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 Friday, January 14 2022 13:48
Emmanuil Mkrtchyan

I highly appreciate the potential of our partnership - Aleksandr  Konyuk 

I highly appreciate the potential of our partnership - Aleksandr  Konyuk 

ArmInfo.Those following Armenia's foreign  policy contacts must have noticed substantial progress in the  Armenian-Belarusian relations - in both multilateral and bilateral  formats.

Last year saw serious intensification of intergovernmental  ties amid expanding bilateral trade and economic partnership and  diplomatic cooperation. The past five years saw a 2.5-fold increase  in the Belarusian- Armenian trade turnover - from $32mln in 2016 to  $82mln in 2021. Among the main items of Belarusian exports to Armenia  in January-September 2021 were dairy products, furniture, information  processing machines and medicines.  

Belarus imports alcoholic beverages, scrap and brassware from  Armenia. In terms of export, Armenia is among the top 50 trade  partners of Belarus. In 2020, both Armenia and Belarus appointed new  heads of their diplomatic missions. Mr Aleksandr Konyuk,  ex-Prosecutor General of Belarus, was appointed Belarusian Ambassador  to Armenia. 

Below is an interview with Mr Konyuk.  

Question: Mr Konyuk, the  Armenian-Belarusian Intergovernmental Commission held a meeting in  Minsk recently. The event received scant media coverage, so to speak.  Could you tell in detail what specific issues the Commission  discussed and what specific decisions are expected to be implemented?  

Answer: That was a most productive meeting. Commission members headed  by Minister of economy Vahan Kerobyan arrived in Minsk. On behalf of  Belarus Minister of Forestry Vitaly Drozhzha is Commission  Co-Chairman. It is noteworthy that the Armenian delegation included  Armenia's deputy foreign minister Armen Gevorndyan, who was recently  Armenia's Ambassador to Belarus and is an expert in  Armenian-Belarusian relations. The Armenian side was also represented  by a deputy minister of culture and a deputy minister of high-tech  industry. The Commission had not met for a long period because of the  COVID-related restrictions, but a number of topics had to be  discussed. In this context, I would like to note that besides the  Intergovernmental Commission's meeting you have mentioned, our  countries' foreign offices held consultations. Moreover, the Eurasian  Intergovernmental Council held a meeting last month. The three events  should be considered in context. Furthermore. A meeting of  parliamentary delegations is on the agenda, and we are preparing it  now. As regards the Intergovernmental Commission proper, Mr Kerobyan  and Armenia's Ambassador to Belarus Razmik Khumaryan took a most  active part in the Commission's work. A most serious program was  prepared for our Armenian guests. They visited a number of  enterpises, including such important ones as the Belarusian National  Biotechnology Corporation CJSC (BNBC) with its high-tech full-cycle  agro-industrial production. It is a relatively new company shared in  by both the state and private capital. The company is implementing a  large-scale export-oriented and import-replacement project of deep  processing of grain using modern methods of biotechnology for  producing and supplying to the local and export markets highly  productive, balanced feed and premixes. The project is the largest  and unique agro-industrial complex not only in the Republic of  Belarus, but also throughout the former USSR. The company will also  set up the production of fish food, which is sure to be of interest  to numerous Armenian fish farms. This industry is developed in  Armenia and, as a consumser of your fish products, I highly  appreciate it. I think we have something to work at, and I would like  to see Armenian fish - sterlet and trout - more often in my country's  stores. These products will, no doubt, find their consumers. The  Commission members also visited the Belarus/Chinese joint-venture car  manufacturer BelGee. Good and safe cars, especially Geely Atlas. Of  importance is that all the cars are highly localized as, with  sanctions imposed on it, Belarus has to rely on itself and on its  friends, Russia, China, India, as well as on its partners in the  Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), including friendly Armenia. Our  Armenian partners showed interest in products of BKM Holding, a  manufacturer of municipal engineering goods, primarily of electric  buses, the Minsk tractor works, which has a diverse product line, as  well as a number of other enterprises.  

Question: As regards  agricultural equipment, this is a 15-year-old story. Much has been  said of the possibility of manufacturing small-sized farm and other  machinery in Armenia, and attempts have even been made. Armenia  really needs its own system of inexpensive modernization of  agricultural assets.  

Answer: You are right, and we discussed the  topic at the Intergovernmental Council's meeting. By now we have  agreed on the assembling of lifts for residential buildings.   Mogilyov lifts can now be seen in some residential buildings in  Yerevan, and the works won a tender. The Yerevan Municipality invited  tenders for the project back in 2019. It is important to start the  assembling of lifts in Armenia, with the highest-level localization -  and the Yerevan Municipality supports the idea. Mogilevliftmash  managers got in touch with me just a few days ago, and we had a  serious talk about organizing the assembling process in Armenia.  Establishing a new industrial enterprise in Armenia is most  important. I am well acquainted with that enterprise. Pursuant to the  president's order, I, in my previous position, was head of the  supervisory board. By the way, the after-sale maintenance of Mogilyov  lifts is being organized in Yerevan. We are going to start from  after-sale maintenance, with localization and assembling process to  follow. It goes without saying, you have numerous well trained  specialists and can accomplish any task.  You are a highly  intellectual nation. For example, you are among IT leaders. It is not  my opinion, but that of my son, who has for years been working in  this field. He recently visited me here in Armenia and is going to  visit the country once more to expand his contacts. He says Armenia  can be well seen on the IT map of the former Soviet Union, along with  Estonia, Belarus and Georgia.  

Question: What other promising  projects are expected to be implemented? As a country the West  imposed sanctions on, Belarus has to be in constant search of sales  markets. Armenian economy is in dire need for it because of its  narrow domestic market.  

Answer: I highly appreciate the potential of  our partnership. And I spoke about it at the Intergovernmental  Commission's meeting and told my workmates from Belarus about it.  As  Ambassador of Belarus, I am doing and will do my best to give impetus  to this potential for it to be realized in the form of actually  implemented mutually beneficial projects in such fields as industrial  production, agriculture, IT. Recently we hosted representatives of  the Grodno dairy factory (Molochny Mir OJSC). I accompanied the  factory representative during her visits to prospective partners and  introduced her to the managers of Armenia's major trading networks.  She was surprised to see an ex- prosecutor trading in milk. I told  her it was natural, as the task was set by the government and by the  president - expanding the markets and intensifying economic  integration. Who else but me is going to deal with it? Export-related  issues are our priority. And Armenia has to revitalize its industry.  We are forming most serious relations with the Tashir group.  I am  acquainted with its young managers here in Yerevan - they are clever  guys, intellectuals.  

Question: Before our conversation, I looked  through some figures showing the state of Belarusian economy.  Interestingly, with sanctions imposed on the country, it is not  "losing its weight." Rather, you, so to say, "get enthusiastic" about  them.  

Answer: I have just returned from Minsk, and I am going there  again. The reason? The Intergovernmental Commission's meeting gave  impetus to a number of projects. I cannot tell you about all of them  beforehand, but we have much work to do. Just one reservation:  in  2021, the year sanctions were against the country were in effect,  Belarusian exports showed 36.2% growth.  Some production facilities,  MAZ for example, resumed their operation just in time. No overstock  in contrast to former times. We planned to deliver gas-powered and  electric buses to Armenia. And the Commission members visited the  manufacturer, MAZ. We planned to deliver high-quality buses to  Yerevan, and the Yerevan Municipality was satisfied with their  parameters, but a Chinese producer won the tender because of some  snag. Well, never mind. We failed here, but Saint Petersburg is now  purchasing 900 buses from us, while MAZ can manufacture up to 1,500  buses a year. And it is not enough. But I can say that our close  contacts with our Armenian friends enabled us to conclude a serious  contract with a third country through their mediation. It is the  largest-scale contact for supply of MAZ vehicles. Armenia is helping  us, and the contract was signed here.  BelAZ is interested in  Armenia's market as well.  The delivery of six 90-ton vehicles worth  a total of $12mln is being discussed.  

Question: As Ambassador of  Belarus you mainly aim at advancing economic interests in the host  country, while Armenian diplomats and trade representatives are  expected to deal with Armenian export. What would be your advice?  

Answer: I am saying to everyone: brothers, Armenians, why do you not  bring dried fruits to Belarus? It is fantastic, there is nothing like  this anywhere, and it is really healthy dainty! Your people seem to  agree, but plead logistic or other problems. There is nothing  impossible. We can bring our dairy products to Armenia. So what's the  matter? What "unattainable" logistics is in question?  

Question: You  had a meeting with Armenia's Minister of High-Tech Industry. What  prospects can you single out?  

Answer: Yes, we had a meeting and  talked about cooperation in high technologies. I am preparing Mr  Vahan Khachatryan's visit to Minsk. I have talked to our Minister of  Industry Petr Parkhomchik. We want to visit the "Great Stone"  Industrial Park. It is a truly unique enterprise, or rather, a  high-tech conglomerate of IT companies. The minister is interested in  other companies working in our country as well. This visit will be of  interest to our Armenian friends because, as far as I am informed,  the Armenian government plans the creation of your own "Silicon  Valley". We have extensive experience and we could be of great help.  

Question: Does not Minsk view Yerevan as a rival in this field in the  Eurasian space?  

Answer: Not at all! What rivals can we be? Moreover,  I told the minister that we should provide legal and methodological  aid in developing this project. Preparing a legal basis for the  project is a most difficult task. I am acquainted with the team that  drafted legislation for the Great Stone. But about a year and a half  has passed since. This all is most serious. It is narrow  specialization, which requires not only knowledge of law, but also  specialist expertise. I, for example, as a lawyer with many years of  experience, would not venture into a business like that. For example,  the Belarusian IT industry accounts for up to 8% of the country's  GDP. And our GDP is about $70 billion. And the IT sector ranks second  after the industrial sector. And it is the second major taxpayer.   This is a most serious sector, which requires an extremely accurate  approach. And we could share our experience with you.  I would like  to ask you about the international situation around the Republic of  Belarus.  Answer: I can say the following: we all come from the  Soviet Union and it cannot be helped. I recently attended a  conference in memory of Anastas Mikoyan. We talked about it there -  about our recent common tragic and heroic past. We have a lot of  critics of Mikoyan, including those critical of the Soviet times. But  none of them has ever thought that, despite all the weak points of  that totalitarian system, our countries developed into full-fledged  nations, laid the groundwork for our future nationhood and powerful  industry, trained excellent engineers and creative people, raised our  science to the international level. We in Belarus have been able to  preserve many things, especially our industrial infrastructure, and  later restore it on new principles, modernize it, retain a high level  of education, and develop the agricultural sector. And some do not  like it. They wanted to crush us, trample us underfoot, "make a  second Ukraine of us," as our president once put it. They do not like  such a country in the center of Europe, with its independent policy  in its own national interests. Yes, we closed down NGOs and NPOs of  every kind, which, according to their regulations, are expected to  protect animal rights.  But they are doing anything but what written  in their regulations - and with foreign sponsorship.  

Question: So  these need to be replaced by national ones. Nature abhors a vacuum.   And we are not good at creating our own inclusive social capital.  

Answer: Yes, we should show a more serious approach to it by  assisting those creating their own social capital in the country  instead of working for "Uncle Sam." There was an attempted color  revolution with a view to destroying our country. But they failed!   Does it have to do with the subject of the Genocide of the Belarusian  people, with the initiative to adopt the Law on Genocide of the  Belarusian people? The entire world knows well that Belarus lost a  third of its population during the Nazi occupation. No one is denying  it. But this question has never been put point-blank before.  You can  be sure we have been forced to revert to the topic of Belarusian  Genocide. By means of sanctions they make us remind the entire  civilized world that Belarus lost a third of its citizens in battling  the German fascism. The fascist thugs came to our land, burning our  homes, hanging people, murdering them, burning them alive. I have now  started a thorough study of the Armenian Genocide, reading historical  sources. I think our Armenian brothers could help us in terms of both  methods and legal consultations. Our president raised this topic and  reproached scholars and diplomats, and, probably, himself, for being  indifferent to the topic.  And what is taking place now? It is not  the USSR that defeated German fascism. It is now Germany, which was  destroying us, the Belarusians, during World War II, that is imposing  sectoral sanctions in an attempt to annihilate us.  The Yalta-Potsdam  system of international relations is disintegrating in front of us,  but it does not mean history can be re-written, anyone can interfere  in others' domestic affairs and threaten with sanctions. And we have  most seriously addressed this issue. Special divisions at the  Prosecutor General's Office and Investigation Committee are dealing  with it. Criminal investigation is in progress, and we have made  representations and requested legal aid from our foreign partners,  particularly from those we have signed relevant conventions with. We  have started very serious work. In any case, a people that does not  remember its own history is doomed.  Thank you for your interview and  I wish you every success in your mission in Armenia.   


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