron”TV

31-01-2012 23:11:34   | Armenia  |  Interviews
2012-01-28 Artur Grigoryan: We would like to thank you for accepting our proposal for an interview and probably we would discuss today’s relevant topics- the trilateral meeting of Sochi and the French Senate’s bill. First of all, regarding Sochi, Minister Nalbandian could you clarify to what stage has the settlement process moved after that trilateral meeting, taking into account the statement of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov according to which, if I am paraphrasing correctly, the sides certainly left their maximalist positions. What does that mean? Edward Nalbandian: First of all, let me to say that the meeting was an important, I would say, a productive one and it found its reflection in the trilateral statement, too, which was made at the presidential level. First, in the statement the Presidents stressed the extensive work done in the recent years towards reaching an understanding on the Basic principles. What was voiced and what is being voiced from Baku? It voiced and is voicing that sufficient work is not done, as well as criticism towards the Co-chairs. Petros Ghazaryan: To change the format… Edward Nalbandian: Yes, to change the format and so on. And some experts and political scientists, having superficial information about this process and influenced by Baku’s propaganda, were urging to intensify the work of the Co-Chairs and to make it more effective. And what was noted in the Presidential statement of Sochi? In addition to the implemented large-scale work, also around half a dozen meetings were held only at the presidential level, ten of them initiated by Medvedev and dozens of meetings on the level of foreign ministers, I mean during the recent four-three years, the Co-Chairs paid dozen of visits to the region – Armenia, Stepanakert and Baku. This is what the Presidents mentioned in their statement, that the intensive negotiations have brought progress in approving the basic principles of the settlement. Although Baku was claiming that in general the Co-Chairs did not succeed in anything, and so on, here it was mentioned, and it is important to recall, that the Co-Chairs have implemented an effective work. The Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, stressed the value of the mediation efforts of the Co-chairs, expressed hope that the United States, Russia and France, in the same status, would continue their mediation efforts towards the settlement of the issue. I would like to pay your attention to one more important point of the statement. Recently, there are more outspoken calls in Baku about the stopping to waste time on the negotiations over reaching an agreement on the Basic principles. The trilateral statement noted that the Presidents stress the importance of reaching an agreement on the Basic principles and the sides, together with the Co-Chairs, should intensify the works towards that direction. It is very important point of the statement, as it is stressed and accepted by Azerbaijan that, yes, there is a need to continue the talks based on those Basic principles and speed up efforts to reach agreement on the Basic principles taking into account the work accomplished thus far, in order to make the drafting of the main peace agreement possible. Artak Heriqyan: What confidence-building measures are the talks about? Edward Nalbandian: I will return to your question, but first of all, I would like to mention about one more important point of the statement. It is about the agreement against which actually the Azerbaijanis worked quite hard. Those efforts were against the agreement reached in March of last year, on March 5 in Sochi, when the Presidents recalled in their statement made in March of 2011 also that it is important to investigate incidents along the line of contract. The Co-Chairs immediately presented the appropriate document- the proposal on the creation of a mechanism for investigating incidents along the line of contact. The Azerbaijani side repeatedly voiced that there was no understanding at all and the Co-Chairs did not present any proposal. Moreover one month ago, in December, when the OSCE budget was being discussed in Vienna, the Co-chairs suggested to provide appropriate funding for the establishment of this mechanism. The Azerbaijanis, being against such a funding, even threatened to veto the entire OSCE budget. And thus they did not allow the making of such a provision. And it is very important that the statement says that the Presidents agreed to continue the work in that direction, i.e. the creation of mechanisms for investigating incidents along the line of contact. Artak Heriqyan: Is there any agreement that the confidence-building measures are primary? Edward Nalbandian: The improvement of an atmosphere of mutual confidence is important for the talks in both reaching of an agreement on the Basic principles and afterwards. If Azerbaijan does not hinder this process and oppose the confidence-building in general, as we saw in the past how the Azerbaijanis used some measures undertaken towards mutual confidence and trust building in the contrary manner for undermining confidence and for their propaganda goals. If even we reach an agreement on the Basic principles, and naturally the positive atmosphere would certainly contribute to it, huge efforts are to be expected in terms of drafting the text of the main agreement. And in this regard, the appropriate positive atmosphere and not the disturbing and provocative atmosphere, which is created by the Azerbaijani side and hinders the process, would surely be important. Petros Ghazaryan: Minister Nalbandian, does it anticipate any reciprocal contacts in order to organize meetings between intellectuals, I mean establishing a practical atmosphere, reciprocal contacts. Is there any preliminary agreement that it would be applicable? Edward Nalbandian: There were attempts, but unfortunately those attempts did not bring any result and I explained why. For example, the Azerbaijanis do not allow foreign citizens of Armenian origin, not from Armenia, but from Russia, France or Bulgaria to go onboard and fly to Azerbaijan. There were several cases when the Azerbaijanis did not allow sportsmen, businessmen or just ordinary people of Armenian origin to board the plane and fly to Azerbaijan. Many such examples could be listed, and the propaganda against the Armenian people in Azerbaijan, the propaganda of war and provocative statements definitely do not contribute to the confidence-building, just the reverse. Yet, the confidence-building, the creation of favorable atmosphere and preparation of public opinion for the peaceful settlement of the issue are certainly important. Maybe Azerbaijan believes that it would be possible to change its public opinion in 180 degrees in a day by a decree or by some assignment….. Petros Ghazaryan: The more totalitarian a country the easier to manipulate its public opinion. Edward Nalbandian: Maybe, they believe that it would be possible. No matter what kind of an atmosphere in a country, I don’t think it is easy to do. That’s why, if we want to reach peace, we should prepare our peoples for peace, not for war. Azerbaijan is doing just the opposite. Arpi Harutyunyan: My question would be about the role of Russia in the negotiations between the two countries. The experts say that Putin, the most likely successor of current President of the Russian Federation Medvedev, would be less active in the negotiations between the two countries, than current President Medvedev. What do you think, if Russia, who gave its positions to France in the Minsk Group, would seek to win dividends by achieving progress in the negotiations between the two countries? Edward Nalbandian: I don’t think that we are talking about someone yielding positions to the other. Let me to remind you that in 2001 France actually had quite an active contribution to the negotiations and it was supported by Russia and the United States- the other two co-chairing countries. And sufficient progress had been achieved. The so-called Paris principles were drafted which were put on paper in Key-West. But the Azerbaijani side refused to move forward based on those agreements. Recently, the Russian side, fully being supported by the other two Co-chairs, definitely plays an important role. Thanks to the initiatives of the President of the Russian Federation Medvedev nearly ten meetings were held in the trilateral format and that format performed its viability and effectiveness, as the last meeting was in Sochi. Regarding the last meeting, I don’t mean that it was the last meeting; I mean that it was the last in this series. I believe that this format-the format at the presidential level- would continue and I think there is no doubt. Regarding the Russian efforts, both the United States and France have repeatedly voiced about their full support to the efforts of the Russian side, Dmitry Medvedev's efforts. About it was even publicly stated in the Deauville statement issued in the frames of the G8. Azerbaijan indirectly, sometimes directly, speaks out that this is only a Russian initiative and those are Russian proposals, and so on. It is an absolutely lie, because the Russian side’s efforts are coordinated with the other two co-chairing countries and that is why the Deauville statement, on the presidential level, the level of Presidents Obama, Sarkozy and Medvedev, mentioned that those efforts were fully supported. I would also like to note that the Deauville statement said that the last version presented by the Co-Chairs are on the table of the negotiations, those are the proposals made in March of 2011, and the sides are called upon to reach an agreement on it. And the reason is known why an agreement was not reached. Because the Azerbaijani side, as it was in Sochi in March, 2011, which brought more than over ten changes and new amendments at the last moment, did the same in Kazan meeting in June. Artur Grigoryan: Minister Nalbandian, such a general question. It is about the principles. We saw that all three societies engaged in conflict, first time, got acquainted with the Basic principles, after the L'Aquila statement. But it was said that only the six were published, while totally, it seems to be fourteen or fifteen. Probably you will tell us more specifically. What is the reason that the rest of the principles are still not published? Are they secondary or do they contain more important secrets, than those six? Edward Nalbandian: They are fourteen. In reality, there is no secret in those principles and even before Deauville we presented it several times. Maybe, not in such a way, point by pint, but we have repeatedly introduced. And this shows that we talk about what we do, and we do what we say. And after L’Aquila, Muskoka and Deauville, we stated that we welcomed those statements and were committed to move forward based on those statements and agreements reached during the last four years. The point is about the Ministerial statements made in the frames of the OSCE, which were made in Helsinki in December of 2008, in Athens in December of 2009, in Almaty in July of 2010, and at Astana Summit in 2010, which was an important statement, as well as the statement made at the ministerial level in Vilnius in December of 2011 and the statements made by the Co-Chairs at the highest-level in L’Aquila, Muskoka and Deauville. I would like to note that there is no other conflict in the frames of the G8, on which three statements were made at this level, and to which the Presidents of Russia, the United States and France Medvedev, Obama and Sarkozy pay much attention. All those statements were made at the level of the Co-chairs and in the frames of the OSCE. But why am I emphasizing the OSCE? Because it is the OSCE which deals with the settlement of the issue and all those statements are in line with our approaches, and our approaches are in line with those statements. And we are committed to move forward with the settlement on their basis. Something we do not hear back from Azerbaijan. Petros Ghazaryan: In the recent years, regarding the Karabakh issue, the fight and competition is over not only the substance of the document, but also the format. Azerbaijan is always attempting to remove the Minsk Group from this format and yesterday we saw Turkey’s interference in the issue of the format. Davuto?lu stated that if France continues its activities in the frames of the Minsk Group, Turkey should be a part of this process, too, as after the Senate’s decision, France could not be neutral. And if France is not neutral and continues its activities in the Minsk Group, then Turkey, probably as a not neutral country, should take part in that process. He also stressed the fact that Sarkozy arrived in Armenia for two days, while stayed in Azerbaijan just for a couple of hours. And “thus you could see that one of the Co-chair countries is unbiased and Turkey should restore the balance in the Minsk group”. Edward Nalbandian: I think that Davuto?lu was not concerned about the hours in Azerbaijan, maybe he was more concerned about the few hours Sarkozy spent in Turkey. Regarding to ultimatums or the statements made in such manner, particularly concerning the participation in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in the format of the Co-chairs, we have already presented our opinion. If Turkey really has a sincere willingness to support this process, it should stay away from this process as much as possible. Surely, when somebody closes the door in front of Turkey, the Turkish side is trying to enter through chimney. This is not the first time and there is no specific surprise. But here I don’t think that Turkey makes decisions on the issue of those formats, and in particular I don’t think that presenting of ultimatums on any issue would bring positive results. I would also like to recall that in Sochi the President of Azerbaijan, together with the Armenian President, stated about which I have mentioned: the Presidents expressed hope that, Russia, the USA, and France, as Co-chairs, would continue these mediation efforts in the same status and format right up until peace is established in the region. Petros Ghazaryan: What about the argument that after this decision of the Senate, France is no longer neutral. How would you comment it? Edward Nalbandian: You know, those statements are useless because the bill passed by the Senate does not concern any concrete country. It’s well known that a thief’s hat is burning. And the over-reaction of Turkey, full of blames against France, against all the countries which have recognized the Armenian Genocide, against Armenian people, who lived through this tragedy and grief, and against the Armenian Diaspora reaffirmed the importance and necessity of the law adopted in France. I believe the more Turkey continues to intensify its policy of denial the more such decisions would be made by other countries, as well. When Turkey says that the Armenian Genocide is just the opinion of the Armenian side, would you image somebody saying that the Holocaust is only a Jewish opinion. Let me remind you that it is also the opinion of more than ten European countries which have recognized the Armenian Genocide, as well as the opinion of more than twenty countries and international organizations around the world, which have recognized the genocide. Let me recall, that those who vote or speak out against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in this or that country for certain reasons in any country, if not all, but at least the overwhelming majority state that “Yes it is a genocide.” Turkey is opposed to it, and thus pulls itself into a trap. Petros Ghazaryan: Mr. Minister, we know that there is such a special saying, that foreign policy is the continuation of domestic policy of a given country. Since, unfortunately we are not rich in oil, natural resources, our main wealth for the contact with the international community is our internal democracy, so that the West would see that we are a state living with the same values and we live in the same community in that sense, and thus by protecting our interests it defends its own interests too. In this sense also for the solution of Karabakh issue it is very important that we were more democratic, much more democratic than Azerbaijan is. And as we have parliamentary elections in the future, and their bad conduct and negative response by the West may also directly or indirectly influence the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and weaken our position badly. Do you have views, concerns about the future parliamentary elections. Edward Nalbandian: Recently a significant progress has been made in the sense of democratic reforms and it is evaluated and recorded by various international structures, European structures. At least four statements have been made by the European Union and also connected with the changes made in the election code, which was done in close cooperation with the Venice Commission and various experts of European institutions, the relevant experts from OSCE/ODIHR. And it has received positive responses and assessments by everyone, and the leadership of our republic, the President has stated repeatedly that the purpose is that these elections will be fair and well-organized, consistent with international standards. I am sure that these elections will be much better than all our previous elections since independence. I would also like to recall something else, something important, which, I think, was not reported in our newspapers so much. When President Sarkozy made a state visit to Armenia he made such important statements, that merely by only those statements and agreements reached between the presidents of Armenia and France, this visits could be called a historical one. But there is one important fact and statement, which was made by the French President, who spoke about the common European values’ heritage of the Armenian and French peoples. With very important and deep meaning… Artak Herikian: And it was specifically stressed that in spite of difficult regional conditions Armenia has had a great democratic progress, which is commended. Petros Ghazaryan: Mr. Nalbandyan, after this decision of the Senate many journalists and colleagues from abroad were asking me that it is very strange, how do you explain that there is tougher stance on the issue of denial of the Genocide in Azerbaijan than in Turkey? Does not it seem strange to you, how could in Turkey be more tolerant atmosphere on this issue than in Azerbaijan? Edward Nalbandian: I do not think that the atmosphere is so tolerant in Turkey. There were some positive trends and developments in Turkey connected with the process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. Let me remind you that in parallel to this process the Apology Campaign began, during which the Turkish intellectuals gathered some 30,000 signatures to apologize the Armenian people. Afterwards, of course this process was stopped by the authorities. Let me remind you that in the recent years demonstrations, commemoration ceremonies are being organized on April 24, in various cities of Turkey itself. Many Turkish intellectuals and tourists who came to Armenia, also visited the Genocide Memorial. Of course there are some changes and these changes are obvious. Today many intellectuals in Turkey speak for the recognition of the Genocide. And I think that this process will continue. Maybe in Azerbaijan there is no such atmosphere, yet. I hope that we will have the opportunity to begin the process of normalizing relations with Azerbaijan once we solve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Artak Herikian: Mr. Minister, such a question. Is not the adoption of the bill against the denial in the French Senate in a way a tough response of the international community for the undermining of the Armenian-Turkish normalization process without preconditions, which was sponsored and encouraged by the international community? Edward Nalbandian: There have been many appeals by France towards Turkey. Let us remember when President Chirac of France made a state visit to Armenia, when visiting the Genocide Memorial he made a very important statement, calling Turkey to recognize the Genocide. And such calls have been heard several times. And this was one of President Sarkozy's campaign promises. And we can only treat this person with the deepest respect that he not only gives promises during the pre-election period, but also kept them when he became president... Petros Ghazaryan: It is an exclusive, rare phenomenon in the international practice. Edward Nalbandian: Sometimes such phenomena happen. In this line President Sarkozy has a very important place, for whose very important step the deepest respect could be expressed. Petros Ghazaryan: Mehmet Ali Birand wrote an interesting article: He wrote that even those who opposed the bill, they did not say that there was no genocide. In other words, he says that the French Senate is unanimous in claiming that the genocide did happen. And they may interpret the criminalization issue in different ways. So they say that Turkey has to agree with the opinion that everyone recognizes the Genocide. He says, that we cannot see this simple truth. Edward Nalbandian: Of course. In reality, not only in France, but in Turkey also many people have the same attitude. I have spoken with many people. May be they do not express in public. Of course it is obvious, that during those discussions which happened and which unfortunately did not result in recognition, the reason was not that people had doubts whether it was a genocide or not. That is for sure. Arpi Harutyunyan: Mr. Nalbandian, after the decision of the Senate, however, Britain expressed in a very cool manner, noting, for instance, that Britain is satisfied with the conviction of war crimes. What do you think, was such a position aimed at softening Turkey or at preventing the chain of adoption of such bills in other European countries, or, nevertheless, there is a third option. Edward Nalbandian: It should be looked in the context in which the statements are being made and whether the statements are made in the way they are presented, but in the result of the meetings I am having in different countries, including my European colleagues, many do not share the opinion that this matters should be left to the historians. I had my last meeting the day before yesterday with the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, which publicly stated, when the same question was asked, he said, that history knocks at the gates of our present, and we have to open them. We have to deal with that history, we have to evaluate it in an open, blunt and fair way what happened. Without that we will never have peace in inter-state relations and the opinion is wrong that these issues should be left to historians. And it is only one opinion. Unfortunately, the black, tragic pages of history are written. And to turn the pages, if it we may turn at all, is possible only through recognition, condemnation and prevention of denial so that the world would not witness new tragedies, new crimes against humanity. Petros Ghazaryan: Mr. Nalbandian, connected with Turkey, still one of our main problems with Turkey is the blockade, the opening of borders. How do you think, will the decision of the Senate make Turkey forget about it at all, and harden its position towards Armenia and in the near future will not turn to this problem, or this will make Turkey reconsider its hard position and put the Armenian-Turkish process from frozen condition back to rails? Particularly news was spread that some secret negotiations have been held; Though this was denied, but it coincided with this decision of the Senate. Edward Nalbandian Neither secret nor non-secret negotiations are held with Turkey today. Neither direct, nor mediated. It is not being done for the simple reason that it will be possible to do, only when Turkey is ready for some practical steps. This policy of Turkey has no perspective. The time for politics, history is a very relative thing, and how long this behavior of theirs lasts will be seen. But one thing is clear: Turkey cannot keep the borders closed forever, can not continue its denialism forever, sign treaties and not respect them, not ratify these agreements. I have noted and I will remind once more, that in diplomacy, international relations, the most important principle is the principle of pacta sunt servanda, the signed, reached agreements must be respected. Even in human relationships, if you agree with someone on something, and that a person does not perform, does not respect the agreements, once, twice, because in this way Turkey has had such agreements and did not respect them not only with Armenia. You know what kind of an attitude emerges. As of the boisterous statements of Turkey, you know, when there are no arguments, nothing to say, of course, they start making noise. Artak Herikian: But in the end is there a perception amongst our international partners that Turkey does not respect those agreements? Does that clear understanding exist among them? Edward Nalbandian: Do you suspect it? If it was not so, then the representatives of the major countries would not state during their press conferences, including in Armenia, that the ball is in the Turkish court. Petros Ghazaryan: By the way, critics of the protocols, Mr. Nalbandian, note three main facts: they say, that after these protocols, if not ratified. a) the Armenian-Turkish relations would get worse, b) international recognition of the genocide would stop and this work will be aborted, and c) Turkey will have a more active role in the Karabakh issue and will have much more considerable say. How would you comment now, when we look back? Edward Nalbandian: There is no need of interpretation, since those arguments have been interpreted many times both in our newspapers and abroad, and in Turkey itself. Of course, it is not serious, and this kind of arguments do not stand any criticism. Petros Ghazaryan: I am interested in your definition, during the period of Levon Ter-Petrossian in the genocide issue, it was said that it should be left out of our foreign policy. During Robert Kocharian it was said that it is the cornerstone of our foreign policy. And how would you formulate genocide in our foreign policy agenda now? Edward Nalbandian: We also have a formula, as it has been in recent years and you can open our annual reports, or the foreign policy priority issues for next year. In documents it is noted that the Armenian genocide recognition issue is included in our foreign policy agenda. Arpi Harutyunyan: As the Ambassador of Armenia in France for many years, what do you think does the bill and thus its adoption reflect the opinion of the French people, or was it made as a credit to the efforts of our compatriots that were made for the development and prosperity of their country. Edward Nalbandian: In 2001, when the law was adopted on the recognition of the genocide, yes I was the ambassador there in my opinion was that the expression of the whole French people, because I myself was there for many years as the ambassador to France, I participated in the opening of dozens and dozens of streets, monuments, squares, parks, which are dedicated to the memory of the victims of the genocide. And also in the towns, villages where Armenians do not live, where there is no community. Let me remind you that this bill when discussed in the Senate, it was the opinion of all the main political forces, both right and left. Of course, maybe there is a little difference between 2001 and 2012. If in 2001 the bill was not put forward by the government, then this time the government had presented it; the Government, the President, National Assembly, Senate, and the main political forces. What does this mean? Who is in the National Assembly, who is in the Senate? They are the PMs elected by the people. How is the president elected: he is a leader, elected by the people. Everyone expresses the same opinion in France. Mr. Nalbandian, thank you very much for the interview. Edward Nalbandian: I would like to thank you for the meeting, I think these meetings are useful in such formats and I hope that you will be interested in new meetings and if you wish to, of course I will answer your questions with pleasure in this or other formats.
 


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