Exclusive interview with Tevan Poghosyan, Member of the Parliament, National Assembly of Armenia.
How does the participation of Armenia in the CSTO agrees with the fact that for more than four years Armenian peace-keeping mission has been the part of the international ISAF forces in Afghanistan and for more than 10 years the fighters of Armenian peace-keeping brigade have been engaged for the service in Kosovo?
Armenia has joint NATO PFP program back in 1994. Form that time step by step year to year Armenia has been trying to expand its relations with NATO. Actually until 2004 it has been mainly about English language courses but since NATO introduced IPAP Armenia have kicked of real process especially in the field of military reform as well as the whole defense sector. By today Armenia has already fulfilled 5 IPAP (Individual Partnership Action Program) biannual programs and with each next one number of implemented projects as well the quality are increasing and enhancing.
Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is a major component of the country's security architecture. Russia is a dominant country among the CSTO members, as US is in the NATO context, and the security of a member state usually depends not on the organization as a whole but upon the commitment of the Russian Federation. Therefore, Armenia has to maintain close relations with the Russian Federation, which, however, should not imply limitations on NATO-Armenia relations.
Armenian troops have cooperated with NATO countries in a number of peacekeeping operations, e.g. Armenia had contributed troops to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) since 2004. Later Armenia had terminated its participation. The Armenian platoon of light infantry (35 personnel), which served within the Greek contingent had to return to Yerevan because of the pullout of most of the Greek peacekeeping battalion, which was a result of the Greek crisis.
Today Armenia has re-send its troops back to Kosovo with the USA contingency, which is covering logistical expenses. Besides, since 2009 our republic has been contributing troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan under German tutelage. In June 2011 the number of Armenian troops serving in ISAF was almost tripled to about 130.
With all these it has to be noted that Armenia is only country that simultaneously is a CSTO member as well as participating in the peace-keeping operations in cooperation with NATO. This is a unique case when Armenia has proven that cooperation and not confrontation is the way to add value.
Has there been any reaction of Yerevan to recent warnings of the President of Azerbaijan about unsafe technical condition of the NPP in Armenia and what is your point on this matter?
Armenia cooperates with the IAEA on all issues related to the nuclear energy and pursues policy of maximum transparency. Under this cooperation Armenian NPP has passed the stress test and all necessary control and verification mechanisms envisaged by international community. In addition to this Armenia has strong cooperation with Russia on provision of new possible security measures for NPP. In this regard any speculations on unsafe technical conditions of the Armenian NPP are just false claims in a propaganda campaign directed against Armenia. It is no coincidence that all those allegations are being aired by Azeri and Turkish side. Anyone who is aware of the situation around Nagorno Karabakh is well-placed to judge why Azerbaijan strives to build a negative image of Armenia.
What is your forecast for further bilateral relations with Ukraine after Armenia has supported Russian annexation of Crimea?
The vote of Armenia in the UN General Assembly was conditioned by its principled stand on the people's right to self-determination that in Armenia's view cannot be subjugated to the principle of territorial integrity of states, which was the major feature of the resolution tabled. We do not think that this matter is in any way or shape related to the Armenian-Ukrainian relationship. The latter should be solely grounded on mutual interests and reciprocal benefits it brings. In the course of the recent twenty years Ukraine has always sided with Azerbaijan against Armenian all international fora and never displayed neutrality and sensitivity on the vital for Armenia issue, the conflict in and around Nagorno Karabakh. The recent cases that could be mentioned were the votes on the Azeri-tabled resolutions in UN GA in 2008 and 2012. Out of all European nations Ukraine was the only one to support the Azeri views while others abstained or did not vote.
It is known that Armenian diaspora is strong in Washington. What is your evaluation of current relations between Armenia and the USA?
Armenian diaspora in the U.S. is a natural bridge that connects our two nations but I strongly believe that it is not a sole factor that drives Armenia-U.S. relationship. The United States of America is an important partner for Armenia. The USA along with Russia and France is a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group which is working towards peaceful settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We in Armenia truly value our relationship with the United States, which is rooted in mutual respect and shared interests. The USA is the biggest humanitarian and technical aid provider to Armenia. Also the USA is providing Armenia with strong support to develop democratic and economic institutions. The US supports Armenia in its work towards reduction of poverty, expanding trade and investment as well as strengthening and building capacity for civil society organizations.
To your mind when shall Armenia become a full-fledged member of the Customs Union under the aegis of Russia?
According to the Armenian official sources May 2014 is the the envisaged date for joining the Customs Union. The main idea here is to be ready to become one of the founding nations of the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015. In December 2013 Armenian Government has endorsed the "road map" of necessary reforms that Armenia has to introduce to be able to join the CU. By recent information approximately 70% of those changes have already been made and if everything goes smoothly then Armenia might be able to accede the CU during May-June 2014. At the end of the day there is always a doubt. Will this project succeed? I personally think that it depends not only on the Armenian ability to make necessary "Home Work" and be ready from technical side but there is also a political component of final membership. President Aliyev has stated on numerous occasions that Azerbaijan's major goal is to isolate Armenia. In this context Azerbaijan is ready to make every effort in order to create obstacles for Armenian participation in any integration projects be it the European Union or Eurasian Union.