Armenian foreign minister gives wide-ranging TV interview

Armenian foreign minister gives wide-ranging TV interview

Public Television of Armenia, Yerevan
11 Oct 04

Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan has said in an interview
to Armenian TV that relations with Russia are good even though Russia
closing the border with Georgia following Beslan has caused problems
for Armenia. In the interview, which spanned various topics and lasted
a little over an hour, he added that the closure of the border was
aimed against Georgia and not Armenia. On the question of Nagornyy
Karabakh he said that the Azeri president was “driving himself into
a corner” through his recent statements on the subject while later
on in the interview Oskanyan denied that Armenia faced international
isolation over its Karabakh policies. Asked to comment on recent
reports that the USA planned to open military bases in neighbouring
Azerbaijan, Oskanyan said he treated such reports “with suspicion”. As
regards the war in Iraq, he said Armenia had never welcomed it and
would not be sending troops to Iraq. But at the same time Oskanyan
said he supported antiterror measures. He wound up the interview by
stressing Armenia’s potential for development noting this could not be
achieved without the involvement of the opposition and diaspora. The
following is an excerpt from the interview to Armenian Public TV on
11 October. Subheadings have been inserted editorially:

Correspondent Good evening. Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan
will answer our questions today. Good evening, Mr Oskanyan. The
important question of this week is why the Verkhniy Lars checkpoint on
the Russian-Georgian border is not operating. Despite negotiations
at the highest level to open the border, it is not functioning
yet. People in Armenia are speaking about changes in Russia’s policy
towards Armenia.

Armenia is suffering from border closure

Vardan Oskanyan, captioned The negotiations are continuing, and I am
sure that there will be changes. It would be better if such cases did
not take place at all. The situation is indeed very difficult, there
are numerous vehicles on the border, and they cannot cross it. This
has a negative impact on Armenia. The negotiations are going on at
the highest level in order to resolve the problem. This problem cannot
last long because nobody benefits from this: Russia, Georgia, Armenia,
and also Azerbaijan to some extent, are suffering from this. I am
sure that this problem will eventually be decided once and for all.

First, we have to mention that this is the first case in our
independent history that Russia, our strategic partner, has
undertaken a step against our country and this has a negative impact
on Armenia. But on the basis of this to claim that Russia has changed
its attitude towards Armenia would be incorrect.

Correspondent Does this mean that Russia has no grounds to punish Armenia or

Closure aimed at Georgia not Armenia

Vardan Oskanyan Of course, this step is not against Armenia. This
is against Georgia. We should not forget that serious events have
recently taken place in that part of the region, i.e. the Beslan
events, terrorist acts on the whole. Russia is undertaking relevant
steps. There are also other problems between Russia and Georgia. All
these measures are directed at resolving these problems, but not
against Armenia. We must be ready for similar actions from countries
with whom we have close relations, and this does not only refer to
Russia; these countries can at times put their national interests
above their ties with Armenia. A country, with whom we have the
closest relations and is our strategic partner, can undertake such
steps to defend its national interests.

Correspondent But, we are losing out.

Oskanyan Yes, we are losing out, but we must hope that this will not
last long. Therefore, we must continue negotiations. Our interests,
our infrastructures in this region are related so closely with the
three South Caucasus and neighbouring countries that it has become
like one entire system. If something takes place in one country, it
has an immediate impact on other countries, too. For example, roads,
oil pipelines and other things. We should all understand this and then
the leaders would be more responsible as regards their activities.
I hope that, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and also Armenia and Russia as
well as other countries can overcome this situation. The resolution
is also dependent on the presidents’ experience and their readiness
to solve the problem through cooperation.

No problem in Armenian-Russian relations

Correspondent As a result of recent events, public opinion polls show
that the Russian-Armenian relations, the intergovernmental relations
between the two countries are not horizontal. What is your assessment
of the Russian-Armenian relations and how will they develop in future?

Oskanyan There is no problem in our relations. Our relations with
Russia are horizontal and satisfy our countries’ interests.

Aliyev is driving himself into a corner over Nagornyy Karabakh

Correspondent Nagornyy Karabakh will never be independent, we shall
never agree to a compromise, which is connected with our independence,
and the international community will never recognize Nagornyy
Karabakh’s military regime. Ilham Aliyev Azerbaijani president said
this in an interview with Reuters last week. In this interview, he
also noted that Armenia must make decisive steps in the negotiating
process by liberating seven districts. How would you comment on this
statement by Aliyev Junior?

Oskanyan You know, Aliyev has not only said this in this interview
but also in his recent speech at the 59th session of the UN General
Assembly on 24 September ; I think that he is driving himself into a
corner. I hope that he understands this. By doing this, he wants to
strengthen his precarious position in the country. But he has chosen
the wrong direction and the wrong topic. He can issue statements, but
his statements can only complicate his ability to compromise, without
which a settlement to the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict is impossible. He
forgets that some moves have taken place in this process. We are
also making statements on Nagornyy Karabakh and if one is attentive
enough, one can notice that no other settlement is possible in the
Nagornyy Karabakh conflict in other words Karabakh will not be part
of Azerbaijan . There will be no other settlement. Karabakh must not
be part of Azerbaijan, as it has not been historically or legally
either. Therefore, the truth is stressed in our speeches, in our
president’s speeches. It is stressed that Karabakh must never be part
of Azerbaijan. We are very careful in our statements and we understand
this issue could be solved by compromises, and the areas where we
must make compromises do not contradict this. We never debate issues
where we can make compromise. We do not issue irrelevant statements
to gain political dividends. However, Aliyev does. I am not sure that
he will rectify this policy; otherwise, he could worsen his situation.

Various options possible to resolve Karabakh problem

At present Nagornyy Karabakh cannot be part of Azerbaijan and not
only we but also international organizations understand this point. A
model of a common state option and the Key West process are proof
of this. This option is also viewed as real by the OSCE Minsk Group
co-chairs. Some six to seven years ago nobody even wanted to hear about
this matter and we were not allowed to speak on this topic. Currently
the situation has changed and it is a real option for Karabakh not to
be part of Azerbaijan. This is one of the easiest options to implement
if we approach this issue from the international community’s point of
view. We do not know whether Aliyev understands this or not. Judging
from the contents and outcome of the negotiations, we may conclude
that he does understand. Because there is a discrepancy between what he
says in the negotiations and what he says in his speeches in public. We
regret that he prepares his public speeches differently and therefore,
he will have problems in connection with the public in future.

Correspondent Mr Oskanyan, has a common state proposal been taken
into consideration in the negotiations?

Oskanyan You know, until now Azerbaijan has wanted to choose the
easiest way based on the political line pursued by the former president
Heydar Aliyev in domestic policy. True, various options are being
discussed. However, the most difficult option for Azerbaijan is the
return of territories. As before, they agree to the easiest option
for themselves, i.e. the return of the territories, the postponement
of the resolution of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict and entrusting
its resolution to future generations. This is a dangerous approach
and this method cannot resolve the matter. Because, Azerbaijan will
never make changes to its political line on the status of the Nagornyy
Karabakh if it gets some other territories back. We would be naive to
think that Azerbaijan will give up its political line in connection
with the status of the NKR, improve relations and open the borders
if we return some of the occupied territories. Nothing will change;
such an approach can somewhat ease regional tension without having
a role in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. For the time
being, the package option is the only way to achieve a resolution of
this problem. Definite changes can be made in connection with the
implementation of the package option. It is a topic of negotiations
to define consistency while applying the points of this option.

However, for the sake of establishing lasting and stable peace in
the region and improving relations, we should agree to the package
option as there is no other alternative. This is our foreign policy
line and I believe that this package should be at the negotiating
table as it has no alternative.

US bases in Azerbaijan

Correspondent Minister, the US United Press International agency
reported that Azerbaijani Defence Minister Safar Abiyev and US Deputy
Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Steven Pifer
agreed on stationing of US military bases in Cabrayil, Fuzuli and
Zangilan southwest Azerbaijan . Is this proposal being discussed in
the negotiations? Will these districts be really liberated?

Oskanyan This is the first time that I have heard this, this is
nonsense. The issue of stationing US military bases in Azerbaijan
is certainly not our problem, this is their problem. The districts,
mentioned by you, are part of the package option and they cannot be
resolved separately. Even if this issue has been discussed between
Azerbaijan and the USA, I consider it meaningless. I also treat this
report with suspicion; this is provocation by Azerbaijan. This is
what Azerbaijan would wish, it is hardly likely that the USA would
take such a step.

Passage omitted: Oskanyan comments on the Turkish-EU membership

No Armenian troops for Iraq

Correspondent Mr Oskanyan, parliament is expected to debate soon the
issue of sending troops to Iraq. Do you think specialists should be
sent to Iraq and what is your attitude towards this issue?

Oskanyan Artak correspondent’s name , you rectified your mistake at
the end. However, the first part of your question is also wide of
the mark. It is not correct to use the word troops. We cannot speak
about troops here. Nevertheless, I’ll try to give a generalized
answer to the question. You see, unlike our regional neighbours,
Armenia has never welcomed the war in Iraq. We have been principled
on this issue since the first day and we still stick to this. We have
not participated in the war and will not do so. It is everybody’s
task to contribute to the humanitarian issue. This issue certainly
can be debated proceeding from the interests of the Iraqi people
and our community there. I hope that our parliament will take the
right decision. We should distinguish between the Iraqi war and
war on terror. We are a member of the antiterror coalition and in
tandem with the international community we are fighting against
it. We are combating terrorism through legislative means, acceding
to international conventions, protecting our borders and preventing
it being used by a third country. Armenia deals with these issues
seriously, and the USA and international community highly appreciate
our efforts. We are also interested in fighting against terrorism as
Armenia is a victim of terrorism.

Passage omitted: terrorists fought in the Karabakh war in 1992-93

Armenia will not face isolation over Karabakh

Correspondent Minister, your statement that Karabakh is priceless
and Armenia will never compromise on Karabakh for the sake of its
involvement in oil and transport projects are being widely debated
in the press. You have said that we can develop without them oil
and transport projects and we shall put up with any difficulty that
comes our way even if the war goes on for 100 years. In your opinion,
will it not cost us dear to be in isolation?

Oskanyan You asked two questions, and one of them surprised me very
much. There cannot be a citizen in Armenia who does not agree that
Karabakh is priceless. If Armenia has a citizen who does not agree
with this opinion and thinks that I am wrong, then I regret it. Passage
omitted: elaborates on why Karabakh is priceless To state that Karabakh
has a price tag and we can make compromises over it for the sake of an
oil pipeline and the opening of a railway are wrong. Karabakh cannot be
haggled over as every inch of Armenia is priceless, including Karabakh.

As the above could lead towards our isolation, it would, of course,
be better if the Azerbaijani and Turkish borders were open, the railway
were in operation and so on. I issued a statement at a press conference
based on an interview by the US Minsk Group cochair, Steven Mann,
where Mann said that Armenia might be isolated. My answer is: do not
try to frighten us on these issues. Isolation is only possible if
the international community is behind it. However, isolation is
impossible. It is Turkey’s decision to keep the railway closed.
The issue of the oil pipeline and the closure of the Naxcivan
section of the railway is Azerbaijan’s decision. It is natural
that given the above, they would like to isolate Armenia. It is
true that we have been deprived of involvement in the oil pipeline
and transport projects. However, it would be wrong to view this as
Armenia’s isolation. Isolation is possible only if the international
community takes steps against Armenia. However, this is not the case;
just the opposite. You see, due to Armenia’s current activities,
we are members of important international organizations, starting
from human rights commissions to our participation in the work
of top-level organizations. Armenia has never been so close to
international organizations as now

Stability and cooperation with others will ensure development

Correspondent You say that Armenia can be developed. Which development
resources are these? Financial, human or diplomatic? Have we sufficient

Oskanyan It is true, there are many problems in Armenia today. The
level of poverty is very high, there are many serious problems with
employment. All these have to be solved gradually. All these problems
can be solved only by ensuring high rates of economic growth. I
can boldly announce today that using only a small per cent of the
resources of our Armenianhood, including Armenia itself and the
diaspora changes tack – we have large resources. The resources are
not only human, financial and the infrastructure. The resources are
at the same time, democracy, human rights, the diaspora’s involvement
and our policies. There are also other resources which we have not
yet been harnessed. We must use these resources. I would like to
outline our political stability among these resources, and also the
establishment and formation of a political field where the government
and opposition both have a role to play . To implement all these,
we need the opposition’s involvement. We can develop and cooperate
in this region only through the correct usage of our resources. These
resources exist and all that remains is to establish peace inside the
country and to involve the diaspora in our works. An assurance that
Armenia has enough resources to develop is needed regarding Armenia,
and in order to achieve this assurance we need domestic political
stability; and to achieve domestic political stability we need
cooperation between the ruling sides and the opposition. I am sure
that we have all these resources and we must work in this direction;
and then we can implement all these things in these conditions. We
need to work on the opening of the borders, but if they do not open
we must try to continue the tempos of our development in the existing
conditions and achieve a strong and prosperous Armenia.

Correspondent Mr Oskanyan, thank you for your interesting interview
and goodbye.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress