Interview of Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation

Reporter: This visit of yours, which I would say is very rare for Armenian Foreign Minister to visit Israel.

Edward Nalbandian: I would rather say, this is very rare to receive Israeli Foreign Minister in Armenia. All Foreign Ministers of Armenia paid visits to Israel. I served for almost 10 years as Armenia’s Ambassador to Israel. That is why it is not my first visit to Israel. I am always very glad to be back to Jerusalem.

It was a new opportunity to be here on the invitation of the Prime-Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a short visit but very intensive one. I had meetings with the Prime-Minister Netanyahu, with Minister for Regional Cooperation Hanegbi, with Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Elkin, with Chairman of your Parliament Mr. Edelstein and also with the Vice-Chairman of Parliament, Tali Ploskov, who is also Chair of the Armenia-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group.

I had an opportunity to see the Armenian Patriarch. We have very important, centuries-old Armenian presence in Jerusalem. As always, I used the opportunity to visit Yad Vashem and to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Visiting Yad Vashem, as I said, is not the first time. Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan, teach us, especially such nations, like the Jewish and Armenian nations, who suffered, passed through the horrors of genocide, we have moral obligation to join our efforts to fight against new genocides, new crimes against humanity.

Reporter: I wanted to ask you regarding this issue. What is your expectations from Israel regarding the recognition of the Armenian Genocide? Are you satisfied with the current situation? Has it been a topic during your meetings here in Israel?

Edward Nalbandian: It was and it is always a topic of our dialogue. As I said, two nations passed through the horrors of genocide. Many scholars, many politicians consider that in case of adequate condemnation of the Armenian Genocide maybe could be possible to prevent Shoah and other genocides. That is why of course, we are expecting that Israel will recognize officially the Armenian Genocide. We feel that in the public opinion of Israel more and more people are in favor of the recognition, including in the Parliament. Yesterday I had a meeting with the Chairman of the Knesset. He again expressed his very clear position of the importance of the recognition by Knesset of the Armenian Genocide.

Reporter: I would assume that one of the issues that are being raised between Israel and Armenia is the relations between Armenia and Iran. How do you view the Iranian position in the Middle East and in the region. Is it a positive player in your view?

Edward Nalbandian: We have good relations with neighbouring Iran, we cooperate in different fields. Taking into consideration that we have closed borders with other two neighbours, with Turkey and Azerbaijan, so you have to understand that Iran and Georgia are the two neighbours with whom we have not just normal relations, but good cooperation. And we are deploying efforts with the aim to develop our bilateral cooperation and partnership.

Reporter: Is it an obstacle to the relations between Israel and Armenia?

Edward Nalbandian: I don’t think this is an obstacle in our bilateral relations with Israel as the relations of Israel with any neighbouring country of Armenia is not an obstacle.

Reporter: We don’t see an Ambassador of Armenia in Israel and we don’t see an Israeli Ambassador in Yerevan. What’s the reason of not exchanging the Ambassadors directly.

Edward Nalbandian: Our position was very clear: as soon as Israel will open an embassy in Armenia, we will reciprocate and open an Embassy in Israel.

Reporter: I would assume one of the difficulties in relationship between Armenia and Israel is the issue of your neighbour, Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijanis are claiming that in the past few months there have been difficulties with ceasefire through violations of the ceasefire. What’s your comment on that: is Armenia violating the ceasefire?

Edward Nalbandian: We are never asking our friendly, partner countries to support Armenia against anybody and including against Azerbaijan. On Nagorno-Karabakh issue our expectation is to support and to be in line with the position of the international community. The international community gave a mandate to the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group- the United States, Russia and France – to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. This is the unique situation that the United States, Russia and France, on the level of the Presidents of those countries, adopted five statement on how the conflict could be resolved in a very detailed way with concrete principles and concrete elements elaborated as an integrated whole. And Armenia’s position is in line with the position of the Co-Chair countries, so with the position of the international community.

Reporter: The position of the international community is that those territories are Azerbaijani basically, isn’t it?

Edward Nalbandian: This is not the position of the international community. The position of the international community, as I said, is expressed in the five statements of the three Co-Chair countries’ presidents, and it’s very clearly said that the final status of the Nagorno-Karabakh has to be decided by the free expression of will of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which will have an internationally legally binding force, including for Azerbaijan. This is the position of the international community and we are expressing our support to this position, but Azerbaijan doesn’t.

Concerning the ceasefire violations, and by the way this is also the position of the three Co-Chair countries, so of the international community, including Armenia, that we have to respect the trilateral ceasefire agreements reached between Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1994-1995 without time limitations, three agreements about the ceasefire and about the consolidation of the ceasefire. Azerbaijan is always trying not to respect ceasefire agreements, and even to put under the question that those agreements are in force.

This is the difference between our position and the position of Azerbaijan. Even more, the international community through three co-chairs come up with the proposals to create investigation mechanism of violations of the ceasefire agreements. Armenia supports the proposal on the creation of mechanism of investigation of ceasefire violations which could serve as a mechanism of prevention. Azerbaijan is rejecting to creation of this mechanism, so the position of the three Co-Chair countries, of course they are mediators and could not always express their opinion about it openly and publicly. Nevertheless, they are always saying that the side, which is rejecting to create this mechanism of prevention takes the responsibility for all the violations of ceasefire.

Reporter: What’s your expectations from Israel regarding the military aid or military exports because I know it has been an issue between the two countries.

Edward Nalbandian: The trade of arms is not a trade of vegetables and such kind of trade always has its black side, which could have some negative consequences. Which is important in Armenia’s relations with Israel that we have no taboo for discussing all the questions, even sensitive questions we are discussing openly and we are trying to find ways out.

Reporter: What’s your expectation from Israel in that regard?

Edward Nalbandian: I said what I could say to you. We are discussing in very open and very positive way.