BRUSSELS (RFE/RL) — The European Union and Armenia reiterated their commitment to shared values and praised the current work over a new agreement to be signed later this year as their top diplomatic representatives met in Brussels on Tuesday.
At a joint press conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian after the 17th meeting of the Armenia-EU Cooperation Council, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said that the EU is “looking forward to Armenia’s active and constructive stance in preparation of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit” to be held in Brussels in November.
The new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, negotiations over which were launched in late 2015, was initialed in Yerevan in March. Its signing is expected at the Brussels summit.
“The European Union is willing to expand and deepen cooperation with Armenia. We are already the first trading partner for the country, the first international donor and the strongest supporter of reforms. We are ready to continue supporting Armenia’s reform process across a range of issues, including economic development, the business environment, the judiciary, human rights, the fight against corruption – issues that are very concrete and relevant for the citizens of Armenia,” Mogherini said.
“We have discussed today our shared values, including our commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, which underpin the new agreement and our future cooperation. We were discussing how far we have come in the recent years and months. We launched negotiations in December 2015, the two of us here in Brussels, and we come now with good results that are the result of the hard, good work of our respective teams, who I would like also to thank for the good work we have managed to do.”
The EU official said that the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was also discussed during her meeting with Armenia’s representative. “The European Union believes the status quo is unsustainable and that the conflict needs an early political settlement in accordance with international law. The European Union continues to fully support the mediation efforts and proposals of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
“We also exchanged on regional issues: we discussed the situation around the conflict in Syria; the broader regional issues. The EU has also reiterated its commitment to support the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey and our encouragement to both sides to engage in this process without preconditions,” Mogherini said.
For his part, Minister Nalbandian said that “Armenia remains committed to the goals of the Eastern Partnership and continues to make its own contribution to the joint efforts in this multilateral framework.”
He, in particular, referred to the April 2 parliamentary elections in Armenia that he said were marked by an unprecedented high number of international observers, “who stated that the elections were well administered, fundamental freedoms were respected, and the results reflected the will of the population.” At the same time, he thanked the European Union for “significant financial and technical assistance in support of the organization of free and transparent voting process.”
Nalbandian said that during the discussions with Mogherini the parties addressed a number of major regional and international issues, notably the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
“The large-scale military offensive of Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016 was the most dangerous escalation of the conflict since 1994 when ceasefire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. The Azerbaijani aggression was accompanied by gross violations of the international humanitarian law in an apparent attempt to terrorize the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” the top Armenian diplomat stressed that the press conference.
“Two Summits were convened after the April aggression of Azerbaijan, where agreements were reached aimed at creating appropriate conditions for advancement of the peace process. Baku refuses to implement these agreements although their importance has been highlighted on numerous occasions, including during the April 28 meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Moreover, Baku continues the gross violations of the trilateral cease-fire agreements in defiance of the consistent calls of the Co-Chair countries and the international community.
“In this context we highly value the European Union’s principled position on the exclusively peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its continuous support to the activities of the Minsk Group Co-chairmanship,” Nalbandian said, as quoted by his press office.
Nalbandian concluded his remarks by saying that “Armenia looks forward to continue the fruitful cooperation with the EU.”
Both Mogherini and Nalbandian started the press conference by voicing their strong condemnation of the terrorist act in the United Kingdom where at least 22 people were killed and 59 injured in a suicide bombing attack during a concert in Manchester.