During the interview-press conference, entitled “Armenia's Foreign Policy Challenges and the Government's Programme Approach to Overcome them”, Armen Ashotyan also touched upon the topics of expediency of Armenia's membership to the Eurasian Economic Union, the process of settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Armenia-EU relations in addition to the topic of Armenia-Russia relations.
The Most Complicated Issue
Armen Ashotyan described the supply of Russian arms to Azerbaijan as the most complicated issue on the Armenian-Russian agenda.
“I can say that the most complicated and lingering question of the Armenian-Russian agenda with formal and informal contacts is the delivery of Russian arms to Azerbaijan. It is justified as an economic bargain, a factor to control the military-political potential, and so on, they are not convincing. We have had closed discussions during the last visit (during the NA delegation's visit to Russia, Armen Ashotyan was a member of the delegation.-edit) and many of our Russian partners share our concerns,” Ashotyan said, adding that the arguments presented by the Russian side do not stand criticism.
Commenting on the fact that the supply of weapons to Azerbaijan endangers Armenia, though Eduard Sharmazanov, vice speaker of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) insists on the contrary, Armen Ashotyan says that this is one of the issues that need to be settled.
Then he touched upon Sharmazanov's statement that the Armenian side can blame Russia if the weapon supplied to Azerbaijan “directly damages us”. “Sharmazanov meant that at this moment there is a certain tendency for stability. Let's take into consideration that the weapon has such a feature that if it is in the hands of non-balanced politicians such as Ilham Aliyev, it can shoot constantly,” he explained.
The speaker is convinced that the issue of supplying arms should be kept on the agenda but the problem settlement is not in the field of public debates but in political consistent grounds. “Of course, the public should be informed but to expect that there will be a solution, or to turn such discussions into a reality show, I'm not in that position,” he said.
At the same time he underlines that the politicians of Armenia and Russia are not the defenders of the interests of Russia or Armenia but the defenders of the Armenian-Russian relations. “These relations are very important and they must be protected and developed,” Ashotyan said, adding that alliance with Russia does not mean a 100% coincidence of interests.
“There is no state that has the same political agenda as Armenia except the Republic of Artsakh,” he said.
During the press conference, Armen Ashotyan also touched upon the meeting of the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on July 21 in Sochi, noting that he was not surprised at the fact. At the same time, he thinks there are many problems in the Russian-Azerbaijani relations, and the fact of the meeting does not mean that they are solved.
“Putin also meets Trump but it does not mean that the Russian-American relations are warm. The fact of the meeting is a tool of diplomacy, not a result. I am not surprised that the Russian President has met with the Azerbaijani President. Another round of consultations is also predictable,” Ashotyan said.
According to him, the meeting of the Presidents of Russia and Artsakh may be a preparatory work ahead of the meeting between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan which may take place this fall.
According to the official information, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are currently preparing the meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev. According to various sources, Russia is the main organizer of the expected round of negotiations.
In this context, Ashotyan neither denied nor confirmed the question whether Sargsyan-Putin talks would take place before Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting.
No Grounds to Withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)
There are no economic and political grounds for Armenia to withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union, Armen Ashotyan stated, referring to the statement of Edmon Marukyan, Leader of “Bright Armenia” Party from the “Yelq” opposition bloc, that the withdrawal of Armenia from EAEU is a necessity.
Marukyan’s statement was in response to RF State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin's claim that Armenian driving licenses could be accepted in Russia while driving a taxi or minibus if Russian were granted a state status in Armenia. The statement was made during a meeting with the RA NA delegation in Moscow, when Ara Babloyan, Speaker of RA National Assembly, voiced that the law prohibiting the use of driving licenses granted by foreigners in Russia caused great difficulties for the Armenians working in Russia. The RA NA Speaker had suggested reconsidering that approach.
Armen Ashotyan, referring to Edmon Marukyan's statement, mentions that this is not the official position of the “Yelq” Alliance. “Separate deputies can express their opinion. I am not going to comment on the statements of separate MPs, that is the opinion of one MP, and not a political force represented in the parliament,” Armen Ashotyan said.
He is convinced that the EAEU is a format of economic cooperation, which, of course, has a geopolitical character. “Small countries are not competitive in the world if they cannot have free economic relations in larger formats,” Ashotyan said adding that the EU does not expect Armenia as well as other countries that have signed Association Agreements, such as Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova.
Armenia and the European Union have agreed and signed the "Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement" envisaging signing in November this year at the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels. Certain conspiracy and political circles in Armenia are concerned that at the last moment, Armenia may abdicate from that document under the influence of external impulses. As it happened in September 2013, when Serzh Sargsyan announced in Moscow that Armenia refused to negotiate with the EU over the Association Agreement negotiated for three and a half years, and launched the process of joining the Customs Union.
“Concerns about not signing Armenia-EU agreement are artificial,” Armen Ashotyan said.
Ashotyan described this question as artificial and manipulative, which, according to him, does not exist on the agenda of the Armenian-Russian relations. “Everything else is deliberate or naive speculation,” he added. Armen Ashotyan mentioned that there are some complicated issues in the relations between Armenia and Russia and other partner countries but the Azerbaijani side is lobbying for the EU agreement.
“Look, the same Azeri press is not surprisingly different from our analysts. It is obvious that there are complicated questions in the Armenian-Russian relations, as well as in the relations of all other partner countries. For example, US-Israel relations are more lenient than the Armenian-Russian relations. Azerbaijan's lobbying activity is aimed at fraught with Armenia with Russia,” Ashotyan said, noting that, unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan's relations are not at a high level with Russia or the EU.
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