On January 8, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan had a meeting with the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia Gordan Grlić Radman, who is in Armenia on an official visit. Following the meeting, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Croatia held a joint press conference. During his speech at the press conference, Foreign Minister Mirzoyan particularly noted:
Dear Mr. Minister,
I am pleased to host my colleague Gordan Grlić Radman, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, in Yerevan today.
We had thorough discussions on bilateral and multilateral agenda issues, as well as on important regional geopolitical developments.
It is my pleasure to note that throughout the history of our interstate relations this is the first official visit of the Foreign Minister of Croatia to Armenia, which, I believe, is a good opportunity to evaluate our achievements and give a new impetus to bilateral cooperation. We value friendly relations with Croatia and are ready to raise the Armenian-Croatian political dialogue to a qualitatively new level.
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Croatia, at the same time, it should be emphasized that the Armenian-Croatian ties and friendship have centuries-old roots. In this regard, we can mention pan-Christian of Armenian nationality Saint Blaise, the patron of the city of Dubrovnik.
Certainly, in the modern world economic diplomacy, economic ties and the strengthening of trade relations between countries are of great importance. I should note that the trade volume between Armenia and Croatia does not fully reflect the bilateral potential in this field. However, I can gladly state that in this sphere we are moving forward with small yet steady steps. To promote the economic cooperation between Armenia and Croatia, I would like to highlight promising areas, namely the information technologies, tourism, agriculture etc.
In this context, I would like to welcome the Armenian-Croatian business forum to be held in Yerevan today. I am confident that the conference will contribute to the revitalization of the ties between the business circles of the two countries and the identification of investment opportunities.
Today, my colleague and I had detailed discussions on issues regarding regional security and stability.
I regret to note that despite the efforts made by Armenia, the security environment in the region remains tense and fragile and the probability of a new escalation is substantial. The security challenges resulting from the 2020 war unleashed by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani aggression and occupation of the sovereign territory of Armenia in May 2021, November 2022 and September 2022 not only undermine the Armenian Government's efforts towards establishing peace, stability and security in the South Caucasus but also threaten Armenian democracy.
It has been two months since Azerbaijan grossly violating its commitments assumed by the November 9 Trilateral Statement and the provisions of international humanitarian law, blocked the Lachin corridor, as a result of which the 120,000 Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are under siege, deprived of regular contact with the outside world. The humanitarian crisis, which is deteriorating day by day, can become a real humanitarian catastrophe.
It should be stressed that the clear calls and exhortations of many big and small states, international organizations and reputable non-governmental organizations have not yet influenced the actions of Azerbaijan.
In this case, I would like to stress the need for clear actions by the international community and the implementation of relevant international mechanisms aimed at stopping the illegal blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, preventing ethnic cleansing of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and further aggression by Azerbaijan. In this regard, we also highlight the importance of deploying an international fact-finding mission to the Lachin corridor and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Let me underline the important role of the EU Monitoring Mission in ensuring stability around the borders of the Republic of Armenia.
Recurring use of force or overt threats of use of force, and mass violations of human rights cannot create a stable basis for peace and security in the region. Armenia has repeatedly announced its readiness for constructive dialogue in an environment free from hate speech, preconditions and warmongering rhetoric, for the sake of sustainable peace and development in the South Caucasus. Peaceful settlement of existing issues and contradictions has no alternative, this is our belief.
I conclude my remarks. Once again, Mr Minister, welcome to Armenia and thank you for a very constructive and in-depth dialogue.”
Question ("Radio Liberty"): Mr. Minister, yesterday, in Berlin, you stated that Azerbaijan responded to Yerevan's proposals and the sides are working on the text of the agreement. Can you elaborate on their response? Does Baku accept Yerevan's proposal to expand its 5 principles, to include issues of security and rights of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh? And Moscow stated that it is ready to organize the postponed meeting on that issue in Moscow. Is Yerevan ready to go to that meeting? And in that matter, does the venue have any effect at all for Yerevan? Can we say that there is an issue, a crisis between Yerevan and Moscow? Thank you.
Ararat Mirzoyan: Thank you for the question. Indeed, I addressed this issue publicly in Berlin, yesterday. I want to reiterate roughly what I said. Peace treaty negotiations are a continuous process, and the sides continuously exchange proposals, comments, reasonings in several stages. Then, comes a new stage and new recommendations. And so the process is supposed to proceed. In parallel, ministerial meetings are held where these proposals are being discussed.
Indeed, we did not find it possible to participate in the regular discussion planned for December 23 in Moscow, obviously, as a result of the illegal blockade of the Lachin corridor. But I have already mentioned that by not participating, we still transferred our proposals remotely. And here, a few days ago, 10-15 days ago, we received Azerbaijan's response. Our next proposals were handed over, then the Azerbaijani proposals, and, in fact, we are at the stage of discussion. I want to say that this shows that the negotiation process, by and large, has not stopped, both comments and proposals have been exchanged. And now we will present our new comments based on the ones from the Azerbaijani side.
As for the meetings, if you recall, we haven’t canceled the Moscow meeting, we have postponed it. And, as this wording suggests, we will relaunch that postponed meeting at any convenient moment. The meeting may take place in Moscow, the meetings may take place elsewhere. If you followed the track, we had such meetings in different capitals and different cities. I would like to say that perhaps it would be fair to note that the choice of a city, a venue, is certainly important, but it may not have an extremely significant impact on the process. And in this regard, we are ready to hold another meeting, the postponed meeting in Moscow.
Is there a crisis with Moscow or not? We are allied countries: there is a very broad bilateral and multilateral agenda, there are many agreements, there are disagreements on certain issues, even public ones, including those related to CSTO's role and political assessments or lack thereof. To call them a crisis is perhaps an overstatement. We are constantly in contact with our Russian partners, as I already mentioned, we discuss all possible issues of the multi-faceted agenda: the ones agreed-upon and still pending issues.
Question ("Radio Liberty"): Excuse me, Mr. Minister, you haven’t clarified whether Baku accepts Yerevan’s proposals.
Ararat Mirzoyan: I would probably not consider it appropriate at the moment to fully disclose the content of the proposals, because we are speaking about details, we are speaking about the negotiation process, and furthermore, the positions of the parties on various issues that have stiffened at different stages, in some cases are converging, in others continue to differ greatly from each other. Therefore, it is probably politically untenable to take any detail separately and say what the positions of the parties on this issue are at the moment because tomorrow there might be a completely different picture. I repeat, we managed to bring our positions closer on some issues, but the Armenian side has its own principled issues in this process, and, I think, we have repeatedly stated about it publicly.
Question ("Public TV"): I address my question to both Ministers. In the last two years, Azerbaijan has carried out several aggressions against the territorial integrity of Armenia and occupied some parts of the country. And for the last two months, the official Baku has been keeping the Lachin corridor under blockade, and thus also the whole Artsakh. Against this background, the EU has decided to deploy a long-term monitoring mission in Armenia. Do you think that this EU mission and the EU can in any manner contribute to deterring Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions and establishing peace and stability in the region?
Ararat Mirzoyan: Yes, I think that the European Union, as well as the entire international community, has a very significant role to play in the further discussion of ensuring the rights and security of Nagorno Karabakh, in the lifting of the current blockade, and in the region generally. I repeat there is only one way of solving all the issues: peaceful negotiations, diplomatic way, and here the international community and, in particular, the European Union have a role to play.