Kocharian Discusses TARC Karabakh During Interview

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The GazetaSNG.ru hosted an on-line forum with President Robert Kocharian Friday–during which Armenia’s from all over the world were able to ask the President questions about Armenia and Karabakh.

President Kocharian answered a question concerning the volatile issue of the so-called Turkish-Armenian relations during his on-line interview. Kocharian said Armenia’supports any steps aimed at forming civilized neighborly relations with Turkey and added–"It’s a very delicate subject. It is desirable that issues concerning Armenian-Turkish relations should be discussed at the state level–which Armenia has never avoided–or with a broader participation of political forces and coordination of steps."

Kocharian also answered a question from an anonymous person in Baku about whether or not there were any possible compromises on the Karabakh problem that Armenia was ready to agree on. Kocharian said that Armenia has clearly formulated three principles that should be the foundation of the Karabakh settlement. The first is to acknowledge the equal legal personality of the parties to the conflict. Secondly–the exclusion of the Karabakh enclave status–and lastly–the guaranteed security for the Karabakh population by international organizations and countries.

With the observance of these principles Armenia is ready to consider a possible compromise. Kocharian emphasized that–"If a decision is made–the leaders of each of the sides should have enough political will to explain the advantages of a given variant to their peoples and convince them to accept it. If there is no such political will–this leader has no right to conduct negotiations."

Answering the question of one of the participants on why Armenia does not free at least one of the regions under its control–Kocharian stressed that the issue of people’s self-determination is the basis of the conflict and not the territorial claims. He said that the only reason why the mentioned regions’ are under their control is to provide security to the population. He said that these territories today are a part of a formed force balance–thereby guaranteeing cease-fire–established in 1994. Any changes without the guarantee of security may provoke war.

Responding to a question asked about whether Armenia fears that Azerbaijan may carry out a "counter-terrorist operation," Robert Kocharian said that during the past years both sides created a strong defensive system and whoever chooses to resume war will lose.

President Kocharian stated that the most important thing for both Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as for all the countries in the South Caucasus is to realize that the most important goal for the region is to establish stable peace. This was his response to a question asked if he believed that Armenia’s economic resources were too weak to ensure a complete victory over Azerbaijan.

Saying that Armenia’s leaders are working towards establishing durable peace and stability in the region–Kocharian emphasized–"Experience has proved that any animosity in our region–whether a battle–a war–or just cold confrontation–does not benefit anyone."

Expressing the opinion that "the oil issue in politics obstructed many," Kocharian pointed out that Armenia’s economy is developing at an equal pace as Azerbaijan’s.

"Over recent years both sides have established quite a powerful defense system and there is a high degree of certainty that both militarily and politically the one who first unleashes a new conflict will lose in the eyes of its own people," underlined Kocharian.

Kocharian also discussed the economic situation in Armenia–pointing out that the solution to a number of social problems such as the creation of jobs implies the fulfillment of quite a number of foreign-policy task. He stressed that restoring any country’s economy while in transition without large foreign investmen’s is almost an impossible task.

Pointing out that it is difficult to attract serious investment to a country with "stained" reputation. The president noted that a high priority for Armenia’s foreign policy is to rebuild the country’s image within the international arena. "It is daily effort which is never easy," said Kocharian.

Another question asked was–"When you were running for the Presidency–you said that Armenia needed an economic breakthrough. But the country still has the same heavy economic situation. Do you think you’ve managed to do anything?" In response–Kocharian said–"An economically strong Armenia is the number one goal for me. Over the past years–the economic climate in Armenia has considerably changed. The most important thing that we have managed to achieve is that we have turned from the survival concept to the concept of active development."

According to the president–"the tax legislation has been reformed so as to develop business–and the judicial system were able to guarantee businessmen protection. Approaches to privatization have changed. We demand that the buyers guarantees that the enterprises they buy will work–that necessary investmen’s will be made–that social problems with enterprise employees will be solved. As a result of the combinations of all these factors–we began to work and large enterprises are now gaining strength. The main task today is actively promoting reforms in all directions. Armenia is solving its economic problems."

Speaking about the creation of favorable conditions for private businesses–the president said that important laws have been adopted to regulate the sphere of business–and the boundaries of state control have been strictly outlined. According to the president–they have managed to minimize bureaucracy. The judicial system has been reformed–which in turn guarantees the protection of business; the tax legislation has been changed noticeably; the development of small and medium enterprises is being stimulated. "We’ve already achieved certain results–especially in the industries of information technologies–services–tourism–processing–diamond cutting–etc.," said the president.

Saying that Armenia will become a member of the World Trade Organization by the end of the year–Kocharian said that "in fact–it means international recognition the realization of the market economy in Armenia–despite the presence of quite a number of problems. It also means that our market has become predictable–which is the basis for a favorable investment climate."

Answering one of the most popular questions in Armenia today–about the sale of large economic facilities to foreign investors–the president said–"Life has shown that a state is not the most effective owner–otherwise the Soviet Union would still be prosperous. Right and effective privatization is another question. Here we do have problems. As for the Brandy Company and other enterprises–they were in Armenia and they still remain in Armenia. I’d add that the facilities privatized by foreigners still work–many of them quite successfully. By the way–the quality of brandy has improved–and the enterprise timely pays for the grapes it buys from farmers."

The topic of dual citizenship also came up during the forum. Kocharian said that the draft of the constitutional reforms that deals with changes regarding dual citizenship will officially be submitted to the National Assembly of the Republic in September.

In answering Tigran Tavadyan’s (editor of Yerkramas–a newspaper serving the Armenian community of south Russia) question about the possibility of acquiring Armenian citizenship by citizens of other countries–Kocharian said that he was a supporter of dual citizenship in Armenia–as "a country with such a large and historically formed Diaspora ought to provide its compatriots with relevant mechanisms for strengthening their links with the historical Motherland."

The president of Armenia pointed out that the date of the referendum on the reforms of the Constitution will be determined depending on how broad the consensus of political forces on the proposed draft is.

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