Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s briefing with journalist after the High Level Conference dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership


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 Question: The first question. In fact it became clear that due to the peculiar veto by Azerbaijan three declarations and necessary documents were not adopted since, as Mr. Mamedyarov revealed today, they wished to include the principle of territorial integrity in the document. How would you assess this step of Azerbaijan?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: As you know, we all gathered here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership and, in fact, I think we had a quite successful event, quite a successful summary of the work done during these 10 years. It became possible to envisage the next stage. The delegations of six partners of the Eastern Partnership, represented at the highest level, had quite interesting and important discussions, all the challenges and approaches have been discussed. In that sense, I think it was a very successful process and a successful event.

We have our agenda - working with the European Union on a bilateral level and we have a rather serious, rich agenda. The Eastern Partnership has been and remains a very important platform which complements our work on a bilateral level. And in this respect, we are satisfied with the results in principle. As to the summary, it was made by Madame Mogherini, which reflects the approaches of the member states and, as far as Armenia is concerned, reflects our approaches.

Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, does this mean that the declaration, which was originally intended, became a statement only because Azerbaijan demanded the provision on territorial integrity be maintained? Was Armenia against some of the points?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: I would repeat, we have the summary of the activities for these 10 years expressed in the statement of Madame Mogherini. The rest is a process.
Question: Do you know to which extend the wordings of the statements and definitions concerning Nagorno-Karabakh in the Agreement between the European and Azerbaijan are in line with the wordings enshrined in our Agreement?
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Let me repeat that we have our own agreement - the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), where a large scale of different issues, including issues of regional security, including a paragraph related to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, are expressed. The European Union and Azerbaijan are negotiating whatever they are negotiating. Naturally, we are not a part of those negotiations, and here the most important question concerns the European Union: to what extent they are principled and consistent in their positions. In that regard, I repeat, we have our contractual field where the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh has its own expression. I am hopeful and confident that the European Union has principles of maintaining consistency.

Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, has Armenia presented a specific reservation to the European Union regarding the possible partnership with Azerbaijan?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Once again, we are a third party in these negotiations, and the question, first of all, concerns the consistency of the European Union.

Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, did you have a private conversation with Elmar Mammadyarov?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: If by private conversation, you mean a chat, then yes, I did. It is a normal within such format. You know, we are both human beings and we can communicate with each other, and it is not mandatory that during each contact we address some issues - we don’t have any shortage of such occasions.

Question: Is a meeting expected in the near future?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Let's be patient a little longer. You know, we are waiting for some clarifications for the next phase of the meeting, and the host party should tell us how and when it is convenient, so that we can also coordinate the dates. In principle, we have no problem.

Question: Is it already clear whether Washington will be the host?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: It is expected so. But it would be wrong to say something. Again, I repeat, rushing ahead of the host, I think, is not a nice thing.

Question: Mr. Minister, Mammadyarov today once again claimed, that in principle he is against the return of Stepanakert as a negotiating party because he says that the Armenian authorities come and present them what is being negotiated.

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: In principle, we stand for it. Let me repeat, we have dealt with this issue for many times. It is a strictly practical issue, because if Artsakh is not given the opportunity to be the owner of this process, the effectiveness of this process seriously suffers. Our approach is very practical and logical.

Question: Mr. Minister, there are ongoing discussions in Armenia on why the Prime Minister took part only in the official dinner and not in today's high-level conference. Do you think this criticism is well-founded?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: You know that the Prime Minister had his schedule, I do not think, that it is good to build a theory on this question. Why this happened? Because there were different leaders at different levels. I have stayed, and continued to participate. We were taking part in all the events that took place today. By the way, it was a very practical and very good visit by the Prime Minister because yesterday's debates, contacts were very practical and very good. Many exchanges, assessments, exchanges of thoughts took place both at bilateral and multilateral levels. In practical terms we are very pleased. Today it continued. Regarding why this or that way, it is a very important event as it was a very well organized celebration of the decade.

We participated, but the Prime Minister had another visit which was also important and necessary. And it takes time to get from Brussels to Beijing, so we were able to adjust and coordinate with the host. All this is normal. So, there is no need to build assumptions on why something is in this or that way.

Question: In his speech during dinner, Donald Tusk described the Vilnius Summit as a dramatic moment in which Ukraine withdraw from the Association Agreement. As the then negotiator of the Armenia’s Association Agreement, after the change of power do you see the necessity to return to the document which was at that time taken off the agenda.

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: By the way, you were present at today's discussions; they were very interesting, in that sense. This approach of diversified cooperation, unity in diversity… and I will repeat that we build our policy based on our interests. And regarding our evaluation for the next stage, we are guided first of all by our interests. We now have the opportunity to have another important agreement with the EU where the volume of cooperation is large enough. Especially, to have the entire massive potential included in the agreement and to organize the work that is now being accomplished through the final roadmap by involving our entire state system, civil society, business circles. All of this serves to our development agenda, our capacity-building. This tool is in our hands, and we intend to make the best use of it. On the other hand, we have the opportunity to work in a 200 million market today and also take advantage of the latter's opportunities. If it has been succeeded so far, then we should try to continue.

Question: Don’t we return to the previous one?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: Now, I do not see such an issue - to how we can mix everything and start from scratch.
Question: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, did you speak about visa liberalization during these two days?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: This is a very important issue for us. As you have witnessed, we talked about it also here today, because what we do for our country, what we call values and build our country, and the message of the Velvet Revolution, which relates to values, democracy, human rights protection, domination, the rule of law in socio-economic life, this is our choice. It is a choice outside of geopolitics and a model chosen by the people, derived from our national interest.

Everything is about a human being, a citizen, this applies to us, our country and our partners, including our cooperation within the European Union. People to people contacts are of key importance, and visa liberalization is not only a tool but the most important tool which will help us to strengthen what is called people to people contacts. This is a very important question for us. This is not the only tool as we pay attention and try to develop all the other opportunities for contacts in educational, cultural, scientific, business and other spheres, to bring our citizens closer to their partners in this continent and to expand their opportunities.
In this regard, visa liberalization is of great importance, which is an issue of principle for us. As I mentioned that there are various observations, different questions concerning migration and policy. This is not a serious obstacle for us, we can’t accept it and say ok the matter is closed.

Of course it is not, and we will continue to consistently advance it, because we insist that everyone is being assessed according to its merits, according to its capacities. We are very sensitive and we will not act in a way to create a possibility to abuse the liberalization regime. We never encourage something that might create issues. Now we are being told that other countries enjoying the liberalized regime and they abuse it. This is not a sufficient argument for us.

We want to be assessed according to our merits and our capabilities, and in that sense, all our experts, all our relevant institutions dealing with migration, are in contact with the European experts to assess how well our capabilities are developed, whether they meet the standards so that we can start a visa liberalization dialogue.

Question: Can you specify any exact date for the liberalization?

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: For us it is a matter of every moment. For us, this is an overwhelming priority. And I can’t tell when it is going to happen. This is one of the key points of our agenda. This is consistent process. Again again, it is very important to have a chance to evaluate whether we have enough capacities to launch the dialogue. We are confident that we have sufficient progress on this issue and now, combining all this and advancing our agenda, we should try to advance it. For me, this is a matter of principle.

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