YEREVAN—Armenia is interested in maintaining good relations with both the East and the West, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said in an interview with the Italian Corriere della Sera. He added that “it’s dangerous for small countries to take advantage of the contradictions between the major decision-making centers.”
“We have strong economic and strategic relations with Russia, we are part of the collective security system. At the same time we have very good relations with the United States, the European Union and NATO. Thus, in the face of tensions in their relationships, we choose not to take sides. We build our foreign policy around concrete issues,” the Armenian President said.
As an example of a concrete issue, President Sarkisian pointed to the UN General Assembly Resolution on Crimea. “Armenia voted against the measure, but not because Russia did the same. As you know, there is the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated region that declared independence from Azerbaijan. For us, the right to self-determination of peoples is a fundamental principle. We reject the approach that before exercising this universally recognized principle, it’s necessary to ask permission,” he stated.
According to the Armenian President, there are values that are inalienable. “I remember that at the time of the collapse of the USSR Europe unconditionally supported the right to self-determination. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine became independent during that process. Does this mean we should support the exercise of this right in the case of large territorial units, such as the USSR, but not in the case of smaller units? We should remember the independence of Kosovo: there is no difference with Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said.
Asked whether there is no difference even between Kosovo and Crimea, President Sarkisian said: “I do not have the right to judge the case of Crimea. But it is evident that there has been an exercise of the right to self-determination. In any case, we do not see a contradiction between the right to self-determination and the principle of territorial integrity. They are both founding principles of the Charter of the United Nations. ”
Speaking about the prospects of peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the Armenian President said: “The long negotiations led to important results, with a solution framework that is based on three principles: non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity and self-determination. But the solution seems to us to be far away in light of recent developments.”
President Sarkisian said Turkey’s role in the process is not positive. “It’s not positive. Ankara defends, supports and echoes the Azerbaijani positions,” he said.
“In addition there is the issue of the Armenian Genocide, which marks the centenary in 2015 and which Turkey continues to deny. I am optimistic that one day a Turkish government will come to terms with history, recognizing the Armenian genocide.” “I have invited Turkish President Erdogan to the commemoration of the centenary, but I doubt he will come,” he reminded.
Serzh Sarkisian said the developments in the Middle East concern the international community, particularly Armenia. “There are large and vibrant Armenian communities in Iraq and Syria, who have lived there for years in harmony with Muslims. Now we are witnessing the gradual annihilation of the Christian cultural heritage in those regions. We are a small country, but efforts of large coalitions aimed at stabilizing this region have always been well received by the Armenian government. In addition, the presence of Armenian communities in those areas makes us particularly sensitive. After Iraq and Afghanistan, in late October Armenia will deploy a contingent in Lebanon under the Italian command within the framework of the UN peacekeeping mission,” President Sarkisian said.