04, 2010

President Serzh Sargsyan gives a briefing to the journalists during his visit to Tavush marz

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Mr. President, what’s your opinion of the idea to establish an international school in Dilijan?

I think it’s a great idea. In my brief speech I said that that program was important from a number of viewpoints and I fully support it. I would like to once again thank Mr. Ruben Vardanian for this excellent initiative and appeal to all our state bodies and services to support this program.

I am certain, that in 2013 the school will have 500 students, and we hope, mostly from Armenia.

Mr. President, the most talked about topic today is the current state of our economy and the impact of the global crisis. What’s your assessment of the steps undertaken in Armenia to overcome the crisis? Where are we today?

The crisis hit our economy hard. On one hand, we were compelled to defy economic decline, on the other hand – to mitigate the consequences of the crisis for our citizens, and first of all, for the vulnerable groups of our society. I think now it’s clear that the government has managed to keep all social programs intact, also the wages, social benefits, and pensions were paid in full and in time. It’s a very positive trend. Today, I think, we have entered the recovery stage - for the last three months the economy has been showing signs of growth. On April 20th we will learn the results of the previous three months, however today we already know that in the first two months 3.1% growth was registered. It almost equals the economic growth of the first two months in 2008.

The crisis is to be overcome not only by the investments into the economy, not only through exclusively economic performance but first of all in the minds of the people. The picture of subduing the crisis should be in our minds. If those individuals, who say that Armenia has overcome the crisis, do it to create positive mood so that the public begins to spend, the constructor begins to build, those who want to buy a car - buy it, in that case it is a positive approach. However, if it is said to boast or make a show of their work, I don’t approve and don’t welcome it. And all those, who insist that Armenia is in deep crisis probably have the right to say it. If they express that opinion to challenge the government to make it work more vigorously, it’s one thing; but if they say it to aggravate the situation and to create pessimistic attitude, it’s quite another thing. I cannot accept or understand such attitude.

I would like to clarify my words: a considerable amount of work has been accomplished; it’s been evaluated by the specialized international organizations and the evaluation was positive. Today, we can already see the results. Certainly, it is not enough since we are still in the recovery phase and must carry out new programs and give a report on the programs which we had discussed in the past, because the crisis brought its changes to those programs. Soon, we will talk about the major programs, which we spoke about a year or year and half ago.

Mr. President, rumor has it that the changes in the government are imminent, particularly regarding the Prime Minister. Is there any truth to the rumor?

The rumor is baseless. At the moment I am not going to make changes in the government or replace the Prime Minister. When the economic decline hit 15, 16, 17 percent such rumors, which by the way at that time were less fervent than now, it was more or less comprehensible. Since the economy was in decline, one would assume that our economic team wasn’t competent enough, couldn’t counter the crisis, or failed to predict the global economic and financial crisis, etc. In that case rumors such as this one would, probably, be justified. But today, when the economy is gradually picking up, what’s the idea behind replacing the economic team? As for the replacement of some government members, it is a constant process. Ministers can be replaced at any time and it has nothing to do with the crisis or our general economic policy.

Much is being spoken about Robert Kocharian’s return to big politics. Is it credible news?

Mr. Kocharian never left politics. In my opinion Robert Kocharian has always been in politics, and I am surprised by the hysterical outcry which arises regarding any move by Robert Kocharian be it a tour, a trip abroad, or a public statement. It is incomprehensible. We are being advised on how to work by the people who never in their lives supervised two employees and read perhaps two or fewer books. These people don’t even come close to Kocharian. Why are they allowed to tell their opinion but Kocharian is not? I think it’s quite natural when Kocharian speaks out or visits this or that country. What’s odd about that? It’s done all over the world. I would recommend some media outlets and some political circles not to make up things or look for something which is not there. If their purpose is to knock together some forces or some individuals, it is nothing new. Let them be, God be the judge.

Mr. President, the possibility of war is also a much discussed topic, do you share that concern?

What can I say? There is always a chance of war. At the moment we are in the border region and the people who live here will tell you that there is always a threat of war.
The danger of war was there in 1995, 2000, 2005 and today such danger exists, yes. It will be there as long as there is no peace and stability in the region. For our people these dangers become more or less tangible in two main cases: when the Azeris adopt militaristic stance and talk big because there is nothing else they can do. I am not sure what they base their rhetoric on because I don’t believe they have any advantage over us. The second case is when certain forces are trying to exploit that issue in our domestic life.

Unfortunately, there are some media outlets which simply translate into Armenian Azerbaijani propagandistic material. It seems like these outlets are working exclusively toward terrorizing their own people. It’s incredible but some Armenian newspapers are drawing parallels between the Armenian and Azerbaijani troops and try to prove Azeri’s advantage over the Armenians, I cannot understand it. I cannot understand a journalist or a newspaper who asks different individuals “if there is a war, will you go?” Or, you’re in power, you should lead the war. It’s hard to comprehend. But, unfortunately, we should realize that these questions are asked by a certain type of individuals.

I have no doubt that there are many among the opposition or quite neutral persons, who will be in the first lines, if God forbid, something like that happens tomorrow. And vise versa: there are individuals in the leadership who will run away. We’ve been there, we’ve seen that. Hence, it depends who you are dealing with.

The short answer to your question is no, I don’t see an imminent threat of war. However, you might remember that on different occasions I have said that the Minister of Defense must constantly assume that tomorrow there may be war. For that reason our Minister of Defense, the leadership of the Ministry work day and night and here in Tavush as well. Our army is combat ready, and God forbid, if there is war, we will not be caught off guard.

How do you assess the current phase of the NK peace negotiations against the background of the recent proposals made by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs?

Quite normal, I see it as a stage of the process, just a working proposal. Nothing extraordinary. We have stated on many occasions, and I would like to reiterate that we cannot resolve the issue unilaterally. There are negotiations and struggle, and the resolution of the problems depends on all parties – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh and also the Minsk Group. If the NK people’s right for self-determination is granted, all the other issues can be solved very quickly. I would like to give a peace of advise to you and to our public: don’t get carried away, I apologize for putting it this way, with the fairy tales of the individuals who claim that we are in bad shape, that for us th negotiations at this stage are tough, that we negotiate poorly, that our arguments are not presented properly. The irony is that this is being told by the people, who on this long stage of negotiations were the ones responsible for the process, key persons. They had a chance to find a quick and pro-Armenian solution, however, as you can see, the struggle is not over yet.

For different reasons, it would be wrong to disclose details at the moment. I can say only this: history will be the judge. If years later we speak about this issue, at the time we will be able to give assessment and probably say “this person was a good negotiator, that person – a bad one, and subsequently we had this or that problem.” Now, in 2010 we can judge from the distance and speak about the solution offered to us 10-13 years ago, and thanks God, we didn’t agree to that solution. And if we didn’t agree to that solution, it is quite obvious that we cannot propose a similar or a less favorable solution to our people. And just like me, don’t take these gossips at face value.

Mr. President, your upcoming visit to the United States in also important in the context of the Armenian-Turkish normalization process. What is to be expected?

I will not dwell on that issue, because as you mentioned, it is an important visit, there will be important meetings and the most important thing is that we are very close to making our decision. At the moment, however, it wouldn’t be right to talk about that decision. We will present it to our public later, when we are absolutely certain that it’s a right decision. In circumstances like these the most important thing is to make the right decision.

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