Interviews and press conferences
Joint press conference of President Serzh Sargsyan and EC President Donald Tusk
Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan on the results of negotiations with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk
I once again welcome Mr. Tusk, President of the European Council, and express my satisfaction with the talks we had today. Such meetings provide a good opportunity to discuss the development prospects of Armenia-EU relations and exchange views and ideas on many issues of mutual concern.
We are keen on broadening relations with the European Union, one of our key partners, during Mr. Tusk’s tenure, which, I am sure will contribute to the long-lasting constructive dialogue existing between us.
We stated that Armenia-European Union relations keep on developing dynamically. This bears testimony to the fact that there are a mutual political will and commitment, and, most importantly, a set of shared values that underlie our development path. I am confident that we will continue to intensify our relations and work towards further deepening of democratic processes and reforms in Armenia.
This is illustrated both by our active collaboration with European countries at a bilateral level, and by the ongoing work with different EU institutions.
Touching upon the results of the fourth Eastern Partnership Summit held from 21 to 22 May this year, we expressed satisfaction with the fact that in Riga we managed to confirm our commitment to promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and partner countries based on a differentiated approach.
I am hopeful that in the near future we will start negotiations on a new RA-EU legal document, the successful conclusion of which will open a new chapter in our bilateral relations.
We also stressed that the summit participants reaffirmed the EU’s full support for the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs’ mediatory efforts aimed at a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and for the statements made by the heads of those states since 2009, which once again shows that the efforts to transfer the issue to other platforms have no prospects.
Despite Azerbaijan’s attempts to distort the essence of the conflict, the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s right to decide their own future through expression of free will has long been beyond dispute, moreover, it is anchored in the statements of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. In the context of that idea, we are ready to move forward along a path of reasonable compromises.
Of course, we also touched upon different events being under international spotlight during these days and expressed the belief that the successful course of those events will play a positive role in promoting security, stability and cooperation both at international and regional levels. The normal development and full involvement of the Islamic Republic of Iran in international processes coincide with our country’s primary interests. Certainly, we want our centuries-old friend Greece to rapidly address the most complex issue facing the country.
Concluding my speech, I would like to note that the visit of Mr. Tusk, President of the European Council, is the striking illustration of our common understanding and mutual interest to deepen ties and broaden contacts between Armenia and the European Union.
Thank you. Now I am pleased to give the floor to President Tusk.
Statement by the President of the European Council Donald Tusk on the results of negotiations with President Serzh Sargsyan
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am happy to be in Yerevan and once again meet the president of the Republic of Armenia. My visit here has followed up our meeting in Brussels in March and the Eastern Partnership Summit in May in Riga. Firstly, I would like to thank you for the possibility of visiting the Genocide Memorial. This was my second visit and I was as moved as during my first one.
Today, we have had a good discussion on a wide range of issues on EU-Armenia relations, the Eastern Partnership and regional issues. We discussed the situation regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. Recent negative trends are a cause for concern. The peaceful resolution of this conflict remains a priority for the European Union. The European Union supports the negotiations aimed at settling the conflict led by the OSCE Minsk Group. We support for the dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including at the highest level, at your level, Mr. President. It is critical to respect the ceasefire strictly, to exercise restraint on actions and statements and to create an atmosphere conducive to progress in the conflict settlement.
Armenia has chosen not to make use of the European Union’s offer of an association agreement, including a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. This is a choice that the European Union fully respects. We still stand ready to deepen our relations by working toward open markets, by advancing on democratic reforms, economic growth, regional integration, toward a business investment climate and sustainable development, in short, a broad reform agenda. We have just successfully completed the first stage of discussions on a new comprehensive bilateral agreement. In this agreement, we have identified areas for future cooperation. The EU member states are already discussing the mandate for these negotiations. Very important area in our cooperation is to make it easier to travel between Armenia and the European Union.
I welcome the good progress made by Armenia on the mobility partnership. The effective implementation of the readmission and visa facilitation agreements that entered into force in January 2014 is a crucial condition to start talks for a visa liberalization dialogue. The visa-free regime is the final goal. I am hopeful that the next step can be taken in the coming months if this pace of work continues.
Armenia can count on the European Union’s continued support to advance on a whole range of political and social reforms and to improve the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The European Union supports the work of civil society in Armenia and, I encourage a global involvement of the civil society in the reform process to broaden the perspectives and ensure common ownership. This year is decisive for our relations.
Thank you for your attention.
Shake Ghazaryan: Armenia TV - My question is for the RA President and the President of the European Council. For many years, Armenia has been in favor of promoting relations with the EU through a differentiated approach based on progress achieved in reform implementation. And it seems that such a commitment was mutually undertaken during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga. My question is whether you have also touched upon the conclusion of a new legal document regulating Armenia-European Union relations and what are the prospects of that agreement?
Serzh Sargsyan - First of all, you are witnesses and can quietly ascertain that since the very beginning of the Eastern Partnership we have been talking about a differentiated approach. I have never understood how the Eastern Partnership members, so different in nature, can, with so different objectives and expectations, act and negotiate within the framework of a common package. Today, when I was talking with Mr. Tusk, I said, as I did many years ago, that there is one generality. Let us forget about that generality because it is not characteristic. Both at the time and today I have remained in the belief that if Azerbaijan has oil and gas, then why not, let the European Union cooperate with Azerbaijan in that sphere. We want our country to undergo reforms, strengthen democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law. Let us cooperate in this sphere. I can’t imagine Armenia’s development without reforms and I can’t imagine reforms in Armenia without European experience and assistance. Hence, being an EAEU member, we will continue to closely cooperate with the European Union. Yes, I think, and Mr. Tusk, too, said both in his introductory remarks and during our meeting, that he has come to ascertain that, yes, we are going to start negotiations on a new legal document. But I think that he will give more accurate information on this, and, thus, I will not spend much time on this second sub-question and will give the floor to Mr. Tusk. Perhaps, he will dwell more on this topic.
Donald Tusk – Thank you, Serzh, thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for this question because it is from my, how can I say, a private story and personal engagement. My government was one of the initiators of the Eastern Partnership and I deeply believe that this idea was really important not only for the EU, but also for the six countries from the Eastern Partnership. And I think it is something like a European specialization to help our neighbors without forcing our solutions and proposals. This is what I am so proud of that I represent an organization which is always ready to help without ideological economic aggression. If you know what I mean, but I think that I am quite clear. My intention today is to underline that the EU wants to strengthen cooperation with Armenia in all areas of mutual interest. I can repeat, because I think it is important for you, that we are ready to cooperate with Armenia and that we respect the choice of Armenia to be a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. Of course, it means some consequences, for example our possible free trade agreement will be a little bit different than our previous proposal, but I think that both the EU and Armenia will be satisfied after we finish our work on this new agreement. And for sure, we need some changes in Eastern Partnership because Eastern Partnership is and must be the future comfortable format not only for initiators like me, but first of all for countries like Armenia. And I am sure that we will find the best way to strengthen our cooperation also within the framework of Eastern Partnership.
Hovhanness Kosyan: Interfax - My question is for the RA President and President of the European Council. It is a fact that during the Baku 2015 European Games, the Line-of-Contact and the Armenian-Azeri border was quiet, and there were almost no truce violations. However, we have witnessed return of border incidents immediately after the end of the Games. Furthermore, immediately after the end of the Games, President Aliyev recalled all old and new disputes, accusing both the European institutions and individual states, such as Germany, of promoting anti-Azeri propaganda to overshadow the European Games, corrupt nature, Islamophobia and so on, so forth. I would like you to make your comments on this.
Serzh Sargsyan - Your question can be broken down into two parts. For the first part, I have to be frank that Azerbaijan’s leadership made a great gift to us, by holding the European Games in Baku and, at the same time, ensuring peace and stability both on the Line-of-Contact and Armenian-Azeri border. But to be more accurate, it was not peace and stability, but an illusion of peace and stability. Why am I saying “made a gift?” I think this was the drop to fill the cup, by which the international community identified who was the cause of tension, who heightened tension and who wanted to kill young men and violate the truce. And here, of course, I am addressing both Mr. Tusk and all the European institutions, calling upon them to refrain from the policy of framing the conflicting parties on equal ground. At least, they should demonstrate a differentiated approach, as the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs did in January, by questioning who was shooting, who the cause of tension was, who wanted war and who was defending oneself. When there is a spin of equal ground, and when people get a sense of impunity, their legs rise off the ground. And it is because of such a situation that I address the second part of your question related to the usual haughty statement that Azerbaijan’s president allowed himself to make.
We are used to such impertinent speeches and take those mostly as ludicrous quirks. It is ridiculous that a man who had inherited the president’s post accuses others of becoming a president by someone else’s help, isn’t it? It is ridiculous that a man, who preaches xenophobia day in and day out accuses Europe and others of xenophobia, isn’t it? It is ridiculous that a person, who considers Armenians the worst people around accuses Europe and Armenia of racism, isn’t it? It is ridiculous that he accuses Europe and Armenia of Islamophobia, while he himself has got much worse relation with numerous Muslim countries, with whom Europe and Armenia enjoyed much better relations, isn’t it?
That is why I am saying that this framing the conflicting parties on the equal ground must be removed. I am confident that despite the fact that many people in European institutions and Europe are excited by the smell of oil and gas and by the taste of caviar, nevertheless, we will embark on the right path. Otherwise, if things continue thus, if everybody forgives not only the Azeri president’s words, but also his deeds, then we have to resort to our famous compatriot, William Saroyan, and say “people, something is wrong somewhere.”
Donald Tusk – First of all, we call upon both Armenia and Azerbaijan to fulfill the commitments undertaken in the framework of the Minsk Group. Second, both sides have to show readiness to compromise and engage in dialogue and to refrain from any rhetoric and action that could heighten tension. I have no doubt there is no alternative for peaceful resolution. If we want to achieve a peaceful resolution, all sides, all actors in this very risky game have to avoid aggressive words and aggressive rhetoric because, as you know, rhetoric and words in politics have consequences and, from time to time, dramatic consequences. This is why I think that silence is from time to time much better than voices and especially aggressive rhetoric. This is why I am absolutely sure that this is something like appeal to all sides of this conflict and all politicians.