Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian‘s interview with Brazilian newspaper “Estadão”
“Estadão”: I would like to ask you at the beginning with the more general question, I think this is the main question right now. It is regarding the 100-years Anniversary of Genocide. So, I’d like to ask you how important was this date, this time for the efforts of international recognition of Genocide?
Edward Nalbandian: The main message of the commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide is “Never again”. The recognition of the Armenian Genocide is important not only for Armenia or the Armenian nation, it is important for the international community to prevent new crimes against humanity, new genocides. And that’s why the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, as well as other genocides is of utmost importance. Maybe it would be possible to prevent other crimes against humanity if the Armenian Genocide was duly recognized and condemned hundred years ago.
“Estadão”: You think something we’ve seen already nowadays could be avoided?
Edward Nalbandian: Yes, I think so. After the Armenian Genocide the world witnessed Shoa, Genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur, other places. The international community has to unite efforts to prevent new crimes against humanity. On March 27th the new resolution on Genocide prevention, initiated by Armenia, was adopted in the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, co-authored by 72 countries, including Brazil. And the resolution passed by consensus. Almost every two years we are initiating such resolutions with the aim to consolidate different mechanisms of prevention. It is important that the resolution was adopted on the eve of the commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
This April the European Parliament adopted a special resolution on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide with a strong message. This was not the first time that the European Parliament recognizes it, but the new resolution contains a very clear and strong message to Turkey to come to terms with its past, to recognize the Armenian genocide and thus pave the way for a genuine reconciliation between Turkish and Armenian peoples.
It is very important that new countries are recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Here I would like to emphasize very important steps made by Germany and Austria: the first on the level of President and second on the level of Parliament. I mean statements of German President and the Austrian parliament, not only recognizing the Armenian Genocide, but also mentioning their part of responsibility for what has happened 100 years ago. While Germany and Austria are talking about their part of responsibility, Turkey – the successor of the Ottoman Empire continues to its policy of denial.
“Estadão”: In this context we have this resolution from the Brazilian Senate.
Edward Nalbandian: Very important one. It is the first step and we hope that it will be completed by other steps to recognize the Armenian Genocide on the State level in Brazil.
Here, I’d like to stress the importance and moral significance of the statement made by his Holiness the Pope on the Armenian Genocide during the special Mess organized in Holy See this April. Then just after the Mess, the journalists asked me how I would comment on the reaction of the Turkish Government, I didn’t know yet about their reaction because I was at the mess. And I asked back the journalists what was their reaction. They said Turkish side criticized harshly…
“Estadão”: As usual.
Edward Nalbandian: I said: it is the problem of Turkey, not of His Holiness. His Holiness is representing 1bn. 200 m. Catholics of the world, he is a spiritual leader of this very important part of the world population. Ankara is criticizing the European Parliament, because of its resolution on the Armenian Genocide, is calling back its Ambassadors from those countries, which recognized the Armenian Genocide, as they did after Brazilian Senate’s resolution.
“Estadão”: Yes, and you think that this has some political change right now with Turkey. Do you think this will affect somehow, have some effect, some impact for Armenia, if the…
Edward Nalbandian: You know, by the initiative of our President we started very important process of normalization of our relations with Turkey. We had several rounds of negotiations and we came to the agreement on two documents – two protocols, which were signed in Zurich on October 10th, 2009.
But the Turkish side rejected to ratify and to implement those two protocols. And the position, the stance of the international community was and is very clear, that the ball is in the Turkish court. You have to respect the main principle of the international relations – the principle of pacta sunt servanda – you have to respect reached agreements and to implement them. The Turkish side made step back. What will happen in the future? I’m sure that sooner or later, of course, we have to turn the page together…
Edward Nalbandian: …But not with the policy of denial. It is very clear, that Armenia will never question the fact of the Armenian Genocide and the importance of its recognition. Look how many countries and how many international organizations recognized the Armenian Genocide. And Turkey is pretending that it was not happened, that it was not genocide.
“Estadão”: Is the same position for years?
Edward Nalbandian: Unfortunately, yes.
“Estadão”: You were in Damascus. I’d like to ask you regarding Syria, Diaspora, Armenian-Syrian Diaspora. I know there is a… Can you comment a little bit on how is the situation of Syrian-Armenians?
Edward Nalbandian: Armenians in Syria are a part of the Syrian people, which is in a very difficult situation today. And I think in order to find a way out of this situation it is essential, first of all, to stop military hostilities, secondly to conduct a dialogue between all political groups in Syria without exclusion, third, to respect the rights of the minorities, including the Christian minorities, including the Armenian minority, fourth – to unite efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist groups. Terrorism in the Middle East with so called ISIS, Al-Nusra, other groups represents real danger not only for minorities, Christians, but in general for the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. The international community must to join efforts in their fight against terrorism.
“Estadão”: Right now the government has dealing with the situation that there are lots of Syrian-Armenians, the diaspora coming back to Armenia, right?
Edward Nalbandian: Yes, we have about 14000 Syrian-Armenians now in Armenia. In some other countries you may have much more refugees, but for small Armenia it is a very big number.
And of course we are trying to help those who are coming to Armenia. But still we have many Armenians, tens of thousands living in Syria, including in Aleppo. It is very difficult to say the exact number. That’s why our Consulate General has never stopped to operate in Aleppo and now it is the only diplomatic mission working there. Of course we have also our Embassy in Damascus.
Our information on what is going on in this country comes not only through our Embassy and Consulate General but also from Armenians living in Syria.
“Estadão”: Regarding the diaspora, now I would like to change for Russia. There is very important community of Armenians in Russia as one of the main community. I would like to ask you if the last few months or … since the Crisis in Ukraine and US and also European sanctions against Russia that it has been affecting its economy. I would like to ask if Armenia, Armenian economy have been somehow affected by the consequences of this economic situation in Russia?
Edward Nalbandian: When we talk about the consequences, we have to say that there are consequences not only on Russia, and those countries, that have strong economic relations with Russia, but also on those, who decided to impose sanctions against Russia, all they are affected.
We consider that all issues should be treated and addressed through dialogue, through negotiations, not through using force, including economic coercion.
On Diaspora. Yes, we have very big Armenian community in Russia, about 2 and half million. We have about 500.000 Armenians living in Ukraine as well.
“Estadão”: Regarding another neighbour of Armenia, how would I say, a friend country. Yesterday I saw lots of tracks with Iranian license plates on the way to Tatev – in the South. There are lots of good economic ties with Iran. So I would like to ask you in your view, in Armenian government’s view, how do you see, how do you expect the deal regarding Nuclear Problem of Iran? How do you see this deal with Iran?
Edward Nalbandian: Armenia was among first, if not the first country, which welcomed the framework agreement on Iranian Nuclear issue, negotiated by Iran and 6 countries and we hope very much that the solution could be found until the end of this month as it is expected or in the nearest future, and will bring a comprehensive settlement of this issue which will be in the interests of not only of Iran and neighboring countries, but also entire region and even wider. So we hope very much that the solution could be found and the countries of the region could have more possibilities for economic and trade relations.
“Estadão”: I have talked to some people here and I met very interesting historian, Professor in Armenia. He was talking to me, explaining to me regarding to the Genocide the role of the people who fight in the Genocide in self-defense in some places against the Ottoman troops like in Van, in Musa Ler… He was telling me that to suggest also when we remember the Genocide and the Genocide victims also remember those who play role in self-defense. How do you see how the Government see this request to change the name of remembrance of victims also for remembrance of victims and heroes. Is something working on this?
Edward Nalbandian: Our Church, Armenian Apostolic Church decided to canonize the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide this April 23rd on the eve of the Centennial and we consider the victims of the Armenian Genocide as martyrs, as saints. Of course, our nation remembers its heroes.
“Estadão”: I would like to ask you about the relationship with Brazil. Which points, which issues are more important by now between bilateral relationship and where do you expect to be more expanded, to become bigger the relationship?
Edward Nalbandian: I think that we have a big potential to be explored by our joint efforts, but I don’t think that much has been done till now.
We have an embassy since 2011 in your beautiful country and you have the Embassy in Armenia since 2006. We have established also a Consulate General in San Paolo since 1998. We paid several visits from Armenia, including on the level of the President, on the level of the chairman of the Parliament, on the level of different ministers, including of Foreign Affairs. I visited your country for the inauguration of President Dilma Rousseff in January 2011. And of course, I had an opportunity also to meet with my colleague former Foreign Minister. He promised to visit Armenia but that never happened.
“Estadão”: And now?
Edward Nalbandian: We hope very much to expand our bilateral cooperation. We hope to consolidate the legal framework of our relations. The volume of our economic and trade relations is small. With many countries, which are several times smaller than Brazil we have much more trade and economic exchanges.
We hope very much that from the Brazilian side also some concrete steps will be done to enhance, to deepen our cooperation and partnership in all possible fields. From our side we are very interested and we expressed our interest many times and as a Foreign Minister I could confirm again that we are looking forward to have really strong partnership with Brazil. We have more economic and trade cooperation with Argentina, than with Brazil. Geographically we are far from Latin America, but geographically Argentine is not much closer, than Brazil.
“Estadão”: Especially considering the size of the Armenian community in San Paolo in Brazil, it is the second one in Latin America.
Edward Nalbandian: Yes, this is also an important factor. Armenian community is playing a bridge role in our relations and could play more active role in deepening our cooperation in different dimensions. There are tens of thousands of Armenian living in Brazil, most of them in San Paolo. Two third of our people lives in in hundred countries of the world Armenia is a small country in this geographical part of the world, but we have many Armenians all over the world, we have hundred “Armenias” in the world.