"Baku and Moscow will not change their policy towards Yerevan" - Armenian ambassador to EU
Interview with Tigran Balayan
“Will they eventually return Aliyev to the constructive field or will they continue to let him turn into Saddam Hussein? This is also a question of authority, of the EU’s reputation,” Tigran Balayan, head of Armenia’s representation in the EU, believes.
In analmost hour-long interview with Radio Azatutyun (Liberty), the diplomat expressed his opinion on the probability of signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, Armenia’s desire to join Europe and the difficulties in relations between Yerevan and Moscow.
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“Baku’s goal is to stymie the peace process”
Tigran Balayan believes that the crisis of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not due to the platforms – Western or Russian – on which they could be held. He believes that the issue is the lack of Baku’s political will. According to the Ambassador’s assessment, Aliyev’s latest interview shows that Azerbaijan has no intention to sign a peace treaty with Armenia:
“The holding of extraordinary elections in Azerbaijan is a move to delay or derail this process.”
The diplomat said that the latest Azerbaijani version of the text of the agreement sent to the Armenian side is more than regressive. Some clauses and formulations have been removed:
“Among other things, they removed the provision on maps that will serve as a basis for delimitation, saying that they do not need it.”
“The ring around Aliyev is getting tighter and tighter”
According to Balayan, the decision to exclude the Azerbaijani delegation from PACE was the result of Baku’s “irresponsible and aggressive behavior”:
“Mr. Aliyev wants to remain the most bloodthirsty, cruel dictator, to do whatever he wants, both inside the country and outside it – with his neighbors.”
As the Armenian ambassador to the EU said, there are facts proving that “hired killers ordered by the Azerbaijani government tried to massacre Azerbaijani oppositionists living there abroad, including in Europe.”
He believes that the ring around Aliyev is tightening:
“I find it difficult to say how many resources Baku has to resist the pressure of the West. The main thing is that illusions of our European partners that it is possible to bring Aliyev personally and his regime to a constructive field on good will are gradually dissipating.”
He mentions the assumption of some analysts who believe that the impunity of the Azerbaijani authorities is explained by the supply of gas and oil to European partners:
“They think they should close their eyes and let Aliyev do what he wants. In fact, we are dealing with the opposite situation. Baku is much more vulnerable because European countries are its major clients, which it cannot lose.”
“Crossroads of Peace” – part of the EU Global Gateways program”
The head of Armenia’s representation in the European Union considers it obvious that neither Turkey, Azerbaijan nor Russia will change their policies towards Armenia in the foreseeable future. Therefore the country’s authorities should develop new programs to reduce vulnerability and increase the level of security. The “Crossroads of Peace” project, which presents Yerevan’s views on unblocking regional communications, announces such a step.
He said that the project might be included in the EU’s new Global Gateways initiative, and it will be an opportunity to attract more investment.
“Next week in Brussels a surprise awaits Azerbaijan in this regard,” he said, without specifying details.
At the same time, the diplomat stressed that the main issue for Armenia remains normalization of relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan and restoration of communications:
“Will the inclusion of the Crossroads of the World project in the EU initiative allow us to exert additional pressure, provide support for the settlement of relations with our neighbors? I think yes.”
“The turn is not toward the West, but toward the national interest”
In the interview, Balayan disagreed with the view that Armenia is turning toward the West to the detriment of relations with Russia. He said it was a turn toward its own national interests:
“And the ratification of the Rome Statute is a reflection of a foreign policy based on those interests.”
In the past, the ambassador explains, Armenia has limited some of its actions based on its national interests, substituting Russian security guarantees:
“But they have not actually worked. And we are simply striving to find new methods to ensure our security. One of its components is the international legal system, of which the International Criminal Court is also a part.”
Accordingly, the ratification of the Rome Statute, he said, is not an anti-Russian move, but is linked “solely to the danger of aggression” from Azerbaijan:
“The raison d’être of the Aliyev regime is hostility towards Armenians. Ethnic cleansing in Artsakh is not enough, now new goals have been set. Our most important task is to confront the challenges that we have been left alone to face.”
It is premature to talk about EU membership
The diplomat says that first we need to understand whether the current political configuration allows us to think about EU membership, whether it is realistic:
“Desire, aspirations are very good, but there are realities that need to be taken into account.”
Armenia, in his opinion, needs several years and even a decade to realize the provisions of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU. And now European partners are drafting a document called “New Partnership Priorities,” which aims to promote the fulfillment of Armenia’s commitments:
“They proceed from the interests of our country. Today we have a clear policy of deepening cooperation with the EU – so much so that it meets Armenia’s national interests.”
Interview with Tigran Balayan