How do you assess the results of your visit to Armenia?
We meet twice every year to hold consultations between the foreign ministries - last time in London, and this time in Yerevan. These visits give me a chance to see what’s being been happening, to and have a look at what is in prospect and try to make sure that relations are developing in a positive direction. My impressions are that the Armenian side and the British side share the same objectives and do practical things together.
As a Special representative, I am also interested in conflict resolution. Although the UK is not a member of the Minsk Group, but we support the Co-chairmen and the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. I was also able to have informal meetings with the American and French Co-chairs as well as with the Russian ambassador to Armenia and now I’m much better informed than I was. The main principle is to have a peace paper agreed by the sides. There is much to be done and there is a busy program of meetings which will help produce positive results by June.
And another important thing. My last meeting in Armenia was with President Sargsyan and we talked not only about his negotiations with the Co-chairs and his Azerbaijani counterpart but also about the prospects for Armenia, including the civil society, economic and social developments and human rights.
Which is are the UK’s interests of the UK have in the South Caucasus and which is thewhat role does Armenia plays in Britain’s regional policy?
We look at the South Caucasus in terms of relations with three independent, friendly countries. It is a region and of course we would like to see the three countries working together, especially with regards to finding a peaceful solution to Nagorno Karabakh. We want these countries to live in peace and democracy, for with the rule of law, economic prosperity, social development, human rights. In relations with Armenia, there are three principalles issues: Nagorno Karabakh, Nagorno Karabakh and Nagorno Karabakh, because the prospects in the for economic development would have huge advance hugely if a peaceful solution to the conflict could be found and Armenia will focuses on its domestic issues.
The Eastern Partnership initiative has an important role in the EU policy in the South Caucasus. How can it help resolve the existing problems in the region?
It would be much better if the Nagorno Karabakh problem was solved. But doing nothing until it’s solved is not a good idea because we don’t know when success will come and we need to make progress starting now. The relations with each of three countries will be individual; there will be no “uniform” one size fits all”. We believe that the Eastern Partnership is not there to please foreigners; it should be really be good for Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
You are optimistic about the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. However, tensions have escalated and the number of victims at the contact line is growing…
Loss of life is a great worry, you are right to mention it. It should be a signal to the international community to attach urgency to encouraging a settlement. The disaster that would follow from the new fighting is so obvious. Efforts should be doubled to find a solution.
And success meanis a compromise from both sides. The spring is usually an active period when ministers and presidents meet and progress can be achieved.
How do you look at the fact that Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh welcomed the proposal of the international community to withdraw snipers from the frontline while Azerbaijan rejects the idea?
We believe that withdrawal of snipers from the contact line would be a very good idea that will reduce the risk of hostilities. We do not see a military solution to this problem, which - it would beis undesirable and impossible.
How would you comment on Azerbaijan’s threats to shoot down Karabakh-bound planes? Doesn’t this rhetoric sound alarming?
I am not an expert on civil aviation. But if, I am saying “IF”, establishment of a flying route is seen as an attempt to change the situation, thenso probably it is not a constructive move. However, shooting down civil aircrafts is not a good thing to do. So, the approach to this issue should be very cautious.
Presently, Nagorno Karabakh, the party that most of all suffered in the conflict, is not engaged in settlement talks. Do you think it’s possible to reach an agreement without participation of Karabakh?
If you look back to 1994 when the ceasefire agreement was signed, it had signatures from top military officials of Nagorno Karabakh. If you do think about changing that and bringing in Nagorno Karabakh back to the table, so it will be an interesting diplomatic game – designing the shape of the table. However, Azerbaijan will refuse to see Karabakh as an independent state. We came across the problem in the past. Anyway, I am sure that the government of Armenia will never accept something that is fundamentally unacceptable for the people of Nagorno Karabakh.
What does the UK think about the process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations?
We always hope. I think it’s important that two countries with which we have friendly relations are able to move from this artificial position. Elections are coming in Turkey are coming soon and I do not think that any one expects any major change before them. If the problem was easy it would have been solved long ago. The protocols were a huge step forward, in our view. They haven’t been ratified, which is a pity, but they haven’t disappeared either and probably we will come back to them.