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Speech by H.E. Mr. Edward Nalbandian, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia Institute of International and European Affairs


(Dublin, July 14, 2011)

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be in the friendly Ireland and deliver a speech at the esteemed Institute of International and European Affairs. It is not so often that we have mutual visits to Dublin and Yerevan, but this does not decrease the warmth and friendly feelings both Armenians and Irish people emanate towards one another. The Irish proverb “what is seldom is wonderful" (An rud is annamh is iontach) probably contains much truth in it, but in promoting political dialogue and strengthening friendship regularity of contacts and meetings is a must.

I have a particular feeling being here because with the Irish people the Armenians share many similarities. We both have huge diasporas spread around the world. Thus, Armenians and the Irish meet one another on a daily basis in the USA, Canada, Argentina, Australia and other places.

We share interesting similarities in belief systems, art, literature and architecture, despite the fact that for a very long period of history Ireland and Armenia represented the opposite frontiers of the Christian world. It is a historical fact that the cousins of the modern day Irish, the ancient Galatian Celts, were neighbors to our Armenian forefathers some 2.000 years ago. It is also a striking similarity of historical past that Christianity became the religion of the Armenians and the Irish quite early in history.

Armenians were the first in the world to become a Christian state in the beginning of the 4th century, Christianity was introduced to Ireland in the beginning of the 5th century. Another amazing similarity is that the Armenians and the Celts are the two only peoples around the world which have richly decorated cross-stones and which are one of our civilisational heritages. The similarities of the cross-stones are simply striking. By the way, UNESCO named the Armenian cross-stone art as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The political history of Armenia and Ireland, have had some interesting features too. An example of them is that, one of the prominent Armenians of the 18th century, Joseph Emin, who was also a key figure in the Armenian liberation movement, for more than 30 years was a close friend to one of the Irish national heroes and most eminent political thinkers, Edmund Burke and was greatly influenced by Burke’s ideas. The fact that Irish academic institutions have been interested in Armenian history and culture can not go unnoticed. Recently Chester Beatty Library published a book “The Armenians: Art, Culture and Religion”, which is a new assessment of the Armenian Collection of Chester Beatty Library. This library has one of the largest collections of Armenian medieval manuscripts in Europe.

Not only the close contacts since the earliest times and the preservation of those ties throughout centuries, but also the strong civilizational links between the two nations, sympathy towards each other and sharing similar or very close approaches on many international and regional issues have made our countries as natural friends.

Currently the Armenian-Irish relations could have been much more developed given the existing potential for developing political, economic, touristic, trade, and cultural relations. And together with my colleague, Mr. Eamon Gilmore, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland we will try to fill in this gap.

Armenia pursues multi-vector foreign policy. On the regional level it is motivated not by attempts of capitalizing on differences between the major powers, but by partnership and cooperation. In building and developing such relations with our partners we believe in the principles of reciprocity, trust, goodwill, mutual interests and respect. These values are entrenched in our strategic relations with Russia, in our close friendly partnership with the United States, in our strong relationships with the European Union and in the meaningful cooperation with other regions.

Armenia-EU relations stand high in Armenia’s foreign policy agenda. With the launch of the Eastern Partnership two years ago we have got increased opportunities of cooperation in all spheres of mutual interest. Armenia is strongly committed to making the most of those opportunities as we regard them not only a useful mechanism for the advancement of the reforms process in Armenia, but also for good-spirited cooperation among the partner states.

With this being said I would like to refer to the good progress in negotiations on the future Association Agreement between Armenia and the EU, which will define our new contractual relations for the years ahead. In terms of boosting and deepening of economic and trade cooperation we expect the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area to be conducive to increased economic relations with the EU, Armenia’s largest trade partner.

The issue of visa facilitation remains of high importance for us too. As we speak of partnership between participating states and the EU we bear in mind that the primary beneficiaries of this process are the societies on both sides. Therefore we must provide favorable conditions for our citizens to exercise their right to free communication, interaction and exchanges. We have strong indications from Brussels that decision on visa facilitation talks can be issued before the Eastern partnership summit in Poland this September.

I would not go into the specificities in this respect and would rather turn to the recent developments in the two foreign policy challenges that are of concern to Armenia, as well as to the whole region and the international community in general. They are the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and the Armenian-Turkish relations.

The history of the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh is well known. As a week ago the Washington Post coined it, Karabakh was assigned, by Joseph Stalin, to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. So I would not go back to the period of 1921, when a group of Bolsheviks with just one signature decided to pass the Armenian territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhijevan to a recently created state, which in 1918 was named Azerbaijan. The ethnic cleansing successfully carried out in Nakhijevan throughout the Soviet period, failed in Nagorno-Karabakh. The desire of the Nagorno-Karabakhi Armenians to implement their right to self determination was reacted by massacres of Armenians in different parts of Azerbaijani. In this situation Armenia faced two options. Either stand by and witness the total extermination of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan or defend their right to survival. We chose the second option. An agreement signed in May 1994 between Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and joined by Armenia ended the military phase of the conflict.

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, represented by the USA, Russia and France, has been the internationally mandated negotiating format for this conflict.

Here I would like to underline that the fact that next year Ireland will assume the chairmanship of the OSCE is of essential importance in terms of contribution to the negotiation process within the OSCE Minsk group format.

In the past there have been different approaches, proposals and suggestions by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs for the resolution of the conflict. The negotiations are currently conducted on the basis of the Madrid proposals that were presented to the sides in November 2007.

And as history tends to repeat, ten years after the Key West, in 2011, the current Azerbaijani leadership currently also is unable to heed to the appeals of the international community “to take a decisive step towards a peaceful settlement.”

The essence of the Madrid proposals are the three principles of non use or threat of force, self-determination and territorial integrity, and 14 elements, the main six of which were presented in the statements of Presidents of the Co-Chair countries, Barack Obama, Dmitri Medvedev and Nikolas Sarkozy, in the frameworks of the G8 Summits in L’Aquila in 2009 and Muskoka 2010. Less than two months ago, in late May, ahead of the planned Kazan meeting, the Presidents of Co-Chair countries made another statement in Deauville, referring to their earlier statements, added that “the use of force created the current situation of confrontation and instability. Its use again would be condemned by the international community.” The three Presidents strongly urge the leaders of the sides to prepare their populations for peace, not war.

Anyone with the minimum knowledge of the political climate in the South Caucasus region knows well which of the sides of the conflict is preparing its population for war, which of the sides is repeatedly threatening to use force, which of the sides is preaching war, which of the sides is multiplying its military budget and bragging about it, which of the sides is propagating hatred towards the other side, which of the sides is blockading the other and feeding tales of distorted history about the other.

In this regard there was no shortage of practical proposals which could ameliorate the situation. The international community, the UN Secretary General, OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, and different OSCE Chairmanship, including the current Lithuanian, have made several proposals on consolidation of cease-fire and on withdrawal of snipers from the Line of Contact, which were all rejected by the Azerbaijani side, while Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh responded positively. The President of Armenia proposed to reach an agreement on non-use of force, which was supported by international community. Azerbaijan rejected again.

All principles and elements proposed by the leaders of the three Co-Chair countries have been conceived as an integrated whole. Armenia welcomed this approach. While Azerbaijan rejects all the proposed principles but one, and all the elements, but one. Azerbaijan attempts to misrepresent that only one principle, the territorial integrity and only one element, return of territories, have priority over all the others.

That is why in Almaty in July 2010 the three Co-Chairs stated that all the principles and elements have been conceived as wholeness and no principle or element can be separated from the others or can prevail over the others. In Astana, the US Secretary of State, on behalf of the other Co-Chair countries, reaffirmed this approach.

We went to the Kazan meeting, initiated by the President Medvedev and supported by Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, with a positive mood and feeling that we could reach an agreement on the Basic Principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. In Deauville the Co-Chair countries had urged the Presidents to come to an agreement in Kazan. President Obama in his phone conversations with the Presidents had made the same appeal. The President of France Sarkozy had sent messages to the Presidents, as well.The President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan during his speech in PACE in Strasbourg just before Kazan stated that it would be possible to expect positive results, progress in Kazan if Azerbaijan did not propose new amendments as was expected by the three Co-Chairs. Yet, the Kazan summit didn’t achieve a breakthrough, because Azerbaijan was not ready to accept the last version of the Basic Principles proposed by the three Co-Chairs. The Azerbaijani side proposed ten changes and amendments, and that is the reason why the Kazan meeting did not result in a breakthrough.

As soon as Azerbaijan gets rid of its big illusions that money stemming from oil revenues could become a major factor in the conflict resolution in favor of its interests, as soon as Azerbaijan gets rid of its attempts of directing oil revenues for funding a new military adventurism then, we can hope that progress in the peace process could be more visible. Azerbaijan would gain more by redirecting its resources and energies to peaceful discourse and at reaching a compromised solution.

Concerning the Armenian-Turkish normalization process, the Armenian-Turkish relations were in a deadlock when the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan initiated the normalization process with Turkey. The Armenian initiative met a positive response by the Turkish President and allowed us to attempt to make an investment in a durable rapprochement.

Our position was reflected in the well-known approach of normalization of relations without any preconditions. It was the bottom-line principle for starting the negotiations with Turkey. With this common understanding we started, conducted this process and came to the agreements. From the beginning of the process up until now this approach has been shared by the whole international community-starting from the Swiss mediators to the Secretary-General of the U.N, the OSCE, the EU, the U.S., Russia, France and many other countries.

Unfortunately Turkey has backtracked from the reached agreements. Not only has it refrained from ratifying the protocols, but Ankara has returned to the language of preconditions that it had used before the beginning of the process. Turkey has attempted to link the Armenian-Turkish normalization process to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, thus keeping its borders with Armenia closed and refusing to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia.

Any Turkish attempts to link the normalization of its relations with Armenia upon its own perception of progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh talks, harms both processes. This is a position that countries involved in Armenia-Turkey normalization and Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, representing the whole international community, have emphasized several times.

Turkey also uses the normalization process as a smokescreen for baseless argument that the adoption of resolutions on the Armenian Genocide in various countries can damage the normalization process. Yet, from the beginning of the process we made clear both in our contacts with the Turkish partners as well as publicly that Armenia will never put under question the fact of the Armenian Genocide or the importance of its international recognition.

The negotiations between Armenia and Turkey were finalized by the signature of the protocols and now the only remaining step in this long lasting process is the ratification and implementation of the Armenian-Turkish protocols without any preconditions and delays. And the international community expects exactly that from Turkey.

When Secretary Clinton was in Armenia last year on the National Day of the USA, during the Press Conference echoing the international community’s common stance on this issue she observed that Armenia passed its way, and that the ball is in Turkey’s court and Turkey should take the steps that it promised to take.

I would like to summarize by a quote from the great James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, which the Armenian reader has a pleasure to read in Armenian.

Bloom says: “Force, hatred. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that, that is really life.”

“What?” says Alf.

“Love,” says Bloom. “I mean the opposite of hatred.”

We, the Armenians and Irish know well what hatred can lead to and what love can lead to.

I should stop here and give the floor to you for questions.

Thank you!

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