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Karen Bekaryan: Nikol Pashinyan Has Forgotten that His Mission Is to Represent and Advocate the Interests of His Country

Interview with the Political Expert and Commentator Karen Bekaryan 

 

How would you assess the transformation dynamics of RA foreign policy in the pre- and post-revolutionary period?

K. B.: During the 28 years of Independence, despite having difficulties and obstacles of economic development, as well as the so-called "No peace, no war" situation, the Republic of Armenia has formulated and developed its state institutions, the concept and the main directions of its foreign policy based on the logics and necessities of the country's development. Before analyzing the practical realization of foreign policy by its main directions, I would like to pay your attention to the axiological and cultural aspects of the ruling elites before the political developments of 2018 in order to make an objective evaluation of past achievements and the current situation.

From this respect, if we divide the pre-revolutionary period into three stages ruled by Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, it will become obvious that the development process of the RA’s foreign policy was not aimed at rejecting each other, but at continuing one another. It is very natural to highlight the role of the RA’s presidents, as before the Constitutional referendum of 2015, the Constitution of Armenia of 1995 and its amended version of 2005 viewed the president as an architect of the country’s foreign policy. As for the government, it was given the role of the executive body. I would like to highlight the fact, that apart from several unimportant differences, in the pre-revolutionary period the RA’s foreign policy should be considered within the framework of continuity. Of course, there were dissensions between the RA's three presidents regarding various internal issues, but that fact didn't condition the rejection or remodeling of the main directions of the foreign policy after each change of the government. On the contrary, it was aimed at developing those directions depending on the situation and the need as well as multiplying the previously recorded results.

Taking into the consideration the chronological analysis of the statements made by the Prime-Minister Nikol Pashinyan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the post-revolutionary period, it becomes clear that currently, we deal simultaneously with a very different and difficult situation. After being elected on May 8, 2018, the Prime-Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated in his first few announcements that the newly elected government would continue to develop the previously formulated model of foreign policy without making any radical shifts. These announcements were perceived from the international and local community as a part of a natural process taking into account the fact that in the pre-revolutionary period there was no relevant situation which might lead to the radical transformation of the main directions of the foreign policy. Nevertheless, in order to complete the puzzle, we need to simultaneously separate and combine the statements made with the steps taken in practice.

Recently during the plenary session at the National Assembly, he announced that till now the Republic of Armenia ‘doesn’t have a foreign policy’ and currently it is in the stage of creation. From this respect, there is a necessity to evaluate Pashinyan’s statement from the perspective of his perceptions regarding that issue. Therefore, in this sense, this statement proved that the Prime-Minister for the past two years acted within his own ‘logic’ (perception of foreign policy), as if he gives a strictly negative estimation over the state foreign politics, acting correspondingly. However, I would like to stress that this is a situation of nonsense, as neither in Armenia nor in the world politics it is impossible to find a precedent when ‘the number one’ responsible person of the state may destruct the past of his own country in this way, as well as discredit the role of Armenian diplomatic missions throughout the world. Nikol Pashinyan has forgotten, that as the head of the country he has another mission. In each state the prime-Minister or the president (depends on the model of government) represents and advocates the interests of his/ her country in the international arena and in this sense, he/she should at least respect both the path of his/her country and consequently, the formulated bilateral and multilateral relations with strategic partner countries and international organizations, as the membership to X or Y organization considers, first of all, respect towards either the concrete organization’s or member states’ image. In order to achieve esteem, one should behave within the framework of both international ethics and already recognized game rules.

Unfortunately, taking into regard the very poor level of development of political culture, as well as the non-relevant rhetoric of the prime minister we have to record that the ‘rehabilitation’ of this situation might need too much effort in the future.

Could you please introduce the transformation of bilateral relations with Russia, the US, EU in the post-revolutionary Armenia?

K.B.: In order to introduce a comprehensive picture, we need to choose the right tools for analysis. From my point of view among these tools, we have to pay our attention to both pre-elections and the political programs of the ‘Civil contract’ political party. These programs make the content transparent and visible as well as target those issues, to reaffirmation or solution of which the ruling political party received a mandate of trust. Neither the pre-election program nor the political program doesn’t consider the deterioration of relations with Russia. Consequently, people didn’t give a mandate of trust to the latter. Currently, when we are urged to record such a decline, our strategic partners also need to understand that this policy is not approved by Armenian society.

The deterioration of relations with Russia has begun from the initiation of a criminal trial against Yuri Khachaturov, the former Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The Armenian chief of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has been charged with overthrowing Armenia's constitutional order amid a probe of mass protests in the wake of the Armenian presidential election of 2008. The excitation of the criminal case took place with all possible and impossible violations of international ethics and was a case of disrespectful attitude towards the CSTO and its member states, as the recall of Khachaturov was done without prompt notification to the Permanent Council and its relevant structural bodies that are part of the process of making nominations for the position of Secretary-General. The international law has a lot of precedents of such cases and in this sense, no country is guaranteed from this. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that cases like this, at first, should be considered under the internationally defined principles, such as the presumption of innocence. Secondly, you have to properly inform your international partners, giving the opportunity to appoint an acting Secretary-General according to the Charter of CSTO. Afterwards, the most ridiculous thing is to expect a respectful attitude from the partners’ side.

Moreover, within the framework of bilateral relations with Russia is the HR policy, i.e. appointments to positions of such people, who have emphasized ‘anti-russianism’ in their BIOs. Due to the representatives of the pro-government community Armenia should get rid of Russian influence… Unfortunately, those experts, politicians, as well as citizens who are the bearers of such mentality don’t understand, that there are issues, especially in the sphere of national security that cannot be considered under the prism of such trivial judgments. The success of a single country within the framework of bilateral or multilateral relations is conditioned by the efficiency of feedback-based communication and the defined code of conduct and ethics of the ‘collective game.’ This means, that the head of the executive power should integrate and appoint experts and officials who are competent and relevant enough in all terms to take the responsibility of that concrete direction of foreign policy. Otherwise, one neither can nor should expect the development of bilateral or multilateral relations based on mutual trust.

We can continue the list of the above-mentioned occasions leading to the deterioration of relations with Russia. For example, the scandal over the "South Caucasus Railway" CJSC, was followed by Lavrov’s statement regarding the meaning of strategic partnership. As a consequence, to the latter recently we witnessed the disagreements over gas price transportation tariffs. Another hot case was the detained plane carrying 40 tons of smuggled cigarettes from Yerevan in late April, which was revealed by Russian law enforcement officers.

I would like to stress that such criticism doesn’t mean the ignorance of real problems that might exist in the bilateral relations of strategic partners. However, anyway, there is a necessity to take into account all the factors and indicators of the process (methods, timeframe and of course, the loyalty to the principle of collegiality). If we consider the relations between Armenia and Russia as a process, we can confidently say that the latter has gained a lot of 'wrinkles' in the post-revolutionary Armenia…

As for the US, in this case, we can be satisfied with very few but simultaneously very important occasions. We can’t speak about the efficient development of bilateral relations with the US, taking into regard the developments over the Lydian Armenia CJSC. It is a 100% owned subsidiary of Lydian International Limited, which is a multinational corporation (founded in 2005 the company is registered in the British Crown dependency of Jersey but headquartered in Greenwood Village, Colorado, United States) with gold mining interests. Not only the society’s resistance but also the uncertain positioning and the inability of the government to generate a decision brought a lot of damage to the investment environment, in which the US had an interest. Furthermore, for years, the US was the only country, after Armenia, that was directly financing the Nagorno-Karabakh. Though, currently, we deal with the decision of the US of termination of the direct funding for Artsakh. Such kind of phenomena can’t have an accidental character. Unfortunately, in this sense also we cannot record any positive results. In this context it should be noted that a lot of steps were taken devaluing the past achievements within the framework of bilateral relations of both the US and Armenia and the US and Artsakh.

In the case of bilateral relations with the EU, it should be noted that the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) agreement from the perspective of ratification is in the inertial process of development. Unfortunately, there is no real breakthrough in Armenia-EU relations. Apart from that, we have to take into consideration the fact that currently, the EU is in a very tough situation. On the one hand, the political developments of 2018 were perceived by the EU member states as momentum in the process of democratization, but on the other hand, in the post-revolutionary Armenia, the European institutions have recorded axiological and institutional violations, which put the EU in a very absurd situation. In this context, all kinds of harassments against the judiciary and the constitutional court should be highlighted. That is the reason why from time to time European institutions pay the authority’s attention to the autonomy and separation of the branches of power or remind them of the need to respect the opinion of the Venice Commission. Such statements reflect their anger regarding the zero capitalization of the potential gathered during and after the revolution.

It would be much worse if we try to consider the relations with EU countries separately. From this perspective, the bilateral relations with France also suffered. Before considering the occasion, we need to take into account, that during the quarter century long history of diplomatic relations, Armenia and France have formed privileged relations and close cooperation based on the centuries-old friendship of the two peoples. In contrary to the latter, currently, we witness the annulment of Artsakh and French cities’ friendship declaration process. In this respect there was an absence of initiation of a contrary process aimed at stopping that process which has caused great damage to the international subjectivity of Artsakh…

How would you measure the influence of foreign policy on the negotiation process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

K.B.: This is one of the most difficult issues...Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the influence of ups and downs and challenges on the negotiation process. We can speak about this issue for hours… To be in short-during these two years, everything that could have been destroyed and shattered, everything has been done. Not so much the developments in foreign affairs, but at first, the rhetoric and the activities of Armenian authorities have damaged the subjectivity of Artsakh. In this context, interference in the presidential elections of Artsakh, the biased meetings with the preferred candidates, sending observation missions on the account of the state budget without announcing a tender, even claiming that in the case of an urgent necessity another "Velvet Revolution" might happen in Artsakh and etc. But the breakthrough in the rhetoric of Nikol Pashinyan was the statement about the Independence of Artsakh from Azerbaijan… neither the representatives from the pro-government expert community nor MPs and government officials from the ruling coalition have opposed against the absurd argument according to which Artsakh gained its independence from Azerbaijan... there was no one who would raise the historical facts and claim that Artsakh gained its independence from the Soviet Union. These all have become trump cards in the hands of Azerbaijan…

As for the positioning of the parliamentary opposition, it should be noted that the representatives of the latter put themselves in a very absurd situation, especially after Lavrov’s statement on the issues discussed within the framework of the negotiation process...It was a try 'to open the brackets' of the content of the negotiation process on the background of the authorities statements like 'we are not negotiating any document'...In this context the comments of the head of the parliamentary opposition were unacceptable and the sayings like ‘we had a coffee with the Prime-Minister and I’m convinced that everything is ok’ can’t be considered logical. Unfortunately, we need to record, that the parliamentary opposition isn’t conscious of the price of political responsibility.

Coming back to the negotiation process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict it should be emphasized that from the very beginning, it was declared that there wouldn't be any radical shifts...Afterwards, the authorities announced the need to start from the ‘zero-point’ rejecting the activities of the old elites during the 28 years of the negotiation process. However, the so-called ‘zero-point’ was perceived neither by the two Armenian Republics nor the international community, as under that ‘zero-point’ one can find too many contradictory statements announcing, for example, that 1) the society itself should develop a consensus around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which then have to be introduced in the negotiation process, 2) we can’t speak on behalf of Artsakh and the voice of Artsakh should be heard, 3) ‘Artsakh is Armenia, that’s it’, and so on…these statements have resulted in chaos in the system of public administration, especially in the Foreign Ministry of Armenia. Can we try to imagine the behavior of Armenian ambassadors during the meetings with the officials of foreign departments of the concrete country? What official position do they represent regarding the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Which one from the above-mentioned judgments or statements should be taken into regard? And consequently, when the ambassador of any country doesn’t have the answers to these questions, what position should form the international community?

Apart from that, due to the efforts of current authorities, another argument regarding the constructive positioning of Armenia in the negotiation process lost its credibility. During the years, for the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk group on the one hand there was the one and only constructive state, Armenia, with whom they were speaking in the same language and on the other hand they dealt with the unjustified ambitions of aggressor Azerbaijan. Currently, we deal with the opposite situation. If we look at the statements of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group, it becomes clear, that during these two years Azerbaijan has become perceivable for them. As for Armenia, no one understands our positioning, as Armenian authorities have formed chaos with a lot of already irresistible challenges, which were introduced by Azerbaijan but with the ‘help’ of Armenia.

The worst thing in this whole process is the response to the warnings from the extra-parliamentary opposition representatives, reformulating the constructive criticism into non-relevant judgments as if the old elites are guilty because of their readiness to lose their territories. In reality, the latter is a bright example of manipulation and transferring the issue to nowhere. They also bring arguments, such as the wording of extra-parliamentary opposition is very heavy. In response to this, I can bring my example. From the beginning, I made warnings, tried to remind the facts that should be raised from Armenian sides, but the feedback was a total ignorance…

The problem is that Azerbaijan legitimized its wishes and ambitions in the negotiation process as much as possible. No one from the extra-parliamentary opposition is saying that the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has agreed with Aliev on something or already has signed a document due to which Armenia has to return territories...What we are saying is completely different…Azerbaijan feels comfortable in the negotiation table, capitalizing everything possible and for now being perceivable for the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Apart from that, Azerbaijani society has increased its maximalist expectations. Taking advantage of the ‘elevator talks’ and the unawareness of Armenian authorities, Azerbaijan 1) has brought out of the negotiation process the agreements of Vienna, Geneva and St. Petersburg, 2) has improved its position on the borders through engineering works, 3) has brought a lot of damage to the international subjectivity of Artsakh increasing the role of "the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno Karabakh" and transforming attitudes towards it…The latter is very dangerous, as the head of the organization, Tural Ganjaliev, is a professional diplomat, who is also a member of the Azerbaijani parliament…He managed to have separate meetings with the officials from the co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group. Apart from that he also met with the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, during which he was represented as an elected official of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. All these things are happening within the framework of RA’s ignorance and impermissible silence... Armenian authorities have to make very quick and up-to-date solutions to these issues, as the transformation of international communities’ perceptions is not so easy process.

Taking into account the endless manipulations within the framework of the negotiation process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, could you please introduce the transformation of the main tendencies of this process?

K. B.: After the Bishkek ceasefire agreement (signed on May 12, 1994), the OSCE Minsk Group within the framework of the peaceful resolution of the conflict in 1997 have proposed a ‘phase deal’ and a ‘package deal’ significantly different from each other. In addition, I would like to remind you that the RA’s first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s approaches to the conflict resolution have become the reason for his resignation, as for that period of time the offered model of conflict resolution was a 'phase deal.' Currently, I’m becoming very angry, while reading the statements of experts, who say, that the offered ‘phase deal’ didn’t consider the status of Nagorno Karabakh. We are the witnesses of these statements in the case when these documents are available and I highly recommend experts, representatives of the academic community and politicians to read the whole text in order to avoid an absurd and ridiculous situation. It is important to read also the preambular to understand what should be the basis of the conflict settlement, to read that it should be based on the 4 UN resolutions (822 (April 30, 1993), 853 (June 29, 1993), 874 (October 14, 1993), 884 (November 12, 1993)) in which the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is predetermined. Moreover, in order to understand the situation better, I recommend them to read also the comments of the Armenian side on the offered deal, which would make clear why those comments were returned if there was an absence of provision defining the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Either in the ‘phase’ or in the ‘package deal’ the Nagorno-Karabakh was considered under the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. That is the reason why we had a resignation of Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Afterwards, the idea of a common state was followed, according to which Artsakh and Azerbaijan were representing one state. From the first sight one might imagine some kind of legal equality, but unfortunately, de facto the idea of the common state considered a very different approach to the autonomy and status of Nagorno Karabakh. This document is also available.

 Then, the ‘Paris-Key West’ process followed under the presidency of RA’s second President, Robert Kocharyan. The study of the declassified documents shows that the matter օf negotiations for that period of time was the reunification of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, including the Lachin corridor, in return getting the opportunity of direct communication between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan. In this sense, there was a view considering the provision of a high ground communication means. Though, this deal also failed. Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev refused that version of the settlement of the conflict and at the end of Kocharyan’s presidency, the ‘Madrid Principles’ appeared in the negotiation process. While speaking about this document, it should be noted that it has not been classified totally yet. Only that part of the document is declassified which considers the following: for the first time, there is a provision that defines the right of self-determination of the people of Nagorno Karabakh. I would like to mention that this ‘package deal’ differs in nature and purpose from the previous ‘package’ deal offered by the mediators in that it doesn't assume any clarity, but only defines the principles, only after the fixation of which the parties should pass to the stage of clarifying those principles as well as negotiating a comprehensive settlement agreement.

After the change of the government in 2008, we have witnessed a very interesting transformation. If the first version of the document of ‘Madrid Principles’ considered a mention regarding the right of self-determination and there was an absence of the definition of practical means of its implementation, during the presidency of Serzh Sargsyan the updated version of the document of ‘Madrid Principles’ considered the reservation of a referendum. The above-mentioned updated version of the document of ‘Madrid Principles’ was actual till 2018. As for now, it is very difficult to realize the transformation tendencies of this document…Anyway, this doesn’t mean that the latter is a dreamed document of the two Armenian Republics, but in order to make an objective evaluation of the process, you should make comparisons not with the ideal type of solution, but with the previous versions. In this sense the difference is obvious.

What do you think-can we claim that the unawareness of the evolutional development of the negotiation process from the society's, politicians, and the expert community's side intensifies the manipulation of this issue?

K.B.: Definitely. That is the reason why in any public speeches I often stress that it’s up to the person to trust either the old officials or the new ones.  Nevertheless, the problem is that we need to get rid of comparisons between the old and the new, especially in the case, when there are already declassified and available documents that should be studied by each citizen. We have to create the space for consolidation and mutual trust, as the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh is an existential issue for Armenians. Therefore, the task of the media agencies, the expert and the academic community, as well as of politicians is continual work towards the raise of the awareness of the society. In this sense, the society itself should become conscious enough to differentiate the possible and impossible, as well as the permissible and impermissible shifts of both the internal and foreign politics.

 

Interviewed by Magda Arsenyan (political scientist)

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