Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian briefed journalists on the results of the meeting between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan held in Bern with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
Question: Mr. Nalbandian, what mechanisms are being elaborated?
Edward Nalbandian. About two dozen meetings on the level of Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, summits were held during the last seven years. Some of these meetings were very close to reaching an agreement, however, Azerbaijan has always backtracked.
Quite a long time has passed since the last summit held in Paris in October, 2014, almost a year ago, and it was very important to arrange a new meeting.
We are grateful to the Swiss authorities, which hosted this summit. We are also grateful to the Co-Chairing countries for organizing a new meeting on the level of presidents aimed at moving forward the negotiation process. In order to move this process forward such an intention should have Azerbaijan, which, in fact, not only has no such intention, but quite the contrary.
Question: What was the agenda of this meeting?
Edward Nalbandian: The agenda of this summit was dictated by the escalation of situation as a result of Azerbaijan’s provocations, gross violations of cease-fire regime. And, naturally, if the situation is so tense, the other issues are becoming secondary.
Azerbaijan cannot get rid of the delusion that it can translate the use of power, the escalation of the situation into a negotiation tool. In fact, it is their weakness. Baku wishes to compensate its insecurity in negotiations by such actions.
The strategists of Azerbaijan consider that it gives them some strength. But what has this policy given to Azerbaijan so far? It has not given, is not giving, nor of course will it give anything positive, any advantage.
Question: And in such situation is it rational to conduct negotiations?
Edward Nalbandian: There have been attitudes that because of this inadequate behavior of Azerbaijan, provocations, maybe there is no reason to continue the negotiations. And a question arises – what is the alternative to negotiations?
Armenia has been for the continuation of the negotiation process, the settlement of the issue through negotiations. And the participation of the President of our Republic in this summit proves that very fact, proves our approach that Armenia reaffirms its commitment to continue, along with the Co-Chairs, the efforts aimed at an exclusively peaceful settlement of the issue.
Question: In these conditions if there are no negotiations, will a peaceful settlement be possible?
Edward Nalbandian: If there are no negotiations, how will there be a settlement? How is peace established?
In fact, also during this meeting the sides expressed their approaches on different elements, different principles of the settlement of the issue, which they have presented. And we can reaffirm again that, unfortunately, the approaches of the sides are not close, or that they do not coincide.
However here the approaches of Azerbaijan not only do not coincide with the approaches of Armenia. We can also say that the approaches of Azerbaijan do not coincide and are not in line with the proposals of the Co-Chairing countries.
You know that there have been five statements on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the level of leaders of the Co-Chairing countries. Azerbaijan by all means avoids to make any reference to those statements, which state the principles, the elements that, as mentioned by the Co-Chairs on numerous occasions, have been conceived as an integrated whole, and any attempts to select some elements over others would make it impossible to achieve a solution.
We have mentioned on numerous occasions that we are ready to continue the negotiations based on those proposals and move forward towards the settlement; Azerbaijan has not expressed yet its opinion on those statements. It only pretends that it is ready for something, but what is it ready for?
They are issuing some statements for their public opinion, and are thinking that they will be able to impress someone abroad. This is not the case at all.
In Belgrade I made a comment on the statement of the Co-Chairs, referring to it point by point. And what was the statement of the Azerbaijani side? There were no comments, because what the Co-Chairs were saying is what we are saying.
Question: Mr. Minister, what are the outcomes of today’s negotiations, is there a particular outcome, which can be considered as positive?
Edward Nalbandian: Any meeting, especially the ones on the level of the Presidents, is very important for this dialogue to continue, the negotiations to continue, because as I have already mentioned there is no alternative to it.
The more often these meetings are held, the more possible it will be to conduct discussions, maybe with small steps, but some discussions both on the pushing the peaceful settlement process of the issue on, and elaboration of mechanisms for the de-escalation of situation. Indeed, these issues have also been discussed.
You know, the Co-Chairs have also made numerous statements in that regard, on the violation of cease-fire, establishment of a mechanism for the investigation of incidents. On our side we have stated several times that we are ready to move forward towards the establishment of that mechanism. We are not only ready, but we welcomed the establishment of that mechanism. Moreover, the Co-Chairs have presented on numerous occasions the details of the establishment of that mechanism. The sides discussed it at least twice – during the two summits held in Sochi.
You can look into the joint statements of the Presidents of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan adopted in the result of those summits, which contain a reference to the establishment of that very mechanism. In those statements some commitments were taken, that the sides, along with the Co-Chairs, should discuss the establishment of those mechanisms.
Question: And what happened…?
Edward Nalbandian: Just after those statements Azerbaijan backtracked few times. Today we also discussed the proposal on the establishment of that mechanism. It was reaffirmed that the Armenian sides presented their positive reaction to it.
In September in New York, during the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan within the framework of the UN General Assembly the Co-Chairs reaffirmed that Armenia has accepted the proposal, and they expect Azerbaijan to do the same. This issue was once again discussed during today’s meeting.
We hope that Azerbaijan will finally display another approach, because if we really wish to move the negotiation process forward, an appropriate atmosphere should be created.
Question: Mr. Minister, did the Co-Chairs sharply raise the issue of the use of tanks and heavy weaponry on the Line of Contact?
Edward Nalbandian: The Co-Chairs raised this question both today, and also in their statements. If we observe the developments since January of this year, the Co-Chairs issued targeted statements and calls, the recent one in Belgrade on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council, which is quite an important format. Every December, the Co-Chairs issue statements within that format.
In the latest statement they voiced a harsh criticism towards the use of heavy artillery and weaponry of different caliber. And it is obvious whom those statements are addressed to.
In response, Azerbaijan, in fact, slapped in the face of the Co-Chairs and moved towards the further escalation of the situation by the use of different weaponry.
This is the response of Azerbaijan to the proposals of the international community, as the Co-Chairs have the mandate of the international community and act on their behalf.
Question: Mr. Nalbandian, it is understandable. One more question. Warlick expressed an opinion that seems there is an optimistic tendency. Do you share the optimism of the Co-Chair? And you mentioned that there were opinions that Armenia should from now on reject to negotiate. In your opinion, did those opinions increase or decrease?
QuestionI have already answered to that question: there are these attitudes, but the negotiations have no alternative. Armenia has always been and is for the settlement of the issue through negotiations. As of having positive attitude or optimism, diplomats, in general, should be optimistic, because if you are not an optimistic, you are not a diplomat.
Question: What about the toast Warlick mentioned in his tweet, actually was there a toast? Is it true?
Edward Nalbandian: I think it is something imaginary. In any case, Presidents did not toast. They conducted serious negotiations.