Special Envoy of the Republic of Armenia in 1992-95, Armenian National Security Service Head in 1994-95, David Shahnazaryan believes the problem of Armenia-EU agreement signing is in the EU and not in Moscow.
“Mr. Shahnazaryan, after a long pause the meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents took place in Geneva on October 16. What was your impression of the talks?”.
“Obviously, the fact, the agenda, and the result of the meeting in Geneva mostly satisfy the Armenian side, in contrast to the Azerbaijani side, judging by a joint statement issued by the Foreign Ministers and Co-Chairs. As noted in the statement, talks were held on additional measures to reduce tensions on the contact line, which was avoided by the Azerbaijani president. It was noteworthy that from the start of the Geneva meeting and the negotiation process to the end, the Azerbaijani press reported on the Geneva meeting, published photos, referring to the Armenian president’s press secretary. It should be noted that Aliyev not only failed to avoid Geneva meeting, but the negotiations were held on the agenda of the Armenian side, and in general, the impression was as if Aliyev was brought to the scaffold. Geneva meeting was very favorable for us within the current international developments”.
“A few days before the Geneva meeting, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that the negotiation process on the Karabakh settlement is resuming “without any preconditions”: “By putting forward various preconditions, Armenia wanted to hinder the resumption of negotiations, but now it has to abandon that policy”. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a joint statement following their meeting with Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in New York on September 24, in which they pointed out that their goal was to organize the meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents, but they did not mention the requirement to fulfill the agreements reached during last year’s meetings in Vienna and St. Petersburg. Mr. Shahnazaryan, has official Yerevan withdrawn from its position? Doesn’t it insist on their implementation anymore?”.
“Absolutely not. In fact, Aliyev has stepped back from his positions by agreeing to the Geneva meeting. Speaking of “no preconditions” talks, Aliyev tries to hint that the Vienna and St. Petersburg agreements should not be on the agenda and in general, any question regarding the contact line, but I’m sure that these issues were discussed in Geneva and even some arrangements were made (it’s another problem, whether they will work or not, I think not). There were no other issues to discuss. I do not rule out that the Co-Chairs made a diplomatic step by their statement before the meeting, by giving Aliyev the opportunity to save his name, because the organization of the Geneva meeting was extremely important for the Co-Chair countries and for Armenia, whereas Aliyev was trying to avoid returning to negotiations in the OSCE Minsk Group format. It should be taken into consideration that Aliyev’s statements are aimed at the inner audience, and they do not worth a particular attention. In general, the OSCE Minsk Group format is unacceptable for Aliyev, now all his efforts are directed to European structures and EU member states”.
“What is the purpose of Azerbaijan’s steps towards the European structures, what does Azerbaijan seek to achieve?”.
“The international community: the EU, other European structures, NATO clearly distinguish the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from all other conflicts in the former Soviet Union. All statements by European structures highlight the importance of preserving the territorial integrity regarding the former USSR territorial conflicts, whereas in the case of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the following is emphasized: this or that structure supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is unacceptable to Aliyev, since the OSCE Minsk Group is guided by three international principles: territorial integrity of states, the right of peoples to self-determination and non-use of force or threat of force principles. In fact, Aliyev presented an ultimatum to European structures and EU member states within the recent weeks, even threatened that Azerbaijan would leave the Council of Europe. What is Aliyev’s goal? Two years ago, the Common Declaration adopted at the Riga Summit of the Eastern Partnership affirmed that the summit participants support the OSCE Minsk Group mediators’ efforts in the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including their and the presidents’ statements of 2009. Two years ago, immediately after the adoption of this declaration, Aliyev and Mammadyarov left the Riga summit. Now Azerbaijan is trying to persuade the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels to adopt a statement on Nagorno-Karabakh in support of the principle of territorial integrity, that is it seeks to radically change the formulation of Riga summit declaration. I do not think Azerbaijan will succeed, but I have clear information that two EU member states, let me not say which countries those are, are working to achieve that goal of Azerbaijan. Obviously, if the formulation expected by Azerbaijan is accepted in the declaration (which I consider almost impossible), then it would be pointless to sign the EU-Armenia comprehensive and expanded partnership agreement. The Armenian diplomacy, as well as the entire political field, NGOs, the expert community, must undertake a serious and enormous work before the Brussels summit to be held in November, so that the formulations of the Riga summit declaration will be maintained and that some countries will not be able to even start discussions over the unfavorable formulations for Armenia and Artsakh. The issue of signing the agreement with the EU is the number one goal of our foreign policy today. The signing of this document with Armenia is one of the key points of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels. The second is the long-term action plan in the “Eastern Partnership Plus” format, which includes the countries that signed the Association Agreement with the EU, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine”.
“Are there obstacles within the EU member countries to signing a comprehensive and expanded partnership agreement with Armenia?”.
“Yes, there are. The problem is in the EU and not in Moscow. I already mentioned the first obstacle. There is also the second obstacle, which is considered technical. Three EU Member States (let me not mention those countries again), according to my information, have not translated the text of the agreement into their national languages yet. We need to carry out some work with these countries, which are still delaying the translation of the text”.
“But last week, the EU and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a comprehensive partnership agreement initialed with Armenia, the final signing of which is scheduled for November in Brussels, within the Eastern Partnership Summit. Doesn’t this mean that there are no technical problems anymore, and the EU is sure that the agreement will be signed?”.
“The Comprehensive and Extended Partnership Agreement, initiated with Armenia, was published on the mutual consent of the European Commission and Armenia. This is the document that the European Commission has agreed and sent to the European Council, which must receive the approval of the member states for approval. This is the legal aspect of the issue, but even more important is the political aspect. I do not rule out that by publishing the document, the EU addressed some message to the states which have not yet translated the text of the agreement, as well as to the two states trying to make formulations from Aliyev’s position in the Brussels summit declaration. Whether it was a coincidence or not, it was remarkable that the text of the agreement was made public before the Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting in Geneva. Moreover, the wording of the document on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is generally acceptable for the Armenian side and unacceptable for Azerbaijan. In case of signing the Armenia-EU agreement, which, let me mention, is timeless, it should be noted that the EU member states should be guided by the formulation confirmed in the document. This, by the way, is also contrary to the current policy of Azerbaijan. In addition, it should be noted that if the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Extended Partnership Agreement is approved by the European Union, it is impossible that the Brussels Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit adopts formulations that are incompatible with these formulations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The Geneva meeting significantly reduced the possibilities of Azerbaijan and EU member states, which are trying to change the formulations on the NK conflict in the Declaration adopted at the Riga summit. Besides, I am sure that both the fact and agenda of the Geneva meeting will contribute to the signing of the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Extended partnership agreement in Brussels”.
P.S. The interview was taken at the end of Geneva talks immediately after the announcement of the joint statement of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.