BRUSSELS (RFE/RL)—Armenia wants to develop its partnership with the European Union based on what was achieved during the recent negotiations and considering the “new realities,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in Brussels.
During Tuesday’s EU and Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers meeting, which was also attended by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule, Nalbandian said that Armenia wants this partnership with the EU to be based on the results and progress achieved in recent years.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s press service, in his speech Nalbandian said: “At the Vilnius Summit Armenia and the European Union reaffirmed their commitment to continue and strengthen their cooperation in the Eastern Partnership format in all areas of mutual interest, emphasizing the importance of updating the legal basis for our relations. Armenia looks forward to making further steps for the purpose of establishing a new legal framework for cooperation with the European Union that will, on the one hand, reflect what was achieved during the negotiations with Armenia and, on the other hand, will take into account the new realities,” the minister said.
By the ‘new realities’ the top Armenian diplomat apparently referred to Yerevan’s plans to join the emerging Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Armenia announced its intentions to integrate with the Russian-led trade bloc last September, less than three months before the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit in Lithuania at which the South Caucasus country was to have initialed an association agreement with the EU that would also lead to the establishment of a free trade area with the 28-nation bloc. Officials in Brussels said then that membership in the post-Soviet bloc was incompatible with the European association process. Official Yerevan, however, emphasized on numerous occasions that it still attaches importance to its relations with the EU.
In his latest speech Nalbandian also noted that the EU’s continued assistance and support play a significant role in the implementation of the reform process in Armenia and in strengthening the country’s democracy and institutional capacity.
He stressed that the EU-Armenia cooperation agenda covers numerous areas – from political dialogue to justice and mobility, from migration issues to institutional reforms and growth potential, adding that Armenia is ready to continue to work on all areas of mutual interest.
The minister said that enhanced mobility between the societies is a common goal and Armenia wants to start a dialogue on the abolition of the visa regime, based on what he described as the successful experience of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements.
Armenia’s foreign minister stressed the importance of the protocol of the agreement on basic principles of partnership and cooperation that entered into force last March for Armenia’s participation in the Union’s programs. This protocol, he said, will make it possible for Armenia to take part in different EU programs and expand bilateral cooperation.
Speaking about regional cooperation, Minister Nalbandian stressed that “by continuing to keep its border with Armenia closed, Turkey hampers the settlement of our bilateral relations and Armenia’s operation of transport routes and communications with the EU.”
“Paradoxically, Turkey, as a country that wants to join the European Union, keeps closed its border with the neighboring state in the case when free movement is a fundamental principle in the European Union space,” he said.
Nalbandian welcomed the appointment of Ambassador Herbert Salber as EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, wishing him success in his mission.
Addressing the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia’s foreign minister stressed that in response to numerous appeals made by the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries Armenia, unlike Azerbaijan, has constantly reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of international law, in particular the non-use of force and threat of force, equal rights of peoples, the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity, and expressed regret over the lack of political will in Azerbaijan, which is displayed in the ‘continuous rejection’ of all proposals of the mediators.
“We fully agree that it is necessary to prepare the peoples for peace and not war. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is doing completely the opposite with its militant and provocative rhetoric, with its propaganda of intolerance and hatred, which, at the line of contact with Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and at the border with Armenia causes tensions and aggravation of the situation in the region. We also appreciate the unambiguous support on various occasions expressed by the European Union for the Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ efforts, which are aimed exclusively at peaceful settlement,” Nalbandian concluded.