While on an official visit to Paris this week, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan sat down for an interview with French daily newspaper Le Figaro. Below are English excerpts from the talk.
Le Figaro: What is the main purpose of your visit to Paris?
Zohrab Mnatskanyan: Armenia has a unique, brotherly relationship with France. The agenda of our relations covers a wide range of issues relating to political, economic, cultural and educational fields. This is my third meeting with Jean-Yves Le Drian. Our relationship goes further, with President Emmanuel Macron attending the 17th La Francophonie summit in Yerevan in October of last year. Moreover, France is one of the most important member states of the European Union. We were fortunate to sign the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with France in 2017. This visit is an additional investment in the firm architecture of our bilateral relations.
Le Figaro: Can you state whether or not there is any progress with the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement?
Z.M.: On Monday, I met with my Azerbaijani counterpart in Moscow. The meeting was also attended by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (France, Russia and US). The meeting followed the March 29 summit of leaders between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Our responsibility is the security of 150,000 individuals living in Artsakh. Taking into account the existing atmosphere in Artsakh, these citizens are under constant threat.
The matter must be settled politically, and the Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship is the only organization that can achieve this. An atmosphere contributing to peace and vital contacts between the two groups are necessary. We cannot attempt to negotiate when there are demonstrations of hatred. Armenia’s priorities are the security of the people and the status of Artsakh. All inhabitants of Artsakh should partake in this process. They are the guarantors of the Armenian identity in the region, an identity which still faces the denialism of the genocide.
To be more specific, there has been almost no progress in this conflict.
Le Figaro: In 2001, France officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, and recently President Macron announced that April 24 will be marked in France as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
Z.M.: This decision has deeply touched the Armenian people. There was an attempt completely eliminate us, but we survived. We found the strength to move on and work on rebuilding: our victory is in this. But, unfortunately, we still face the consequences of the Turkish denialist policy. This denialism not only relates to Armenians, but to humanity as a whole. The Turkish President ignores the Zurich protocols, which established diplomatic relations, as well as opening of the borders between Armenia and Turkey—which were signed in 2009. Armenia was committed to these protocols and was ready to normalize the relations with Turkey without preconditions.
Le Figaro: It’s been a year since Armenia’s Velvet Revolution, what are your priorities today?
Z.M.: Our priorities include: cooperation with Europe, fighting corruption while fighting for justice, and following through with the reforms that were mandated by our citizens. These will include economic and tax reforms. Armenia has great potential. The events that led to our Velvet Revolution were domestic, not geopolitical. Although we have close ties with various countries, our focus and interests are primarily on Armenia.