How do you assess the result of the last parliamentary elections in Armenia? What changes will they bring to your country?
As for the elections themselves, they were a step forward according to the ratings by international observers. We may evaluate the elections from the viewpoint of what they will bring to Armenia itself, or how will they influence the relations between Armenia and other states. In my opinion, the fact that the elections meant a step forward will lay the foundations for the realisation of democratic elections, although as international observers from OSCE, the EU and the European Council remarked, there occurred also some shortcomings.
As far as the relations of Armenia with other countries and the international community are concerned, the fact that the evaluation by international observers of the elections being a step forward will, of course, uphold further Armenian integration processes into the European structures. Simultaneously, these elections may serve as an important factor in attracting foreign investments to Armenia, because the image of Armenia can be improved thank to the evaluation by international observers.
Why has Armenia begun to make such an effort to forge closer ties with the EU? Does your country really aim for a membership of the EU?
Armenian authorities proclaim that Armenia’s aim is to join the European Union. However, they declare again and again that this is a tremendously long way to go, during which Armenia is obliged to fulfil various commitments. It doesn’t mean that Armenia could enter the EU on paper without transforming its internal structures. Armenia is obliged to undergo gradual reforms of the social, political and economic sphere step by step. Integration also stands for cooperation with Europe in terms of cultural.
Armenia acted as a close Russian partner until recently. How would you describe the current state of relations between Armenia and NATO?
Armenia has been cooperating with NATO in several areas and it is perceived by the Alliance as a part of the region of the Southern Caucasus. The NATO representatives are quite content with the way Armenia participates in the realisation of joint projects.
To what extent does the country’s population support the development of the cooperation with the EU and the entry into the EU? Are there any differences in the perception of the EU and NATO?
Quite frankly, the ordinary people are poorly informed of the Armenian quest for the integration into the EU. According to the latest report by International Crisis Group on the region of Caucasus, integration amounts to a process directed at the level of ruling elites. However, this is not the case of Armenia as well as Azerbaijan and Georgia. The public is insufficiently informed of the real value of this process and there is also the absence of a wider public discussion about whether Armenia should integrate into the European structures or not. In general, a part of Armenian public supports the effort of Armenian politicians to join the EU, but I’m convinced that a considerable part of the public assumes that Armenia should retain close links with Russia. They have been referring to the presence of Russian military forces in Armenia, because this country is to a large extent perceived to be a guarantor of peace and protection against the Turkish threat. A part of the society in particular the intellectuals are very much of the opinion that Armenia is supposed to go its own way. It means that it should be bound neither to Europe nor to Asia or Russia. They consider Armenia a different civilisation that should preserve its peculiar character. According to them it should keep good relations with everybody, but retain at the same time its uniqueness.
You have mentioned Turkey. How do you assess the present-day level of relations between Armenia and this country?
There are no diplomatic ties between the states. In the period after Armenia gained independence, its representatives keep on offering the Turkish side the commencement of negotiations without any preconditions. Armenian public doesn’t demand from Turkey the acknowledgement of the genocide of the Armenians. Simultaneously, Armenia declares not to have any territorial claims on Turkey. However, Turkey proceeds in setting preconditions under which it is willing to negotiate. One of them is that Armenia has to yield up the demand for the acknowledgement of the genocide of the Armenians and to abort the support of the circles of Armenian diaspora which struggle to persuade foreign parliaments to acknowledge the genocide. The second and probably the most crucial condition is the claim for the withdrawal of the Armenian forces from those territories which are under the control of Armenian forces.
What is the stance of Armenia like as regards possible Turkish membership of the European Union?
Armenia does unequivocally support the integration of Turkey. Turkey will become much more predictable after the EU entry which Armenia finds very important.
Nowadays, Iran is in conflict with the US and the international community. How do the Armenian relations with this neighbour develop? Does Iran pose the same threat to Armenia like it does to the West?
No, Iran has never been considered a threat for several reasons. There is a long history of mutual cultural contacts between the two countries. In the situation where Armenia has to face a blockade from the side of Turkey and Azerbaijan, the only possible contact is through Georgia and Iran. Iran has never jeopardised Armenia from this point of view. Mutual relations have become more intensive in the recent period of time when the gas pipeline leading from Iran to Armenia has been constructed. Armenia has managed to achieve the diversification of energy resources, therefore if something unpredictable happens in Russia or Georgia, through which gas is been flowing into Armenia, it will be in possession of alternative resources.
What was the reception of the Georgian “colour revolution” like in Armenia? Do you think that similar revolution is conceivable also in your country?
A part of the opposition sympathised with the events that had happened in Georgia, but in general, people’s attitude turned sceptical particularly after the steps which undertaken by the Georgian President Michail Saakashvili as regards relations with Russia. Armenian public assume that the steps towards Russia were senseless to a large extent. This contributed to the general view that the entire revolution was a shortcoming. Nevertheless, those Armenians who had the possibility to visit Georgia returned with an opinion that a great deal of things had changed for the better. Among them is, for instance, the fight against corruption which is rather successful in this country.
Armenia has close relations with Russia. Is it supportive of sanctions that Russia imposed on Georgia last year?
The statements by Armenian representatives were rather diplomatic. They affirmed that it was a problem in terms of the relations between two states and Armenia had the right to muddle in the interior affair neither of Georgia nor Russia. At the same time Armenia has always pointed out that Russia and Georgia have to find peaceful means for the solution of mutual misunderstandings in the political conflict in question.
Have the previously mentioned Russian sanctions on Georgia had a negative impact on Armenian economy?
I don’t think so. However, Russian attitude stirred up resentment and anger among the public, because some Russian politicians claimed that Armenia, as a strategic partner of Russia, was supposed to impose sanctions on Georgia as well. Moreover, the public was outraged that Russia got into a conflict and subsequently wanted to embroil Armenia into it.
The opposition accuses the President Robert Kocarian of the effort to commence unofficial negotiations with Azerbaijan for the withdrawal of Armenian military troops from Nagorno-Karabakh. To what degree do you think such a scenario is likely?
It is pretty hard to assess the course of the negotiation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, since there is a general view in Armenia that only two, or rather, three persons really know what happened during the negotiations. Therefore it is very complicated to express opinions on what the representatives of both countries discussed. Obviously, the public is not very much satisfied with the fact that it is not kept informed about the process mentioned. The people haven’t got proper information on what is really going on, but the fact that President Kocarian himself comes from Nagorno-Karabakh increases his trustworthiness. Kocarian himself took part in war therefore most of the people think that he could hardly make such a drastic concession to Azerbaijan. According to the statements by the representatives of the opposition, however, Robert Kocarian has already signed an agreement with Azerbaijan according to which the military troops will be withdrawn and Nagorno-Karabakh will remain a part of Azerbaijan. The fact remains that not everything what the opposition says is to be trusted.
Is Armenia interested in joining the European Economic Area (EEA)?
I think that the content of this integration is not understood sufficiently. Some Armenian representatives are informed better and prepare some projects and strategies. Anyway there is the absence of a public discussion about the issue in question. It means that the negotiations concerning the relations with EEA are only in the initial stage and thus not to be discussed seriously.