Foreign visits
Working visit of President Serzh Sargsyan to French Republic

22.01.2018 - 24.01.2018

In the framework of his working visit to France, President Serzh Sargsyan met with President of Senate Gérard Larcher.

The President of Armenia first of all congratulated Gérard Larcher on being reelected to the high office of President of Senate and wished him every success and new achievements. Noting that while a year has passed since their previous meeting, President Sargsyan stressed that nevertheless, significant changes have taken place in both countries. France has a new, young and energetic President who is not only leading France ahead, but is also actively involved in international processes, while Armenia will soon shift from the semi-presidential system to a new parliamentary system of governance.

In this regard, the RA President and the President of the French Senate highlighted the role of inter-parliamentary dialogue in the furtherance of interstate relations. According to President Sargsyan, the frequent contacts evidence both sides’ commitment to ensuring continuity in the ongoing high-level political dialogue. In this context, Serzh Sargsyan recalled that this is his fourth meeting with Mr. Larcher in France. The President of Armenia said he would be glad to host the French Senate President in Armenia next time where he will be honored with a warm welcome.

Thankful for kind remarks and congratulations, Gérard Larcher described the Armenian-French relations as high-level relations developing in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual trust, which, according to him, should be further enhanced through more vigorous economic ties that are still lagging far behind the political intercourse. The interlocutors agreed that the two countries have a lot to do in this area.

Serzh Sargsyan and Gérard Larcher availed themselves of the opportunity to address the EU-Armenia relationships, highlighting the approaches and activities stipulated by the recently signed framework agreement.

The Senate President asked about the recent developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process, regional issues, as well as Armenia’s relations with the neighboring States. President Sargsyan and the President of the French Senate touched upon the Francophonie Summit to be held this year in Armenia which, according to them, would go a long way toward bolstering and strengthening bilateral relations.

At the end of the meeting, Serzh Sargsyan signed in the Book of Honorable Guests of the French Senate.

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In the framework of his working visit to France, President Serzh Sargsyan met with President of Senate Gérard Larcher.

The President of Armenia first of all congratulated Gérard Larcher on being reelected to the high office of President of Senate and wished him every success and new achievements. Noting that while a year has passed since their previous meeting, President Sargsyan stressed that nevertheless, significant changes have taken place in both countries. France has a new, young and energetic President who is not only leading France ahead, but is also actively involved in international processes, while Armenia will soon shift from the semi-presidential system to a new parliamentary system of governance.

In this regard, the RA President and the President of the French Senate highlighted the role of inter-parliamentary dialogue in the furtherance of interstate relations. According to President Sargsyan, the frequent contacts evidence both sides’ commitment to ensuring continuity in the ongoing high-level political dialogue. In this context, Serzh Sargsyan recalled that this is his fourth meeting with Mr. Larcher in France. The President of Armenia said he would be glad to host the French Senate President in Armenia next time where he will be honored with a warm welcome.

Thankful for kind remarks and congratulations, Gérard Larcher described the Armenian-French relations as high-level relations developing in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual trust, which, according to him, should be further enhanced through more vigorous economic ties that are still lagging far behind the political intercourse. The interlocutors agreed that the two countries have a lot to do in this area.

Serzh Sargsyan and Gérard Larcher availed themselves of the opportunity to address the EU-Armenia relationships, highlighting the approaches and activities stipulated by the recently signed framework agreement.

The Senate President asked about the recent developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process, regional issues, as well as Armenia’s relations with the neighboring States. President Sargsyan and the President of the French Senate touched upon the Francophonie Summit to be held this year in Armenia which, according to them, would go a long way toward bolstering and strengthening bilateral relations.

At the end of the meeting, Serzh Sargsyan signed in the Book of Honorable Guests of the French Senate.

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Within the framework of his working visit to France, President Serzh Sargsyan met today with President Emmanuel Macron of the French Republic at the Elysee Palace.

Welcoming the President of Armenia, President Macron noted that in addition to French-Armenian friendly relations, he expected to discuss cooperation in the multilateral format, including the interaction on the sidelines of La Francophone, as well as the furtherance of EU-Armenia relations after the signing of the framework agreement.

The President of France asked his counterpart about the latest developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process, President Sargsyan’s approaches concerning the promotion of this process, and Armenia’s relations with the countries in the region.

Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Emmanuel Macron noted the importance of developing inter-parliamentary relations and bolstering economic cooperation. Both sides underscored that economic relations should be overhauled to reach the current high level of political dialogue.

With reference to the Francophonie Summit to be held this year in Armenia, President Macron emphasized that France is supportive of Armenia and will back the preparations for the Summit as far as possible. The French President accepted with pleasure President Sargsyan’s invitation to attend the Summit, noting that he attached great importance to this important event.

Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Emmanuel Macron summed up the results of their meeting with statements made for mass media.

 

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Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan on the results of his meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of the French Republic

Thank you, Mr. President.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our first meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron was really impressive. Thank you, Mr. President, for open and sincere dialogue, as well as for the warm welcome shown to the Armenian delegation.

It is a well-known fact that the history of Armenian and French peoples is marked by friendship; we entertain a sincere feeling of love and respect for France and its talented people. Therefore, I want to reaffirm Armenia’s commitment to continue developing, expanding and deepening bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect and trust.

We discussed with President Macron several issues of mutual interest, and I would like to note with satisfaction that our viewpoints almost coincided on vital issues; in other matters they are very close. By the way, I mean both the bilateral and international agenda.

We adhere to the same principles and share the same values. On this basis, we will continue to expand the Armenian-French privileged relations and the ongoing high-level political dialogue, build on inter-parliamentary, decentralized, cultural and scientific-educational ties, and support each other in mutually sensitive matters.

Indeed, we talked about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is probably one of the most sensitive issues in our region. I expressed high appreciation of the long-standing approaches and efforts exerted by France as an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair country, aimed at settling the conflict peacefully and establishing security, stability and cooperation in our region.

Armenia is committed to continuing the talks brokered by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. People in Nagorno-Karabakh are known to strive for freedom and self-determination, and their struggle can not be doomed to failure.

In October, 2018, Armenia will be hosting the 17th Summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie, an event high on our bilateral agenda. For us, La Francophonie is not a mere form of language convergence: first of all, it is a commonwealth shaped around progressive civilization-oriented values, which has been instrumental in ensuring mankind’s progress, the bearer and the small particle of which we are.

We take the challenge with a sense of dignity and will spare no effort to make it a success. I am happy that President Macron reaffirmed his participation in the Summit, which is the key to success. And we have Mr. Macron’s endorsement to hold a Francophone Business Forum on the sidelines of the Summit which, indeed, will add momentum to Armenian-French economic relations. Thank you, Mr. President, for cooperation and support.

We agreed with my counterpart to keep the bilateral economic ties in the spotlight. Backed by our European partners, including the EU, the democratic reforms underway in Armenia, our commitment to bringing the local economy and legislation closer to European standards are promoting the business and investment-friendly environment year after year. In this regard, I reassured President Macron that we are more than interested in expanding the scope of the already well-established French entrepreneurship in our country.
I would also like to highlight the importance of close parliamentary ties between our countries. I am going to meet with members of the Armenia-France Friendship Group of the National Assembly of France. The Group’s activity fully complies with its name. For many years now, French parliamentarians have not only strived to build close inter-parliamentary cooperation, but they have also enriched and expanded the agenda of bilateral interstate relations.

Of course, a central topic of our discussion was the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, which was signed between Armenia and the European Union in November, 2017. It is a truly ambitious milestone, in the development of which France played a valuable role.

I availed myself of the opportunity to reiterate our appreciation for being supported all the way through the process of developing EU-Armenia relations. Armenia badly needs the continued support of your country in this matter. This agreement can open up new horizons for bilateral relations.

In conclusion, I would like to once again wish my counterpart Emmanuel Macron every success in his mission as the leader of France and express confidence that France shall become a more prosperous, more beautiful and safer country during his tenure of office.

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for a very good dialogue and the warm welcome.

***
Statement by President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron on the results of his meeting with RA President Serzh Sargsyan

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank President Serzh Sargsyan for visiting Paris, as well as for the warm and pleasant conversation we had during dinner. I reaffirmed that France will always be with Armenia.

Of course, I know the path your country has embraced as a pioneer on the way to building a stable and democratic country at the crossroads of the West and the East since independence. You are domiciled in a complicated neighborhood, and your country is struggling to build its future as it has always done in history.

Together we will meet Charles Aznavour. Not that I should mention that he is your ambassador and our compatriot, and that he has always been two in one. He will be with us today, but to my mind, he is first of all the devotee of his fans.

He is said to be in Provence at this moment, in Marseilles, where he has a concert, but he may join us tonight. He has always been a vital link connecting France and Armenia, and is one of those people who keep up our everyday relationships, such as the National Assembly Friendship Group President Marilosyan, who is now in attendance as the representative of our common memory and culture.

I will have the opportunity to speak of our deeply rooted relationships forged against the evil winds of history during the dinner hosted by the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations of France that I will attend next week.

I very much appreciate the role played by the Armenian Diaspora in our international involvement. I would like to communicate with them and listen to them. I also appreciate the struggle that the Armenian Diaspora of France carries on for the sake of Genocide commemoration. I am supportive of their endeavors, and I have great respect for it as I mentioned a couple of months ago.

2018 is a landmark year for Armenia. In May, you will celebrate the Centennial of Independence of the Republic of Armenia, and our European and Foreign Affairs Minister will take part in those events. Moreover, I will be visiting your country at your invitation, for which I thank you, Mr. President, as I am going attend the Francophonie Summit in October and pay a State visit to Armenia at President’s invitation. As we talked about the Summit, from now on, we will work together on its preparations and successful completion.

In this respect, the Yerevan summit is important for three reasons: first of all, Armenia will host a large diplomatic event and will have its place among the Francophone countries in a region where the French language should develop with all the values that it includes.

It is also important for the International Organization of La Francophonie as it is set to play an ever-growing role and become more attractive for many countries thanks to the demographic dynamics of Francophonie. Finally, it is important for France, because the summit comes at a moment when we have decided to reinvigorate the movement of Francophonie, and I will address it in more detail in March.
We decided that the outlook for this summit would give a new impetus to the French language, particularly to the French language in the system of education, trying to create bilingual secondary schools.

We also try to have as much cultural cooperation as possible and develop the French University in Armenia. It is also an important commitment to develop Charles Aznavour Museum-Cultural Center in Yerevan.

We also touched upon the Armenian-French bilateral relations and attached importance to the need for adding momentum to economic ties. We also talked about the investments of French companies in Armenia, in particular in the fields of tourism, renewable energy and food industry, for which we have serious plans to be made public in the coming months.

I welcome the signing of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement between Armenia and the European Union at the Eastern Partnership Summit on November 24, bearing in mind our country’s exceptional approach in this matter.

Finally, we touched upon international issues; especially considering the deeply-seated developments taking place in Armenia’s neighboring countries - Turkey, Iran and Russia. Those developments can be seen as a matter of concern, but also as a motivation to act.

I told President Sargsyan my conviction that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a frozen one, and that the current status quo is precarious. Only through negotiations it will be given a long-term solution for the benefit of the peoples living in the region.

It will be a solution that will call for bold compromises and specific actions on all sides. The resumption of negotiations on the part of you, Mr. President, and your Azeri counterpart in Geneva last October 16, which were continued later at the Foreign Ministers’ level, are encouraging. They should be followed by specific actions.

I also congratulate us all as the foreign ministers’ meeting in Krakow last week went off in a constructive atmosphere, and I hope that this enthusiasm will take us forward.

We are well aware that the process is still fragile, and the situation on the ground is unstable, so it is an absolute necessity to resume the dialogue and achieve progress.
At any rate, I reassured Mr. President of my personal involvement and my firm determination that France will continue to play its role as an impartial mediator. We closely follow the situation and, together with our Russian and American partners, we are considering any possibility to advance the settlement process.

Mr. President, thank you once again for coming to Paris at the beginning of the year. The coming months will be months of hard work. Thank you once again for your invitation that I accepted with pleasure, and will arrive in Armenia on a State visit this fall.

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On January 23, President Serzh Sargsyan met with President of the National Assembly of the French Republic François de Rugy in Paris. The President congratulated François de Rugy on being elected to such a high position and wished him every success. Serzh Sargsyan attached importance to inter-parliamentary relations which, according to him, perfectly complement the interstate agenda.

The President of Armenia praised the activity of the Armenia-France Interparliamentary Friendship Group aimed at strengthening the Armenian-French ties. According to the President, this activity is also reflected in the formation of an accurate idea of the country during MPs’ visits to Armenia and the dissemination of relevant information, which leads to a better and objective understanding of Armenia in France.

Serzh Sargsyan highly appreciated the French National Assembly’s contribution to the international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide which, according to the President, is in line with the reputation of France as a country advocating human rights.

The interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the multifaceted Armenian-French cooperation in the framework of international parliamentary organizations. President Sargsyan highly valued the efforts of France as a OSCE Minsk Group co-chair country towards the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, highlighting the visits paid by French parliamentarians to Artsakh, which in his opinion, provide an invaluable contribution to the fair settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and expose the misinformation disseminated by Azerbaijan.

During the meeting, President Serzh Sargsyan and National Assembly Speaker François de Rugy touched upon the further development of EU-Armenia relations and the recently signed framework agreement.

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Within the framework of his working visit to France, President Serzh Sargsyan on January 23 met with President of National Assembly France-Armenia Friendship Group Jacques Marilossian, President of Senate France-Armenia Friendship Group Gilbert-Luc Devinaz and members of these parliamentary groups. President Serzh Sargsyan and President of the France-Armenia Friendship Group Jacques Marilossian made speeches.

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Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan at the meeting with the France-Armenia Friendship Group

Dear Jacques Marilossian,
Dear MPs,

Today’s meeting is of course a meeting with true friends, for whom to be a member of a friendship group is not an end in itself, and friendship is a great value, who are really committed to promoting the Armenian-French friendship, our interstate agenda, mutual understanding between our peoples. And you have been amazingly successful in that mission of yours.

We are grateful to you for supporting us since independence. You have always been with us and supported Armenia, which is on the path of sustainable development, on important issues, including the promotion of democracy and reforms and the fair resolution of the Artsakh issue.

Meeting both in Armenia and in France, we always have questions to discuss, since our extensive agenda as it befits true friends is dynamic, constantly evolving in tune with our countries, regions and global developments.

I am glad that in keeping with the Armenian-French friendly spirit, parliamentary cooperation is also displayed on multilateral platforms at the Council of Europe, OSCE and NATO Parliamentary Assemblies.

I know, of course, that after the recent parliamentary elections the French delegations’ have been renewed in the aforementioned organizations, but I hope that today’s delegations will continue to cooperate with us and will always pursue the issues that are sensitive to Armenia as well.

Of course, I also highly appreciate the members of the European Parliament. We are not represented there, but I am very grateful to those MPs who remain sensitive to Armenian issues.

2017 was indeed an important year for both Armenia and France. The French people elected a new president, a new parliament. I am convinced that this National Assembly will continue to play a key role in the development and strengthening of France.

In Armenia, too, parliamentary elections were held, which became a stress-test for the ongoing constitutional reform and the newly adopted Electoral Code. And this means that democracy has become stronger in Armenia, thanks to which we can smoothly shift to parliamentary form of government in April.

Obviously, this was a crucial decision that we made based on the traditions and cultural peculiarities of our political field with a view to ensuring Armenia’s long-term sustainable development.

In 2017, the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement was signed. It means for us, first of all, that Armenia, the Armenian people, consider themselves as an integral part of European civilization, loyal to its origins, its creed, our common European values.

Dear Colleagues,

We are convinced that there is no alternative to peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I have stated this on all possible high tributes and now I reaffirm our commitment. And, of course, we highly appreciate the efforts made by our friendly and reliable partner France as an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair country toward the peaceful settlement of the conflict.

At the same time, everyone should clearly realize that the Nagorno-Karabakh problem stems from human rights. And it can be solved only through one of the fundamental and inalienable human rights – peoples’ right to self-determination.

Azerbaijan must recognize and respect Artsakh’s right to self-determination, and the security of Artsakh-based Armenians should be guaranteed with all possible international and internal mechanisms. And in this respect, France may have a decisive voice as it is an advocate of peace and human rights and has always prioritized them.

In this context, I attach great importance to French parliamentarians’ visits to Artsakh, as thereby they can share with the French society what they have seen over there, which can make a huge and invaluable contribution to the fair settlement of the Artsakh issue. Following your example, many lawmakers have already visited Nagorno-Karabakh which, of course, is yielding positive results.

Thanks to similar initiatives coming from other friendly countries, Artsakh’s people is overcoming step by step the propaganda ban imposed by Azerbaijan.

Dear Friends,

It is a pleasure for me to tell you that the spirit of Francophonie, the breath of France, French symbols will sprinkle this year in our capital. Yerevan is due to host the 17th Francophone Summit in October.

We must voice the extremely important message “Living Together,” and we will be glad to see all of you at this event.

And, of course, I hope you will continue to deepen effective cooperation with your Armenian counterparts, continue to visit Armenia and Artsakh, learn about our experiences, you can disseminate objective information for the benefit of our countries in favor of European democracy, humanism and peace. Your work is really very important to us.

As the French saying goes “Vouloir, c’est pouvoir.” I am confident that through consistent daily work, we can achieve more for the sake of our countries’ well-being and lasting friendship between our two peoples. And I want to repeat Mr. Marilossian’s words:
Long live France,
Long live Armenia,
Long live Armenian-French friendship!

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Remarks by France-Armenia Friendship Group President Jacques Marilossian, delivered at the meeting with French National Assembly and Senate Friendship Groups’ members

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The relations between Armenia and France are centuries old. They boast glorious chapters, but also black pages, including the Genocide when France became the second homeland for many Armenians and gave birth to famous singers, MPs, even Formula 1 champions.

Today, in the general context of bilateral relations, we particularly want to highlight the economic component. Another colleague of ours, Mr. Guillaume Gasparyan will pay special attention to the economic component of bilateral relations.

As we pointed out in the presence of President Macron, we are going to take a delegation of French MPs to Armenia this June. The program of our visit is still under development, but we intend to include officials responsible for higher education, including the leadership of the French University in Armenia.

We would like to somehow promote investments in Armenia. We would also like to share experiences with the parliamentarians of the two countries regarding constitutional procedures and the application of constitutional norms.

And finally, another topic which I think has been continuously discussed during your visit, namely the Francophonie Summit to be held in October. This important event, to be hosted in Yerevan, will once again symbolize your country’s deep relationship with our language and our cultural identity.

I have just talked about our plans for 2018, but there will undoubtedly be years to come to strengthen the alliance between our two countries.

So, may Armenian-French relations be everlasting. I suppose in Armenian it sounds as follows: “Long live the Armenian-French friendship.”

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President Serzh Sargsyan arrived in Strasbourg later yesterday to attend the January session of PACE. RA President’s program started with a meeting with Michele Nicoletti, the newly elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Prior to the meeting, President Serzh Sargsyan signed in the Golden Book of PACE and made a note which reads: “I have a feeling of great honor and responsibility every time I visit the Council of Europe - this unique forge for stating and protecting human rights - a structure which promotes values that are meant to ensure free, dignified, and prosperous life for people. Paid on the eve of the 17th anniversary of Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe, my visit offers another opportunity to state Armenia’s commitment to those values. Believing in the future of our organization, we find that when facing challenges in the region and beyond, the Council of Europe and PACE should speak the same language for the sake of our unity and authority.”

Then the President of the Republic met with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland. Before that Serzh Sargsyan made a note in the Golden Book of the Council of Europe and attended the signing of a number of CE Conventions and Protocols between Armenia and the Council of Europe.

“It is a great honor for me to be back to this cradle of modern democracy on our continent, which has a reputation of an advocate of human rights. Keen to expand cooperation, we consider that the ever-strengthening democracy in Armenia is the embodiment of our close relationship. Armenia reaffirms its unconditional commitment to these values as we work together to materialize the shared vision of democratic and peaceful Europe,” the President of Armenia wrote in the Golden Book of the Council of Europe.

President Serzh Sargsyan and CE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland summed up the results of their meeting with statements made for mass media.

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Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan on the results of his meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland

Thank you, Distinguished Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to get again hosted at the Council of Europe. I consider this visit of mine to be symbolic one since tomorrow, on January 25th, we will mark the 17th year of Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe. The Armenia of 2018 was completely different from the Armenia of 2001: our country has registered significant achievements in the consolidation of democracy, human rights and rule of law, to which a substantial contribution was made through our long-standing and valuable cooperation with the Council of Europe. We thank you for the cooperation we enjoy.
As always, we had a noteworthy discussion with the Secretary General Jagland. I am glad to register that we shared close views on the numerous issues we discussed. We agreed that especially in the course of the past decade multifaceted reforms took place in Armenia for safeguarding fundamental freedoms, introducing more open and effective governance, developing a dynamic civil society. It was also recognized through the reports of the Charter-based and monitoring bodies of this organization. The primary recipient and beneficiary of this cooperation is the citizen of the Republic of Armenia: it is the point of departure for the proper implementation of the vision that we have undertaken vis-à-vis Council of Europe.

Now Armenia is smoothly undergoing through a transition towards the parliamentary form of governance. We are grateful to the Council of Europe for its valuable contribution to this process. Of course, we continue multifaceted legislative reform under the provisions of the amended Constitution in cooperation with the Venice Commission and independent monitoring committees of the Council of Europe.
We, of course, also discussed the issues connected with the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I expressed our gratitude to Mr. Jagland for the support extended to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which is important for the advancement of the negotiating process. I reiterated support to the views that Secretary General expressed on numerous occasions that there should be no “grey zones,” when it comes to the human rights protection in Europe. That means that the Council of Europe should also equally consider the rights of the citizens residing in the conflict areas being led by the “status-neutral” approach.

We agreed on the need to distinguish powers of the various international structures and “division of labour” between them. With this in mind we registered that the Council of Europe priority area should be the protection of human rights. As regards the resolution of the conflicts, that issue should be pursued by the powers of the internationally agreed and mandated structures and formats for a given conflict.
I am glad that despite all difficulties Mr. Jagland manages to effectively move forward the Council of Europe agenda and bolster the high prestige it enjoyed. We strongly believe that dialogue is the prerequisite on the path towards finding solutions for the challenges our organization is facing, and throughout that dialogue the voice of all member States should be heard without any discrimination in order to safeguard the integrity and unity of the Council of Europe.

I also reiterated the invitation I had extended to Mr. Jagland to visit Armenia in order to continue with our open and constructive dialogue, move forward our joint agenda, as well as to provide him with an opportunity to assess the results of the constitutional reform, to which, as I have already underlined, the Council of Europe made its specific contribution. Thank you.

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Statement by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland on the results of his meeting with President Serzh Sargsyan

 

Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great honor and pleasure to invite the President of Armenia Mr. Sargsyan here today.

As you know we have a very broad cooperation between Armenia and Council of Europe. We have seen that Armenia has got a new constitution, a new electoral code, elections have been held under new electoral code, all the reform processes are on and we have had a very thorough cooperation on all these things. I’m very glad that the President is coming to visit us in order to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the entering into force of the European Convention on Human Rights. We have had a very interesting exchange on many topics, but I would also mention before I give you the floor, Mr. President, I appreciate very much all the treaties that you signed today.

I have never been signing that many before, together with the head of state and with a foreign minister doing the work together with me. I have never seen so many conventions and treaties being signed at the same time. So, it tells a lot of the progress that Armenia has gone through. So, now I would like to give the floor to you.

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President Serzh Sargsyan, who is in Strasbourg to attend in the January session of the PACE, met today with newly elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Michele Nicoletti.

At the beginning of the meeting, President Sargsyan congratulated Michele Nicoletti on being elected to the post of President of the Parliamentary Assembly, expressing the hope that his tenure might bring about positive changes in PACE, and Mr. Nicoletti’s personal qualities and experience would serve PACE’s best interests.

The interlocutors voiced satisfaction about the high standard of Armenia’s cooperation with the Council of Europe, the statutory bodies of the Council of Europe, including PACE and the CoE conventional and intergovernmental agencies.

President Sargsyan stressed that since Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe 17 years ago; the Council of Europe has been and remains a key partner supportive of reforms in Armenia. Serzh Sargsyan appreciated the expert and advisory assistance for comprehensive reforms underway in Armenia, especially as provided in recent years.

The President highlighted the importance of the PACE monitoring process, Co-rapporteurs’ reports on Armenia which, according to Serzh Sargsyan, are aimed at strengthening democracy, improving the citizens’ living standards, facilitating our country’s progress, as well as recording Armenia’s achievements.

As the President assured, Armenia is prepared for active cooperation. Serzh Sargsyan expressed confidence that Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system will have a positive impact on the further development of cooperation with PACE.

On behalf of his organization and himself, the PACE President appreciated Armenia’s steadfast progress on the way to stronger democracy, human rights and rule of law and assured of their readiness to continue the ongoing effective cooperation.

The parties exchanged views on the process of peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They also focused on other issues related to the further development of CoE-Armenia relations and cooperation agenda.

 

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President Serzh Sargsyan, who is in France on a working visit, met today with Gianni Buquicchio, President of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) in Strasbourg.

Congratulating Gianni Buquicchio on his fourth re-election to the office, the President of Armenia wished him every success and went on underscore that the high reputation of this nearly thirty-year-old institution is also due to Gianni Buquicchio’s consistent efforts that led to the establishment of the Venice Commission. As Serzh Sargsyan pointed out, the ongoing close and practical dialogue with the Venice Commission has gone a long way toward deepening Armenia-European Council effective cooperation.

The interlocutors next dwelt on the extensive work being done in Armenia to enforce the provisions envisaged by the constitutional reform and the improvement of the legal framework in the country.

The President of Armenia thanked the Commission for providing expert advice and professional assistance in the development of the new Electoral Code and other important legislative packages.

Gianni Buquicchio assured that the Venice Commission will continue to cooperate with Armenia, and they would be happy to be of service in the process of legislative reforms in Armenia.

 

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President Serzh Sargsyan today in Strasbourg participated in the winter plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe where he made a speech and answered to the questions of the parliamentarians.

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President Serzh Sargsyan's speech at the January session of the PACE


Honorable President of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Honorable Secretary General,
Distinguished Members of the Assembly,

At the outset, I would like to warmly greet and congratulate you, distinguished Mr. Nicoletti, on assuming the high office of the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. You have indeed embarked upon this mission in rather challenging times. I strongly believe that your extensive experience and strong personal qualities are exactly what is needed for the future success and reputation of our organization. I also wish to commend Mrs. Kyriakides for her excellent performance in the capacity of President of this Assembly.

The last time I had the honor to speak from this high podium was in 2013, when Armenia held the Chairmanship in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. That mission served as a key landmark in our integration within the larger family of the Council of Europe. I trust we met the expectations while carrying out that mission.

Tomorrow is January 25—the day on which we acceded to the Council of Europe exactly 17 years ago. At the time of joining this Еurope-wide structure, we were fully aware of the path that lay ahead of us. We were also fully aware that building and strengthening democracy would not be easy without the support and direct involvement of the Council of Europe structures. Indeed, through political will and joint constructive engagement, we managed to overcome numerous obstacles and to achieve profound reforms.

As I stand before this Assembly today, I can proudly state that we have honored the main commitments assumed towards the Council of Europe in terms of Armenia’s democratization. This is not merely our assertion. Our achievements in consolidating the democratic institutions have been recognized by the monitoring reports of the Council of Europe’s bodies. We firmly continue the efforts of joining the Europe-wide legal frameworks: the number of conventions Armenia has already signed up is close to 70. For us, this process is not simply about honoring the commitments that we undertook. In doing so, we are primarily implementing our own credo and our own convictions. We shall continue in that same vein. Moreover, our country’s progress on the path of reforms will get a new momentum and accelerate in April, when the amendments to the constitution will enter into full force, and when we will embark upon the implementation of activities envisaged by our Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

Any democracy is a living organism. Throughout our quarter-century-long efforts in State-building we aimed at nourishing this very organism. We have been fully conscious that democracy constantly requires attention, review, and advancement; it cannot afford a standstill, and must keep up with the rapidly changing times in order to remain viable. Along the lines of this logic, we undertook constitutional reform in Armenia, which received wide-ranging support of the Council of Europe.
The process will be completed in April with a clear vision of strengthening the three pillars of the Council of Europe—the rule of law, protection of human rights, and democracy. We chose a transition to a parliamentary form of government as the most suitable path for strengthening democracy in our country. I announced the launch of the process back in 2013 when I spoke from this high podium before this Assembly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since our accession to the Council of Europe, we have heard both encouragement and criticism from our partners. I have no doubt that both have helped Armenia’s progress.

Throughout this time, we have closely cooperated with the Venice Commission, based on the expert opinion of which we refined the constitutional reforms package. In an atmosphere of mutual trust, this efficient engagement continues up to date—through a process of implementing numerous new legislative solutions under the reformed Constitution. It was best manifested in the deliberations on Armenia’s new Electoral Code, which resulted in the adoption of a transparent and inclusive process with participation of various political actors across the board. We opted for something unprecedented— stipulating by law the demand to published the signed lists of voters after the election. As you are aware, this practice is not common, especially in light of personal data protection concerns. However, we decided and we did it, in order to secure greater public trust in the elections.

The new Electoral Code clearly proved its viability in the 2017 April parliamentary election, which was observed by a large number of invited observation missions, including a delegation of this Assembly.

It is important to underline that the new Electoral Code also resulted in allocation of a certain number of seats in the National Assembly exclusively for the representatives of the national minorities. It was yet another step towards achieving governance that is more inclusive.

We are currently reforming our judicial, criminal, and criminal procedure codes, as well as the Referendum Act and the Constitutional Court Act. We are well aware that only effective, independent, and free from corruption risks judiciary can safeguard the rule of law.

In this context, we appreciate the important role of the European Court of Human Rights, the jurisprudence of which plays an essential role in enhancing the quality of justice in our country. We have implemented a number of legislative reforms and improved the legal practices on the basis of the ECHR jurisprudence. These are important steps for consolidation of the human rights protection in our country. These efforts have not gone unnoticed: the Republic of Armenia is a leader among the Council of Europe member States in terms of the proper and persistent implementation of the judgments of the European Court.

We are convinced that proper protection of human rights and consolidation of democratic values cannot be effective without a relentless fight against corruption. It must be prioritized at all social and political layers. Armenia has contemplated a qualitatively new toolkit in this respect: in mid-2017, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a number of Acts that create a first-ever national entity for the prevention of corruption in line with all international standards. The entity will get effectively functioning in 2018, and the Parliament will elect its members. The anti-corruption package also resulted in the adoption of the Act on whistleblowing and protection of whistleblowers. We also criminalized illegal enrichement. We are determined and committed to continue our systematic and persistent efforts towards elimination of the evil of corruption day in and day out.

Distinguished Members of the Assembly,

Since accession to the Council of Europe, our country has born profound responsibility for honoring our obligations and respecting our collective commitment to the fundamental values of this organization.

However, in recent years, we have witnessed an unfortunate and unprecedented crisis of values in this organization: through their irresponsible conduct, to say the least, some MPs have acted contrary to the core mission of the Council of Europe and inflicted heavy damage upon the organization’s reputation. The greater family of the Council of Europe thus faced perhaps the most serious challenge since its foundation, as cases of bribing Assembly members and resulting dishonest voting were exposed.
Since 2014, a number of politically biased and egregious reports and resolutions triggered a sharp change in the attitudes of Armenian society towards this Assembly. However, these revelations justify the hopes that such corrupt practices are short-lived. Eventually, they will rise to the surface, stamping out resolutions thus adopted, and discrediting the individuals and powers that back them. I am convinced that the report of the independent inquiry body looking into the exposed instances of corruption will eradicate those defective practices and help to strengthen the member States’ trust in our organization.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Upon accession to the Council of Europe, Armenia also undertook a commitment to pursue efforts to settle the Nagorno Karabakh conflict by peaceful means only and to use its influence over Artsakh to foster the solution to the conflict. Although the Council of Europe is not a conflict resolution platform, I believe it is appropriate to briefly touch upon the issue in light of our aforementioned commitment.

Exactly 30 years ago, on the surface, everything could possibly seem calm and peaceful in Artsakh. However, the surface image was deceiving. We had never put up with Stalin’s decision to annex Artsakh to Azerbaijan.

Throughout all those years, the people of Artsakh were extremely anxious because the Baku authorities did their best to drive Armenians out of their historic cradle. According to the 1926 census, Armenians accounted for over 90 percent of Artsakh’s population; as a consequence of the Baku policies, the percentage had declined to just 77 percent of the population by 1988. I myself was among the Artsakhtsies that were worried about these developments.

In February 1988, the Artsakhtsies rose against the Baku policies and tried to exercise the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination in a peaceful way. I was at the forefront of the uprising. The Parliament of Artsakh took the decision, and people went out for peaceful rallies. Azerbaijan’s reaction was not simply a negative one. Azerbaijan’s reaction was the massacre of Armenians living in the town of Sumgait hundreds of kilometers away from Artsakh. It was an act of revenge against Armenians for the decision adopted by Artsakh.

One side of the scale had a parliament’s decision and a peaceful demonstration, and the other had violence and massacres. Everyone who needs to deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution must clearly comprehend this fact.

Hence, all attempts to put the parties of the conflict on the equal footing are inherently futile. Such an equation is nothing but false impartiality. It is an equality sign between the perpetrators of the Sumgait massacre and its victims. On February 27, we shall commemorate the victims of the Sumgait massacre.

The massacres went on to become the state policy, as Azerbaijan unleashed a war aimed at the complete annihilation of the Armenian population of Artsakh. Given the deficit of justice and the threat of extermination, Artsakh had no other choice but to resort to self-defense. Yet again, I was at the forefront, and I have never had the slightest regret about the choice I made then.

The time is ripe for the resolution of this conflict. It requires strict respect for the established ceasefire regime and honoring all the agreements reached in the past. Settlement must be peaceful and overcome the deficit of justice. No matter where I find myself, I will always be at the forefront for this matter as well. The parties shall assume joint responsibility for the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and find a compromise solution, a middle ground settlement.

The negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs is the only internationally agreed format for the resolution of this conflict. The international community, including Council of Europe, has reiterated its support to this format on numerous occasions. The commitment undertaken by Armenia and Azerbaijan requires a joint and concerted effort of all the parties to the conflict.
However, Azerbaijan is obviously not ready for it. The aggression that Azerbaijan unleashed against Artsakh in April 2016 was characterized by egregious violations of the international humanitarian law against the peaceful civilians and prisoners of war. It struck a heavy blow upon the negotiation process by reawakening dreadful memories of the Sumgait massacres.

Unfortunately, this Assembly has at times allowed developments that turned a blind eye to the aforementioned facts, watering the mill of those who are not interested in peaceful settlement of the conflict. I call upon all the members of this Assembly to apprehend the potential negative consequences of a careless or biased language for the fragile stability in Artsakh.

Facing a permanent threat of war, Artsakh continues to build democracy and to promote respect for human rights. In all of these initiatives, Armenia will continue to provide full support to Artsakh. Armenia will tenaciously defend the rights and interests of Artsakh and help to strengthen Artsakh’s security. As the Secretary General of the Council of Europe has rightly noted, there must be no grey zones in Europe when it comes to the protection of human rights. I hope that in the not-too-distant future, this organization, too, will stand by the side of Artsakh with all of its expertise. A person living in Artsakh deserves it; the people of Artsakh have long earned this right.
The protection of human rights is a priority for the Artsakh government: as to the fundamental documents of the Council of Europe, Artsakh unilaterally subscribed to the European Convention of Human Rights back in 2015 and undertook to implement it fully. Commendably, Nagorno Karabakh has achieved all of this on its own, without tangible support from any international organization. It proves once again that in Artsakh respect for and protection of human rights are not mere words, but a conscious and determined choice.

Artsakh cannot stay out of the international processes simply because Azerbaijan is opposed to it. The authorities of Azerbaijan commit flagrant violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms—not least the criminal prosecution of opposition figures and even their abduction from the territory of another country.

This brings me back to the work of the European Court of Human Rights: the ECHR has examined applications by Azerbaijani citizens that are also related to the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I understand that the ECHR takes up these issues with the purpose of precluding “grey areas” and safeguarding human rights throughout Europe. Nevertheless, political language and assessments in the decisions of the ECHR can have direct negative impact on the negotiation process. Therefore, it is necessary for the ECHR to exercise extreme caution in its assessments and avoid any political language.

Distinguished Members of the Assembly,

Our national economies are more vulnerable than ever in the face of present-day global challenges. As a result, welfare and prosperity are at the center of public attention. The challenging realities in our region in their turn undermine the economic growth potential. Therefore, we aspire to make the best use of all available resources, including the opportunities availed to us by integration structures.
Five years ago, in 2013, shortly after Armenia’s decision to accede to the Eurasian Economic Union, many people, including a number of them in this Assembly, expressed skepticism towards Armenia. However, Armenia proved her ability to combine engagement in different integration structures and even to serve as a role model of cooperation. On this day two months ago, on November 24, on the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, Armenia and the European Union concluded a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, which contemplates a completely new quality of engagement. Armenia’s fully-fledged integration in the Eurasian Economic Union was not an obstacle for that matter in any way or shape.

Today, we actively continue to extend our international engagement in various other directions. The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie is a case in point; that is for us a unique platform of engagement in terms of both language and culture, as well as for promotion of human rights. Armenia will have the honor to host the 17th Summit of la Francophonie in October 2018 in Yerevan.

The motto of the summit will be “Vivre ensemble/Living Together,” and a pact with the same name will be adopted for strengthening human rights and intercultural and interreligious dialogue. For us, it is not simply a motto: the Armenian nation knows the price of hate speech, intolerance, and discrimination, and we fight against such practices on all possible platforms.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Next year, we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Council of Europe. It is a crucial landmark for our greater family, which has been fighting for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe for almost seven decades now. An organization created by only 10 States, it now unites 47 States of the European Family with a population of 820 million. I consider this to be an enormous achievement that should be cherished; no effort should be spared in building a positive agenda and further enhancing the role and significance of this organization.
The mission of the Council of Europe, however, extends beyond this. The organization has a great role to play in political as well as civilizational terms. I believe that the organization needs a further stimulus in redefining its role and significance in Europe-wide political architecture. Contemporary mechanisms and arrangements are truly wanted by our societies in order to increase this Organization’s effectiveness. For quite some time now, we are closely following the commendable process of reforms initiated in the Council of Europe by the Secretary General.

Armenia supports the idea of convening a 4th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe. I believe it will be a good opportunity for identifying the most pressing problems of our continent and revisiting the vision of a stronger and more inclusive Europe. I am confident that the founders of the Council of Europe should have been very proud about the fact of uniting 47 countries of Europe under one roof. This is an achievement the importance of which should not be underestimated; this unity needs continuous support from all of us.

Armenia stands ready for the persistent journey towards a more mature form of engagement and cooperation. Armenia stands ready to contribute by all means at its disposal to the success of the Council of Europe—our shared home of democracy and the rule of law.

Thank you.

***

Today President Serzh Sargsyan participated the ceremony of handing the official souvenir, Armenian khachkar, to the Council of Europe on behalf of the President of the Republic of Armenia. The model-plate of the khachkar was unveiled by President Serzh Sargsyan and the Secratary General Thorbjørn Jagland. On this occasion the President of the Republic and Thorbjørn Jagland made speeches. At the end of the ceremony President of the Republic showed the khachkar, situated in the yard, at the entrance of the Council of Europe building, to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, as well as Prime-Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who also participated in the ceremony.

***

Remarks by President Serzh Sargsyan at the ceremony of handing the official souvenir to the Council of Europe

Distinguished Secretary General,
My fellow compatriots,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In line with the well-established and fine tradition and to mark the 65th anniversary of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in force, today Armenia donates to the Council of Europe a vivid token of Armenian nation’s historical and cultural heritage, a khachkar, a cross-stone. It is an honor and privelege for us that it will be erected in the heart of Strasbourg, under the protection of human rights and democracy, in order to signify our unswerving dedication to those values.

The two-milenia long history of the art and craft of making cross-stones is also a manifestation of the contemporary Armenian culture: today the craftsmen continue to develop the historical tradition; they continue to skillfully reproduce and renew it, they continue to creatively review the tradition and introduce it anew.

It is no coincidence that the art of the Armenian cross-stone, which creates an impression of eternity on a limited surface, is included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. This monument reflects the values that are the founding pillars of the Council of Europe. All the monuments of the cultural heritage in the Council of Europe area, undoubtedly, should benefit from the universally applied mechanisms of protection. And such a commitment should be guaranteed by any State that deems itself part and parcel of the values of civilization.

Mr. Secretary General,

Today’s ceremony, I believe, bears great symbolism for all of us, including the Armenian French community of Strasbourg, Alsace region and Armenian citizens employed here since it is the first Armenian monument erected in this part of France. Let it remind the visitors of this beautiful park of the inalienable and integral nature of the founding values of this organization.

I thank you.

***

Remarks by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe at the ceremony of handing the official souvenir to the CoE

President Sargsyan, Mr. Nalbandyan, Mr. Rasmussen, Mr. Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to accept this gift: a magnificent replica of a medieval Khachkar- a memorial stone and a symbol of Armenia’s rich culture.

Marking the 65-th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights entering into force, this present will act as a daily reminder of why we are here. To protect and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law to the benefit of over 800 million citizens across all 47 of our member states.

The stone-and your personal presence here today President Sargsyan-are also a clear illustration of Armenia’s commitment to our values and to our pan-European legal space.

In today’s challenging times for Europe, that attachment is all the more important and all the more appreciated.

Indeed, since joining the Council of Europe in 2001, Armenia has taken significant steps to implement its obligations through a series of comprehensive domestic reforms.

This process is still ongoing but significant progress has already been achieved.
Among the latest developments, we have seen welcome constitutional reforms and we have noted the government’s determination to protect and promote women rights.
This was illustrated by the recent adoption of a law on preventing and combating domestic violence.

That in turn has paved the way for the signature of the Istanbul Convention.
Armenia also demonstrated sound leadership within the Organisation during its first chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in 2013.

During its term of office some major initiatives were carried out to reinforce our Court’s system, through the adoption of additional protocols to the European Convention.
So, as Armenia continues on the path to fully meeting its membership obligations and commitments, its people and authorities can count on the support of the Council of Europe.

Meanwhile, we accept this gift with pleasure and gratitude.

***

 

President Serzh Sargsyan’s program of visit to Strasbourg ended with a meeting held with President of the European Court of Human Rights Guido Raimondi.

The President of Armenia noted that the European Court of Human Rights, which next year will be marking its 60th anniversary, is one of the pillars of the Council of Europe Convention System. Stressing that our country attaches great importance to cooperation with the ECHR, the President noted that, in his conviction, all member States should do their utmost to maintain the authority of the court as it stems from the best interest of member States and their citizens.

Serzh Sargsyan reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to continued effective cooperation, which is very important from the perspective of reforming the judicial system in Armenia, improving the quality of justice, upgrading the law enforcement practice in order to meet the European standards in protecting the fundamental human rights, in general.

Guido Raimondi thanked the Armenian President for visiting the ECHR as part of his hectic program in Strasbourg and highlighted the importance of such meetings and contacts. The ECHR President presented his organization’s ongoing dialogue with the national courts of member States and the efforts aimed at deepening cooperation. He expressed conviction that the assistance to increase efficiency in the proceedings of national courts will help significantly reduce the number of ECHR applications.

Mr. Raimondi was pleased to note that Armenia’s Constitutional and Cassation Courts had joined the common network of European Supreme Courts which, as an important platform for exchanging information, currently involves 64 higher courts from 34 member States.

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