‘Karabakh is Part of European Family,’ Says Sarkisian

Sarkisian with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

BRUSSELS—President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday welcomed Europe’s desire to have direct and unimpeded ties with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and said that Karabakh has always been part of the European family.

The European Union has indicated its intention to establish direct contacts with Nagorno-Karabakh in an apparent effort to step up its involvement in international efforts to resolve the conflict.

“Armenia has always stressed the importance of establishing direct contacts with the authorities of Nagorno Karabakh and the necessity for the EU representatives to conduct regular visits to Karabakh. We have also stressed on many occasions that Nagorno Karabakh is part of the European family, the carrier of the same values which pursues the goal of creating a structure based on the protection of human rights and the rule of law,” said Sarkisian at a joint press conference after meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

“Regardless of the electoral processes in Armenia and countries involved in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Armenia side remains committed to maintaining the peace process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and conclusion of the work on the Basic principles,” Sarkisian further elaborated.

“Only after that it will be possible to start negotiations on the ‘Larger Framework Agreement.’ Negotiations and war-mongering propaganda, racial hatred and acquisition of an unprecedented amount of armaments are mutually exclusive. Those who ‘play’ war should have learned history lessons long ago.

Late last month the European Union gave the final green light for the launch of official negotiations with Armenia on a far-reaching free trade agreement that should significantly deepen the Armenia’s integration in the EU.

The EU’s executive European Commission announced February 21 that EU member-states have authorized it to negotiate a Deep and Comprehensive free Trade Area (DCFTA) with Armenia. “The parties will now engage in preparations for the first negotiating round to take place soon in 2012,” the commission said in a statement.

Sarkisian said a “milestone of our mutual success is the unanimous decision of all EU member states to launch negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Zone, which also speaks of the efficiency of the steps undertaken by the Armenian Government on that direction.”

“The European Union is Armenia’s largest trading partner and signing of this Agreement will have a critical influence on further integration, encouragement of investments and will become a serious impetus for the development of the Armenian economy,” said Sarkisian.

Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy who met separately with Sarkisian both praised Armenia on electoral reforms.

“My message to the President today was very clear: we fully support the President’s reform and modernization agenda, and we remain committed to deepen our engagement with Armenia in the framework of the Eastern Partnership,” Barroso told journalists after meeting with Sarkisian.

“I trust that you, Mr. President, will continue to pursue reforms to strengthen democratic institutions, to enhance the independence of the judiciary, to encourage political pluralism and media freedom, and the protection of fundamental freedoms,” he said.

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