The normalization process with Turkey could have created new opportunities for both of our nations and the region at large, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said, addressing the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament.
He said “Armenia spared no effort to see it succeed.” “Turkey has missed historic chance of reconciliation. Armenia does not resort to the language of preconditions, but equally, we shall never accept preconditions put forth by anyone,” the Foreign Minister stated.
Below is Edward Nalbandian’s statement in full:
Distinguished members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank for the invitation to address the Committee on Foreign Affairs. I recall our last meeting with Chairman McAlister and members of this Committee in Yerevan, last May, where we had a very open and sincere exchange of views on many issues of mutual interest. Today I look forward to continue our discussions.
Distinguished members of the European Parliament,
Inter-parliamentary cooperation has been an indispensable and integral part of the political dialogue between Armenia and the European Union. The Parliamentary Cooperation Committee provides a productive platform in this regard. Its last session has been successfully convened in Yerevan last December. As our country is about to complete its transition to parliamentary system of governance the role of the inter-parliamentary cooperation gains an increased significance.
Needless to say, that Parliaments stand at the forefront of promotion of democratic values and human rights. Strengthening of democratic institutions has always been among priorities of the Armenia-EU cooperation. The April 2017 Parliamentary elections in Armenia demonstrated that the progress achieved in upholding fundamental freedoms is sustainable and irreversible and we acknowledge the important contribution of the European Union in this regard. We thank the European Parliament for joining the 650 members strong team of international observes in Armenia, which concluded that the parliamentary elections were well administered and fundamental freedoms were respected. The European Union on its part stated that the election result reflected the overall will of the Armenian people. We stand ready to continue our cooperation with the European Union, including through the Human Rights Dialogue, as well as with the OSCE ODIHR, Council of Europe and all other partners in implementing their recommendations on further improving the electoral process and strengthening our democracy.
The further consolidation of democratic institutions, rule of law, strengthening of judiciary, good governance are at the core of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement signed last November between Armenia and the European Union that was among the major deliverables of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels. The Agreement reflects the depth and scope of our partnership and defines the guidelines for future collaboration. We strongly believe that it will contribute to the successful realization of the reform process and sustainable development of our country in a number of spheres that are covered by the Agreement. We have announced that Armenia will finish the ratification process by April.
Dear friends, we count on your support for the smooth ratification of the Agreement in the national parliaments.
The importance of this Agreement is not limited to the Armenia-EU relations, it is widely acknowledged and quoted as a successful example that brings integration processes closer to each other and effectively bridges interests in the spirit of cooperation. Indeed, Armenia laid the foundations of enhanced partnership with the European Union being an active member of the Eurasian Economic Union. In this regard the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement can become a positive precedent for interactions between different integration frameworks. It is indicative that just three days ago at the Munich Security Conference during the roundtable with the President of Armenia both the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy and the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia’s Federation Council praised Armenia as a role model of the cooperative approach with different integration formats.
The signing of CEPA is not a stand-alone example of the Armenia-EU partnership. Before coming to this meeting I have put my signature together with High Representative Mogherini, as the Co-Chairs of the Armenia-EU Cooperation Council, under the document on the implementation of the Armenia-EU Partnership Priorities document that has been negotiated in parallel with the CEPA and together with it will serve as the main guideline for the Armenia-EU partnership.
In the past two years Armenia has delivered in different fields of mutual cooperation with the EU, namely joining COSME, HORIZON 2020 programs, initialing the Common Aviation Area Agreement, becoming a part of the extended core Trans-European Transport network (TEN-T), finalizing the accession to the “Creative Europe”, that will be signed next month. We are looking forward to the new endeavors, attaching particular importance among others to the launch of visa liberalization dialogue. We appreciate the strong supportive voice of the European Parliament in this regard.
The “20 deliverables for 2020” that the Heads of State and Government have approved at the Brussels Summit offers not only a good action plan for the coming years but also a new revised architecture of the Eastern Partnership, which is directly linked to the performance of the partner countries and more importantly to their political will to deliver on the shared commitments.
We also believe that the principles of differentiation and incentive based approach (more-for-more) offer a unique opportunity to develop a multi-track or multi-layer cooperation, thus allowing us to maintain the integrity of the Eastern partnership.
Distinguished members of the European Parliament,
Obviously, Armenia does its best to improve the partnership climate. However, the cooperative mood in our region continues to be shadowed by the conflicts and dividing lines.
Almost 30 years past after the fall of the Berlin wall Turkey continues to keep its borders with Armenia closed.
When President Serzh Sargsyan assumed the office ten years ago, he initiated a process of normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey without any preconditions. Turkey agreed to proceed on this basis and a year later Armenia and Turkey signed in Zurich two protocols with this purpose. However, just after the signature Turkey has backtracked from the agreements. Not only has it refrained from ratifying the protocols, but Ankara has returned to the language of preconditions that it had used before the beginning of the process. Turkey has attempted to link the Armenian-Turkish normalization process to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on ungrounded claims of the Azerbaijani side. Any Turkish attempts to interfere in the Karabakh process or to link the normalization of relations with the Nagorno-Karabakh talks, harms both processes. This is a position that the whole international community have emphasized several times.
From the beginning of the process we made it clear in our contacts with the Turkish side as well as publicly that Armenia will never put under question the fact of the Armenian Genocide or the importance of its international recognition. True reconciliation does not consist of forgetting the past or feeding young generations with tales of denial. Armenia did not require the recognition of Genocide by Turkey as a precondition for the normalization of the relations. Paradoxically it is Turkey, that for 100 years has continuously denied the Genocide, has attempted to manipulate that issue, using it as another precondition. While I touched upon this issue, speaking in the premises of the European Parliament, I would like to recall that one of the first resolutions on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide was adopted here back in 1987. Likewise, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Parliament for expressing its principled position on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015.
The normalization process with Turkey could have created new opportunities for both of our nations and the region at large. Armenia spared no effort to see it succeed. Turkey has missed historic chance of reconciliation. Armenia does not resort to the language of preconditions, but equally, we shall never accept preconditions put forth by anyone. As President Sargsyan made it clear last Saturday in his speech at the Munich Security Conference “We cannot wait eternally for Turkey’s response”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our discussion with you would be incomplete without reflecting on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
In 1999 the European Parliament adopted a resolution which stipulated that Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence following similar declarations made by the former Soviet Republics. Indeed, Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of independent Azerbaijan. However, the leadership of Azerbaijan continuous to claim Nagorno-Karabakh, but not only. On February 8th the President of this country declared that different regions of Armenia, including its capital Yerevan are historic lands of Azerbaijan, where Azerbaijanis must return and that it is Baku’s political and strategic goal. I will leave to your consideration if this is a territorial claim towards a neighboring country, saber-rattling, or something else. But, it is well known that Baku’s belligerence on use of force and threat of force have many times turned into real actions.
In April 2016 Azerbaijan again unleashed large scale military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh that was accompanied by the gross violations of the international humanitarian law, including killing of children, women, elderly people, mutilation of the corpses, beheadings of captured soldiers in the style used by notorious terrorist organizations. Obviously, this aggression has caused a serious damage to the peace process. Two summits were organized by the mediator Co-Chair countries – USA, Russia and France in the aftermath of aggression, in Vienna and St. Petersburg aimed at stabilizing the situation and creating conducive conditions for the advancement of the peace process. However, Azerbaijan backtracked from the agreements reached at these Summits and refused to implement them. This concerns first and foremost to the creation of the mechanism for investigation of the ceasefire violations and the expansion of the monitoring capacities of the team of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, and of course the strict adherence to the trilateral ceasefire agreements of 1994-1995. There was a one and half year long interval between the high level meetings before the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met again in Geneva last October. The joint statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan issued together with the Co-Chairs after the Summit reflected what Armenia has been long advocating for: to intensify the negotiation process and to take additional steps to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact, meaning the realization of the agreements reached at the Vienna and St. Petersburg Summits.
It is not just Armenia that strongly advocates for the implementation of these agreements. The Co-Chairs have continuously stressed the necessity of respecting commitments reached at the Summits and the last such statement was made only days ago. However, Azerbaijan fails to respect the agreements. The recent most illustrative case was the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Krakow in January, where was agreed in principle to implement the expansion of the Office of the Personal Representative. Armenia and the Co-Chairs issued almost identical statements reflecting this agreement while Azerbaijan has not made any reference to it either after the meeting or up to now. When the Co-Chairs were back to the region few days ago, Azerbaijan again failed to honor the implementation of the agreement on the expansion.
It is important for the international community to speak in one voice with the Co-Chair countries to support their approaches with the aim of advancing the peace process. All conflicts are different and it is not possible to put them together or address in the same cluster. There are diverse approaches of the international community in dealing with the different conflicts. In the case of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process the Co-Chair countries have reiterated on numerous occasions, including at the level of presidents, that three principles of the international law form the basis of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution, namely the non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples. These principles were elaborated by the Co-Chairs as an integrated whole and, as they stated, any attempt to select one of them at the expense of others would make it impossible to come to a settlement. All OSCE participating States, including Azerbaijan, endorsed these principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution during the December 2009 Ministerial Council in Athens. The European Parliament has supported these principles in a number of resolutions. So did the European Union, including in the Comprehensive and Enhanced partnership Agreement with Armenia. This is what the entire international community endorses.
Any deviation from this compromise language proposed by the impartial mediators would damage the concerted efforts of the international community, would undermine the work of the Co-Chair countries, would send a false signal of disunity that may be exploited by the enemies of peace and eventually may derail the peace talks, open the door for new hostilities. Therefore, this issue should be taken with extreme caution. The position and language of those who have declared their support to the Co-Chairs approaches could not differ from one document to another. It should be made clear once and forever that there is no alternative to the negotiated solution proposed by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, including the three principles of international law suggested by them as the basis for the conflict resolution.
Armenia has continuously reiterated that will continue its efforts together with the Co-Chair countries towards exclusively peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Here I will stop my remarks and will look forward to your questions.