Gayane Novikova: The President of Armenia is interested in promotion of European values and mechanisms which can contribute to the establishment of solid economic, political, and person-to-person relations between Armenia and the EU

Interview of Dr. Gayane Novikova to ArmInfo Independent News Agency

 November 15, 2012


On November 12, 2012, Claude Bartolone, the President of the National Assembly of France during the official visit of  the President of Armenia in Paris, stated that in France they evaluated highly the activity of Serzh Sargsyan aimed toward European integration of Armenia. In your opinion, does a Western- style “renovation” exist in reality?    

There is no univalent answer to this question. The President of Armenia is interested in promotion of European values and mechanisms which can contribute to the establishment of solid economic, political, and person-to-person relations betweenArmeniaand the European states and institutions, including the European Union. However, European integration is a long, difficult, and painful process, which requires in-depth economic,  legislative, and humanitarian reforms. This means that a long period of time will pass before visible and tangible results – in particular in the human rights area and especially in the unresolved conflict arena –  will appear. Several other factors also should be kept in mind. First, the European Union supports the programs which are prioritized by the partner state. In the case ofArmeniathese programs focus upon state-building reforms that rely upon a long-term perspective and are not very visible to most people. Second, the evaluation of the results should be based upon the depth and orientation of the reforms. Third, presently we are not discussingArmenia’s EU membership, but creation of acceptable frameworks and procedures for a durable and progressive partnership. Of course, there is also a whitewash, covered by the phrase “certain progress has been made.”  However, the EU has relevant punishment mechanisms. As an example I would like to remind you of the EU decision not to hold the donor conference to helpArmeniato overcome the aftermath of the world economic crisis. Thus, a constellation of such factors contests the view that viable reforms are occurring along a linear pathway..

Previously President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan blamed the international community in implying that a double-standards exists in regard to the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict .  He referred to the Kosovo example. Now changes have occurred.. What reason pushed Armenia to change its position?

Of course there are double-standards, defined by the interests of direct and indirect parties to the conflict. The authors of the so-called Kosovo model assumed that it cannot be considered and used as a precedent for the resolution of other ethno-political and territorial conflicts. However,Russiadirectly implemented this model in the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts.Armeniaand Nagorno Karabakh also applied it, even while emphasizing that significant differences exist between the Nagorno Karabakh and Kosovo conflicts. One of these differences is the following: the violence close to the center ofEuropewas stopped by direct NATO military intervention followed by a peacekeeping operation. These steps did not resolve the conflict but made it more manageable.

Currently against the background of an increasingly aggressive rhetoric by the Azerbaijani leadership and its sharp critique of the OSCE Minsk Group for its “uselessness,” the deployment of peacekeepers in the area of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict could be considered as rational.  However, there are several important factors that speak against doing so:

– there is no single conflict involving strong ethnic and territorial components where the deployment of peacekeepers brought sustained peace;

– there is no apparent interest by external actors to resikve  the NK conflict;

– there are no guarantees in regard to the actions of peacekeepers in the event of a sharp escalation of the conflict (not to mention that the absence of a peace agreement between the parties to the conflict constitutes a precondition for the peacekeeping operation).

Developments in the area of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict are unique because a cease-fire  was achieved by the direct parties to the conflict and it remains in place without external involvement.  Under these conditions a potential exists to resolve the conflict in spite of Azerbaijani provocations and the double-standard approaches of the general international community. I am sure thatArmeniaand theNagornoKarabakhRepublicshould insist upon a continuation of negotiations.

The legislative body of the New South Wales, the biggest Australian state, adopted by a solid vote a resolution that recognized the Nagorno Karabakh republic and its right to self-determination. Earlier roughly the same resolutions were adopted by two U.S. states: Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In your opinion, what kind of trend is indicated by  this international process?  

I would call the range of events you have listed “an overture” to international recognition of the NKR, which is in line with the observable process of establishing new state entities, not only in Africa (South Sudan). Against the background of discussions in regard to the independence of Flandreau, Catalonia, and Scotland from, respectively, Belgium, Spain, and the United Kingdom and two referenda on the separation of Quebec from Canada (it is worth mentioning that all are quite prosperous and relatively stable states), the possibility to change NKR status from de facto to a de jure state is not perceived as something strongly negative. After twenty years of a de facto existence of theNagornoKarabakhRepublic, and especially against the background of developments inAzerbaijan, as well as very serious geopolitical shifts—all of these factors facilitate a transformation of the discussions on the NKR’s independence from the theoretical to the practical level. These same factors account for the very predictable nervous reaction ofAzerbaijan, and this will intensify.

What kind of geopolitical shifts can provoke in the region an actual change of power in Georgia, taking into consideration its geographic location between Russia, Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan? 

I would not exaggerate the significance and effects of a power change inGeorgia. I don’t see any signals of a sharp change in its foreign policy. It is obvious that Russian-Georgian relations will shift from a hysterical level to a more pragmatic level.  However, comprehensive normalization is still far away. The new leadership offers a quite acceptable partner for the West, as well as forAzerbaijan andTurkey (although with some reservations).

Paata Zakareishvili, the Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, commenting on negative statements from Baku in regard to the possibility of the restoration of railway service through Abkhazia, stated: “Georgia is not going to sacrifice its interests in favor of  others.”  Taking into consideration that it is still unclear what benefits Georgia itself will receive, does this project have a chance of success?

There is a significant difference between “to state” and “to do.” Zakareishvili’s proposal is a clear claim to create projects which could  serve as alternatives to Russia’s initiatives. It will allow an expansion of contacts between representatives of Georgia and Abkhazia and initiate the establishment — or rebuilding – of confidence-building measures, also through an activation of economic ties.  Furthermore, it will unequivocally increase the international prestige of the newly-elected leadership of Georgia, which has stated its willingness to collaborate with the Abkhazian side without political preconditions. From this viewpoint the project offers direct benefits for Georgia. The question is whether Georgia possesses the adequately strong political will and power to withstand Azerbaijani pressure, which as its strategic partner can not only put economic pressure upon Georgia, but also provoke some disturbances in Kvemo-Kartli, for example.

It is necessary to stress also that the opening of the railroad will first of all strengthen Russia’s position in the South Caucasus.  In light of unsettled Russian-Georgian relations it is dangerous for Georgia itself.

Some experts consider the process of Armenian-Turkish rapprochement as a problem of global security. In your opinion, what is the Zurich process nowadays?

I don’t think that the settlement of Armenian-Turkish relations is a priority for Turkey taking into consideration current shifts in global security, linked first of all to developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as to internal and external problems faced by this regional power.    The Zurich process was initially viewed as a  mechanism to bridge a break in bilateral Armenian-Turkish relations; however, it gradually lost  its potential (founded on the principle that the development of good-neighbourly relations is always a positive goal). Re-animation of this process is from my viewpoint not only absolutely meaningless, but also dangerous. It is necessary to look for other frameworks and formats, and to consider “Zurich” as a declaration of intention and nothing more.