Austrian President Heinz Fischer received visiting Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. President Fischer noted that Austria was interested in deepening and reinforcing relations with friendly Armenia.
Edward Nalbandian described the high-level political dialogue, the cooperation within the framework of EU programs and international organizations, the developing economic ties and the cultural exchange as significant achievements, based on which it is necessary to take practical steps to reinforce and expand the cooperation in different spheres.
Minister Nalbandian met also the Federal Minister for European and International Affairs Michael Spindelegger.
Issues related to Armenia-EU cooperation, the steps to be taken to boost bilateral cooperation under the European Neighborhood Policy and the EU Eastern Partnership Program.
At the request of the Austrian side, Minister Nalbandian presented the latest developments in the process of settlement of the Karabakh issue. Minister Spindelegger reiterated his support for the negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and the settlement of the issue exceptionally in a peaceful way.
The same day Minister Nalbandian visited the Austrian Parliament and participated in the plenary session.
The Armenian Foreign Minister laid a wreath at the tomb of renowned Austrian writer Franz Werfel, the author of the “Forty Days of Musa Dagh.”
Within the framework of the visit to Austria, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian gave an interview to Austrian daily Der Standard.
Standard: You have signed the Zurich protocols that aimed for the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia despite political protests in your country and within the diaspora around the world. How frustrated do you feel that Turkey has put the ratification on hold?
Nalbandian: Some people, including in Europe, have no confidence in the Turkish side. They think that Turkey says one thing and does something else. The negotiation process with the Turkish side was long, a difficult one with many obstacles. There were more than ten meetings on ministerial level. In Davos, for example, we had 35 hours of negotiations with then foreign minister Ali Babacan. We finally came to the agreement and we signed Protocols in Zurich in October, 2009, in presence of representatives of Switzerland, USA, Russia, France, EU, Council of Europe. Once it was signed, Turkey put forward preconditions for the ratification.
Standard: What do you think has happened with the Turkish side?
Nalbandian: You probably have to ask them. Maybe nothing had happened In all cases, may be those who said you cannot have confidence on Turkey, are granted with an argument.
Standard: Did the Turkish government pull back for electoral reasons?
Nalbandian: Turks tend to think that only in Turkey they have elections, their public opinion. We have in fact much more reason to talk about preconditions.
Standard: To what extent has Azerbaijan, Turkey's political partner and energy source, sabotaged the process of normalization between Armenia and Turkey?
Nalbandian: All countries in the world supported this process,with one exception: Azerbaijan. I don‘t think they were right. The normalisation of the relations could have been beneficial not only for Turkey and Armenia, but for the whole region. And Azerbaijan is part of this region.
Standard: How could the Zurich protocols be revived again?
Nalbandian: There is only one way, not several. We have signed the protocols, we have to ratify and implement them – without any preconditions according to the principle of pacta sunt servanda.
Standard: Will that be possible once the parliamentary elections in Turkey in June are over?
Nalbandian: After the parliamentary elections there will be other elections. If you look for a reason to postpone the ratification you can always find one. I think the Turkish society today is more supportive for normalization on the one hand, and on the other hand are more receptive about the past. The start of negotiations and the signing of the protocols opened new windows. For the first time on 24rd of April last year, the people gathered in the Turkish cities to commemorate the day of the Armenian genocide. More than 30.000 Turkish citizens signed the petition asking for forgiveness from the Armenian people.
Standard: Looking at the overarching more than 25 year old frozen conflict of NK - how much of a danger is it for the South Caucasus?
Nalbandian: The Azerbaijani authorities nearly on a daily basis make bellicose statements and provocative actions. Only in one year they doubled their military budget and they refuse the proposals of the international community to come to an agreement on non-use of force, consolidation of ceasefire, withdrawal of snipers from the line of contact. I do not think that anyone could interpret that such a behaviour of the Azerbaijani authorities does not pose a danger.
Standard: But do you have to take these bellicose statements as you said, serious or are they not rather made for domestic consumption in Azerbaijan?
Nalbandian: The threat to use force is a violation of international law. And absence of adequate reaction to such a bellicose behaviour may lead to serious consequences.
Standard: To what extent are autocratic rule and underdeveloped civil societies a source of instability in the region?
Nalbandian: I would be more cautious in making any comparisons of political-social development among the countries of the region. While Armenia is a developing democracy, Azerbaijan is a developing authoritarian regime. This is a view expressed by most international organizations and shared by most of the experts.
The media and civil society in Armenia are actively involved in political discussions , something unheard of in Azerbaijan. Quite the contrary, full-fledged state sponsored propaganda of hatred towards Armenians hinders the peace process. And the minds of the young generations are being spoilt in such a way that it hinders future reconciliation.
A spirit of compromise and peace discourse are in general less probable in authoritarian countries.
Standard: Now, with some months having passed, did you get accustomed to the idea of Austria having opened one single embassy in the region in Baku and not in Yerevan or Tbilisi?
Nalbandian: If I say I am very happy about it, could you believe me? No, we opened our embassy in Vienna many years ago, one of the first after independence. I think it is high time for Austria to reciprocate and open representation in Yerevan. Our aim has to be to raise (German: anheben) our relations to a much higher level.
Standard: Former Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik is running for Secretary General of the OSCE. Will Armenia support her?
Nalbandian: We did not make a decision on the candidates yet. But concerning the Turkish candidate we stated that we cannot support him because Turkish representatives in different international organisations generally differ with their biased approaches and do not waste any opportunity in order not to express themselves against Armenia's positions.
Standard: That means for the other candidates and Mrs Plassnik?
Nalbandian: That means that one of the other candidates could be supported from our side...
Standard: You will narrow down the list?
Nalbandian: We will do so – pretty soon.
Within the framework of the visit to Austria Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian had a meeting with OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut. The interlocutors discussed issues related to different spheres of OSCE activity and exchanged views on the reformation of the organization.
Minister Nalbandian said Armenia attaches importance to the role of the OSCE in ensuring security and cooperation in Europe and will continue participating in the organization's activity in various fields.
At the request of the OSCE Secretary General Minister Nalbandian presented the latest developments in the process of settlement of the Karabakh issue ahead of the forthcoming meting of Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents in Sochi at the initiative of the Russian Federation.
Minister Nalbandian visited the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, where he delivered a speech on Armenia's foreign policy and Armenian-Austrian relations. Touching upon the Karabakh issue, Minister Nalbandian stated:
“While Armenia is speaking about peace, Azerbaijan is propagating war. While we are proposing to come to an agreement on non-use of force, Azerbaijan is boasting of the increase of its military budget. While the international community is urging to reinforce the ceasefire, Azerbaijan is violating the truce hundreds of times over a week and organizing provocations at the line of contact. The international community is declaring that there is no alternative to the peaceful settlement, while Azerbaijan is insisting that peaceful settlement does not mean non-use of force,” Minister Nalbandian said.
“We are calling on international organizations and other countries to support the steps taken by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the continuation of the talks with a view of finding a solution based on mutual concessions. Azerbaijan is calling on everyone to assume an anti-Armenian position, thus countering the approaches of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs and attempting to take the negotiations to different instances, thus harming the settlement process.
There is an impression that the only purpose of Azerbaijan is to lay the responsibility on the opposite party.
Armenia has accepted the renewed proposals presented in Saint Petersburg in June, in Astrakhan in October and in Moscow in December as a basis for talks that should lead to a settlement. It means that Armenia's position goes in line with that of the international community, while Azerbaijan constantly proposes changes on a number of issues,” Minister Nalbandian said, adding that the international community expects a clear answer to the question whether or not Azerbaijan accepts the proposals on the bargaining table.
“We do hope that Azerbaijan will demonstrate necessary realism and political to make it possible to move the settlement process forward,” Edward Nalbandian stated.