Foreign visits
Օfficial visit of President Serzh Sargsyan to the Holy See, and working visit to the Republic of Italy

04.04.2018 - 06.04.2018

President Serzh Sargsyan’s official visit to the Holy See started with a private meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis this morning.

The President of Armenia thanked the Supreme Pontiff for his dedication and sustained attention to bilateral relations and for entertaining a sincere and warm dialogue between Armenia and the Vatican. Serzh Sargsyan stressed that this is the fifth meeting with His Holiness for the past few years, which speaks for itself. Noting that it is always a great honor for him to meet with Pope Francis, the Armenian President remembered warmly the Pope’s 2016 visit to Armenia, which was held under the motto of “Pilgrimage to the First Christian Country,” as well as his 2015 visit to the Vatican and the participation in the Divine Liturgy at St. Peter’s Cathedral, which became a historical event, since the genius child of the Armenian nation, St. Gregory of Narek was conferred upon the title of Doctor of the Ecumenical Church and was recognized as one of 36 greatest thinkers of the Catholic Church.

Noting that the statue of St. Gregory of Narek stands among the statues of other great saints in the heart of the Catholic world - the Vatican - Serzh Sargsyan expressed profound gratitude to the Pope for making a decision to that effect and went on to advise that a copy of the statue will be placed in Echmiadzin, the spiritual center of the Armenian Church. Thus, St. Gregory of Narek and his legacy shall become an eternal symbol of solidarity between the two Christian communities.

During the their private talks, the President of the Republic of Armenia and the Pope expressed readiness to further develop and deepen the Armenia-Vatican interstate relations, strengthen the spiritual and cultural ties between the two countries.

At the end of the meeting, the parties exchanged gifts. President Sargsyan presented the silver scale-model of St. Gayane Church to the Pope. His Holiness Pope Francis handed to the President a marble copy of the sculpture depicting the Holy Family, kept in one of Vatican’s museums, as well as copies of the last three books authored by the Pope. 

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President Serzh Sargsyan met with State Secretary of the Holy See Pietro Parolin. The President of Armenia thanked the Secretary of State for hospitality, noting that his visits to the Vatican had always been marked by landmark events. One of them is the unveiling of the statue of St. Gregory of Narek in the Vatican, which comes to reaffirm and evidence the spiritual affinities between Armenia and the Holy See. The President of Armenia assured of our country’s willingness to develop and deepen spiritual and cultural ties with the Vatican, based on shared Christian values and common cultural heritage.

President Sargsyan highly valued Pietro Parolin’s activities which have gone a long way toward strengthening the Vatican’s role in the international arena as a flagman of peace, tolerance, mutual understanding and human rights. The President of Armenia expressed the hope that the Secretary of State would continue to promote the development of relationships with Armenia.

While discussing further steps to strengthen and develop bilateral relations, the interlocutors exchanged views on regional issues and challenges, including the talks over the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Serzh Sargsyan briefed the Secretary of State on the latest developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process. In this context, the parties highlighted the need for an exclusively peaceful resolution of the conflict.

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On the margins of his official visit to the Holy See, President Serzh Sargsyan attended the ceremony of unveiling the statue of Doctor of the Church St. Gregory of Narek in Vatican. The statue was unveiled by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See Mikayel Minasyan.

The nearly two-meter-high bronze statue was assembled in the Czech Republic: the author is People’s Artist of Armenia, sculptor David Yerevantsi; the architect is Michael Hasratyan. This initiative came into effect through the efforts of Ambassador Mikayel Minasyan, co-funded by well-known Russian businessman Artur Janibekyan and organized by Vardan Karapetyan, responsible officer at the Culture Department of the Armenian Embassy in the Holy See. The statue is made of two copies: one was erected in Vatican, and the second will be installed in Echmiadzin, the spiritual center of all Armenians.

After the unveiling of the statue in the Vatican Gardens, an ecumenical ceremony was held, attended by His Holiness Pope Francis, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

The President of Armenia then visited the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in the Holy See where an awards ceremony was held. Under presidential decrees, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See Mikayel Minasyan was awarded the 2nd Degree Medal For Services to Motherland for contribution to the strengthening and development of interstate relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Holy See; Head of the Office of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in the Holy See Mariam Yeremyan was awarded the Gratitude Medal; philanthropist Smbat Karapetyan was awarded Mkhitar Heratsi Medal for tireless charitable and humanitarian activities; Italian Senate’s Armenia-Italy Parliamentary Friendship Group member, Senator Aldo Di Biagio was awarded Mkhitar Gosh medal for valuable contribution to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

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Today, the President of the Republic of Armenia attended the signed between the Republic of Armenia and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (Sovereign Order of Malta). The document was signed by RA Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, H.E. Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.

The agreement was signed considering the excellent relations established between Armenia and the Sovereign Order of Malta as an international depoliticized humanitarian entity since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1998, the long tradition of cooperation in the spheres of healthcare and social assistance, as well as the willingness to further develop the existing ties of friendship and cooperation, promote the Sovereign Order’s humanitarian activities in the Republic of Armenia.

The Cooperation Agreement seeks to formulate a common framework for cooperation and set out guidelines for the promotion of patient care, social and healthcare activities carried out by the Sovereign Order of Malta in the territory of the Republic of Armenia.

Armenia and the Sovereign Order will cooperate in healthcare, food safety, volunteerism, disaster risk reduction, social programs, and other spheres subject to mutual agreement.

Following the signing of the Cooperation Agreement, President Serzh Sargsyan and Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto made statements for the mass media.

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Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan after the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the Sovereign Order of Malta

Your Excellency,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I am grateful for being hosted at the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and enjoying a warm welcome here. I am very much inspired, as today I joined Pope Francis to attend the unveiling ceremony of the statue of Doctor of the Church St. Gregory of Narek, the emeritus son of the Armenian nation. We consider it another eternal symbol of solidarity between the two Christian communities.

The present visit is of great significance to me. This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Looking back at the past years, I am glad to state that we have something to put on record today. As early as in 1998, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta accredited Ambassador to Armenia, and we reciprocated a few years ago.

A new chapter was opened up in the history of our diplomatic relations with the first-ever visit paid to our country by the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 2016, adding relish to our cooperation, which is imbued with the spirit of friendship. Bearing in mind my today’s visit, we can confidently state that the desire to keep up the pace of high-level dialogue is mutual, which can help us make a better use of the potential inherent in bilateral relations.

The newly signed cooperation agreement provides for joint activities in humanitarian affairs and healthcare. This agreement is a manifestation of the will to tap the cooperation potential, and we must have it serve its purpose.

We all know that close political, economic and cultural ties were forged between the first Christian country and the ancient Christian Order in the Middle Ages, based on mutual understanding and the reciprocal desire to support each other which, together with the shared Christian values, laid a solid groundwork for building interstate relations between Armenia and Malta.

Indeed, the Maltese Order’s humanitarian activity across the globe deserves the highest praise. Our country is among its beneficiaries. We are grateful that the Sovereign Order has been implementing humanitarian projects in Armenia ever since the devastating earthquake of 1988 and has become our best friend.

In this context, I especially want to emphasize that the efforts of Maltese Knights and thousands of volunteers in 120 countries, regardless of nationality or belief, stem from the Christian principles of solidarity, philanthropy and support of those in need.

These activities go in tune with the humanitarian mission of the Sovereign Order of Malta, and fit into our people’s centuries-old vision of tolerance and harmonious co-existence.

The Sovereign Order is always where the most urgent help is needed, be it in Syria, Congo, Haiti, or Afghanistan. Despite its scarce resources, Armenia, too, sent humanitarian relief to the brotherly people of Syria during the country’s worst days. These are just the values that unite us, and the promotion of these values can challenge today’s manifestations of xenophobia and extremism in the world.

Thank you very much.

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Statement by the Lieutenant of the Grand Master after the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the Sovereign Order of Malta

I am happy to host President Serzh Sargsyan and his delegation as they are paying an official visit today.

Two years have just passed since the Grand Master’s first-ever visit to Armenia, which is a vivid testimony to the common will to strengthen the already established best relationships and expand cooperation in the healthcare and humanitarian spheres.

On this occasion, the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Republic of Armenia have signed a cooperation agreement for a period of ten years. I mean an agreement based on strong ties developed during the 20 years of diplomatic relations and aimed at strengthening the healthcare and welfare activities carried out by the Sovereign Order of Malta in the Republic of Armenia.

Among the key activities in Armenia, I would like to single out our involvement in the Zvartnots orphanage that cares for over a hundred children, the health center in Dilijan which deals with the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis, the educational institution for children with hearing impairments and the assistance provided to the hospital in Echmiadzin.

The present commitment matches that of the past when our volunteers were mobilized to assist Armenian refugees during World War I and, some decades later in 1988, to help survivors of the earthquake that caused 25,000 casualties. On that occasion the Order sent medical and rescue teams and managed the transport abroad of many injured children in need of delicate surgery.

On that occasion, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta sent a group of doctors and rescuers to the disaster zone and organized the transfer of many injured children abroad who needed most complicated surgical intervention.

The link between Armenia, the oldest Christian nation, and the Order of Malta, one of the most ancient Catholic religious orders, goes beyond humanitarian and social aspects – albeit always a priority – to embrace our ancient traditions such as the commitment to protect the Christian minority in the Middle East.

In this respect, I recall the Order’s participation in the 2015 commemoration in Yerevan for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide and, a few days earlier, in the celebrations during which His Holiness Pope Francis spoke for the first time of the massacre of the Armenians as the first genocide of the 20th century.

The Republic of Armenia and the Sovereign Order of Malta are linked by threads that lead to a terrible tragedy.

I am convinced that today’s visit ushers in a new stage of cooperation, which goes through common efforts to prevent other tragedies similar to the one suffered by the Armenian people a century ago.

The Sovereign Order of Malta is a Catholic institution, neutral and apolitical. Through the diplomatic network, the Order serves peoples who are in trouble because of war, famine, persecution, and poverty. It does not pursue predetermined agendas, but it merely dedicates itself to the task of alleviating human suffering and protecting the vulnerable.

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After the signing earlier today of a cooperation agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, President Serzh Sargsyan met with Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Thanking the Sovereign Order of Malta for the warm welcome shown to his delegation, the President of Armenia evoked fond memories of Grand Master’s first-ever visit to Armenia, which President Sargsyan considered to be a landmark event in the annals of diplomatic relations between Armenia and the Maltese Order. As the President pointed out, it paved the way for the furtherance and expansion of bilateral cooperation which evolves in the spirit of friendship.

The President of the Republic of Armenia and the Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta concurred in the fact that the relations between Armenia and the Sovereign Order of Malta boast huge development potential and expressed confidence that with continued high dynamics of dialogue the sides might make a better use of existing potentialities. Mindful of developing multifaceted relations, the interlocutors highly valued the agreement which was signed earlier today.

At the end of the meeting, the President of Armenia signed in the Book of Honorary Guests of the Sovereign Order of Malta: “It is a great honor for me to be hosted at the Rome Masters Palace of the ancient spiritual order. I am grateful for today’s warm and friendly welcome. Our deeply-rooted bonds are marked by mutual respect and support in many ways.

I am confident that we will continue to strengthen and enrich the relationships between the Republic of Armenia and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in the same spirit for the benefit of all of us.

I wish the Order’s leaders, members, and thousands of volunteers every success in their historic mission aimed at promoting faith and assisting those in need around the world,” Serzh Sargsyan mentioned.

In honor of the President of Armenia and his delegation, the Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta hosted an official dinner, during which Serzh Sargsyan and Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto exchanged toasts, touching upon the historical affinities and friendship between the Armenians and the Maltese Order.

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On a working visit to the Italian Republic, later today President Serzh Sargsyan met with Senate President Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati.

Congratulating Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati on being elected to the high office of Senate President, the President of Armenia expressed the hope that the inter-parliamentary ties, which have long been on the agenda of the Armenian-Italian multifaceted relations, will continue to expand and strengthen thanks to Mrs. Casellati’s personal efforts

Serzh Sargsyan highlighted the legislatures’ role in the promotion of interstate relations and an atmosphere of mutual trust and mutual understanding, noting that Armenia is eager to establish closer ties between the two parliaments and develop relations within the framework of inter-parliamentary assemblies which, according to the President, will allow Armenia and Italy to provide comprehensive and reciprocated support on important issues.

Stressing that the privileged Armenian-Italian relations are anchored on the two friendly nations’ historical affinities and shared Christian values, President Sargsyan noted with satisfaction that the interstate relations have been evolving in the spirit of partnership and mutual trust over the past quarter century, and the two countries have built up strong ties of cooperation in the fields of economy, defense, decentralized governance, inter-parliamentary and humanitarian exchanges. A vivid evidence of mutual respect and understanding between Armenia and Italy is the effective service of Armenian peacekeepers as part of the UN peacekeeping mission under the Italian command in Lebanon.

Reference was also made to EU-Armenia relations and cooperation as a key element of the Armenian-Italian cooperation agenda. Serzh Sargsyan and Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati exchanged views on the ongoing talks over the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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In honor of RA President Serzh Sargsyan, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, a dinner was hosted by Mikael Minasyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Over two hundred guests attended the reception which was held in the world-renowned art gallery, the Doria Pamphilj Palace on the evening of April 5, 2018.

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Statement by Mikael Minasyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Distinguished Mr. President,
Esteemed Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta,
Your Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians,
Your Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia,
Your Eminence Leonardo Cardinal Sandri,
Dear representatives of the Holy See, the Sovereign Order of Malta, Italian, Armenian authorities and the Diplomatic Corps,
Reverend Fathers and friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With great pleasure, on behalf of my colleague Victoria Baghdasaryan, I wish good luck to this evening, which is meant to celebrate the official opening of the statue of Saint Gregory of Narek in the Vatican Gardens.

I am very glad that there are people here who supported us all the way through a busy road that has led us here.

The road that led to St. Gregory of Narek’s being conferred upon the title of Doctor of Church, and the successive initiatives such as today’s event, was long. It started with a petition by Nerses Petros XIX, continued with the tireless efforts of those present here today, Archbishop Zekiian, Cardinal Sandri, Cardinal Coch, Cardinal Amato.

Your work reached the petition out to His Holiness Pope Francis, who confirmed it in February 2015. On April 12, 2006, we attended a liturgy at St. Peter’s Cathedral, during which St. Gregory of Narek was proclaimed Doctor of the Church.

With pleasure, I remember the ecumenical spirit that reigned in that unforgettable event. It still continues to fuel our relationships. The evidence is today’s discreet prayer. And I hope this spirit will also be present in the future when the second statue is placed in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin according to the wish of His Holiness Karekin II.

I express special gratitude to the President of the Republic of Armenia for backing this project as he asked the Pope two years ago in Armenia while presenting to the Supreme Pontiff the small-scale model of the statue to install its larger copy in the Vatican Gardens. And I express my deepest gratitude to His Holiness Pope Francis, mentioning him in my prayers.

I would like to once again thank Cardinal Sandri for his best efforts, Archbishop Barsamian and Monsignor Borgia for supporting us throughout the whole process.

I thank the author of the sculpture David Yerevantsi for communicating Saint Gregory of Narek with the complex universe by means of a bronze statue. Thank you for this extraordinary job.
Thanks to my friend Artur Janibekyan, who joined me, generously funded the implementation of this statue. I extend a vote of thanks to Mikayel Hasratyan for architectural support, the Vatican Administration’s Technical Services Office, as well as Don Rafael Garcia de la Serena, architect Barbara Bellano, engineer Marco Barcelelli and all those who have contributed to the project. Special thanks to program manager Vardan Karapetyan who played a crucial role.

Armenia’s Embassy in the Holy See has launched a number of initiatives to popularize the name and work of the Saint. An initiative close to my heart was the collaboration with the choir of the Santa Cecilia National Academy of Rome, Alfred Schnittke’s concerto intended for mixed-type choir. Note that Schnittke composed the concerto after reading the Book of Lamentations by St. Gregory of Narek. Today, we listened to part of that work.

Thank you everyone.

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President Serzh Sargsyan, who is paying a working visit to the Italian Republic, met today with President of Italy Sergio Mattarella.

Welcoming the guest, President Mattarella said it was a great honor for him to meet with President Sargsyan again after their last meeting three years ago in Rome. The President of Italy considered it symbolic that Serzh Sargsyan’s last visit in the capacity of President of Armenia was being paid to Italy. Sergio Mattarella thanked Serzh Sargsyan for his tenure-long efforts to promote and strengthen the Armenian-Italian relationships at all levels - political, economic and cultural.

The President of Italy noted that as a matter of fact, Armenia and the South Caucasus are of strategic importance to his country. He informed of his intent to visit Armenia and reaffirm the Armenian-Italian friendship once again during this year, probably in summer. The Presidents expressed the belief that it might give fresh impetus to the development of bilateral relations.

Pleased with the current status of Armenian-Italian economic relations, Serzh Sargsyan and Sergio Mattarella pointed to the drastic growth in commodity turnover. In this context, both sides stressed the need for stepping up the activities of the Armenian-Italian intergovernmental commission, which held its first session just a few months ago.

President Mattarella noted with satisfaction that Italian investments in Armenia’s economy keep growing and now amount to about 200 million US dollars. He noted that either the market share of Italian companies is increasing in Armenia.

As a major investment project, Serzh Sargsyan cited the investment program implemented in Yerevan by Italian Renco and German Siemens companies, within the framework of which a highly productive heat power plant will be built in the region. The Italian President considered it an excellent example of cooperation in the economic sphere.

Sergio Mattarella noted with great satisfaction the furtherance of cultural exchanges and the growing interest in Italian culture and language in Armenia, which testifies to the reciprocated sympathy between Armenians and Italians.

Touching upon the EU-Armenia relations, the interlocutors highlighted the signing of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. The President of Italy complimented our country for signing the agreement. In this regard, Sergio Mattarella noted that Armenia has a leading role to play as a bridge of cooperation and, indeed, can provide a vivid example of collaboration rather than opposition between the East and the West. According to the Italian President, Armenia’s example is also a good signal of how useful cooperation can be for everyone. As he said, thereby it will be possible to establish relationships with EAEU countries as well.

The parties next touched upon the process of peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Stressing that Armenia supports the 2018 priorities of Italy’s presidency in the OSCE, Serzh Sargsyan made a point of Italy’s balanced approach to the settlement of the conflict in tune with the OSCE-advocated principles, as well as the endorsement of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ efforts and approaches.

The Italian President emphasized that his country supports the efforts exerted by the OSCE Minsk Group toward the peaceful settlement of the conflict and is not going to discuss another format of the negotiations, hoping that the organization will find the right way to resolve the problem with the conflicting parties and the problem will be settled through compromise as soon as possible. He emphasized that one of the priorities of Italy’s presidency in the OSCE is the settlement of protracted conflicts.

On learning from President Sargsyan that Armenia is switching over to a full parliamentary system in a few days, Sergio Mattarella said it was amazing to see the country make a smooth transition from one governing system to another. In this connection, Serzh Sargsyan noted that either Italy set an example for Armenia while converting into a parliamentary republic. Its constitutional principles have also been applied in our country.

The Presidents of Armenia considered the Armenian-Italian joint peacekeeping mission in Lebanon within the framework of the international peacekeeping mission as another example of Armenian-Italian friendship.

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Today, President Serzh Sargsyan met with Roberto Fico, President of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy.

At the beginning of the meeting, Roberto Fico asked about the course of President Serzh Sargsyan’s visit to Italy and the Vatican. President Sargsyan presented the hectic agenda of his visit, the results of the meetings and the agreements reached in quite a warm atmosphere.

Congratulating Roberto Fico on being elected to the office of President of the Chamber of Deputies, Serzh Sargsyan wished him fruitful work and expressed the hope that he would make an important contribution to the further development of Armenian-Italian inter-parliamentary cooperation.

Highlighting the role of parliamentary ties in terms of promoting the interstate agenda, the President of Armenia advised that the National Assembly of Armenia has formed a good tradition of friendly relations with the parliaments of many European countries. President Sargsyan stressed that it is time to upgrade the Armenian-Italian inter-parliamentary cooperation to a new level, especially as there are all the necessary preconditions for that. In this context, Serzh Sargsyan considered it self-evident that Italian Parliament’s previous friendship group with Armenia was one of the two largest groups in the world.

The President of Armenia noted that after Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of governance, there will be much more opportunities and potential for cooperation that needs to be tapped in full. The President expressed the hope that following the latest parliamentary elections in Italy, the Friendship Group will be reorganized as soon as possible, and the Armenian-Italian inter-parliamentary cooperation will continue strengthening and deepening.

Taking the opportunity, President Sargsyan said he had fond recollections of his visit to Naples, Mr. Fico’s birthplace, as part of his previous visit to Italy and noted that the city is more than friendly to Armenians. The President of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy stressed that he is well aware of this and knows that the Church of St. Gregory the Armenian is in Naples where the relics of Grigor Lusavorich are kept.

The interlocutors referred to EU-Armenia relations and the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement signed with the EU last November. They also exchanged views over the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. The President of Armenia gave details of the recent developments and the approaches of the Armenian side which go in tune with the principles and approaches of the OSCE Minsk Group.

In the framework of his working visit to Italy, President Serzh Sargsyan gave an interview to Italian La Stampa periodical.

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