10, 2015

Address by RA President Serzh Sargsyan during the 3rd International Forum of the MSIIR Alumni

Dear participants of the 3rd International Forum of Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to Yerevan.
It is a great honor for us to host in Armenia the alumni of the MSIIR, a prestigious school that trains high qualified experts in international relations and professional diplomats, who are actively involved in the development and implementation of different countries’ foreign policy strategy and tactics. We have been connecting and cooperating with many of you on a regular basis. I am pleased to mention the MSIIR’s major contribution to the training of cadres for the Republic of Armenia.

I am glad that you maintain close ties after graduating the institute, owing to which you have created a broad network of MSIIR alumni.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year we are marking the 200th anniversary of the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages which was established by the famous Armenian aristocratic dynasty, the Lazarevs.

It is very symbolic that the main subject of the Yerevan international forum is “The 200th Anniversary of the Lazarev Institute.” I am particularly pleased to note that today the MSIIR Oriental School continues the good traditions of the Lazarev Institute.

Starting from the establishment of a boarding school, where Armenian children were allowed to fully master the native and Russian languages along with receiving qualified education, the college trustees also threw open the doors to foreigners, thereby transforming it to multinational educational institution.

I think there is no need to retell the whole rich history of the Lazarev Institute; it suffices to stress that throughout its more than hundred years of existence, it became an important educational institution, a significant center of Oriental studies which educated an entire star cluster of famous scientific, cultural and political figures of the time.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Armenia’s foreign policy is traditionally based on the principles of good-neighborly relations, partnership, transparency and balance, as well as of accommodating and not contradicting the interests of the forces engaged in our region. Implementation of this policy prioritizes coordinated and consistent deepening and broadening of our strategic partnership with the Russian Federation.
Armenia and Russia are joined together by strong allied relations characterized by active political dialogue and by close collaboration in the trade and economic, technical military, scientific and humanitarian spheres, as well as in the area of inter-regional cooperation.

Armenian-Russian relations are not based solely on the firm foundation of interstate cooperation: they are also rooted in our peoples’ friendship that has stood the test of time, which help to bring new promising programs to life.

We carry on promoting effective cooperation within the frames of international and regional organizations. The establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union and the intensification of the activities of the Collective Security Treaty have given fresh impetus to that collaboration.

Armenia treats its CSTO chairmanship with great responsibility and carefully approached the issue of selecting a candidate for Chairman of the Collegium of the Eurasian Economic Commission for the upcoming four years.

I am confident that we will manage to contribute to the further promotion of integration processes in the interests of our countries’ peoples.

The Russian Federation plays an important role in looking for new avenues to address the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as well as in the maintenance of peace in our region.

In its bilateral cooperation agenda Armenia attaches great weight to the development of relations with its neighboring countries - Iran and Georgia. In this context, the Iran nuclear deal is of special importance to our country, especially considering the blockade imposed by our next neighbors - Azerbaijan and Turkey.

We continue active cooperation with our Western partners that have been vigorously supporting us in carrying our large-scale reforms for many years now aimed at the improvement of democratic institutions, establishment of the rule of law and at increasing the role of civil society in public governance. A few days ago, the Council of the European Union mandated the European Commission to start negotiations over development of a new legal basis for cooperation with Armenia. We have been actively developing our ties with the countries of Old Europe, particularly France and Germany. Armenia has been conducting active dialogue with the United States at various levels. The inter-governmental commission has intensified its activities. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement has been concluded. The visa regime has been facilitated. We have started to lay special emphasis on issues of responding to global challenges and threats. Particularly, Armenia, as a country having a nuclear power plant, has joined an initiative on nuclear security issues. As for the NATO, Armenia is involved in international peace-keeping operations.

In recent years, we have intensified our relations with the countries of the Asia Pacific and the Latin American regions. This March I paid a state visit to China during which we outlined promising directions for cooperation in the trade and economic, energy, transport and humanitarian spheres. We see considerable potential in the implementation of large infrastructure projects in the format of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which will allow diversifying the logistical capabilities of not only Armenia, but also of other EAEU countries.

Dear forum participants,

Currently Armenia stands on the threshold of implementing in-depth constitutional reforms. As a result of our consistent work done with all the political forces and civil society, we have developed and presented the draft of amendments to the acting Constitution based on the Concept Paper published six months ago. The referendum will be held on December 6.

The amendments to the acting Constitution suppose passing from the semi-presidential model to the model of parliamentary government, thereby fully transferring parliamentary elections to a proportional electoral system. The issues of protection of human rights and freedoms will be elevated to a higher level. The authorities of the power institutes will be balanced, and the responsibility and authority of each of those institutions will be harmonized. The institutional role of the opposition will be strengthened.

Ladies and gentlemen,

2015 is symbolic for the Armenian people with the two most important events of its recent history - the 70th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the Armenian Genocide Centennial. The main message of the two is not to forget human tragedies, counter the attempts of historical revisionism and take lessons from the past in order to prevent the reoccurrence of crimes against humanity.

The events to mark the Armenian Genocide Centennial were held all over the world under the slogan “I Remember and Demand.” One of the major pillars of those events became Armenia’s aspiration to bring its contribution towards the international struggle against the crime of genocide.

The social-political forum “Against the Crime of Genocide” took place in Yerevan in April which was attended by famous political figures, leading academicians and experts. We intend to turn the forum into a regular event and make it an important international platform for the struggle against genocidal crimes.

Of great importance is the role of the expert community whose objective scientific studies give legal, moral and political assessments of that hapless crime and raise the awareness of the international community. For that purpose, we have started to cooperate with the International Association of Genocide Scholars and hosted their 12nd international conference in Armenia.

Armenia is grateful to the multiple dozens of countries which endorsed our initiatives in the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, supporting and making the adoption of the respective documents possible and proclaiming December 9 as “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.”

We intend to continue such initiatives and foster the creation of effective mechanisms for the struggle against all expressions of that severe crime.

Dear forum participants,

I would like to touch upon one of the most important issues of our foreign policy and national security - the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The Nagorno-Karabakh people are fighting for their indissoluble right to self-determination, a right which is enshrined in the UN Charter and other fundamental international documents. Azerbaijan’s pretentions to Nagorno-Karabakh lack any historical, legal, political and moral grounds. For ages, Nagorno-Karabakh has proved its right to live in freedom at the cost of persistent struggle. Nagorno-Karabakh has never been a part of independent Azerbaijan.

In 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, a new entity named Azerbaijan appeared on the map of the South Caucasus political map. For that reason, it is utterly inappropriate to talk about Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan until 1918 since such a country had not existed. The League of Nations rejected the membership of the newly-formed Azerbaijan for the reason of not having clearly defined borders. From 1918 to 1920, Azerbaijani military formations committed massacres of the Armenian population. Only in 1920, 40 thousand Armenians were slaughtered and expelled from Shushi - the cultural center of the region. That terrific massacre left a thorough and bleeding wound. Poet Hovsep Mandelshtam wrote. “There can be seen 40 thousand dead windows from all sides.”

In 1921, Karabakh, contrary to its people’s will, was given an autonomous region status within the territory of Azerbaijan by the decision of the Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), a partisan body which did not have an authority to adopt such decisions. Moreover, the autonomous region did not include the whole territory of Karabakh, as a result of which Nagorno-Karabakh was deprived of its common border with Armenia.

By the Constitutional Act on Independence adopted on 18 October 1991, Azerbaijan annulled the acts that had been adopted during the existence of the Soviet Union with regard to itself. By that Azerbaijan also annulled all the acts pertaining to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The fate of Karabakh Armenians within Azerbaijan could be clearly shown by the example of other Armenian region, Nakhijevan, that had been also annexed to Azerbaijan during Soviet times; of course, in this case with a status of an autonomous republic, where Azerbaijan was carrying out a policy of systematically eliminating the Armenian population and exterminating Armenian cultural monuments. I have to note that the Lazarevs were of Nakhijevan decent. During the days of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh people, following the norms of international law, the relevant provisions of the USSR legislation, proclaimed their independence through referendum, just it was done by former USSR states, including by very Azerbaijan. By the way, in Azerbaijan the referendum of independence was held after the referendum in Karabakh. Thus, at the moment of the collapse of the Soviet Union, two independent and equal subjects, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan, emerged in the administrative territory of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

Azerbaijan, which was allowed to establish an independent state for the second time in hundred years, repeated the practice of 1918, initiating an aggressive action against Nagorno-Karabakh, bombing peaceful cities and villages, slaughtering and expelling Armenians. Academician Andrei Sakharov characterized the pogrom of Armenians in Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad as an attempt to commit new genocide against Armenians.

Facing the heroic confrontation of the Karabakh people and losing a few thousand sq. kilometer territory as a result of military operations and under the threat of more losses, Azerbaijan was forced to start direct negotiations with the leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to sign a ceasefire agreement, numerous meetings between NK and Azerbaijani top officials were held, agreements were signed on temporary cessation of firing, as a result of which in May 1994 a tripartite agreement of permanent ceasefire was concluded between Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia. In February 1995, the same parties signed a decree to strengthen the ceasefire regime and create favorable conditions for the negotiation process. The tow documents continue to be in force till now since they are termless. All this comes to prove that the Azerbaijani leadership has recognized Nagorno-Karabakh at least as a party to the conflict. As we see, when Baku really wants to achieve any result in the Karabakh issue, it directly conducts negotiations with Nagorno-Karabakh and does not hinder the inclusion of Nagorno-Karabakh in the negotiation process.

The Nagorno-Karabakh peace negotiations take place in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group mediation, the only organization which has an international mandate for it. Azerbaijan always rejects proposals both on reaching a settlement and building confidence, replacing negotiations with the exacerbation of tensions along the contact line with Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Armenian border, which results in numerous victims, including peaceful inhabitants. In recent period, Azerbaijan has started a new phase of heightening tensions by using heavy artillery.

By these actions Azerbaijan not only violates the fundamental international obligations to refrain from the threat or use of force enshrined in the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the Declaration on Principles of International Law and in other documents, but also violates the obligations assumed in the tripartite agreement, fully ignoring numerous appeals made by the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries.

To justify its destructive policy, the Azerbaijani side selectively rests on four resolutions of the UN Security Council, which were adopted during the intensive military actions of 1993, purposefully distorting the essence of those resolutions.

The goal and key demand of the abovementioned resolutions of the UN Security Council was “the immediate cessation of military and hostile actions.” As for conflict settlement, the respective resolution unequivocally urges to “continue looking for opportunities for conflict settlement in the context of the Minsk process,” which once again confirms the baseless nature of Azerbaijan’s claims.

It was exactly Azerbaijan that sabotaged the implementation of all four resolutions, by not meeting their main demands – immediately cease the military actions – without which it was impossible to follow the remaining provisions of the resolution and the UN SC appeals. The ceasefire of 12 May was concluded one year after the adoption of the first UN SC resolution and six months after the adoption of the fourth UN SC resolution. Can we really consider it to be urgent? In contrast to the UN SC demands, the blockade, permanent incidents, provocations, diversions, the sniper war, the anti-Armenian propaganda, the bellicose rhetoric and other “hostile actions” continued the same way. Furthermore, in the winter of 1993-1994, Azerbaijan initiated the most large-scale attack on Nagorno-Karabakh. If Azerbaijan wanted the three parties to meet the UN SC demands and implement its resolutions, then why it made such an attack?

In no resolution Armenia is not referred to as a party to the conflict. The calls addressing our country just said “continue to exert influence” on the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to end the conflict which was fully carried out by Armenia. Moreover, the resolutions had acknowledged Nagorno-Karabakh as a party to the conflict. The calls in the resolution to establish “direct contacts” inferred contacts between Baku and Stepanakert. The denial of conducting negotiations with the Nagorno-Karabakh is a violation of the UN SC resolution, but not the last one. This list is not exhaustive.

The resolution also demands to “restore the economic, transport and energy ties of the region.” As I have already mentioned, from the beginning of the resolution, Azerbaijan and Turkey have been imposing a blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. The Azerbaijani leadership declares that it is the priority of Baku’s foreign policy.

The Security Council also calls to “ensure unobstructed international activities to provide humanitarian aid in the region, particularly in all the districts engaged in the conflict,” but Azerbaijan blocks the activities of international humanitarian organizations in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is obvious from what is said above that it is the very Azerbaijani authorities that have not met the main demands of the UN SC; nevertheless, they shamelessly rest upon those resolutions, selectively interpreting their separate provisions out of the context.
I want to conclude this part of my speech, once again reiterating Armenia’s loyalty to settle the conflict exclusively through peaceful negotiations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Strengthening universal peace, stability, security, promoting cooperation between countries and nations, ensuring conditions for development, and building a more prosperous future is the general responsibility of the international community. Specialists and experts in international relations could bring their weighty contribution towards that noble deed. I strongly believe that the MSIIR alumni could play an important role in that.

I wish fruitful work and interesting discussions to you, and success to the Yerevan forum of the MSIIR alumni.

Thank you for your attention.

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