Working visit of President Serzh Sargsyan to the Federal Republic of Germany
At the invitation of Munich Security Conference Chairman, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, President Serzh Sargsyan, who is paying a working visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, attended the Munich Security Conference later today. The President of Armenia delivered a speech at the “Inside or Outside: Countries between Russia and Europe” panel discussion.
Serzh Sargsyan addressed Armenia’s foreign policy in the current geopolitical environment, our country’s effective cooperation with the EAEU and the EU in the framework of the ongoing integration processes and the security challenges faced in the region. In that context, the Head of the Armenian State referred to the OSCE Minsk Group-brokered settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijani authorities’ non-constructive stance, which hinders the talks.
The President also spoke about the commitments assumed and negotiated within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, emphasizing that the Helsinki Accord, which started as early as in the 70s of the last century, sought to achieve security and cooperation in Europe, strengthen solidarity between peoples and ensure a dignified and legitimate cohesion, which still goes high on the European agenda.
The President of Armenia stressed that the ten principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Prospect are closely interrelated, and none of them should be separated or opposed to others.
Remarks by the President of the Republic of Armenia
Serzh Sargsyan at the Munich Security Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to thank Mr. Ischinger for the invitation to this Conference. I greet all the participants of this panel. Events like this one contribute to and enrich the open and informal exchange of views and approaches.
They say geography is destiny; I, however, think that it is also biography. We know it well from our own experience. As a result of our journey, we have concluded that geopolitical competition bears nothing good. Therefore, the ability not to suffer from such competition is tantamount to benefiting from it. This experience of history is what drives our current policy.
Furthermore, I strongly believe that for Armenia and many other nations, being at the intersection of interests of the greater geopolitical powers is both a challenge and an opportunity.
When these powers collide, the interests of small nations sometimes get overlooked. Therefore, it is our objective to incessantly transform this challenge into an opportunity—through cooperation and combining of various interests.
The Helsinki Process commenced in the course of the 1970s. It was aimed at consolidating security and cooperation in Europe. I believe that the solidarity and coexistence of nations in dignity and equality have been the promises that remain topical today.
The commitments undertaken in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should indeed dwell from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The ten principles of the Helsinki Final Act are an integral whole. None of them should be disjointed from or contrasted to the others.
The same can be said about all the other commitments negotiated in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Equal rights and the cooperative approach should dominate across the OSCE region. It is the only path towards consolidating the concept of comprehensive and indivisible security endorsed in Helsinki.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Azerbaijan’s position regarding the Nagorno Karabakh issue is a flagrant violation of the Helsinki spirit. It is particularly evident in the recently-launched election campaign. President Aliyev uttered territorial claims reaching as far as Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, calling it a historically Azerbaijani territory - nothing but delirium - which can have serious consequences if Europe turns a blind eye to it.
The Nagorno Karabakh issue must be resolved as soon as possible, and by peaceful means. This mission of ours is led by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, namely the Russian Federation, France, and the United States of America.
The three principles of international law – non-use of force or threat to use force, peoples’ equality and right to self-determination, and territorial integrity – have been proposed by them as the cornerstones of the peace process. The European Union in turn has reiterated on numerous occasions that it supports the efforts and proposals of the Co-Chairs.
The efforts to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh issue can serve as an example of how Russia, the EU, and the US can positively coordinate their positions for the benefit of international peace and security. We desire to see more frequent manifestations of such common positions.
It is especially important, since conflicts in all corners of the world are increasing and expanding. We are concerned by the sweeping changes taking place in the Middle East and elsewhere, which are accompanied by neverending wars. We are concerned by the state failure and disintegration of a number of countries. We need to think of cooperative, comprehensive, and indivisible security, so as to effectively respond to those challenges. This is the only possible and realistic way to overcome the current crises.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Armenia has always been open for cooperation, and has respected the interests of others and done her best to match them. We have always attempted not to impose upon our partners a choice, and whenever possible, to build an environment of positive cooperation. I can say that all of our partners have by and large supported this policy of ours and the steps taken as a result of it.
Armenia acceded to the Eurasian Economic Union with a clear understanding that doing so would best serve the development of our economy and the future of our nation. The results achieved since our accession do prove our trust in the path we embarked upon. Meanwhile, it has in no shape or way impeded our cooperation with the European Union, especially in the areas of institutional reforms and modernization.
Our cooperation with the European Union has been elevated to a new level by the recently concluded Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. It is now important for the ratification of this document to proceed at due speed.
Modernization is a constant process, which makes us keep pace with the times. We shall always strive to cooperate with all those powers that boast great achievements and can contribute to the modernization of my country. The above policy facilitates Armenia’s cooperation with both the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union. It also unleashes opportunities for everyone who is interested in the development of entrepreneurial ties with these two integration structures.
We have been negotiating with all the interested countries with the objective of creating a new transit corridor between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. We hope that their successful conclusion will render a list of beneficiaries that will be far more extensive than the countries engaged in the negotiations process. In my view, collaboration of the member States of the EU and EAEU in both bilateral and multilateral settings is consistent with our shared interests and will contribute to our economic advancement.
Here, I would like to draw your attention to one more important feature. Our society has achieved broad consensus on the matters of Armenia’s foreign policy and the steps undertaken for Armenia’s economic integration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the times of the Cold War, Armenia was on the border of one of the two rival blocks. Thirty years have passed since the fall of the Berlin wall, but Turkey still continues to keep the border with Armenia closed. It seems that the clock stopped ticking there.
I am convinced that Armenia has taken all the possible measures in order to overcome that impasse. I initiated a process of normalization of the relations between Armenia and Turkey, which could have created new opportunities for both of our nations and the region at large.
Nevertheless, the Protocols that Armenia and Turkey had signed back in 2009 remained on the paper. Turkey not only failed to ratify these documents, but also came up with preconditions that had no connection whatsoever with the Protocols. It was nothing but a failure to take advantage of the historic opportunity.
Is Azerbaijan preventing Turkey from establishing relations with Armenia, as many are trying to convince us? No, it is not the case. The chief impediment is the lack of political will on the part of the Turkish leadership.
I believe you may be aware that many representatives of the Armenian diaspora were not too happy about that decision of ours. It was natural, as they were successors of survivors of the Genocide and of homeland dispossession. I travelled around the globe back then, met with our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, community after community, and discussed with them this very sensitive issue.
Have the Turkish leaders displayed such political will? Have they been faithful to the commitments they had signed up to?
We cannot wait eternally for Turkey's response. The Protocols were negotiated under the existing circumstances. If Turkey desires to await other circumstances and only then to ratify the Protocols, then it is profoundly mistaken. Under potential new circumstances, a new document is to be negotiated. Armenia does not resort to the language of preconditions, but equally, Armenia shall never accept preconditions put forth by anyone.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A brilliant son and statesman of the French nation, Charles de Gaulle, outlined a vision of united Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. I think that it is the most accurate response to the question put forth for the discussion by this panel.
I strongly believe that the fruits of mutually-beneficial and inclusive cooperation will best serve to bringing the European nations together and to ensuring their prosperity. This is the position adopted by Armenia, and we stand ready to further contribute to the realization of that objective.
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.