04, 2021

Eventually, Armenia should become a crossroads, not a blind alley. President Armen Sarkissian summed up his official visit to Georgia

Summing up his official visit to Georgia, President Armen Sarkissian particularly noted that, as a small state, to compensate and balance the size, so to speak, we must be very active, particularly in foreign policy. "We have no alternative but to have a very active and zealous foreign policy," he said.

According to him, Armenia should pursue such a policy in the whole spectrum, from superpowers to small states, particularly with the countries in our region that are friendly to us. Georgia is our friendly country. The Islamic Republic of Iran is also a friendly country. Therefore, our diplomacy must be very active, especially with these two friends. Diplomacy should work actively with countries that are not friendly to Armenia, but relations with friends are of special importance. Thus, "When the President of Georgia confirmed the invitation made two years ago, I could not refuse and came to Georgia with delight. You have to take care of the friendship tree so that one day you can enjoy the fruits of that friendship.

At the heart of our discussions was the question of how we view political and regional developments, including the war. I presented the viewpoints of Armenia to the President of Georgia in detail, and then to other partners as well.

When you talk about the region and the war, you cannot forget about the fate of our compatriots who are now in captivity or hostage. Unfortunately, the adversary uses their lives and their captivity as a playing card to serve a purpose. This is unacceptable, even among the belligerent states, unacceptable under any international law. In general, it is unacceptable in a purely human sense, this is an anti-human step. As president, I shall keep raising this issue until it is resolved."

President Sarkissian said that issues related to regional security and cooperation were also in the centre of the discussions. "The world in general is unstable and unpredictable, our region even more so. It is essential that steps, taken to bring stability to the region, will be impossible without a fair and final solution to the Artsakh issue.

This is not the first time that the Georgian side offers to be the platform where the parties can negotiate. It is an honest proposal, but it is still not clear to me who and why should negotiate. Before talking about any serious negotiations, interstate negotiations, and common plans, the other side must first show a basic human attitude. Whether you are an adversary or an enemy, you should not take steps to block a future dialogue.

Regional stability is really essential for many purposes. These are also the difficult problems the Republic of Armenia faces. Let's start with the fact that we are a post-war people, a state, and a nation. We have lost thousands of young lives. We have thousands of injured young people today who lost their health. This is an immense burden: moral, psychological, physical, and healthcare.

We have economic difficulties. Everyone in the world has them today. But ours is double and triple: the war, blockade and the state of economy in general.

We have a health problem because no one considered the coronavirus war over. We have almost as many casualties as we do from war. And the number of those victims is increasing every day.

Therefore, when we talk about security in the region, it includes also health security, political, military, information or cyber security, up to food security. These are problems for everyone, but foremost for a country like ours, which is in blockade.

If we look to the future, we must speak about possible joint projects. We can initiate new business development programs with Georgia. There is Georgian business in Armenia, and Georgian investments in various spheres. There are Armenian business investments in Georgia, and it is natural that the cooperation has a potential.

Georgia, for example, has customs advantages with China and the European Union, and Armenia with the Eurasian Economic Union. Imagine being a Georgian-Armenian joint venture able to sell its products with customs privileges in the EU or China. And vice versa, an Armenian-Georgian enterprise that can sell in the Eurasian space. Or cooperation in health, in science, from new technologies to fighting against coronavirus. I can assure you that if Armenia and Georgia offer joint bilateral projects, and have bilateral investment and infrastructure, many investors, international financial institutions, starting with the European Bank, and the World Bank, will be happy to finance, even individuals. Joint programs are much more attractive than individual programs in small countries.

Our conversation included opportunities for economic cooperation, and both presidents must have our contribution.

Not to mention our cultural and educational cooperation: culture, education, what is connected with our history. It seems to us that we are two friendly peoples, but again, we must take care of that tree of friendship and work every day. I think this visit should bear fruit; I will constantly follow to it.

I want to repeat, a country like ours must have a very active foreign policy, which must include foreign policy, military-political security issues, culture, and business.

Losing in war is one thing, losing in life is quite another. You can lose five wars, but each time you stand up, keep going and eventually win. We won 26 years ago, we were not careful, we did not work much, we did not take many issues seriously, we assumed that the victory is forever, etc. But in this case, we must take the defeat seriously; therefore, we must stand up, gather our strength, and move forward together. You will not be able to win in life if you are divided. This is the most important task for us to finally achieve national unity, support, and help each other. There is a significant issue that we should all be aware of; we should not divide ourselves, but on the contrary, we should unite, not divided by colours. Our people are neither white nor black, we are at least three-coloured. Taken as individuals, people are many-coloured and diverse, everyone is talented, has value, is patriotic, and ready to make his contribution so that our country can stand up on feet. I am sure we will be able to do that. This is not the first time. Our people have seen the Genocide. So, after this defeat, we will be able to stand up, if we all offer each other hands, and move forward."

President Sarkissian said that during the meetings they discussed all possible programs and proposals, all possible transport solutions and schemes: "We discussed all this with the President. Eventually, Armenia should become a crossroads, not a blind alley. If we make Armenia a crossroads...

But beyond this abstract desire, there are numerous difficulties. How are you going to open the road with Turkey, with Azerbaijan? Before opening the road, there are a thousand and one steps that must be taken, and the first must be from the Azerbaijani side, it must be from Turkey."

Touching upon our friendship with Georgia, a country with serious economic interests with Turkey, there was a question whether, in this case, there is a possibility that we will be able to work and build our relations, President Sarkissian said: "Yes, of course, there is. When we say friendship, it is not an absolute value. Friendship requires daily work. Friendship is a bilateral relationship, and before you demand it, you must give it as well. Secondly, you should never be lazy to show your attitude, in this case, of friendship and in other spheres of foreign policy, not only with friends, but also with your adversaries. Our diplomacy and foreign policy must be full of energy, purposeful, that is, with a clear vision of what we want and from whom: a friend, an adversary, and an enemy; what goals we must achieve; and we must have a clear plan. And we must implement that program every day, starting from the President, the Government, the National Assembly to any citizen of the Republic of Armenia, or any Armenian who is not a citizen of the Republic of Armenia. If we know what we want and where we want to go, we are disciplined, organized, and we are together; then, naturally, we will succeed. Friendship is a significant value we must fight for every day."

Touching upon the concerns of Georgian politicians in the context of new realities in the region (there was a closed discussion on the Karabakh issue in the parliament of Georgia), the President of the Republic said: "All the problems in the region concern everyone. If you think that the Artsakh issue is only our concern, you are wrong. During our meeting, I said that it will be difficult to speak about stability and predictability in the region until the moment the Artsakh issue is finally and fairly resolved. Consequently, it is everyone's problem. You can close your eyes and pretend that the problem somehow resolved, but the reality will come after you, and it will tell you in your face that it is not so. The issue of Artsakh is not the only one in this region, in this small area called the Caucasus or the South Caucasus. Therefore, we must be interested not only in the Artsakh issue, not only in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations or opposition, not only in Armenia-Turkey relations, but we must also be very sensitive to our friendly countries. I think that we need to further deepen our relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Georgia. Never expect what the other person will do for you, always think about what you can do for your friend. In that case, you will get the answer."

Answering the question whether there has been a discourse in our country about peace-loving and changing the attitude to the region, particularly Turkey and Azerbaijan, and in this context, about the President's approach, President Sarkissian noted that his attitude towards both Turkey and the Genocide issue has been repeatedly expressed: "I can analyze with you the policy of today’s Republic of Turkey, and its leaders not only in our region, but also in Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, etc.

President Sarkissian answered the question on the wide discourse in our country related to peace and changing attitude towards the regional players Turkey and Azerbaijan, also his approach in this context. He noted that he had expressed his views on Turkey and the Genocide on many occasions: “I can analyze with you the politics of today’s Republic of Turkey and its leadership not only in our region but also in Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, etc.”

We are not in an equal situation. Before talking about anything with Azerbaijan, our sons and daughters should be returned first, and then, we will think about the next step.

Restoring or normalizing bilateral relations cannot be at the expense of one party, at our expense. I will not be able to forget the Genocide, to put aside the difficulties, misfortunes, and history of our people for more than 100 years, if the other side does not take any steps towards it, recognize or apologize. When that happens, then we will think."

To the question on his noting some time ago that Tbilisi is a hometown for him, President Armen Sarkissian said: I am a Soviet man, I was born in the Soviet Union, I have been to many places in the Soviet Union, especially during my student years. I have travelled a lot, starting from Samarkand, Bukhara, Vladivostok, Leningrad and other cities. There are many places that are dear to me, as I spent some time there as a youth. Tbilisi is dear, as there is no secret that as much as it is a Georgian city, it is also Armenian somewhere, this culture: Bashinjaghyan, Sayat-Nova, Parajanov… The list is so long, illustrating the Armenian realities in Georgia; the opposite is also true. A simple example, Sofiko Chiaureli. She was one of the best actresses in Georgia, but remember the film A Piece of Heaven, where Sofiko played the role of an Armenian mother. Did you see any artificiality there? None. You must be really close to be able to play a mother of another nation, one of the hardest roles if you do not belong to that nation, its culture, life, and bitterness. Every Armenian mother has it all. And that woman fantastically played an Armenian mother. It is not surprising that even Parajanov constantly invited her to play in his films. It is not surprising that Sofiko Chiaureli was also a People's Artist of the Armenian SSR."

Speaking about Armenia-Diaspora relations, the President said that we must change our attitude towards them: "I think for some time, we have built barriers between us and our Diaspora, fearing the Diaspora; I do not know why, when it is the most important value for us. That word Diaspora is also incomprehensible to me, we are all together.

The people, living in Yerevan today are from different parts of Armenia and historical Armenia, who say we are from Yerevan. Today, we have Armenians, part of whom were Armenians of the Diaspora, who had moved to live in Armenia. A generation later, people forget that their parents came from Greece or Egypt and contribute to the defense of our country, state, and Artsakh.

Of course, it is clear that there should be some restrictions in public service, but we must be able to involve everyone, not divide. You cannot overcome the difficulties, post-war, moral, physical, economic, and social issues, if you are divided. Whether you like it or not, you have to shake hands, it's culture, to put the state and the national higher than the rest: parties, ideology, etc. If we manage to do it, we will succeed.”

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