The Economic Axis of Relations
According to the Ambassador, Armenia and Switzerland efficiently collaborate in the financial-economic realm. "Switzerland makes significant investments in Armenia's economy. Due to the official data, Swiss companies invested 90 million dollars only in 2015," he said, expressing confidence that Armenia will continue to remain at the core of Swiss companies’ attention as an investment country.
The ambassador said that Switzerland is always in top 20 states making investments in Armenia. “This has been going on for over twenty years. The investments are mainly carried out in such areas as mining, pharmaceuticals, etc.,” the Ambassador said, adding that for the improvement of investment environment, it is necessary to conduct an effective fight against corruption and monopolies.
The Ambassador highlighted the importance of GSP preferential tariff system granted by Switzerland in the development of trade and economic relations between the two countries. "Few people know about this in Armenia but this trading system allows local manufacturers to export their goods to Switzerland with lower tariffs,” Lukas Gasser said, adding that tomatoes, trout fish, apricots and so on can be attractive for the Swiss market among the Armenian products.
The Ambassador considers that during twenty-five years of independence, Armenia has achieved a reasonable level of stability. "The problem is not only to be a stable country but to be perceived as such in the foreign world. In this regard, Nagorno-Karabakh unresolved conflict is a challenge,” he said. At the same time, the diplomat recalled that certain Armenian companies make investments in Switzerland. He did not mention the names of the companies due to confidentiality but mentioned the areas where they have made investments in - watch manufacturing and information technology.
The Restoration of Confidence is Vital in Armenia
Swiss Ambassador Lukas Gasser also spoke about the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia, after which Armenia will make a transition to the parliamentary system according to the new constitution.
“I assure you that there is no preference all over the world which system is more efficient. There are well-functioning stable states with both presidential and parliamentary systems. In this regard, I think it is more important for Armenia to strengthen the mutual trust in the society. This is something that Armenia lacks. It is also important to tackle the problem of greater involvement of the civil society in the political processes,” Gasser said.
Bern Encourages Yerevan-Tehran Ties
After lifting some of the sanctions against Iran, Armenia tries to become the gateway to ensure the flow of investments to the Iranian economy. As the Ambassador said, Switzerland encourages Armenia-Iran relations.
“Switzerland has good relations with Iran and is very interested in developing them. In addition, Switzerland represents the US interests in Iran by its diplomatic mission,” the diplomat said, adding that Armenia, being a neighbor of Iran, is of great interest. “It is important that Armenia is not only geographically neighboring Iran but also has good relations with Tehran,” he said. The Armenian platform, according to the diplomat, has a great potential for the development of trade and economic relations with Iran.
At the same time, the Ambassador said that it is up to private companies to make the decision to work directly with Iran or through Armenia. "It is a fact that for such relationships with Iran and serving as a platform, Armenia itself should intensify economic relations with Iran,” he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-Turkish Relations
The Ambassador also touched upon the issues of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. According to Lukas Gasser, the maintenance of the ceasefire agreement of 1994-1995 is important for Karabakh conflict settlement. "The Karabakh conflict has no solution other than a peaceful settlement," he said.
The Ambassador said that the conflict resolution stems from Armenia's economic and political interests. He noted that all the parties to the conflict should be supported, which would require a fairly extensive diplomatic activity, especially in the framework of the OSCE. However, the ambassador said that these actions are not carried out in public. “We want to support all the parties involved to reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict. This requires serious diplomatic work within the framework of the OSCE,” the Swiss ambassador said.
Referring to the process of the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations, the Ambassador said that Switzerland is now ready to assist the parties in establishing contacts and relations.
“The problem is that these relationships do not exist in fact but we are ready to provide assistance to both sides when the parties are ready,” he said. According to the diplomat, it is not a natural situation when two countries have a long common history and a common border but relations are absent. He reminded that Switzerland played a big role in the initiation of Zurich Protocols in 2009, regretting that “these documents were not ratified”.
It is noteworthy that Switzerland is among the unique countries where the Armenian Genocide denial is criminalized. As a reply to the question “Did the ECHR decision about “Doğu Perinçek against Switzerland” case have an impact on Swiss legislation?” the Ambassador said. "After the Court's verdict, Switzerland is not obliged to modify its anti-racism legislation, particularly Article 261 of the Criminal Code. Doğu Perinçek’s case is a special one and the Court’s decision refers to this case.”
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Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”
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