Armenia has to sell the deal. US Ambassador to Armenia

Interview with U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills

1in.am: Congratulations on Independence Day and this has become a tradition for us to have an interview on the eve of the Independence Day. Just to wrap up the activities, efforts of the US Embassy during the past year and also to identify the priorities and the vision for the year to come. You have been here in Armenia for several months already so now I would like you just to briefly mention what we have in US-Armenian relations and what is your vision for the time to come and your predecessor, he was always emphasizing the economic component in US-Armenian relations encouraging Armenia -American and American businessman to come and to have their input in developing business   environment in Armenia.

Ambassador: Well, first thank you for inviting me to join you today to this discussion and thank you for the congratulations on our July 4th celebration next week.  I look forward to opening the Embassy up for my first party as Ambassador. We will be celebrating several things at the party actually: of course the birthday of the United States, we are also going to salute Hollywood, and we are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of this Embassy facility itself, which you may know opened ten years ago exactly, to the Armenian public.

You asked about my priorities and my vision, and you know, Arman, the one thing that I am struck by after being here four months is how rich and how deep the connections and the ties are between Armenia and the United States. So perhaps like most new ambassadors I have lot of priorities.  I’d like to continue for instance working with the Armenian government, with civil society, with lots of our partners to continue to bolster and strengthen human rights and democracy in this country. Because I think both our countries, both our peoples share a real commitment to fundamental human rights and human values. And another priority that I certainly have is to see if we can help Armenia reach a state where it’s at peace and reconciled with its neighbors and work on reconciliation, particularly across the border with Turkey. But you are absolutely right. At the top of my list, like I believe it was with my predecessor Ambassador Heffern, is developing and strengthening our economic, our commercial and trade ties between our two countries. It’s good for Armenia, it’s good for the Armenian economy, it’s good for the U.S. economy. It can create jobs and growth for our both our countries if we can strengthen our trade relationship. And let me say, I think the Armenian economy has developed to a point where there are real opportunities here for American business. We’ve also seen real reforms here that I think have made it easier to do business here for foreign investors and for traders. And we’ve had some real successes in this area in the last couple of months that I think give us ground work to build on. For instance, I would point to something Ambassador Heffern worked on, the visa liberalization that took place in December, which I think makes it easier now for our business people to travel back and forth to Armenia, to the United States. We signed a trade and investment framework agreement in May when President Sargsyan was in Washington, which is a major step forward, I think. It commits both governments to meet once a year and to address what the obstacles to trade are, and what the governments can do to increase trade and investment. I would also point to the Microsoft licensing agreement that was signed in May with the government, a very important step because I think it demonstrated the government’s commitment to intellectual property right protection, which is really important in high tech areas like IT.   Do you know there’s a saying in business “you have to sell the deal.” I can bring Armenia’s resources and the opportunities that are here to the attention of American business but Armenia has to sell the deal, Armenia has to be able to explain to U.S. business why this is a good place to invest and operate. And there are obstacles still to attracting the kind of business I want to see, and the Armenian government wants to see come here: a lack of transparency in the tax and customs area, for instance, and complex tax rules that are difficult for American business people sometimes to understand.  And to be honest, there are also – I hear this from American business people that I talk to – concerns that there are powerful interests in this country that have outside influence and are able to restrict competition and make it hard to compete fairly in Armenia.  But I do believe we have partners here in Armenia, in the government, who want to work with us to remove some of those obstacles, and I’m confident we can really develop our trade and economic relationship.

1in.am: Purchase of the Vorotan HPP by an American company, this was a major thing and it took long negotiations to eventually conclude that deal and this is an important area for Armenia especially it is important in the light of the developments we are seeing in these days. This means that the American company will bring a new level of management and new approaches of management into Armenia. It will bring new approaches, new tactics. It’s not a secret that energy sector, we have numerous issues and the recent study of the world bank shows that we might have more problems in this area if Armenia would not build energy infrastructure and capacities. So we understand that energy is issue of domestic significance it also becomes an issue of foreign policy and I would like to understand Vorotan still does it open a new perspective, what are the new perspective for the American company to build a new energy infrastructure. Which will help to address energy security of Armenia which is an integral part of Armenia’s national security.

Ambassador: Thank you for the question because yes, we are quite proud that this deal appears to be reaching finalization. But I just have to be clear that though the government and the company Contour Global signed a deal to move forward, there are still some final requirements, some legal steps that have to be taken so it’s not completely sealed and final today. I understand the closing will happen in the next few days.  I agree with you:  the energy situation here is very important to Armenia’s future and its economic development and it’s a sector that we at the Embassy and at USAID have been focused on for a number of years. For instance, we have been providing technical advice and expertise to the government on ideas on how to diversify the supply of energy to Armenia and how to improve the energy infrastructure here in Armenia. Our goal, and the goal of the government as well, is to give Armenia more options in the energy sector, more supply options, more transport options and to create an even more diverse mix of energy sources here in Armenia. Armenia already benefits, I think, from having a lot of diverse sources within the country – hydro power, gas power, nuclear power. But if Armenia can diversify its sources of supply and increase the amount and the mix of energy resources in the country, it gives it more options which gives it more independence and freedom to choose economic paths that it wants to take. And in relation to that, I would say that because the energy sector here is complex, it’s a mix of different resources, it’s not really going to be changed by one company alone like Contour Global coming into the market and into the sector. But like you’ve said, I think Contour Global, which will be the largest U.S. investment in the country if and once the deal is finalized, will be a model for business practice here. Contour Global is a very important leading American firm and they will bring in international best practices, they’ll bring in the sort of American corporate management style which emphasizes the training of staff, continually ensuring that the staff have skills development. They are going to invest millions of dollars into the plant itself. And equally important, though I can’t speak for the company of course, I think Contour Global will bring the American tradition, the American business practice of what we call cooperate social responsibility; the belief that a good corporate citizen cares about the community in which it operates. I know they have already begun to assist the community in the marz where the plant is located, and I think that they will bring that with them when they assume full control.

1in.am: So though it was, the impression was that the deal was already completed, you’ve mentioned that it’s likely to be finalized in some, in a couple of days. I would like just to know what the problem for finalizing if any issue is raised by the Armenian government and what are the chances that this deal will be finalized or not finalized.

Ambassador: There are no problems with the deal as far as I know and again I can’t speak for the company. This is a totally normal process, that when you sign an agreement, especially to transfer an asset, the ownership of something, you sign the deal, and then you actually hand the keys over a few weeks or a few months later. And that’s all. This is the normal process, to hand the keys over after the signing.

1in.am: Armenia is refusing to hand over the keys?

Ambassador: No, I think Armenia wants to hand over the keys

1in.am: On September 3rd, 2013 Armenia have committed itself to join the Eurasian Economic Union and then eventually join the union but before that for 3 and a half, 4 years Armenia was negotiating an Association Agreement with the European Union. The US position on Armenia’s decision of September 3 was always that the US respect the Armenia’s sovereign decision, but however the term that we saw on September 3 was criticized by the United States.

Ambassador: Let me be absolutely clear because I get this question a lot. The decision to join the Eurasian Economic Union has no impact on our relationship with Armenia, the strength of that relationship and the depth of that relationship. The Armenian government made clear to us that it had made an economic decision to join the Union but it still wanted a strong relationship with the United States to the extent that its membership in the Union allowed. And my message is the door is still open – we are still walking through that door, talking to each other, looking at some new initiatives to develop our relationship, so I don’t think the membership to the Union has affected the quality of our relationship.

Could I add one more point to the last answer?

I would say, especially after being here four months and talking to Armenians in Yerevan and Gyumri from different walks of life, what binds Armenia and the United States isn’t membership in any economic organization or union. Our ties are based on the real sharing of fundamental values and a history that our two people share and our relationship that’s been very strong over the last 25 years. That’s really what I think determines the strength of Washington-Yerevan ties, and the Embassy and I are determined to keep those ties strong.

1in.am: Foreign policy is a derivative of domestic policy. Political arena in Armenia is controlled by the ruling pyramid. And economic monopolies, they eliminate all the possibilities for Armenia’s economic development.  So as a partner how it is for the United States to work in this situation of this political reality and monopolized economy? So what are the perspectives in your opinion for healthy relations, for healthy partnerships?

Ambassador:  I think the United States finds many strong partners to work with here on a range of issues. And as you said, and as I said earlier, there are obstacles here, there are problems with powerful interests that have outsized influence and that affect certain sectors of the economy and of life here. And these are problems that have afflicted many of the former Republics of the Soviet Union, many of the emerging new democracies in Europe. You know, frankly, Arman, corruption happens everywhere, it even happens in the United States. The question, the issue, the important factor is how does the society respond, is there an investigation, are there ways to attack corruption and to bring it out into the light? The key to that, in my experience, both from my own experience in the United States and from working in other countries where this is a problem, the key to attacking corruption is a very professional and trained journalism corps in the country, an independent judiciary that can speak up and enforce the laws, and a strong civil society that can speak out and identify concerns. We at the embassy are working on all three of those things, and I think we have partners even in the Armenian government who want to help us develop these three things. But ultimately, as you know, those are tools and what’s crucial is will power among the political leadership to attack corruption, and a demand from the people that they want to see an end to corruption. And I believe that both those things can be found here in Armenia.

1in.am:  The issue of Nagorno-Karabagh, there is a shift in this process, especially in the light of the confrontation between the West and Russia. The U.S is a co-chair in the Minsk group. And this confrontation between the West and Russia cannot, it goes without saying that it will have an impact on the peace process of Nagorno-Karabagh. And it is possible that in this situation that there might be a sudden outbreak of war. And this came from the doctrine of Russia regarding the former Soviet Republics we can see these, and also the large scale of sale of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan by Russia, and this makes Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, to make his war rhetoric tougher and tougher every day. So how easy it is for the United States to keep working with the Russia in the Minsk group framework, keep constructive work. And does the United States have any separate tools to work and to promote the peace process especially in the light of these developments when there is so much things that cannot be predicted.

Ambassador:  Arman, you are right. Russia’s international aggression across state borders into Ukraine severely strained relations between my country and Russia, and between Russia and most of the international community. But as Secretary Kerry and President Obama have consistently said, where we share the same goals with Moscow, we will work together. I believe the United States and Russia do share the same goal of achieving a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno- Karabagh conflict. And Ambassador Warlick tells me, and I know he told the Armenian government when he was here just a few weeks ago, that he continues to work within the Minsk co-chair process with his co-chairs, including the Russian co-chair, very closely to achieve this goal. Let me say, it is still our assessment that neither side in this conflict is interested in escalating to full-out war or to resume conflict. But I know Ambassador Warlick continues to urge them to restrain their rhetoric, restrain their actions, and reduce tensions. You asked about bilateral engagement on the issue, and I have to be clear that our primary tool, the primary process for helping the parties resolve this conflict is the Minsk process. We at the embassy try to support the Minsk process, we have done that for a number of years, for instance by trying just to bring Azerbaijanis and Armenians together, so that they can learn about each other and maybe break down some of the hostility that exists.

1in.am:  And we talked about Minsk group and I have to ask you about Azerbaijan’s recent suggestion to bring in new countries into the Minsk group, namely Germany and Turkey. So what’s the U.S. position on this situation, Yerevan is just against this.

Ambassador:  You’re absolutely right, the Armenian government has made clear that it does not want to change the current composition of the Minsk group and it is our position that there can be no changes without the agreement of all the parties.

1in.am:  And speaking of Armenian-Turkish relations, the U.S. was supporting reconciliation process, was supporting the “soccer-diplomacy” efforts. A few weeks ago there were elections in Turkey and some important historic changes took place because of this election. So after these elections, what perspectives you see for furthering the Armenian- Turkish process, and with this new elections, new realities in Turkey do you think that it is possible to reduce the impact of third countries, namely the impact of Baku on Ankara.

Ambassador:  Arman, you’re right. Despite the failure of the Turkish government to move forward with the protocols, reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey is still vital, I believe, to regional stability, to improving Armenia’s economy, to helping Turkey’s economy. And like I mentioned at the start of our discussion, this is a priority for me and the Embassy, how to help build some ties and some connections between Turks and Armenians. I am not the ambassador to Turkey, so I am not really in the position to comment on the election results in Turkey. But I do think, based on the election results and my own readings of Turkish newspapers and other social media, is that there are many voices in Turkey, especially on this issue of relations with Armenia. I think now, after the very successful and moving April 24th remembrance events, which I think helped bring world attention again to the horrible tragedy of 1915 and the facts of 1915, on top of the new voices that we’re hearing in Turkey, it is a good time for both sides to consider some thoughtful dialogue, and whether they can move forward together to start that dialogue. This embassy, and I know, my counterparts at the embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul, are looking for ways that we can bring together people to begin this kind of dialogue, which I think will help with reconciliation. As President Obama said in his April 24th statement, our goal is an honest, frank and just accounting between both sides, so that both sides can move forward in peace and help this region be stable and prosperous.

1in.am: G6 plus Iran- this process is happening and some new developments are likely to happen soon, and the United States knew of Armenia’s position, Armenia’s situation, and all this demonstrated understanding to Armenia’s relations with Iran. So with positive conclusion of this process, what are the perspectives that you can see for cooperation between Armenia and Iran, and what the United States can do in that process?

Ambassador: Well first, Arman, let me begin by saying you’re absolutely right. The United States was very appreciative of how Armenia worked to respect the international community’s sanctions on Iran. We know that that was at some cost for Armenia and its economy. As you know, the goal of the international community and specifically the P5+1 has been to reach an agreement that would cut off all possible avenues for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. And on April 2nd we had some significant progress. The P5 and Iran reached an understanding on an agreement that we believe would achieve our goal. But there’s still more work to be done. As Secretary Kerry has said several times “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” So we are waiting hopefully to see if agreement can be reached. And if so, it will be up to Iran then to honor the agreement and to ensure that the verification provisions in it are carried out. Unfortunately because the negotiations are continuing and the negotiations involve the sanctions and how they may be lifted or waived; it’s difficult for me to talk about what the impact might be on Armenia and Iran. But for now the sanctions remain in place and so you know it remains our position that we need Armenia’s help and support in continuing to enforce the sanctions and we do appreciate that. I hope the next time that we talk we will have real progress to discuss and maybe even a new era of the relations.

1in.am: Just one question… On constitutional reform… Up to you sir.

Ambassador: I am afraid I do need to go, Arman. But it was a very good dialogue.
Thank you very much. I have enjoyed this conversation very much. I look forward to doing it again soon.

1in.am: Thank you.

 

Joining the Customs Union itself does not violate the Constitution

1-st News has interviewed Vanik Margaryan, Chief legal adviser of “AM” law firm.

“Mr. Margaryan the Customs Union initiated by Russia provides for unified customs tariffs and procedures in respect of third countries. That is, in case if we join the Customs Union we will lose the opportunity for independently defining the regulation of the trade terms with countries outside that union. Doesn’t this contradict with our constitution?”

“I would firstly like to note that the package of the documents in regard to Armenia’s membership is not available yet so it is not possible to make definitive conclusions. However, while drawing parallels with the European Union, for instance with the experience of France and Germany we see that they have special constitutional regulations regarding European Union. This makes the execution of certain authorities by a supranational body possible. Our Constitution has no such provisions and therefore no supranational body can directly set any mandatory regulations, including customs regulations. So in this sense a controversy with our Constitution may occur.

However, the situation is different when all those regulations are not determined as mandatory by a supranational body but instead confirmed by a conclusion of an international treaty. According to RA Constitution international treaties are the integral part of the legal system of Armenia. As much as I am aware all of the rates, standardization of customs declaration and customs regimes within the Customs Union are to be established through confirmation by the international treaties. Hence, joining the Customs union itself does not contradict with the Constitution. In case any agreement concluded within the Customs Union conflicts with the Constitution, a decision of the Constitutional court shall be adopted and such agreements will not be ratified in our country.”

“In general how does the transferring of some rights to supranational bodies threaten the sovereignty of the states?”

“I am far from the idea that France or Germany has lost sovereignty by transferring certain rights to a supranational body -the European Union. When a state decides to join such a union it is an expression of sovereignty as well. However, such questions should have constitutional regulations and shall not be in controversy with the Constitution since our Constitution sets that the international treaties contradicting with the Constitution cannot be ratified.”

“In case if Armenia sets unified customs tariffs for third countries what opportunities will Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh have? Will Armenia have to raise the customs tariffs for goods imported from NKR or will the territory of NKR be also included in the Customs Union?

As we know, The Republic of Artsakh has declared independence. I’m proponent of the idea that in international law the state, as an entity, can be formed regardless of its recognition. Namely, a state is formed, proclaimed, established and is recognized based on the latters. In such conditions membership of Armenia to the Customs Union cannot itself  cover Artsakh since such a decision can only be made by the Republic of Artsakh itself. As a solution Armenia can make a reservation to international treaties. That is, a clause can be included in the treaty stating that customs regulations set by the treaties shall not apply to Artsakh. In any case raising issue of Artaskh within Customs Union can also be useful in a sense that Artaskh will be once more considered as a subject in an international platform. I believe that the best version would be if Artsakh joined the Customs Union separately from Armenia. This will directly be considered as recognition of a state and will testify the sovereignty of Artsakh.

The feeling of being late causes cultural dissatisfaction

First Armenian News and Analyses conducted an interview with Armenian renowned artist Arman Grigoryan.

Arman, recently people talk more and more about the need of cultural revolution. What do you think at what phase that revolution is now or is it still on the agenda?

It is definitely on the agenda. When saying cultural revolution we refer to the change to free, democratic culture. Cultural revolution is a big phenomenon. It can be compared with the revolutions which happened in other countries. Recently it is mostly talked about French and American revolutions of 67’s. Those were in a way connected to the political revolution, but in Armenia several anti-revolutionist artists were saying that those couldn’t be considered revolutions as they failed. That is to say, the political power who started the process didn’t achieve its mission.
When talking about the cultural revolution in Armenia, we need to note that we weren’t yet able to overcome the soviet inertia in the field of education. I can note one visible thing as a symbol for cultural revolution: the way “qyart”s (young people who listen to rabiz and used to wear black cloths all the time) used to dress has been changed. They also started having their hair long.

Arman, do you think the reason for the late cultural revolution is the soviet inertia? How should we overcome that?

I think that process is ongoing and at the same time there are new political parties coming into the political field. Over three political parties came up with announcements of not nominating any candidate for the presidential elections and not supporting anyone. This means, that the strategies in political field have also changed. Now we are moving to the struggle without violence. This is also one spectrum of cultural revolution. Now in Armenia the cultural revolution is still going on. Even though people don’t go out in the streets and do their campaigns, but there is the change in the consciousness. This means, that the soviet person is changing.
As for the Arab Spring, I don’t think that type of revolution is possible in Armenia. Those kind of revolutions are connected with young people. You should have many young people. In Armenia the revolution starts form the issue of identity: who is the Armenian? Is he/she free? Does he/she have individuality, or being Armenian deprives you from individuality? If I agree with the term being late, then I should say that the feeling of being late becomes a reason for cultural dissatisfaction.
The reasons in Armenia are not just political, they can be ideological too. The most common strategy remains to be the antimodernist one, and the modern should be the federal institutions. The process of cultural revolution is slow. The artists are afraid to dare.

How are you, as ANC supporter, going to realize your part of the cultural revolution, especially now when your party didn’t nominate any candidate for the presidential elections.

As I have already mentioned I don’t mix the political issues with that of cultural revolution. For me it is important that the generation of new ideas never stops. The cultural revolution in Armenia is the connection between the space and the time. I think that the revolution will be realized when we can overcome the feeling of being a victim. Even Armenian art is based on that: the sarcasm and sadness is the result of feeling as a victim.

You also said that the emigration troubles you. How is the whole situation in Armenia connected with human being who leaves the country because of socio-economic problems?

Today there are few approaches for the discussion of cultural issues. I am for profound, general analyses. We have been using the word “cultural” since 60’s. The psychological is also very important in all this, even though it won’t be able to answer all the questions. There is a lot to be done to find answer to all these questions.

Tsarukyan is a compromise figure

The First News and Analyses (FNA) had an interview with the president of the Political scientists’ union Hmayak Hovhannisyan.

Mr. Hovhannisyan do you find it possible for the opposition and the PAP come up with a joint presidential candidate?

It has been years the opposition wants to come up with a strong and joint candidate and the issue always becomes even tenser on the eve of the elections. This time is not an exception. There is a difference in how the ANC and the PAP approache the elections. The ANC announces the election for them is not self-aimed and that the elections won’t change anything in the country, while the PAP states the election is a goal for them and not a measure. This difference in the views cannot allow a joint candidate.

What goal does the PAP pursue?

The PAP has a minimum and a maximum plan: minimum plan wants to show that the party has about half a million followers and thus reassure his stance as the second strongest power in the country. Its maximum plan is to win the elections and stand as the first strongest political power in the country.

Will these powers manage to come up with a joint presidential candidate?

Coming up with a joint presidential candidate from the opposition will mean painting the political life plainly black and white. This will be more of a complaining form of election, the one against the incumbent government. But this is full of danger, because in case the opposition does not manage to mobilize the electorate, it will suffer great losses. And nonetheless, if there is this black and white format of the elections this time, the joint candidate may justify the expectations.

Will Tsarukyan be the joint candidate?

According to the information of UI, the chance for Tsarukyan to be the joint candidate is quite high. The proof of this is the silence of the ANC and the ARF who do not announce anything to restrain from further explanations. Tsarukayn’s chances are greater than Oskanian’s or any others but there is a counterargument in this case: Tsarukyan is a compromising figure: he functions with Sargsyan too and never eluded compromises.

Does this mean Tsarukyan will go for a compromise rather than confrontation?

This can be observed in the speeches of the ANC and the PAP. If the ANC announces that the elections are not a self-aimed procedure, the PAP announces they are an alternative. The PAP is a party of the wealthy and the wealthy are always ready for compromises. It is also possible Tsarukyan becomes a joint candidate in agreement with Sargsyan, because Tsarukyan is preferable than Oskanian or any other, candidate since Tsarukyan has the experience to cooperate with Serzh Sargsyan.

There are rumors that Kocharyan runs the PAP and Tsarukyan’s actions.

I do not exclude even Kocharyan’s candidacy. Today it is quite possible.

What about the other opposition fractions: ANC and ARF? Are they going to support the PAP candidacy in case there is any?

The PAP is a powerful party and neither the ANC nor the ARF have the potential to bet it. The ARF does not have its own candidate and being next to a strong political power and eventually succeeding will justify the latters’ decision not to have a candidate. The same is with the ANC: Ter-Petrosyan participated in the mayor elections in 2009 and lost to the PAP candidate. This time he may lose again but already in the presidential elections. Taking into account all this, supporting the PAP candidate will be a good alibi to justify their restrain from presenting a candidate.

Is it profitable for the opposition to have a joint candidate in the face of a PAP representative?

The joint candidate may be suitable for Sargsyan too, because only 20% of the electorate of these opposition parties will give their voice to the PAP representatives, which means a lot of votes will be lost. This reduces the second level for the elections. In case Ter-Petrosyan decides to put his candidacy, his followers will definitely go and give their voices to him which will not be the case if the ANC supports the PAP.

What shall Sargsyan give to Tsarukyan for the latter to go for a compromise?

It must be reminded that the deputy PM was proposed to Tsarukyan by the current PM which definitely expresses the president’s point too. Tsarukyan rejected the proposal, which means he will implement either of his two programs: minimum or maximum. The accomplishment of his maximum plan is solely theoretical, minimum plan will make him go for the second level of the elections, take the second place and demand the Prime Minister’s post. In case Tsarukyan manages to reach the second level of the elections, the incumbent government will be more inclined to propose him the post of the PM.

Aznavour mustn’t criticize the people who he had been walking with 10 years ago

The First Armenian News and Analyses (FNA) talked to the expert on electronic propaganda, the head of the Armenian radio station “Ayb” Vardan Gabrielyan.

Mr. Gabrielyan, during the recent visit of Serzh Sargsyan to Paris the French-Armenians were complaining about the situation in Armenia where no favorable environment is provided to start a business. Are you familiar with their complaints?

The president had two visits, one in Paris, the Lion. I was present only in Paris and have not heard of any of these complaints. These complaints were not presented in Paris since Sargsyan had an official visit and was invited to meet the president of France. During the meeting the representatives from cultural life, politicians, and businessmen of Armenian decent were present but it would be inappropriate to discuss these issues with the president of France being present in the meeting. The diaspora has a lot of issues to discuss.

Which are these issues?

The diaspora mainly complains about the incumbent political structure of the country, the way it is governed, corruption on all the layers and the air of injustice that can be noticed by everyone who has at least once visited Armenia.

Are these the only reasons the representatives of the diaspora do not want to invest in Armenia?

Not only that. Armenia pays least attention to marketing to show which sectors could be mutually beneficial to invest in. Nothing is being done in the vine production and very slow steps are undertaken in goldsmith industry. The authorities in Armenia do not understand that investing a business must be mutually beneficial and not satisfy their own needs only. The diaspora is not properly aware and informed about the sectors that need to be fostered and the frustrations from 90-s have left a huge impact on the representatives of the Armenian diaspora.

A representative of an Armenian diaspora businessman Vahagn Hovnanyan wanted to commence a wheat production but he was warned that the business is in a monopoly in Armenia. Do you mean the similar cases?

Yes and no. Yes, if we are speaking about monopolies in the country. No if we mean a diaspora representative can have an access to the market. Making business means pursuing interest. Which sectors in Armenia can provide a benefit? Mine industry? Can we get into food importing market? What have they left for the Diaspora? 3.5 million people have reduced to 2 million or even less. How correct are the numbers of census? If we believe the census numbers, 84.000 people have left the country. How can a businessman start a business in a country which is constantly being emptied? If we want to open a laboratory in Armenia, on what shall we be basing our resources? There are numerous questions, but no answers. After 80 years we had a free country and started to destruct it from then on. All of us see that there are good things taking place in the country too. Road construction, etc.

Do you know French-Armenians or other Armenians in Diaspora who want to invest in Armenia but because of the unequal conditions they don’t do it?

I don’t know many people who want to do it, but instead I know a lot of people who are ready to return to their homeland Armenia, make investments and visit Armenia for developing Tourism. If Armenian government wants the Armenian-Diaspora to return they just shouldn’t announce about it and that’s all. They are not so naive in order to listen to the announcements, leave everything and return to Armenia. A positive change of conditions and atmosphere in Armenia will immediately change people’s opinion on our country not only in business, but also in various fields. But we should try to continue the investments that come to Armenia no matter what happens. For example to open a factory and give works for about 100 people, give all the conditions to villagers so that they will stay there and not leave for abroad. Armenian government must establish justice and equality, eliminate corruption not theoretically and formally, but practically. In order to have it, those officials who are now in Armenian government and have their participation in corruption, must leave the government. The elections should be fair and the politics should not interfere with justice. These are very simple steps which must be done in order to develop our country.

You may also know Armenians emigrated to France and other places, what is the real reason for doing it?

There are a lot of Armenians around us and they can say that they are doing it for several reasons. The reason for those who left the first was to see and live in a free world. There are a lot of people who were ready to sell everything they had in order just to have a visa and ticket money for leaving Armenia. People couldn’t find jobs in Armenia and they were hopeless, so they came here. Others understood that in Armenia they are not living but surviving so they left the country. So if these people have left Armenia it means that they didn’t see any future there, they couldn’t rely on the authorities, on the head of the country. The most important issue is that they don’t see the future of their children, and if it is so, then we are living in a violated system of government.

In fact a new Diaspora is being created since the ones who just came have united with the ones who were in the Diaspora before.

Yes, it is true. The Diaspora is being renewed which is an advantage for Diaspora since new people come with new energy, native Armenian speakers. New artists, scientists and other professionals are coming to Diaspora and strengthen it. But is it really what we want? Do we need to strengthen the Diaspora or return them to Armenia?

How would you comment on the statement made by Charles Andzavour who said that “white genocide” is realized in Armenia?

Aznavour mustn’t criticize the people who he had been walking with 10 years ago.

Moscow yields from Nagorno Kharabakh issue deliberately. Andrei Ryabov

First News and Analyses conducted an interview with Andrei Ryabov. Andrei Ryabov is a member of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Research Council and chair of the Center’s East East: Partnership Beyond Borders Program.

Mr. Ryabov, France as an OSCE Minsk group co-chairing country actively works on the resolution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict. If in the previous years Russia had the role of a mediator, it was organizing the meetings of Armenia and Azerbaijan, France today seems to be one to carry out that mission. Why is Russia not as active as before? What expectation can be there from France’s initiative?

Russia really did a lot in that direction. Dmitry Medvedev did great amount of work trying to somehow change the situation. But especially the last meetings had no positive result. And I think that Russian government yields from this process deliberately. Russia is still involved in the process as before but it lets other countries which are involved in the negotiation process also have their input. Though I think, after Safarov’s case there can be no serious achievement, the same way as there is no real hope for Armenia-Turkey relations. That’s why maybe Russia stands aside to see what others can do. At the same time, the accusations that Russia’s position prevents constructive dialogue, prevents from reaching breakthrough in the conflict, are sentenced to death.

What do you think should be done to have progress in the negotiation process?

In reality, I see no feasible means for success right now. The only way for both sides to achieve a result is to undergo a number of serious concessions which is practically impossible. Such compromises are just impossible taken the inner political situation of both countries. There is a strong opposition in Armenia because of the Karabakh issue. And I think it is very difficult to put aside the traditional direction of Karabakh issue. Hence the initial task for the international society as well as for the Minsk group is to prevent the escalation of the conflict by means of all possible diplomatic tools in order to keep the status quo.

After Ramil Safarov’s extradition there was a tension and there were even views that a new war could start soon. What do you think, what prevented the new war, what did somehow neutralize that danger? Was that connected with Iran and with the fact that there could be a new regional war or was there something else?

Iran’s role in the situation is immense because any conflict or the escalation of the latter will cause troubles in the region, it will have its effect on the other countries of the region. I think that those sad predictions didn’t come true due to the stand of both the country leaders of the conflicting countries and that of the world players. None of the superpowers in the world and in the region today is interested in the restart of this conflict, that’s why they will keep their attention on it. They understand perfectly that the conflict in the region can have unpredictable consequences.

There is a view, that one needs to reconcile with the fact that Karabakh issue will never be solved. Do you think it is possible to have unresolved conflict in our region?

It will be wrong to say that that’s what is going to happen. But this situation when there is no war and there is no peace, when the sides are not ready for compromises is better than any armed conflict whatever the outcome would be. That’s why the conflicting sides prefer this situation. This is because all other options which are not written theories but practical options are bad ones. That’s why we can say that this situation will still last for some time.

Turkey’s Mounting Syria Problem

Steven Heydemann, Senior Adviser for Middle East Initiatives, United States Institute of Peace interviewed Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor at Council for Foreign Affairs. Find the interview below:

Turkey’s public is becoming increasingly concerned about the possibility of war with Syria, says Steven Heydemann, an expert for the United States Institute for Peace who has just returned from Turkey. Heydemann said Turks are also worried “about the economic and social consequences of a conflict that has already forced more than 100,000 Syrian refugees into southern Turkey.” He says that the recent tensions with Russia and Iran have effectively ended Turkey’s efforts to have harmony in its relations with its neighbors.

Why do you think the Turkish government is now so seemingly focused on ending the reign of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? What is the reaction within Turkey to the mounting tensions?

The Turkish public is nervous about its government’s aggressive policy toward Syria. It is concerned that Turkey could be drawn into war, and worried about the economic and social consequences of a conflict that has already forced more than 100,000 Syrian refugees into southern Turkey. This is not to say that the Syrian president has much support among Turks. With the exception of Turkey’s Alevi community, which feels some connections to the Alawite community to which Assad himself belongs (and which, numbering some 23 million, is the equivalent of Syria’s entire population), Turks are broadly supportive of the Syrian revolution, and critical of the Assad regime.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has clearly antagonized the Russians and the Iranians, both of whom support Assad, but won friends elsewhere with his Syrian policy, but how much tension is this causing for Turkey?

Prime Minister Erdogan’s willingness to antagonize Iran and Russia–as in the recent forced landing of a Syrian civilian jetliner flying from Moscow to Damascus–may be the final nail in the coffin of Turkey’s “no problems with neighbors” policy. Where it previously prided itself on a pragmatic approach to even its most difficult neighbor, Iran, and had cultivated close ties to the Assad regime, the Turkish government now seems to view all of its regional relations through a Syria lens.

It has made clear that Iranian, Russian, and even Iraqi support for the Assad regime will carry a price in terms of relations with Turkey. This has amplified short-term tensions with Russia, which supplies Turkey with a significant share of its energy, but probably does not signal a fundamental erosion of ties between the two governments. In the Iranian case, Turkey’s support for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, Tehran’s leading regional ally, will be harder to overcome and could well mark an extended period of tension between Turkey and Iran, two pivotal states in the broader Middle East.

What is the likelihood of actual armed conflict between Syria and Turkey beyond the low-level shelling of the past week?

Turkey has reinforced its military presence along the Syrian border. It has responded to every instance of shelling from Syria, and has threatened to escalate the fighting further if the security situation continues to deteriorate. The tension along the border creates the possibility that small-scale events could trigger a broader conflict, but it is clear that Turkey’s leaders are deeply reluctant about the prospect of war, and will avoid initiating a conflict unless they feel they have no other choice. Recognizing this, the Assad regime has been willing to call Turkey’s bluff. It has continued to engage Turkish forces in tit-for-tat artillery fire, and has been uncompromising in its response to threats from the Turkish government. Essentially, the Assad regime is testing the seriousness of Turkey’s aggressive rhetoric. The Erdogan government has prepared for wider conflict, but thus far is not yet prepared to escalate further.

How does the new anti-Syrian policy relate to the Kurds, the minority group in Turkey, who are at war with the government and have a presence near the Turkish border in Syria just as they do in Iraq?

Violence in Turkish Kurdistan has spiked sharply this year, a trend that is often linked in Turkey to the impact of the Syrian revolution on Kurdish politics across the region. Within Syria, the Assad regime has largely withdrawn from Kurdish areas of the country, leaving them in the hands of Kurdish forces aligned with the PKK, a Kurdish party that both the Turkish and U.S. governments have labeled as a terrorist organization.

Heightening Turkish concerns, Syria’s Kurds have waffled about their commitment to the territorial integrity of a future, post-Assad Syrian state. Leaders of the Kurdish National Council in Syria often define their demands in terms of federalism that would leave them with considerable autonomy over local affairs. Yet they have sent mixed signals about their intent to seek an independent Kurdish entity of some kind, a prospect that Turkish authorities would view as potentially destabilizing for the Kurdish majority regions of Turkey.

There are now reports saying that most of the arms from the Arab world to help the anti-Assad forces are going to jihadists and other extremists. If Assad is overthrown by these extremists does this really upset the calculations of everyone in the Middle East?

We should not exaggerate the significance of jihadist elements among the armed opposition in Syria. They are present. They benefit from the unwillingness of the United States and others to arm the moderate opposition. Yet they remain a relatively small component of the armed opposition, and have not found much local support. In fact, there are growing indications of conflicts between jihadists and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). It was reported recently that the FSA turned over to Turkish authorities a group of foreign fighters trying to enter Syria. In addition, the volume of weapons supplied from outside of the country represents a small share of the arms currently deployed by the FSA.

The vast majority of its weapons are captured, stolen, or purchased from the Syrian Army. That said, the willingness of wealthy Salafist patrons (especially in the Gulf) to provide weapons to like-minded fighters on the ground is having an effect. Some armed groups that are not Salafist have adopted a jihadist profile to attract funding and weapons. And while providing arms does not always buy influence, there’s no question that the United States and other governments that have refused to do so are viewed with growing hostility by the armed opposition (and by Syrians more broadly), and can expect to have little leverage over the armed opposition as the conflict unfolds.

Should President Obama do anything dramatic at this juncture?

It is not necessary for the U.S. to do anything dramatic to affect the course of events on the ground in Syria. No direct U.S. intervention is needed; it is not desired by Syrians. A modest shift in policy, permitting the United States to engage more fully with the armed opposition and to provide it with training and equipment (including anti-tank weapons) could well be sufficient to change the dynamics of the conflict. With only light weapons, the Syrian opposition has taken control of almost half of the country. It has engaged the regime in guerrilla warfare in every major urban center. It has significantly degraded the capacity and morale of the Syrian army, while gaining in experience and ability.

To survive, the Assad regime has been forced to turn to fighters from Hezbollah and, it seems, from Iran. A modest additional increment in its arsenal could well turn out to be decisive for the opposition. And the more quickly the Assad regime is overthrown, the less likely it becomes that the armed opposition will become dominated by jihadists.

There now seem to be some 200,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan and some 100,000 in

Turkey, and thousands in Iraq. What should be done about this?

Conditions for a massive humanitarian disaster are in place in Syria, especially as winter arrives. Refugee flows are increasing. Turkey and Jordan are both stretched in providing for refugee populations that now top 300,000. Conditions may be even more dire for the two million Syrians who are internally displaced. To date, the largest share of U.S. and Western aid for Syria has gone for humanitarian relief efforts by the UN and other international agencies and NGOs, but there’s little question that much, much more will be needed.

I wish Kocharyan is nominated. Aram Sargsyan

“A1+” today interviewed Aram Sargsyan, president of “Republic” party, concerning the upcoming presidential elections.

Mr. Sargsyan, when will “Republic” party start its activities and what is the party doing now?

We are having meeting with regional groups. Before leaving for the USA, I met with the group of activists in Eghvard and I am very satisfied with the meeting. During the meetings it was obvious that the society has expectations since our people hope that the opposition will find its candidate and the people will follow him. We will continue such meetings till December. On December I can tell you about our plans in a more detailed way.

It is already for a long time that the party is not organizing a meeting, what is the reason?

Unfortunately you are right. Every time we wanted to organize a meeting with our public something went wrong. Now it is the right time for doing it, we will surely think about it during our sessions. What cancers the meetings within the party, I can say that every Monday and Thursday we invite a session and all the party members come and participate since we are a powerful party and we will still say our word in the political reality of Armenia.

What about Smbat Ayvazyan, does he participate in the sessions? Since as we know he has announced he doesn’t agree with your ideas and wants to be separate.

Smbat Ayvazyan doesn’t participate in the sessions but what cancers about the second part of your question I can assure that he hasn’t said such thing, that he doesn’t agree with my ideas, he just wants to be involved in social activities and I respect his decision.

Will all the questions be raised in the meeting? Including the question of your nomination?

Certainly, all the questions will find their answers.

Would you or members of your party participate in the meeting which will soon be organized by ANC?

I don’t want to comment on the actions of other political parties, moreover, I didn’t even know about their meeting. As I already mentioned we are a strong political party and we are busy with our works. Until our meeting I won’t participate in any other meetings.

As you know today it is prestigious to say that this political party is supported either by Russia or East. After your visite to the U.S., could you say that they support you?

Comparing with Russia, East always supports people but not a single person. Life has showed it.

Did they support our nation back in 2003 and 2008?

If you carefully look the archives you will see who has really supported us and what has U.S State Department done for Armenia. I don’t agree with people who think that U.S. “must come” and make changes. No, we must decide what we are doing, this is our life, our country and we are the only persons to think about our future. I respect the decision which was made by U.S.

In recent times there are a lot of politicians who were prisoned. Sargsyan talked about the anti-corruption, Oskanian’s case, what do you think about all this, are they done for just political motivations, or really our country tries to end the corruption?

I’m sure that a usual person, who is not involved in politics, can understand that this is all just a show. How can they fight against corruption? How can they do it if they reached authority through corruption? They have paid for their votes and now they are talking about anti-corruption. It is just ridiculous. All I want is to have a fair election. Only if we have a fair government we can fight against corruption.

Do you see any tension in Sargsyan-Kocharyan conflict or is it just a game?

I wish Kocharyan will be nominated in the elections. I want him to see whether people respect him or not. I want him to be sure that if there would be fair elections in Armenia he would be the last in the list, and Sargsyan will come right after him, but if there would be fair elections.

Translated from Armenian by Artavazd Gevorgyan

Armenian security is threatened. Dominique de Buman

“First Armenian News and Analysis” had an interview with the co-chairman of the delegation of parliamentary team of “Switzerland-Armenia” friendship, Dominique de Buman in the framework of the visit to Armenia of the parliamentary friendship delegation of Swiss Parliament’s Lower Chamber. We note that the members of the parliamentary team had meetings with RA and NKR presidents and other senior officials.

Mr. de Buman, “Armenia-Switzerland” parliamentary friendship team is in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh by a working visit. What is the aim of the visit especially in these days?

The aim of the visit is to improve relations not only between Swiss and Armenian state agencies, but also between NGOs. We had an aim to get acquainted with the country’s opposition and to find cooperation ties in economic, cultural and social spheres. During these days we tried to understand what measures are taken or can be taken by Switzerland in order to cooperate with Armenia. The chief aim of our visit to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh was to personally get acquainted with Karabakh conflict. It was essential for us to learn the reality which will enable us to present it to the Swiss executive body, as starting from 2013 Switzerland will take up OSCE presidency.

During these days you had a quite full agenda getting acquainted with Armenian political, social reality and with many problems. With what kind of impressions will you return to Switzerland?

Armenia is a country that has a great culture and proud identity, but its security is threatened. Armenia is in the blockade by several countries and that negatively affects the economic development. There is great demand of democracy in Armenia which would provide confidence for external investment.

As you have mentioned in several months Switzerland will take up OSCE presidency. What kind of policy will Switzerland lead having OSCE presidency?

Switzerland will follow the principles that ensured its stability for 700 years, it will give priority to democracy, market economy and the policy based on the protection of human rights. Switzerland will give the international public its neutrality and the good fame of a mediator.

What kind of mediation do you mean, Mr. de Buman?

There are many conflicts between Caucasian nations on ethnic, religious, historical grounds. Thus, Switzerland must try to give them an opportunity to negotiate for opening the borders and ensuring their security.

How do you imagine the resolution of Karabakh conflict in this phase taking into consideration the extradition of Azerbaijani murderer Ramil Safarov and the incumbent relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan?

I am sure that Safarov’s issue belongs to completely another domain out of Swiss mediation. In Safarov’s issue even Hungarian naïve actions are unacceptable and the glorification of the convict is similar to satire towards international public. I don’t say that this affair mustn’t have role in the conflict resolution, because it worsened the situation of Azerbaijan but many other factors must be taken into consideration to establish eternal peace.

Translated from Armenian by Narine Hambardzumyan

Our expectation is that the Safarov Scandal will trigger a fundamental review and reform of U.S. policy toward Azerbaijan. Aram Hamparian

“1in.am news & Analyses” conducted an interview with the ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, who talked about Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon’s official statement on “Safarov case” and future developments of the situation.

Philip Gordon recently announced that America is not satisfied with Hungary’s and Azerbaijani explanations on Ramil Safarov extradition and pardon. He also stated that Washington is disappointed by Azerbaijani and Hungarian steps. What do you think, how will US act after this official statement? What impact can Washington’s disappointment have on the future developments of the issue?

Our expectation is that the Safarov Scandal – representing, as it does, a dangerous escalation of Baku’s longstanding policy of threats, incitement, and aggression – will trigger a fundamental review and reform of U.S. policy toward Azerbaijan and also on the settlement of the Artsakh issue.

In terms of Azerbaijan, U.S. policy-makers should substantially downgrade bilateral ties – including limiting visits, ending military aid and arms sales, and materially curtailing diplomatic support – until Aliyev fully makes amends for this outrage, ends his threats and acts of violence, and publicly commits to a solely peaceful resolution of conflicts with its neighbors, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

With regard to Artsakh, this scandal should mark a decisive shift of U.S. policy toward a new model of mediation, aimed at establishing the terms of Azerbaijan’s recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s independence, and the creation of durable security structures to protect the citizens of both Artsakh and Armenia against renewed Azerbaijani aggression.

What explanation does America expect from Hungary and Azerbaijan? What answer would satisfy the US?

The U.S. Department of State would, of course, be best positioned to explain its own expectations.

For our part, we would like to see Hungary apologize for its actions and demand the return of Safarov to complete his full sentence in their prison system.

Azerbaijan, for its part, should return Safarov to Hungary, revoke his promotion, collect his back-pay, and renounce all statements praising him as a hero. More broadly, Baku should end its threats and acts of violence, and commit to a solely peaceful resolution of conflicts with its neighbors, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

What do Armenian lobbyist organizations plan concerning this issue in this phase? Are more intense actions possible after Gordon’s official statement?

Three immediate steps the U.S. should take are stopping military aid to Baku, banning arms sales to Azerbaijan, and strengthening Section 907.

Within the context of the peace process, America should demand that Azerbaijan withdraw its snipers (Armenia and Artsakh have already agreed to do so, as part of a multilateral undertaking), and that Baku accepts additional OSCE monitors (Armenia and Artsakh have already agreed to their deployment).