“Azerbaijan is trying to hinder Armenia’s and the Co-Chairs’ efforts,” Armenia and the European Union will begin negotiations on a new framework agreement in February, says Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
YEREVAN (ArmRadio)—“I can’t say who will benefit from the Lapshin case, but it will certainly not add honor to anyone,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian stated at the annual press conference on the activities of the Foreign Ministry in 2016, referring to Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin’s arrest for over his visits to the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
“On the contrary, persecuting people for exercising their fundamental rights to the freedom of movement and freedom of expression is a shame,” he said.
According to Nalbandian, the case will hardly become a precedent.
“People have visited and will keep visiting Nagorno-Karabakh,” Nalbandian said. “More and more people have been visiting Nagorno-Karabakh over the past years despite Azerbaijan’s discontent. The visitors include not only outstanding public, political and culture figures, but also tourists.”
“The more they [Azerbaijan] try to prevent the visits, the more they advertise Nagorno-Karabakh. Everyone wants to go and see it,” the Minister noted.
“This only causes harm Azerbaijan’s reputation and the reputation of all those cooperating with Azerbaijan on such issues,” Nalbandian said.
On December 15, 2016, police in Belarus detained Lapshin, a popular travel blogger based in Moscow, for his prior visits to the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and for his criticism of the Aliyev regime.
On January 20, 2017, at Aliyev’s request, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Belarus decided to have Lapshin extradited to Azerbaijan. An appeal to the ruling was recently denied.
Regarding the relationship between Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, Nalbandian said that efforts by the Co-Chairs and Armenia are aimed at establishing respective conditions to push forward the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process. “Changes of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs are unlikely to bring serious impact on the mediation efforts, since the Co-Chairs are representing the position of their states.”
Nalbandian said that Azerbaijan is trying to hinder Armenia’s and the Co-Chairs’ efforts, calling into question the arrangements reached during the Vienna and St. Petersburg Summits, or misstating them to a degree the co-chairs called it distortion.
“The Co-Chairing states are repeatedly calling for compliance with the ceasefire regime, implementing in the shortest possible time the proposals of establishing an OSCE investigative mechanism and the expansion of the team of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office,” said the Minister.
During the press conference, Nalbandian announced the planned meeting with the OSCE Co-Chairs on the eve of the Munich Security Conference (February 17-19) as well as the Co-Chairs’ proposal to hold a meeting between foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We have never declined such meetings, yet we are unsure what plots Azerbaijan is going to play this time,” he said.
“Speaking of the Azerbaijani subversion that occurred near the village of Chinari of Armenia’s Tavush province at the end of December, Nalbandian said it would be beyond any comment should the order for the sabotage attempt been issued from the Azerbaijani leadership,” Panorama reported.
The Minister said Azerbaijani leadership could be behind the order, since Baku continues to reject the proposals of strengthening the ceasefire regime.
“If the order [for the assault] has been given by the local leadership, it proves the assumption there are people in Azerbaijani army who ignore their leadership and provoke actions that may result in unforeseeable consequences, which may escalate the conflict or prompt negative developments alike,” Nalbandian said, adding that the international community must “bring the Azeri leadership to their senses.”
“Armenia and the European Union will begin the 9th round of negotiations on a new framework agreement in February, entering the final stage of talks. Armenia and the EU in December 2015 launched talks on a new framework agreement after EU Foreign Affairs Council authorized the European Commission and the High Representative to open negotiations on a new legal basis for relations with Armenia on October 13,” Arka News Agency reported. “If the Armenian and EU agreement proceeds, the new agreement will replace the current agreement on partnership and cooperation.”
“We are approaching the final stage of negotiations after having discussed the majority of the provisions – both economic and economic. A large delegation from the European Union will arrive in Armenia in the near future for the talks. Consultation with its members will enable us to make certain specifications to the agreement,” said Nalbandian.
Armenia and the EU were set on signing the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) in November 2013, but on September 3, Armenian President Sarkisian announced that the country was joining the Russian-led Customs Union.