Translated by Sareen Habeshian
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan answered reporters’ questions about his January 16 meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov. The press briefing took place at Yerablur, a military cemetery located on a hilltop in the outskirts of Yerevan, Armenia.
Question: After the meeting, an announcement was spread mentioning the notion of “preparing populations for peace.” I ask that you provide some details on the negotiation process.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan: What we are saying in our report, and also in the messages of the other side and co-chairmen, is that we are taking a consistent policy. The first is not news for us, we have always talked about the need for a peace-building environment. I'm sure all of us understand that it is impossible to negotiate peace on the one hand, and on the other hand, instill hatred or even more tension. In that sense, we are paying attention to the fact that all the circumstances that relate to the peace-building environment are essential elements in this process.
Under what conditions are you considering this peace? That is, what is on the table? The discourse on peace, peace talks... There must be elements, conditions.
You know very well that we have expressed that we will not deviate from anything we have said. I'm sure you have heard that many times, and there has been no deviation in our position from that point. We have highlighted all the basic principles relating exclusively to peaceful negotiations, exclusively to peaceful settlement, exclusively within the framework of the Minsk Group co-chairs. We emphasized the importance of the peace-building environment and, most importantly, what we have said is that the status and security issues of Armenia are the most serious ones. There is nothing like this and there is nothing that you do not know. Negotiations, this dialogue, goes with that principle.
And in that sense, it was very interesting for me to follow the comments, and I was somewhat surprised to some extent, that we have a mood of losing in our society? That we have lost our self-esteem? I am certain that we do not have such a thing in our society, and there is no need to think that there is going to be a situation where we break our stances. For the public and for all of us, that’s really offensive. We have not been defeated and will not be, especially in terms of self-confidence. And also, when it comes to the presence of Artsakh, this is the ongoing work. This is also a practical application issue. If everything does not happen all at once, that does not mean that we forget it and move on. Again, I repeat, this is a very clear, practical issue for us... To be more efficient and realistic, more practical, to have a breakthrough in the negotiation process.
Is there a mutual understanding in status and security issues? After one of their meetings with you, the Azerbaijani side stated that there is some mutual understanding with you. I want to understand, in regards to status and security issues, which you mentioned is a priority for the Armenian side, and the other side…
Now I find it difficult to interpret the question for the other side. The mutual understanding is to the extent, I’m sure, that it’s quite understable what approach Armenia comes with. And we make it clear in our logic, in the dialogue, what we mean.
Any action to prepare the people for peace?
As a principle, we have stated that this is a necessity and there is nothing new. If you follow very attentively, in the past year, in all years, a similar thing has been said…
At the UN level, there was also an echo to this point.
I will again ask you to be a little careful, careful in the sense that the United Nations Secretary-General has always had such reactions. I assure you that the UN Secretary-General has always had such a position, that he is bringing his voice to contribute to peace, to this process, to contribute to the unconditional support of the negotiations within the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. The fact that it brings its voice and expresses its support for the results or the statement, that it has been in the case of a co-chairmanship, is an expression of that support by the Secretary-General. I very well commend that and I appreciate it very much because it is also a replenishment of the international community, it is solidarity with the peace process.
By saying all this, I want to repeat that we work for peace, but our determination should not be questioned. We have clearly stated, that it does not mean that we have lost determination, it means there is no alternative to peace. The alternative to peace is catastrophe. We bring this forward very clearly.
As for what relates to preparing the people for peace, there are different functions here, I cannot tell you that we have a clear-cut formula for how to do it. But that's a principle that needs to be developed, it's definite.
Mr. Mnatsakanyan, is there any memorandum or document being prepared in the near future?
What we do, we do quite openly and transparently. If there was, you would know. There is some confidentiality framework, which is logical, because that’s the essence of negotiations, this is the essence of the matter. This is not a mechanism we have invented, it exists in this work. But there will be no way we move forward without the public being aware.
It’s the second or third time that the meetings of the two countries' leaders are held without direct participation of the Minsk Group co-chairs. There have been some comments that this seems to be a deviation from the existing format.
I would not say that. The first one of what has been three occasions, so-called unplanned, was that the two leaders participated in the same events. And this is welcomed because the two leaders have had an opportunity to get to know each other, to feel one another out, to exchange perspectives, approaches. And that's a very positive thing in the sense that it makes it easier, it creates more opportunities to work more efficiently on these issues.
Prime Minister Pashinyan talked about it, and it is very good that the leaders had the opportunity to exchange ideas on various issues to better understand each others’ approaches and visions.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated in Moscow that "Artsakh can negotiate on behalf of Artsakh, we negotiate on behalf of Armenia." What does this mean and how likely is Artsakh's return to the negotiating table?
How realistic or not realistic, this is not the question. For us, this is a practical issue, for us this is the issue of effectiveness of negotiations, where the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, as the leader elected by the people of Armenia, represents our positions. And Nagorno Karabakh, as a political unit, has all its officials chosen by its people, who are responsible for that society. This is a practical issue. We do not run away from our responsibility and we bring this issue forward. This does not mean that we are running away from our responsibility and are not in negotiations.
This does not mean that a process formed over the course of twenty years is immediately changing. Everyone agreed and the matter was resolved that way.
Mr. Mnatsakanyan, there was another informal meeting in Davos. What benefits did this meeting with Aliyev have? How does it affect the process?
It is definitely a benefit because the leaders of the two countries feel better and understand each other much better. This is only positive. The meetings have been so that they did not have an agenda and that the purpose was to make the leaders more aware of each other, try to have an environment where they have a higher level of confidence in how to move forward.
After the meeting of the two Foreign Ministers, it was noted that steps would be taken to organize the meeting of the prime minister and the president. Approximately when will it be possible to have that meeting?
These are sensitive questions in the sense that we know we will make it so that such a meeting brings good results. That's why we will continue to work with co-chairs so that we can prepare this field to make it a positive outcome and not create any risks.
On what specific principles were the January 16 negotiations for conflict settlement based on?
Again, I repeat, our priority is status and security. This is key for us. Do you want me to talk about the remaining principles? I'm talking about my primary principles, status and security.