Mercredi 21 Août 2019  

N°118 - Deuxième trimestre 2017

La lettre diplometque
  25 ans de relations diplomatiques fondés sur des liens d’amitié historiques et sincères
  Une relation dense qui s’appuie sur une histoire ancienne
  « La France doit être aux côtés de l’Arménie »
  En route pour le Sommet de la Francophonie en Arménie
  France-Arménie : un partenariat solide sur la scène internationale
  Le Conseil de l’Europe : une organisation clé pour la politique étrangère arménienne
  La DFA : un acteur incontournable de l’économie arménienne
  Les nouvelles promesses de l’économie arménienne
  Un jumelage européen exemplaire entre la France et l’Arménie
  25 ans d’appartenance à l’UNESCO
  « L’UFAR s’est fixé un projet stratégique ambitieux pour les 10 prochaines années »
  La mission archéologique Caucase : œuvrer à une meilleure connaissance de la préhistoire de l’Arménie et de la région
  Contribuer à la diffusion de la culture et des valeurs françaises et francophones
La lettre diplometque
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  S.E.M. / H.E. Viguen Tchitetchian

Armenia-France: 25 Years of Diplomatic Relations

Interview with H.E. Viguen TCHITETCHIAN,
the Ambassador of Armenia to France

Armenia, the only country in the Caucasus full member of La Francophonie, will host the 17 th Summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) in 2018. This is an unprecedented event for this pro-European country, which also belongs to the Eurasian Economic Union and could serve as a cultural and economic bridge with Iran. Twenty-five years after Yerevan and Paris established diplomatic relations, H.E. Viguen Tchitetchian, the Ambassador of Armenia to France, shares his thoughts on the specificities of ties of friendship and cooperation that link the two countries, and outlines the new political and economic dynamics inside Armenia.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, last year Armenia commemorated the 25th anniversary of its independence, and this year is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the etablishment of diplomatic relations with France. Could you describe the strides your country has made during these years for our readers, and outline them in the Franco-Armenian friendship relations?

H.E. Viguen TCHITETCHIAN: After regaining its independence, fulfilling the dream of so many generations, the Republic of Armenia reclaimed its position on the international stage through initating the process of establishing of diplomatic relations.
All of the Armenian people, both inside the country and around the globe, were flooded with very strong feelings during this period: immeasurable joy and a feeling of great pride, but also concern, because we knew very well that the collapse of an empire is never painless. We were, nevertheless, more determined than ever to be the masters of our destiny. 
It is no exaggeration to say that Armenia found itself in the most difficult situation, compared to the other former Soviet republics. When the people of Nagorno-Karabakh peacefully voiced their desire to exercise their right to self-determination, Azerbaijan responded by savagely massacring the Armenian residents in the Azerbaijani cities of Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku, and conducting ethnic cleansing in other towns. Armenia had already been ravaged by a terrible earthquake on 7 December 1988 that left 25,000 people dead and 500,000 others homeless. On top of that, it had to accomodate almost 400,000 survivors of the Azerbaijani pogroms. Then in 1992, Azerbaijan launched a wide-scale war against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. This war was a serious threat to the physical existence of this population; Armenia could not simply stand by and let them perish. Our country was also facing a serious energy crisis caused by a variety of factors, as well as an all-out blockade imposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan. We managed to overcome these hardships thanks to the great determination and heroism of our people, along with support from our brothers and sisters from the diaspora and with help from  friendly countries such as France.
France was one of the very first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence. It established diplomatic ties with our country through the Protocol signed on 24 February 1992, and opened an embassy in Yerevan. The Armenian Embassy in Paris, for its part, has been up and running since 1992. Armenia subsequently opened Consulate Generals in Marseille and Lyon, in 2001 and 2013 respectively. We were very pleased to renew our ties with France for many reasons: the long-standing friendship between our peoples that dates back to the time of the Crusades; our shared values and the hundreds of thousands of French citizens of Armenian descent who serve as a natural bridge between Armenia and France. 
As for the emblematic achievements of our partnership, I would start with France’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide, through a special law enacted in 2001. There was also The Year of Armenia in France, held in 2006-2007 under the highly symbolic slogan “Armenia, My Friend.” There was the Armenian President’s State visits to France in 2001, the first of its   kind in Armenian history. There were the State visits to Armenia by France’s presidents, starting with Jacques Chirac in 2006, for the launching of the Year of Armenia in France, Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011, and François Hollande in 2014. And, of course, there was President Hollande’s attendance at the ceremonies in Yerevan, in 2015, commemorating the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. 
On a broader level, I would say that when a French head of state gathers with French citizens of Armenian descent to commemorate 24 April, near the Komitas Statue, in the very heart of Paris, it is a high point. When the mayors of Paris call for a gathering to be held at the Hotel de Ville every year on 24 April, to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, that is another high point. When the Eiffel Tower – the most famous tower in the world – goes dark so that we will never forget the genocide of one and a half million innocent victims, that is a high point. Finally, when commemorations are held in dozens of cities, with assistance from local and national elected officials, these are also high points that testify to the deep and enduring bonds of friendship between the Armenian and French peoples.

T.D.L.: Armenia and France signed three new agreements in the field of the higher education and tourism during the official visit to France by the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, on March 7-9 of this year. Could you describe their aim and reach? The third meeting of the Franco-Armenian Conference on Decentralized Cooperation was held on 1-2 December 2016 in Yerevan. What has your country gained from this process? What steps would you like to see taken next, to strengthen the bilateral dialogue? 

H.E.V.T.: First of all, let me stress that Armenia and France have a very privileged relationships, a relationship built on a legal framework I would characterize as extremely sound. All the laws we need to continue building upon these ties are already in place. Our countries made a very telling move on 12 March 1993, signing a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation just one year after establishing diplomatic relations. Other agreements are being implemented as well. The most important among them include an agreement for cultural, scientific and technical cooperation, an agreement for the mutual encouragement and protection of investments, and an agreement to avoid dual taxation. 
The agreements signed during President Sargsyan’s March 2017 visit complement and reinforce these bases. One of these agreements is aimed at increasing exchanges in the education and research areas, more specifically to boost our mutual education and research potential in the fields of data sciences and computing. The other agreement lays out the details of France and Armenia’s mutual commitments to the French University in Armenia (UFAR). 
Our tourism agreement seeks to strengthen bilateral cooperation in this sector by laying out an action plan, fostering greater exchange of know-how and experiences, improving security and accommodation conditions for tourists, and mutually promoting the two countries’ tourist destinations through the media, to travel agencies, and via road shows, etc.
Decentralized cooperation is a very important component in the spectrum of Franco-Armenian relations. This superb cooperation has been steadily deepened and expanded since it was formalized on the institutional level in 2006, with the first Franco-Armenian Conference, convened in Paris on the initiative of H.E. Edward Nalbandian, the Armenian Ambassador to France at the time.
There are now some 70 different partnership and twinning agreements between our cities, administrative departments and regions. Several joint projects are also being carried out in the tourism, agriculture and education sectors, among others. This cooperation, to which Armenia attaches a great importance, contributes to the balanced development of our regions and cities. Let me also underscore the importance of the Franco-Armenian Conferences, in the context of decentralized cooperation within the French-speaking community. This format is extremely promising, and we intend to foster its expansion in the years to come. 
With regard to the next steps that could be taken, I would say that every single cooperation arena with France is important. We need to maintain our political dialogue at its currently high level, including within the framework of the process to resolve Nagorno Karabakh conflict. We should also push forward with our inter-parliamentary and decentralized cooperation programs. We should increase our exchanges in other areas of mutual interest, such as the tourism and high-tech sectors, for instance. Our high level of mutual trust, sound bilateral legal framework and accumulated experience, Armenia’s economic reform policy and a great many other factors, show that we have brought together all the necessary “ingredients” to give a new impulse to our economic and trade ties. The French University in Armenia, founded 15 years ago, provides training in legal matters, business administration, marketing and finance. It is also helping train a French-speaking, France-loving Armenian elite that has an important role to play in this process. 
I am convinced that President Emmanuel Macron and his administration will sustain the close ties forged between our countries, and will work with the Armenian government to deepen and expand them even further. 

T.D.L.: 2017 has been a pivotal year for Armenia. On 2 April, your country held its first parliamentary elections within the framework of the new Constitution adopted in December 2015. Are you pleased with the way of conduct of the elections? What were the factors behind the victory of the Republican Party, led by Armenia’s current head of state? What does Armenia hope to gain by changing its form of government to a parliamentary republic? 

H.E.V.T.: Armenia is gradually moving forward, at a steady and determined pace, with consolidating a strong democratic state. The 1995 Armenian Constitution granted the president wide powers. The 2005 reform reduced the powers of the president of the republic. The 2015 reform changed our form of government from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary system. These ongoing efforts strive to perfect our state edifice and gradually democratize and modernize its institutions and governance model, in order to better meet the expectations of our people. 
In light of this reform process, Armenia’s 2017 parliamentary elections were highly significant. It was the initiating event that forged the key institution in our new system. It also greatly bolstered the opposition within the parliament. This election was carried out within the confines of our new electoral code, adopted thanks to a broad consensus between our parliamentary political forces and civil society. Armenia made important progress with these elections. 
At least three things should be underscored here. Firstly, the headway made in ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in our country is irreversible. Diversity has also become firmly anchored in Armenia’s political and civil life, as witnessed in the activities of our political parties and civil society. Secondly, our major political forces reached a political consensus on the mechanisms for monitoring and ensuring the legality of the electoral process well ahead of the parliamentary election. Thirdly, the level of international cooperation in these elections was exceptionally high. 
The elections were monitored by several observer organizations: the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); the OSCE Parliamentary Assemblies; the Council of Europe; the Community of Independent States (CIS); the European Parliament; and the embassies of various foreign countries. Many of French Parliament members took part in the international delegations. Armenia gave the OSCE/ODIHR permission to send in an unlimited number of observers. According to international observers, the election was well organized, fundamental freedoms were protected, and the results reflect the will of the Armenian people. 
Our neighbor is clearly bothered by this opening up of Armenia. After closing down the OSCE office in Baku, Azerbaijan vetoed extending the mandate of the OSCE office in Yerevan, preventing the last remaining OSCE office in the region from continuing its work, on the grounds that it opposed the OSCE’s humanitarian demining program in Armenia. Despite Armenia’s agreement to exclude this program, despite the efforts of successive German and Austrian OSCE presidencies, despite appeals from the European Union (EU) and OSCE member states, Azerbaijan has refused to rescind its veto. We strongly condemn its uncompromised position, which we believe is a violation of the consensus rule of the OSCE, the mediating organization for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

T.D.L.: During his speech before MEDEF members on 8 March of this year, President Serzh Sargsian called on French companies to invest in Armenia. Your country posted a strong economic performance in 2016. How would you describe its future growth potential? What are some of the most promising activity sectors, beside agriculture and the mining industry? What kinds of reforms could be implemented to make the Armenian market more attractive and more competitive? 

H.E.V.T.: As President Sargsyan said at MEDEF, Armenia continues to foster steady, stable growth that can withstand the often unpredictable upheavals in the global economy. Thanks to the reforms implemented by the government, our country’s rating in the world’s prestigious economic indexes is steadily rising. In the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, Armenia has become the world’s 38th top country for the ease of doing business. The Heritage Foundation has ranked our country 33rd on its index of economic freedom, with Armenia raising its score by 24 points over 2016. 
Along with these favorable rankings, let me stress some of Armenia’s comparative advantages, which include: membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU); persistent efforts to perfect the country’s regulatory frameworks; the creation of free economic zones that make it possible to do business in advantageous conditions with the aim of attracting more investors; top quality human resources with a high level of education; a highly qualified work force; preferential trade arrangements with numerous countries; participation in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program with the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Japan and Norway; and a GSP+ scheme with the EU. 
In addition to the sectors you mentioned, the Armenian government is also fostering the growth of other activity sectors, including new technologies, tourism, renewable energies, organic farming, light industry, and the pharmaceutical, construction and jewelry industries. 
Armenia has become a country that can offer solutions in the areas of innovation and high technology. This activity sector has grown 25% in recent years, and now accounts for 4% of our GDP. The fact that many top transnational companies – such as Microsoft, Synopsys, IBM, Oracle, National Instruments, D-Link, etc. – are now working in our country is very telling. To encourage even more IT companies to do business in Armenia, we are now offering startups special tax incentives(tax-free profits and a 10% income tax), which has spurred the creation of 189 new companies. 
The pharmaceutical industry is another area that is growing steadily. Armenian-made drugs are now being sold very successfully in CIS countries, which constitute a very large market. Finally, tourism is another sector that holds great potential. 

T.D.L.: France is the second largest foreign investor in Armenia, yet has a small share of the market compared to Russia. Could you point out specific areas that offer opportunities for broadening bilateral trade ties? Might it help to call another meeting of the Franco-Armenian Economic Forum, which convened for the first time in May 2014?

H.E.V.T.: There is, indeed, enormous potential for expanding Franco-Armenian economic and trade ties, which is why our two countries are now working together to that end. 
As part of its ongoing reforms, Armenia intends to establish a national legislative framework that is more conducive to investment. It will spell out the guarantees afforded to foreign investors, allowing entrepreneurs to take advantage of the current and future benefits in Armenia and providing investors with better dispute-resolution mechanisms. The Armenian government has launched strong policy measures in the export sector. This new strategy lays heavy focus on increasing exports, which could help fuel stable economic growth in the years to come. 
Steps have also been taken to expand our domestic market, which is limited by nature. Two years ago Armenia became member of EEU. The Eurasian integration project has extended the economic borders of its member states to encompass one-seventh of the world’s territory. It has created a market that reaches some 170 million people, without customs fees. The creation of a single pharmaceutical market within the EEU could, for instance, be a strong stimulus for French drug companies. It also makes it possible to sell drugs produced in Armenia on the EEU market, without  any additional authorizations required. 
There are many other promising avenues to explore, such as tourism, the agri-foods sector, renewable energies, and information technologies. The successful experiences of French companies such as Pernod Ricard, Veolia, Crédit Agricole, Alcatel, Cogema, Air France, Carrefour and Framatome should galvanize other French firms and make them see Armenia as a great new destination for their investments. 
Let me finish by saying that Armenia’s excellent investment opportunities are truly exemplary, thanks to our country’s liberal corporate culture and favorable business climate. Armenia also guarantees equal treatment, has no ownership restrictions for foreigners, and ensures free repatriation of profit. 

T.D.L.: Situating at the heart of the Caucasus, Armenia is looking to become a key gateway to markets in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Iran. What sort of advantages does your country offer to foreign companies operating in this region? How is the Meghri Free Zone project coming along? Has the lifting of the U.S. embargo against Iran, in January 2016, opened new trade opportunities for your country? What do you think of the Trump administration’s new stance toward Iran?

H.E.V.T.: As I just mentioned, thanks to the Eurasian integration project, a market that unites 170 million people and eliminates customs borders has opened up to Armenian-made goods. 
Armenia has traditionally had very good relations with Iran. The two countries exchange regular high-level visits, such as the Iranian President’s official visit to Armenia in December 2016. We greatly appreciate the respect that Iranian authorities and the Iranian people have shown for Armenia’s historical and cultural heritage that now stands on Iranian soil. Our churches and monuments located inside Iran have been restored and are very well maintained. Some have even been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Iran has taken a balanced, constructive stance on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for which Armenia is highly appreciative. Furthermore, Iran is a country of 80 million people with which Armenia has forged vibrant economic ties. Armenia has abolished visa requirements for Iranian nationals, creating another driving force for expanding our trade ties. The shortest and safest route between the Persian Gulf and the key Black Sea ports runs through Armenia. Consequently, the North-South highway currently under construction is a key section of the motorway that will eventually link the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas to the Georgian port of Poti. 
As for the Meghri Free Economic Zone, which is located near the Iranian border, the advance work for its construction is moving steadily forward. Armenia already has two other free zones: first, the Alliance Zone, geared toward innovative hi-tech production in sectors such as electronics, precision engineering, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, renewable energies, etc.; and second, the Meridian Zone, which specializes in the jewelery, diamond and watchmaking industries. 
The Meghri Free Zone has been designed for companies working in fields such as engineering, electronics, the food industry – including food processing and packaging – as well as the textile, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. All three of these free economic zones should hold great interest for foreign companies, French companies included, as they offer considerable advantages and afford access to large, nearby markets. It should also be noted that the negotiations between EEU and Iran, India, Egypt, Israel and several other countries are currently underway with a view to establishing free trade agreements, and EEU has already signed one such agreement with Vietnam. 
The United States is an important partner for Armenia. It is also one of the three OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries. We highly appreciate the fact that many of American states have recognized the Armenian Genocide and have affirmed the right to self-determination of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). We are also thankful for the United States’ support for expanding Armenia’s peacekeeping capacity and strengthening cooperation, working within the framework of key initiatives targeting nuclear security, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fight against terrorism, as well as joint programs being conducted in the science, education and cultural sectors, among others. The sustained support of the United States for efforts to strengthen Armenia’s democratic institutions, electoral process and civil society has been particularly important. It is also important to underline the high-level reciprocal visits between our two countries, as well as the work of the U.S. Congressional Armenian Caucus, which has steadfastly supported heightening cooperation between the two countries and has consistently raised questions before the American Congress that are of vital importance for Armenia and the Armenian people. In this regard, let me remind you that nearly two million people of Armenian descent are now living in the United States who strongly contribute to the strengthening of friendship relations between Armenia and the U.S., which the Trump administration will no doubt sustain.

T.D.L.: Armenia and the European Union further strengthened their relations by initialing the comprehensive and enhanced partnership agreement on 22 March 2017. How does this accord differ from the association agreement your country rejected in 2013? How will it broaden Armenia’s ties with the EU, and in which specific arenas? Could Armenia play a role in helping expand relations between the EU and the EEU?

H.E.V.T.: Since gaining independence, Armenia has established strong ties with the EU that are built on effective cooperation and mutual respect. With EU’s help, we have carried out reforms in a variety of areas, focusing mainly on public administration, judicial system and electoral systems, with the aim of reinforcing fundamental freedoms and ensuring the well-being of our society.
The reform programs in the field of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in our country, implemented with the assistance of the Council of Europe, have been funded in great part by the EU and its member states. The Armenia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement has been in effect since 1999. We are also taking part in the European Neighborhood Policy Programme and the Eastern Partnership. In May 2016, our country signed an agreement associating it to the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework program for research and innovation. Armenia is also a member of the European program for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME). Armenia has unilaterally abolished visa requirements for EU nationals. An agreement concerning our shared air space is currently under negotiation. What’s more, the EU, through the European Investment Bank (EIB), financing the construction of the North-South corridor I spoke of earlier. The recent upgrading of the border crossing points between Armenia and Georgia was also done with support from the EU. 
It is worth noting that 2017 starts with a very intense European agenda. In February, the President of Armenia and the President of the European Council announced, in Brussels, the conclusion of the negotiation stage of the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. In March, the agreement was initialed in Yerevan. This new agreement reflects the essence and depth of our cooperation with the EU. It includes economic components that will open up brand-new prospects for both European and Armenian investors. It also provides the possibility for eventual interaction between the economic and trade potentials of the EU and the EEU. Our partnership priorities for 2017-2020, which will serve as the new guidelines for our cooperation, were laid out at the Armenia-EU Cooperation Council held on 23 May 2017. 
The new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement is, first and foremost, a political document. It testifies that different interests can indeed be aligned. This agreement is an important step forward toward broadening the scope of Armenia-EU bilateral relations. It is important to stress that our cooperation with the EU is based on shared values. Even in the darkest hours of our history, the Armenian people have never abandoned the values they have espoused. We are Europeans. Our way of life is European. Our cultural heritage is, in great part, European. 

T.D.L.: Armenia has also worked hard to build closer ties with Russia, joining the EEU on 2 January 2015. What does your country gain from belonging to this union? After President Serzh Sargsyan’s official visit to Moscow, on 15 March of this year, could you outline the top priorities in the Russian-Armenian strategic partnership?

H.E.V.T.: Armenia and Russia share close relations inherent to allied countries. They maintain a very active high-level dialogue and pursue broadly coordinated foreign policies. The agenda of their strategic partnership is very intense and includes regular high-level visits. The two countries’ governments, parliaments and various ministries have very active ties. Russia is Armenia’s top trading partner and leading foreign investor. More than 1,400 Russian companies are operating in Armenia. Our bilateral legal framework is comprised of more than 200 treaties and agreements. Relations between our two states continue to expand in a wide range of areas, including: security, armed forces, military techniques, the economic field, energy, transportation, innovations, the mining industry, decentralized cooperation, the cultural arena, the sciences, etc. 
Russia is a co-chair country of OSCE Minsk Group dealing with the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenia and Russia cooperate very effectively within regional and international institutions such as the UN, the OSCE, the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (OCST), the CIS, and the EEU. 
Nearly two million Armenians are living in Russia. Both in times of peace and in times of hardship, we have always stood fast with the Russian people. Armenia-Russia relations have always been an exemplary model of bilateral cooperation, offering no doubt the most successful and most effective example in the post-Soviet space.

T.D.L.: The frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has spurred significant tension since the 1994 ceasefire, as illustrated by recent incidents and the deadly crisis in April 2016. Is there good reason to fear an escalation of this conflict? What do you think of the mediation efforts of the OCSE Minsk Group, which is co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States? What needs to be done, in your view, to reach a realistic, mutually acceptable, long-term comprise?

H.E.V.T.: Resolving Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a top foreign policy priority for Armenia. Over time, Azerbaijan has steadily stepped up its efforts to falsify history and to distort the core and roots of this conflict. Now and again, the international community falls into the Azerbaijani trap. To remedy these attempts at falsifying the facts, Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Edward Nalbandian, published an article entitled «Nagorno-Karabakh: Is a Solution Visible?» in the 146th edition of the magazine Politique Internationale. In his article, which can be read on the ministry’s web site, Minister Nalbandian outlines, in a very precise and factual manner, the roots of this conflict and its legal basis. He also explains the peace process, the basic principles of the settlement and different stages of the resolution efforts, Azerbaijan’s position, and the threat this position poses to regional security and the prospects for a settlement. 
Azerbaijan has done everything in its power to discredit the mediators – the co-chairs of the Minsk Group – accusing them of applying double standards, of being Islamophobic, etc. If the process of resolving this conflict is not moving forward, it is because Azerbaijan is doing everything to undermine it. Azerbaijan has not taken any constructive approach and has refused every single one of the mediators’ proposals. This was the case in Key West in 2001, with the Paris principles. This was the case again 10 years later, in 2011, with the proposals put forward in Kazan. This is the case again today, with the Vienna and Saint Petersburg agreements on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures. These measures include consolidating the trilateral ceasefire regime, withdrawing snipers from the contact line and creating of mechanism for investigating ceasefire violations. Azerbaijan has refused them one and all. By rejecting the creation of an investigation mechanism, Azerbaijan wants to avoid its responsability for periodic violations of the ceasefire regime, but non-standard statement issued by the three co-chairs on 18 may 2017 clearly identifies the guilty party. 
During the Four Day War, in April 2016, Azerbaijan committed the same barbarian acts against the population of Artsakh that it had used during the first years of the war. This war has once again proved that Artsakh can never be a part of Azerbaijan under any statute and that the implementation of the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination is irreversible. As the guarantor of the security of Artsakh, Armenia will ensure the security of the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh. With the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, we will continue our efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by exclusively peaceful means. 
The non-use of force or the threat of the use of force is one of the fundamental principles of international law It also forms part of the three principles proposed by the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group as the basis for resolving this conflict. It should never be forgotten that it was the use of force against the civil and peaceful population of Nagorno-Karabakh that led to this conflict. Constant threats of war seriously undermine the peace process, in that they prevent us from changing the status quo. In order to change the status quo and resolve the problem, it is first necessary to exclude the possibility of using of force. Azerbaijan must understand this simple axiom, but, for the time being, it does not appear to have done so.

T.D.L.: Former French President François Hollande was among the handful of European heads of state who attended the ceremonies held on 24 April 2015 to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. What does France’s commitment to helping maintain your country’s historical memory mean to the Armenian government? More generally, how do you explain the difficulties of the process of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide?

H.E.V.T.: As shown by the tragic events in the Middle East and other parts of the world, genocide is not a thing of the past. Preventing genocide remains, to this day, an urgent issue of utmost importance.
The year of the centennial of the Genocide was an opportunity to address the world with a message of recognition to the countries and individuals who welcomed the Genocide survivors who had been in solidarity with the Armenian people and who Have supported his struggle for the recognition and condemnation of this tragedy. This was also an opportunity to express Armenia’s strong commitment to the international community’s efforts to prevent genocides and crimes against humanity. Armenia is one of the most active countries in this ongoing battle.
In 2015 and 2016, our country organized global forums that were attended by political figures, parliament members, scientists, researchers, and individuals representing civil society and other interests. The goal was to create an open platform where issues tied to crimes against humanity could be discussed, and collective answers could be sought. This initiative is directly in line with our country’s pro-prevention policy. Another initiative in this direction is the resolution called the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and the Prevention of this Crime, which was unanimously approved by the UN General Assembly on 11 September 2015. The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is an international award created by three revered figures in the diaspora who are descendants of genocide survivors. It is another important initiative that strives to reward those who have put their own lives at risk for others to survive.
Armenia is very sensitive to the attitude of France and is grateful for the position it has taken on the Armenian Genocide. Former French President François Hollande’s attendance at the centennial ceremonies was highly appreciated by Armenia’s authorities as well as the Armenian people, first among them our Franco-Armenian citizens. We were very grateful to learn that President Emmanuel Macron would be carrying on this republican tradition by coming to express his solidarity with the Armenian people on 24 April 2017 near the Komitas Statue. In 2017, dozens of commemoration ceremonies were held in Armenia, in France, and all around the globe. Several new meeting places and monuments were inaugurated as well. 
Despite all the difficulties we know, we hope that France will go beyond the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to the penalization of its denial. This is important not only for Armenians the world over, but also for the worldwide battle to prevent genocides and crimes against humanity. 
Furthermore, the recognition process continues. It is not in difficulty. Resolutions on the Armenian Genocide were passed by the Austrian and Luxembourg parliaments in 2015, by the German parliament in 2016, and by the Czech Republic in 2017.

T.D.L.: Armenia, the only country in the Caucasus full member of La Francophonie, will host the 17th summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in 2018. Can you tell us why your country was eager to host this meeting? Given the summit’s scale and importance, what does your country hope to gain on the diplomatic front by taking on this unprecedented responsibility? 

H.E.V.T.: Indeed, the heads of state and government of the OIF did indeed decide to hold the 17th Summit of La Francophonie in Yerevan in 2018. Ambassador Christian Ter Stepanian, Personal Representative of the President of Armenia to the Permanent Council of the OIF, would surely be able to give you a better description of Armenia’s involvement in the OIF’s work, but I can tell you that the decision to host this summit is the logical outcome of the way passed by Armenia as a Francophone and Francophile country. In ancient times, back in the days of the Armenian Kingdom of Cicilia, the French and Armenian languages were spoken side by side in our land, as languages of communication. Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau and a great many other thinkers and writers spoke about the Armenian people. An Armenian chair was created at France’s École des langues orientales, on the initiative of Napoleon I. France has been the cradle of numerous Armenian talents, including painters, sculptors, composers and poets. Today, the names Charles Aznavour, Henri Verneuil, Carzou and Jansem, and a great many others, have become sources of great national pride for France and Armenia alike.
I would add that Armenia is a very active member of the OIF. It has already hosted the Ministerial Conference of La Francophone, with great success, in 2015. It will do its utmost to ensure that the 17th summit is equally successful. This will be an unprecedented event for our country, with delegations from 84 countries arriving to Armenia. We hope that the majority of them will be led by their countries’ heads of state or government. We are proud to have been chosen for this honor and will host the upcoming summit of La Francophonie with great pleasure.

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