Armenia’s foreign minister has brushed aside heavy criticism from a number of hard-line political groups calling for his resignation over what they view as Yerevan’s failed policy in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process and dialogue with Turkey.
Instead, Edward Nalbandian himself accused his critics of making “pointless noise” and “speculating” over matters of national importance.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said last week it would seek Nalbandian’s resignation because “Armenia’s foreign policy has deviated from the main provisions of the national security strategy.” Another Armenia-based party with traditional Diaspora links, Ramkavar-Azatakan, issued a statement on Monday, accusing Nalbandian of carrying out Armenian foreign policy in an ‘untalented manner’ which it said resulted in its major failures in the talks with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and Turkey on normalizing relations.
Nalbandian on Monday called such accusations “baseless”.
“On the one hand, they can perhaps be explained by some naivety, to put it very mildly. On the other hand, perhaps by attempts to fish for something in troubled waters,” said the Armenian foreign minister. “I don’t think that speculation around the Karabakh problem, which is a matter of national importance, gives credit to anyone.”
Nalbandian made the remarks at a joint press conference with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who led a European Union delegation on their latest tour of the South Caucasus states.
The delegation, also including top officials from the European Union’s Council of Ministers and the European Commission, was in Yerevan on July 20 to meet with the country’s top officials.
Bildt reiterated the EU support for the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan and welcomed the continued dialogue between Yerevan and Ankara.
“The European Union stands ready to assist in the implementation of the agreement that we sincerely hope will be possible within a not too distant future,” Bildt said about the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks on Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Swedish diplomat thus echoed the optimism of the Sunday statement of the Presidency of the European Union, currently held by Sweden, welcoming the meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow two days before. It said it encouraged both parties “to continue and intensify their efforts towards a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” The Swedish Presidency of the EU also commended “the tireless efforts of the Minsk Group Co-Chairmen” and extended its full support to the United States, Russia and France that led international efforts on brokering a peace deal on Karabakh.
At the press conference, Nalbandian also spoke about the ‘updated Madrid principles’ of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement that the international mediators had proposed as the basis for negotiations.
He said Armenia has not given its approval to the Madrid document. “We said that the Madrid document serves as a basis for negotiations,” the minister explained.
Nalbandian also disproved the statement by his Azeri counterpart that a timetable for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh was on the agenda of the negotiations.
“I can tell you that this issue has not been discussed at the Moscow meeting,” Nalbandian emphasized.
Nalbandian also underscored that no new document has been signed with Turkey after Yerevan and Ankara, through Swiss mediation, signed a roadmap for normalizing bilateral relations in April. He also rejected claims that Armenia has approved the Turkish proposal on setting up a panel of historians to look into the World War I-era killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey that Armenians have said amounted to genocide and Turkey has repeatedly described as an unfortunate tragedy that accompanied the decline of the Empire.
“It has been repeatedly said that if the two sides reach an agreement and sign corresponding documents, the turn will come for settling diplomatic relations, opening the border and setting up an intergovernmental committee that will deal with various issues. And this committee will include subcommittees that will deal with various issues, including the issue of the restoration of mutual trust between the two peoples,” said Nalbandian.
“It is painful, it is difficult, but that has proved to be one of the instruments that has been constructive in the other cases that I am familiar with,” said Bildt, stressing that the European Union attaches great importance to Armenian-Turkish reconciliation.