‘Long-living’ man of few words

‘Long-living’ man of few words

Armenian Foreign Minister’s diplomacy

Edward Nalbandian was appointed as the Foreign Minister of Armenia on April 15, 2008. After occupying the post in the government led by former Prime Ministers Tigran Sargsyan and Hovik Abarahamyan, he will continue to serve under new PM Karen Karapetyan, becoming the ‘longest-living’ minister in the new Armenian government.

PanARMENIAN.Net - PAN summarizes the events, omissions and achievements of the Armenian foreign policy during Nalbandian’s 8,5 years in office.

March 1. On March 1, 2008 Nalbandian was not yet the Foreign Minister. However, upon assuming the post, he had to ‘digest’ the hard consequences of that tragic day, specifically a PACE resolution that called for suspension of the voting rights of the Armenian delegation in case its requirements are not met. The resolution called for a credible international investigation of events surrounding the Armenian government crackdown on demonstrators on March 1 and the release of those it said were arrested “on seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges. In June 2008, the Armenian legislature created a commission to investigate the March 1 events and amended the law on assemblies. In late June 2008, PACE postponed the decision on Armenia for six months to give the country more time for implementation of the assembly’s reforms suggestions. At its January 2009 session, PACE decided not to suspend Armenia’s voting rights. That was Nalbandian’s diplomacy achievement.

Armenia-Turkey. In 2008 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan initiated a new attempt to normalize relations with Turkey, as result of which the Armenian and Turkish Foreign Ministers of met in Zurich on October 10, 2009 to sign “Protocol on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey” and “Protocol on development of relations between of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey”.

The gathering scheduled for 8 pm Yerevan time started 3 hours late. Media reports said that the signing ceremony would have failed but for intervention by the U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister. Some journalists on the site reported that the procedure was being postponed because the Armenian side protested against a clause regarding Nagorno Karabakh inserted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu. According to other sources, Nalbandian insisted that Davutoglu should remove the sentence saying that “the issue of the Armenian Genocide will henceforth be studied by a special commission in Turkey” from his remarks to be made after the signing. Realizing that Armenia and Turkey are facing a diplomatic scandal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took a pen and wrote on a piece of paper: “Edward, please agree to a ceremony without any statements afterwards”. Besides Lavrov, Foreign Minister of France Bernard Kouchner, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and Slovenian Foreign Minister Samuel Žbogar put their signatures to the paper. The message was conveyed to Nalbandian and an hour later the protocols were signed in silence.

However, after the signing the protocols, Turkey abruptly changed its position and rejected to implement the agreements on the normalization of the relations within a reasonable timeframe and without any preconditions, linking the ratification of the Protocols to the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh issue.

Taking into account the situation created by Turkey, as well as the demand of the political council of Armenia’s ruling coalition, President Sargsyan on April 22, 2010, signed a decree on the suspension of the process of ratifications of the Protocols, which were finally called back from the National Assembly on February 16, 2015.

The unsuccessful normalization process can be considered the most active period of Nalbandian’s tenure as Foreign Minister. However, despite efforts, the relations between Armenia and Turkey are now stuck at the same point as they were 8 years ago.

Armenia-Hungary. Extradition of Safarov. On August 31, 2012, Azeri army officer Ramil Safarov who was sentenced to life in Hungary for murdering Armenian lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan during a NATO course in Budapest, was extradited to Azerbaijan, where he was immediately pardoned and and promoted by President Ilham Aliyev. On the same day, Armenia suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary. The Armenian Foreign Ministry was accused of inaction, especially after the representatives of the Armenian community in Hungary said that they informed the MFA about possible extradition weeks before, however received no reaction.

On April 17, 2013, Nalbandian announced that Armenia is ready to re-establish relations with Hungary. During a joint news conference with European Council Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, he said, however, that Hungary should make “certain steps” towards reconciliation. Earlier, Budapest showed interest to put an end to one-sided suspension of relations. Over 3 years passed, but the countries haven’t mended their diplomatic ties yet.

EU and EEU. In November 2013, the European Union and the Republic of Armenia adopted a joint statement as a result of the EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in which they said that they have completed negotiations on an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, but will not proceed with its initialing due to “Armenia’s new international commitments.” In September, following the talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan abruptly decided to switch to the Customs Union, a precursor to the EEU founded by Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

On October 10, 2014 the participants of the session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC) signed in Minsk a treaty on Armenia’s accession to the EEU, according to which the country was supposed to be become a full member of the Union in January 2015.

However, the membership was questioned due to absence of any customs posts between Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev declared that “Azerbaijan believes that Armenia should join the EEU within borders it joined the Commonwealth of Independent States. President Sargsyan appeared to have been caught off guard by Nazarbayev’s statement and did not respond to the Kazakh leader at the summit, rejecting Nazarbayev’s demand only upon his return to Armenia.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev thanked his Kazakh counterpart for publicly supporting Azerbaijan’s concerns. “On behalf of himself and our people, President Ilham Aliyev expressed gratitude to Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev for supporting Azerbaijan’s position in connection with Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council,” his office said in a statement.

Again, Edward Nalbandian and his ministry were accused of inability to take action.

As for cooperation with the European Union, head of the EU Delegation to Armenia Traian Cristea said that Armenia’s Customs Union membership will not hamper cooperation with the EU. “The European Union and Armenia will proceed with the agreements reached in Vilnius,” he said.

The Armenian Genocide. The work for worldwide recognition of the Armenian Genocide is one of the fundamental tasks of the Armenian Foreign Ministry. On the 100th anniversary of the Genocide, parliaments of European countries and U.S. states issued declarations and resolutions recognizing and condemning the crime against humanity perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. The speech of Pope Francis in April 2015 was also a significant event. The number of countries, which recognized the Armenian Genocide, has risen from 19 to 24 since 2008, which can be viewed as certain success of the RA MFA.

9 countries recognized the Armenian Genocide as Edward Nalbandian occupied the post of Foreign Minister.

Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict continues to be unresolved. Here, unlike the Genocide issue, we not only failed to move forward but also registered a considerable setback, including loss of territories (during a four-day escalation in April, the Armenian side lost about 800 hectares of land) and different diplomatic omissions. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has discussed two anti-Armenian draft resolutions: “Escalation of violence in Nagorno Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan,” by rapporteur Robert Walter (UK) and “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water,” by rapporteur Milica Marković (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The latter was approved.

Moreover, OSCE Minsk Group U.S. Co-Chair James Warlick has said lately that the determination of Nagorno Karabakh’s status implies return of some territories to Azerbaijan.

Embassies. Renowned singer Charles Aznavour was appointed as Armenia’s ambassador to Switzerland, which opened its embassy in Yerevan in March 2011. The same year, Armenian embassies were established in Copenhagen and Vilnius. Sweden’s embassy opened in Yerevan in July 2014.

Francophonie.In 2004, Armenia was granted a status of observer in the The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and became an associate member of the organization in 2008.

OIF, generally known as the Francophonie is an international organization representing countries and regions where French is the first ("mother") or customary language, where a significant proportion of the population are francophones (French speakers) or where there is a notable affiliation with French culture. The organization comprises 57 member states and governments, of which three are associate members, and twenty observers.

Upon receiving the status, RA Foreign Minister was empowered to organize Francophonie events in Armenia. Besides, Nalbandian actively participated in various OIF initiatives and represented Armenia during conferences of the member states. At a summit hosted by Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Armenia was unanimously elected the 54th full member of the Organization.

Foreign Ministry budget. The budget of Armenian Foreign Ministry for 2016 totaled AMD 14,715 billion, of which AMD 9,5 billion is provided to the country’s embassies and consulates. To compare, in 2009, the MFA budget amounted to AMD 7,9 billion.

Since 2008, the Foreign Ministry budget has swollen by AMD 6,7 billion.

Kristine Kyurklyan / PanARMENIAN.Net
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