Interviews and press conferences
RA President answers questions asked by Munich Security Conference panel participants
Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group
-Let me ask you Mr. President. On the one hand, you are the “poster boy” for success on this panel. Everyone is pointing to you as a model. But of course back in 2013, Armenia had dumped their association agreement with the EU and embarked upon a new partnership scheme. And I am wondering was that by remorse, was that due to Russian pressure, or maybe life had changed. Is this a new model?
- You know, your question seems rather strange as we have repeatedly stated that we have always been open and honest with our partners, especially in issues related to integration processes. When we started our negotiations with the EU, our Russian counterparts, our allies were aware of it, while our European partners were aware that we were negotiating with the Eurasian Economic Union to join the then Customs Union. We could see that it was possible. And when the principle of “and, and” was replaced by that of “either, or” we proved unable to sign such an agreement. That is, it was the European Union rather than Armenia to give up the signing of the Association Agreement.
We have even suggested signing part of the agreement, namely the political component, if possible, but our European partners said “no.” But just a few weeks later, they signed such an agreement with Ukraine.
We understand very well Armenia’s opportunities and Ukraine’s possibilities, the role of Armenia and the role of Ukraine; nevertheless, it was strange for us. So we did not give up the idea of signing such a cooperation arrangement, and thank God that the European Union made a relevant decision later, which was confirmed at the Riga summit. It was a differentiated approach. And under that differentiated approach, we managed to sign a document with the European Union.
I want to emphasize once again that we have not secretly negotiated with anybody, we have not made any decisions under pressure from anyone, and as I noticed, our historical experience shows that trying to gain temporary benefits from conflicts leads to big tragedies. We had gone through one and did not want to run the risk of another tragedy.
Sadi Jafarov, First secretary of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Germany
-Mr. President, what do you think: in the South Caucuses we have now regional development projects and do you find it normal that Armenia today is outside of those projects, especially the ones implemented in the fields of energy and transport? And having this in mind, I want to touch another issue, namely that if there was no conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and if the territories of Azerbaijan were not under the occupation by Armenia and if there was no policy of ethnic cleansing on the part of Armenia against Azerbaijan, than probably today Armenia could benefit from those projects.
And here I have to mention that me personally I have roots from Karabakh, yes. And I think that you have to understand that without the resolution of the conflict Armenia will not be able to be a full stakeholder in the region and will not be part of the projects in the region unless the Azeri population is back to the territories supposed to be under the sovereignty of Azebaijan. When Armenia is planning to join those projects and when can I go back to my home?
- First of all, I am very grateful for this question asked by my compatriot because I am rooted in Karabakh, too. But I want to ask you a question from the outset; my question is a bit rhetorical: How do you think to settle the Karabakh issue if your country’s president makes territorial claims against Yerevan, the 2800th anniversary of which we will be celebrating this October?
The Karabakh issue can be resolved and, though I have some doubts about it, you can return to Karabakh or the surrounding regions only when your country’s government gets down to reality, abandons its unrealistic expectations from the talks’ outcome.
You want to live freely; you want to live in Karabakh. Believe me that the people of Karabakh, too, want to live in freedom on their historic homeland where they have a millennia-old legacy, and they do not want you to destroy that heritage.
You know very well why some regions of Azerbaijan came under the control of Nagorno-Karabakh’s self-defense forces. You know that the Karabakhi people just held a referendum in a civilized manner and appealed to the USSR Supreme Soviet to hand over the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan to Armenia in the manner prescribed by the then applicable law of the Soviet Union.
Instead, the Azerbaijani authorities tried to squeeze Karabakh people’s legitimate demands and wishes. By the way, I must say that at that time all European structures had a very positive attitude as they stated: “Yes, Nagorno-Karabakh has the right to self-determination. Unfortunately, honey is not served out in war. I hate the war. But it turned out that we had to create a security zone to protect ourselves.
Once again, I would like reiterate from this reputable podium that we are prepared for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue should you show good sense - I do not mean the people of Azerbaijan, I mean the leadership of Azerbaijan - and actually proceed to negotiations realizing that the problem can only be resolved through compromises. I do not want to take time off; I just want to say that it is time to sober up.
Yerevan has 2800 years of history; the Armenians have been living in their historic homeland for over 5,000 years now, and Azerbaijanis or other peoples can not break the will of the Armenian people. Thank you for your questionnaire.
Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group
-Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. President it actually the same question for both of you, which is: We are in 2018 and we know what the challenges are, if we would come back in a year or two and suddenly found out that the same panel actually feels a lot better about the relations between Russia and Europe and the countries in-between. What is the one thing you think really needs to happen or could happen that would allow us to have a better outcome of this panel.
- I believe, I am rather convinced that discussions like this will take place one year, two years later, but if I happen to attend such a discussion, I am sure that I will loudly state that the relations between Russia, the United States and the EU have become very constructive should they help us resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. This would be a very important factor. As I noticed, this is perhaps one of the few points to which the United States, the European Union and Russia have common approaches. This would provide a precedent - evidence not only for the Armenians, Azerbaijanis, but also for the entire world.
President and founder of Eurasia Group Jan Bremer
- By the way, the Russians and Turks have come to love each other again. So you have more opportunities.
- Yes, I know that our opportunities are increasing every year, because the world is beginning to understand how much the Armenians are tolerant and in what difficult geopolitical conditions they are living.
Our problem is not only Azerbaijan; we have a problem with Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan. And I have to state that Azerbaijan is lulling itself into a false sense of Armenia’s isolation. It is myth, nothing but myth, things stand otherwise. If Armenia had been isolated, it would not have boasted a higher average salary than Azerbaijan, which has so much oil, gas and other resources. I can cite other indicators as well, but I am confident that we can not just be isolated.