Ladies and gentlemen,
I greet you in the Republic of Armenia, and welcome your participation in the framework of this important and large-scale event. The presence of 150 well-recognized journalists from the different corners of the world itself speaks for the international community’s attention to this forum, as well as of its interest towards Armenia. I hope that, besides your work, you, the participants of the forum bearing the beautiful heading “At the Foot of Mount Ararat,” will have the opportunity to familiarize with the Armenian culture and cuisine, and admire the wonderful view of biblical Mount Ararat.
It is obvious that in our days, media outlets have huge potential to disseminate universal values, fight against their encroachment and consolidate the international community. Today, a highly representative group of international media outlets has gathered under the same roof. You have already built an effective media platform for the discussions pertaining to the Armenian Genocide with the objective to once again uncover the realities regarding one of the most serious crimes committed in the 20th century. This forum, why not, is also a unique platform to thoroughly and comprehensively present the achievements of the Republic of Armenia in various areas, and challenges faced by our country.
In 2015, Armenia, Armenians all over the world and the international community remember and commemorate the Armenian Genocide committed in the Ottoman Empire one century ago. The genocide took lives of one and a half million Armenians, hundreds of thousands of people became refugees or were forcefully converted into other religion. Each Armenian from any corner of the world continues to feel the consequences of the Mets Yeghern psychologically, culturally, linguistically and politically.
We wish we could have also commemorated the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide together with the Turkish people, thereby heralding a new haven of the rapprochement of the two nations and normalization of their relations. This was the goal pursued by the protocols between Armenia and Turkey signed back in 2009 and of my invitation to the President Erdoğan of Turkey to join us on April 24 in honoring the memory of the Armenian Genocide victims. Unfortunately, once more we encountered denial, one that acquired a particular manifestation this year.
I believe you are well aware that this year Turkish authorities decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli on the very day of April 24. The only motive for that was the simple-minded goal to distract the attention of the international community from the events dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. By the way, in this context your Norwegian colleague Bård Larsen published in February an article titled “Useless Diplomacy,” in which he very aptly put that “this would be tantamount to Germany celebrating heroic victories of Wehrmacht in the Eastern Front during World War II.”
I regret that the Turkish authorities instead of availing themselves of this Centennial to confront their own history and reconcile, put themselves in an awkward position by obviously distorting the well-known chronology the Battle of Gallipoli, and thereby embellishing their policy of denial with new manifestations.
The Turkish policy of denial pursued not only vindicates the crime committed by the Ottoman authorities – the dispossession of Armenians - but also sets a dangerous precedent for the recurrence of new genocides. The Holocaust, the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides, the ethnic cleansing and destruction of cultural heritage carried out by the Islamic State in recent years have all been striking examples of this. Their efforts to avoid responsibility or consign the Armenian Genocide to oblivion can be characterized as continuation of the crime and encouragement of new genocides.
Nevertheless, I must note that larger and larger segments of the Turkish intelligentsia and progressive youth are demonstrating courage to confront their historical past, desiring to live a dignified life and relieving themselves of such a heavy burden of sin.
It is a matter of plain fact that the policy pursued by the current Turkish government rules out the possibility of bringing the famous Protocols into life at which official Ankara looked from the perspective of the absurd preconditions perpetually set forth by it. For that very reason I decided to recall them from our parliament. Thus, the process did not reach its logical conclusion, and everybody knows which party is to blame for its failure. This does not mean that we are closing the window for rapprochement with Turkey. Nevertheless, we are not going to get involved in a process, which may fall victim to the third country’s unconstructive whims and, most importantly, without hope of restoring mutual trust.
Initially, we thought that the policy “Zero Problems with Neighbors” proclaimed by the Turkish authorities enshrined Turkey’s sincere intentions to normalize relations with neighboring countries, including Armenia. I do not want to comment on the nature of current relations between Turkey and other states, but as the subsequent developments demonstrated, Turkey had to face the reality of “Zero Neighbor and Numerous Problems.” In fact, Turkey’s real intention was not to have zero problems with neighbors, but to impose its own perception of those relations on the neighbors, which was nothing else than a manifestation of Neo-Ottoman policy.
The State Commission for coordination of the events for commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centenary was established. Its members encompassed heads of all the largest Armenian institutions. The Commission adopted All-Armenian Declaration, which determined the united will of the Armenian people; by that Armenia and the Armenian people reiterated their commitment to continuing the international struggle for the prevention of genocides, restoration of the rights and establishment of historical justice for the nations subjected to genocide. In that perspective, the Armenian Genocide Centennial events are not solely of all-Armenian nature; they are a unique appeal to prevent any encroachment upon universal values. For that very reason I have invited the leaders and high-level officials of various countries to visit Armenia on April 24 and, thus, send a powerful message of the inadmissibility of the crime of genocide to the world.
The Republic of Armenia will also continue its fight against the crime of genocide within the framework of international organizations. In 2013, at its 22th session, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted the resolution on the prevention of genocide initiated by Armenia. This year we are going to table another draft resolution.
It is inspiring that the representatives of the international community are also engaged in Armenian-led initiatives. Moreover, its members continue to bring their weighty contribution towards the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide.
We are forever grateful to all those states and peoples who both in times of the calamity and during the subsequent years, have granted asylum to thousands of Armenians, giving them an opportunity to survive and preserve their identity and become full-fledged members of society in the given countries.
While attaching importance to the recognition and condemnation of genocides as a means of preventing their recurrence, we also extend our gratitude to all those states and organizations who continue to reflect upon the crime committed against our nation. This bears witness to the civilized world’s sincere commitment to the protection of universal values, which inspires nations subjected to genocide to believe in the restoration of justice and violated rights, just condemnation of the crimes and inadmissibility of impunity.
The resolution titled “The Armenian Genocide and European Values” adopted recently by the EPP Political Assembly on March 3, 2015 was a striking example of such a commitment. It contained serious political messages on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, its condemnation and denial, and called upon Turkey to confront its past. Such a position on the Armenian Genocide adopted by Europe’s largest and most influential political force should indeed play a guiding role for European institutions and EU member states.
It is clear that in today’s world the guarantee of stability and normal development is peaceful co-existence and tolerance. This is the very principle guiding us through the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, thereby not allowing Azerbaijan to ruin peace negotiations with its bellicose statements and provocative actions. In contrast to Azerbaijani authorities, whose provocative actions endanger the stability of not only their state but also of the region, Armenia is fully aware of the grave consequences of such adventurism. Therefore, by containing Azerbaijan’s military provocations, we try to avoid a new spark of the conflict, which will seriously deteriorate the already unstable situation in our entire region.
We do not incite hostility and hatred among our people, which has been an inseparable component of the policy carried out by the Azerbaijani authorities for years. In contrast to the Azerbaijani President who declared that the Armenian people are the number one enemies of Azerbaijanis, I would like to highlight once again that the Armenians do not have enemy nations.
It was Azerbaijan’s decades-long anti-Armenian policy and the determination to restore historical justice that ultimately drove the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to exercise their inviolable right to self-determination – to build their own homeland on their own land. Regardless of Azerbaijan’s threats and provocations, the wheel of history is impossible to roll back: the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is already a well-established reality and it is not feasible to break the freedom-loving spirit of its people. To ascertain it, I am calling upon you to visit Nagorno-Karabakh to get acquainted with the Artsakh state-building on the ground and represent the objective reality to your public.
The Armenian position on the settlement of the conflict remains the same: it must be settled within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, through peaceful negotiations on the basis of the three famous principles of the Helsinki Final Act put forth by the Co-Chairs. Azerbaijan’s efforts to alter the format provided by the Minsk Group, talk to the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh from a position of force, provocations and blackmail will not yield a lasting solution. This is an unequivocal truth.
On January 27, 2015 the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a statement in Krakow on Azerbaijan’s destructive policy, in which they called upon Azerbaijan to live up to its commitments to the peaceful resolution of the conflict. I strongly believe that continued sending of targeted messages calling to exercise restraint will incite certain degree of vigilance with their true addressee.
Although the recognition of the Genocide and settlement of the NK conflict are of vital importance to us, our agenda is, of course, much broader.
For centuries, our people have gone through hardships, which have not been able to ruin Armenians’ resolute determination to preserve their own identity, master their own destiny and, ultimately, build an independent state. And we have managed to achieve our cherished goals, which sometimes could have even looked like a dream.
In spite of the hardships that have fallen to our lot during the years of our statehood, we have managed to build a democratic state with a liberal economic model. We have not been alone in carrying out the difficult task of state-building; we have always enjoyed the support of friendly countries and their readiness to stand beside us in tough times.
Among our country’s important political achievements is certainly the establishment and development of civil society, which has actively engaged itself with the government’s various initiatives, especially in the recent years. In terms of indicators in the areas of human rights, rule of law, economic policy and development Armenia leads in the region, and considerably excels many countries of the region in a number of indicators.
With its accomplishments and limitations, the free press that comprehensively covers and introduces the public to the country’s domestic and foreign affairs, is also a top achievement since we gained our independence. According to the World Press Freedom Index 2015 annual report released by the Reporters Without Borders, Armenia was ranked the 78th out of 180 countries, occupying a leading position among the CIS countries, and even surpassing some EU member states such as Greece (91) and Bulgaria (106). It is obvious that we are not satisfied with that indicator, but we try to assess it from a comparative perspective, and if we see a real difference in a five-year or three-year period, yes, we more or less appreciate it.
We have got actively working political opposition. I myself attach great value to the establishment of constructive opposition and perfectly understand that it is a key component of a democratic consolidation.
Armenia has been actively engaged in the initiatives of the Open Government Partnership, which pursues the objective of promoting effectiveness, accountability and transparency in governance.
In this context, we also place great weight on the constitutional reform that we have initiated in Armenia. It is aimed at improving the constitutional mechanisms for realization of the rule of law and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, ensuring steady balance between the branches of government and promoting good governance. Right now we have reached the stage of finalizing the revised text of the constitution; a process which hinges on the principle of utmost transparency and engages all interested parties.
We are fully aware that building a democratic society and country is an ongoing process, and we are ready to make consistent efforts to reach our goal.
Armenia’s foreign policy has always been based on the principle of complementarity of different systems and accommodation of the interests of great powers involved in the region. Joining the CSTO, the Republic of Armenia has simultaneously enhanced its cooperation with NATO, by contributing to the strengthening of international peace and security through its participation in the peace-keeping missions. Our country has developed and continues to develop allied strategic partnership with Russia. The Armenian-Russian allied inter-State relations are anchored in the close historical ties that existed between the two nations. The close collaboration with the RF is a key component of our security, economic development and stability. The RF is Armenia’s largest trade partner: in 2014, our trade accounted for more than 1.4 billion dollars, there are 1.3 thousand enterprises with Russian capital in Armenia and the amount of Russian investments in our economy have exceeded three billion dollars. I am confident that for very many persons sitting in the hall these numbers seem small and ridiculous, but believe me that for a small state and a small economy such as Armenia these numbers are extremely important. We cooperate with Russia in different sectors – energy, infrastructure, industry etc. According to non-official data, there are around 2 million Armenians living in the RF. We also continue to deepen our collaboration with the RF within the framework of international organizations – the Eurasian Economic Union, CIS and CSTO. We attach great importance to the Russia’s efforts aimed at a peaceful settlement of the NK conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.
Our foreign policy is also aimed at reinforcement of our friendly partnership with the US and of the special relationship with France.
Since independence, Armenian-American relations have continued to develop dynamically. Currently our bilateral agenda includes various sectors – political, economic, human, security and other dimensions – in which we have been making further progress year to year.
I must express my content with the fact that owing to mutual efforts our partnership has now reached its highest level in the history of Armenian-American relations. The reciprocal visits at various levels conducted in the recent years bear testimony to this.
We highly appreciate long-standing US support for the RA’s economic development, multi-sectoral reforms, consolidation of democracy and civil society, which pursue the objective to strengthen our statehood.
We also place great value on the US role in the maintenance of security and stability in the region, especially on its active involvement in the peaceful settlement of the NK problem.
Armenia is very keen on continuing interstate relations based on shared values and the age-old friendship between the Armenian and French peoples. We value the achievements embellishing our interstate relations during the last two decades, which involve regular promotion of political, economic, cultural, scientific and educational cooperation, and effective implementation of the assistance programs.
The consistent and concerted efforts in the relations between Armenia and France have resulted in a crucial haven, special relations we enjoy. France’s role is invaluable both in the condemnation and international recognition of the Armenian Genocide at the highest level, and in the peaceful resolution of the NK conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship.
Of course, deepening and broadening of our traditionally friendly partnerships with neighboring countries, particularly, with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Georgia are top priorities for our country.
We highly appreciate our mutually beneficial and multifaceted cooperation with Iran, which is rooted in historical and cultural similarities, reciprocal economic interests and in common approaches to a number of regional issues.
The multifaceted relationship between Armenia and Iran is maintained at the high level. This is testified by our active and high-level political contacts, and agreements reached therein pertaining to the effective implementation of joint political, economic and humanitarian projects.
We are closely following the negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 over Iran’s nuclear program. We wish the issue to be resolved as soon as possible, and the settlement to be acceptable to all the parties. We are hopeful that the agreements that have already been achieved will result in a comprehensive settlement of this issue.
I must express my content with the fact that in recent years the high-level contacts between Armenia and Georgia have tangibly intensified. Our active interstate dialogue rooted in the traditional, historical and good-neighborly friendship and mutual understanding between our peoples establishes serious prerequisites to outline new dimensions in our partnership. As a result, we are building effective mechanisms to swiftly address any issue on our current bilateral agenda.
We have always attached great importance to Georgia’s role not only in the development of our bilateral relations, but also in strengthening and maintaining security in the South Caucasus.
The level of our political cooperation has provided favorable conditions for promotion of bilateral economic cooperation. In this regard, we have made considerable progress in the development of a relevant legal framework.
From January of 2015 onwards we have been a full-fledged member of the Eurasian Economic Union. Since independence active involvement in regional integration processes has been and continues to be a priority for the Armenian foreign policy. In the 21st century regional integration unions play a major role in helping small states follow ongoing trends in the global economy and fully integrate into it. In this regard taking into account the present structure of our country’s economy, the geography of export and our economic ties with EEU member states, the accession to the EEU opens up new prospects for our country to develop. Free movement of goods, capital, services and labor give our businessmen substantial opportunities to penetrate new markets and reinforce their positions there. All this will naturally stimulate employment opportunities in Armenia, increase of foreign direct investments and development of our economy.
Being a full-fledged member of the European family and civilization and building our development on the European principles and values, we continue to make vigorous efforts to enhance our relations both with individual European countries, and with the EU and our Western partners. The cooperation between Armenia and EU has been marked by major achievements, which is a result of our concerted efforts, political will and mutual commitment. Throughout these years, the large-scale reforms in Armenia have been at the forefront of our dialogue. To raise the effectiveness of those reforms, we have transformed the executive structure, establishing the Ministry of International Economic Integration and Reforms, which will coordinate those processes.
We intend to maintain these achievements and, moreover, to deepen and buttress them with further initiatives. This is proved by the Armenia-EU Joint Statement adopted in Vilnius in November of 2013, in which the parties reaffirmed their mutual commitment to further enhancing and strengthening multi-sectoral cooperation. We are taking active steps both towards development of a new legal framework for our relations with the EU and pushing forward our agenda with NATO.
Meanwhile, I have to note that under conditions of the boisterous pace at which globalization has proceeded in the 21st century, when the world is moving towards formation of a single common area, when it seems that the economic borders between the states are losing their importance, it is meaningless to speak about conflicting integration models. In this respect, as I have said on numerous occasions before by joining the EEU, Armenia could serve as a connecting link between the business communities of EEU states and Western countries.
Our country’s foreign policy agenda has been expanding with every passing day through embracing new partners. Our relations with the countries of the Latin American and Asian countries have intensified, and we continue to maintain traditionally good relations with the Arab world. Among the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, we have kept on promoting close cooperation with China, Japan and with a host of other states. In a few days, I am going to pay a State Visit to China, which I am sure will give a new impetus to the development of our bilateral relations in various fields.
Of course, our foreign policy and security cannot remain unaffected by events unfolding in neighboring regions and, in general, in the international arena. By this I refer to the alarming developments in Ukraine and the Middle East. Today, the so called Islamic State based in the territories of Syria and Iraq poses a real threat to both regional and international security. In the Middle East, the cradle of ancient civilizations, those very civilizations risk being destroyed. Armenian communities in Syria and Iraq are also affected by that situation. The Armenian Genocide survivors, who had found shelter in Syria and Iraq, now have to face the mentioned challenges. Armenia has already accepted more than ten thousand refugees from Syria.
Armenia condemns the crimes and atrocities committed by the Islamic State, the Al Nusra Front and by other terrorist groups, and calls on the international community to take decisive steps against this newly-emerged calamity. In this context, Armenia expresses its full support to the complete implementation of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.
I think this is all and now I am ready to respond to your questions.