YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)—At a joint press conference with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, President Serzh Sarkissian urged European leaders not to judge the conflicting sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue equally. Sarkissian said that though the recent European Games hosted by Baku ushered a brief period of peace and stability between Armenian forces and Azerbaijan, it was a “delusion”.
“I am saying that it [the European Games] was a gift because it allowed the international community to see who creates tension, who can stop violating the ceasefire. This is really important. I turn to European institutions to refuse putting an equality sign on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. When there is an equality sign and when people have a feeling of impunity, people get detached from the earth. This is the reason why the President of Azerbaijan allows himself such arrogant speech. I am sure that in spite of the attractiveness of the smell of gas and the taste of caviar to many people in European institutions, we will come to the right path. Otherwise, if we go on like this, if we excuse the Azerbaijani president’s words and actions we must turn to William Saroyan’s words, ‘Something’s wrong somewhere,’” Sarkissian said.
President of the Council of the European Union Donald Tusk said at the joint press conference with Sarkissian that “the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a priority for the European Union. The European Union supports the negotiations aimed at settling the conflict led by the OSCE Minsk Group.”
“We support further dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including at the highest level—at your level, Mr. President. It is critical to respect the ceasefire strictly, to exercise restraint on actions and statements, and to create an atmosphere conducive to progress in the conflict settlement,” Tusk said.
“I’m confident there is no alternative to the peaceful settlement. If we want to reach a peaceful settlement, all players in this risky game should refrain from any aggressive elements and rhetoric, because words, speeches and rhetoric have implications on politics, and sometimes dramatic ones,” he said.
As for Armenia’s choice not to make use of the European Union’s offer of an Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, Tusk said that it is “a choice that the European Union fully respects.”
“We still stand ready to deepen our relations by working together to open markets and by advancing on democratic reforms, economic growth, regional integration, a better business-investment climate, and sustainable development. In short a broad reform agenda,” he stressed.
“We have just successfully completed the first stage of discussions on a new, comprehensive bilateral agreement. In this agreement we have identified areas for future cooperation. The EU Member States are already discussing the mandate for these negotiations,” the EU President said.
“One important area in our cooperation is to make it easier to travel between Armenia and the European Union. I welcome the good progress made by Armenia on the Mobility Partnership. The effective implementation of the Readmission and Visa Facilitation Agreements that entered into force in January 2014 is a crucial condition to start talks for a visa liberalization dialogue. A visa-free regime is the final goal. I am hopeful that the next step can be taken in the coming months, if this pace of work continues,” he added.
Tusk assured that “Armenia can count on the European Union’s continued support to advance on a whole range of political and social reforms, and to improve the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“The European Union supports the work of civil society in Armenia and I encourage a closer involvement of the civil society in the reform process to broaden the perspective and ensure common ownership. This year is decisive for our relations,” Tusk said.
Tusk was thankful for the opportunity to visit the Armenian Genocide Memorial. “This was my second visit, and was as moved as during my first visit,” he said.
Tusk, together with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex to honor the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide on Monday.
The delegation was met at the Tsitsernakaberd site by Karen Nazaryan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Suren Manukyan, Deputy Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute.
The guests laid wreaths at the memorial, left flowers at the eternal flame, and visited the newly renovated Museum-Institute.
Manukyan presented Tusk with the books “Armenian Genocide: Front Page Coverage in the World Press” and “100 Photographic Stories about the Armenian Genocide”.
Tusk is currently on a regional visit in the South Caucasus. While in Armenia, Tusk will also meet with Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan.