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 Friday, November 17 2023 15:13
Marianna Mkrtchyan

EU Representative: "What we have seen in Nagorno Karabakh, was  unilateral military step"

EU Representative: "What we have seen in Nagorno Karabakh, was  unilateral military step"

ArmInfo.The European Peace Facility is a financial instrument through which the EU supports  countries when it comes to strengthening their resilience, their ability to strengthen their stability and security. European Commission's lead spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy Peter Stano said commenting on the EU statement regarding assistance to Armenia through the European Peace Facility (EPF).

He noted, in particular: "The European Peace Facility is an  instrument, a financial instrument, of the European Union through  which we are supporting countries. When it comes to strengthening  their resilience, their ability to strengthen their stability and  security, and the European Peace Facility has two levels, I would  say, for example, in Ukraine we are using it very much to help the  military to defend the country against Russia's illegal aggression.  But then in other countries we are using the EPF, for example, to  finance our peace missions or observation missions or monitoring  missions. This is the case also with Armenia. So, for example, the EU  mission, which is currently in Armenia is also something that is  financed through the EPF as well. So, there are many ways how to  support, especially the safety, security, stability and resilience of  the country. So, the Member States have said this is another means of  our support or of our willingness to support Armenia, to look also at  ways how we could support Armenia's resilience through EPF. Again,  this is the start of the process. So, we are looking at ways how to  support, with what to support. So, there is no concrete proposal yet  about how this support could look like. But when you look around at  other countries, what we are doing, for example we are helping  countries, in case of Moldova, to improve their ability to counter  foreign interference we are helping countries to improve their  capacities to fight cyber-attacks. So, these are ways through which  or these are ways which are being supported through the European  Peace Facility, but again, in case of Armenia, anything is possible.  So, Member States are starting the discussions about what would be  the best way to use the EPF to support Armenia,"  the EU  Representative said in interview with Armenpress.

Referring to the statement of EU High Commissioner Josep Borrell on  the possibility of liberalizing the visa regime for Armenia, Mr.  Stano recalled: "The European Union said very clearly at the level of  the leaders of the European Union in their meeting in October that we  want to explore ways to further support Armenia and deepen our  cooperation with Armenia and then in the follow up discussions this  week by foreign ministers, the Foreign Minister said that one of the  ways we are looking at is the visa liberalization. So, we are going  to explore options for visa liberalization with Armenia. This means  we will start the process to see whether it's feasible, whether it's  possible. Visa liberalization is something that is very important  because it's tangible and visible for people. But it's also something  where all the Member States need to agree eventually and where there  are also tasks to be fulfilled on the side of the partner country, in  this case of Armenia, but again, it's important that there is an  agreement. We want to start to look at the options and explore the  possibility of visa liberalization. So, we are launching a process.  This is the start of the process, but it is a process that  eventually, if everything goes well, might bring a lot of benefits  for the Armenian citizens. "

To clarify what kind of tasks were being discussed, Mr. Stano  explained: "In general, for visa liberalization, there are technical  requirements that means biometric passports, for example, but also  political requirements to make sure that the political framework in  the country prevents people from misusing the asylum system. First of  all, that people are not forced to leave the country and claim  asylum. Because this is one of the main priorities when it comes to  visa.  Free visa regimes that we don't want to have sudden increase  of asylum seekers and in order to prevent the misuse of the, let's  say, visa free or liberalized travel regime. So political criteria  and technical logistical criteria on the side of the applicant and  then of course the Member States need to be convinced, need to be  assured that everything has been done on the side of the partner  country that the visa liberalization in this case will not be  misused."

Regarding Baku's criticism of the European Union after reports of  French arms supplies to Armenia, The EU official noted: "I think it's  logical that every country takes steps, sovereign independent steps  to protect itself. That means also beefing up its military and  acquiring military assistance from wherever they decide. So, every  country does it.  We don't need to name names, but every country does  it. That's like basic doctrine of defending itself or having the army  able to defend yourself, so countries are receiving military support  from partners, from markets, you know. They might get it depending on  their relations. This is the right of every country that is  independent and sovereign, and no one has any right to meddle into it  as long as all the international laws and agreements are being met.  But again, the support or what the European Union has said in terms  of supporting Armenia has nothing to do with arming Armenia. We just  want to increase or support Armenia in strengthening its democratic  institutions and its ability to protect itself against any kind of  threats, I mean, we said very clearly that we stand very firmly by  Armenia's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. This  is one of the cornerstones not only of our relations with Armenia,  but of international relations. This is why we are helping Ukraine,  because Ukraine is fighting exactly because its neighbor Russia  blatantly violated the UN Charter, international laws and bilateral  agreements and wants to deny Ukraine the right to exist and the right  to be sure and independent country that takes its own decisions. But  in case of Armenia, we are in a different situation, of course, but  in terms of principles, of course the sovereignty, independence and  territorial integrity of Armenia needs to be respected and if it will  not be respected, there will be consequences for whomever violates  this. This is a very clear position of the European Union. Secondly,  our support to Armenia is for democratic institutions to help the  country in its current situation to strengthen the democratic  institutions and the ability, the resilience of the democratic  institutions and not arming Armenia. So, anyone who is criticizing  the European Union for what we are doing vis a vis Armenia should try  to maybe reconsider twice and try to understand what we are doing and  what we are saying, because in no way what we are doing with Armenia  is directed against anyone else. The European Union has a track  record of being very transparent partner providing assistance,  whatever assistance, political, economic or be it military in a very  transparent way. So, there is no need to be concerned because this is  for the sake of Armenia, of the Armenian people and to strengthen the  democratic institutions and reinforce the respect for sovereignty,  independence and territorial integrity of Armenia. "

To clarify how the threat of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry was  received  by the EU institutions, the diplomat noted, "The European  Union is very transparent when it comes to managing our relations  with third countries, with our partners. We have nothing to hide and  again, our bilateral cooperation with one is not directed against  anyone else. This is just between the two of us, in line with  European policies and principles and the European Union actually is  one of the very few actors in the world where these principles are  very transparent, very inclusive and very transparent.  So, we are  not doing, you know, like black deals or something behind the table  with hidden agenda and it's not the European Union which provokes  instability. It's not the European Union that makes unilateral  military steps. But what we have seen in case of Nagorno Karabakh, we  have seen unilateral military steps, launching of a military  operation despite previous assurances that the issue will not be  solved militarily. So, one needs to be a little bit also like  self-reflective when pointing fingers to others. But again we say  there is absolutely no reason to criticize anything the European  Union says or does vis a vis Armenia. This is very transparent. It's  not directed against anyone and we are working honestly frankly and  sincerely in order to bring more stability into the region to prevent  unilateral steps to prevent military actions, because we believe,  based on our own experience, that issues, problems and frictions are  best solved by talking, by engagement and sitting at the negotiating  table. And that's why we are always happy and standing there to be  also ready to facilitate or continue facilitating the normalization  process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which was also another thing  that came out of the European Union, from the Council in October, and  from the ministers meeting this week we called on Armenia and  Azerbaijan to resume the negotiations and resolve all the pending  issues with the view to conclude the peace treaty, ideally by the end  of the year. We are there to support. We cannot, of course, impose,  we cannot force anyone. But again, the EU is an honest broker without  any hidden agenda. Our only aim is peace, stability and prosperity  for everyone. "

To clarify, how constructive the EU considers Azerbaijan's actions to  refuse meetings on the European platform, he said:"Our role as the  facilitator or mediator is not really to commend the behavior of one  side or another. Our role and our efforts are focused on being there  for both parties, as long as they are willing, to help them to find  solutions. We are facilitators. We cannot impose, we cannot force. We  do our best. We offer our capacities, our energies, our time,  sometimes also our resources to make sure that the engagement  continues. And when the parties are ready, then we mediate the  specific meetings. But even despite the fact that what you mentioned  about the meetings at the higher level that have been cancelled, the  engagement is still going on, you know. So, we have a lot of  bilateral engagements, both with Armenian partners with Azerbaijani  partners, both in Brussels and on the ground in Baku, in Yerevan. So,  I mean, we try to do our best. Again, encouraging parties to get  together, to have the meetings, the sooner the better, and I think  this was also captured, this political expectation of the European  Union was captured in the call from the Foreign Affairs Council this  week, when the  High Representative said that we call for the  resumption of negotiations and we want to see them continue and we  stand ready to continue offering our services in this process,  because in the end it was both parties who turned to us after they  realized that Russia is not an honest broker, after they realized  that you cannot really rely on Russia, because Russia has its hidden  agenda. And in the case of Armenia, Russia failed hugely to deliver  on its commitments to Armenia. So, we are there because we are an  honest broker, we will do our best because our best motivation or  strongest motivation is our own history. We know that we had a  troubled history of relations between countries in Europe. We were  fighting each other. We were killing each other, but we found a way  forward to create the unique community which is called European Union  and we want to share this experience, the best practices also with  the people in the Southern Caucasus and in the region east from us,  because we know that in the end the only ones who are suffering are  ordinary people, and we want to prevent that. So, we are there  standing ready to help, to advise, to encourage. But again, we will  not impose, we cannot impose and we will not be forcing anyone. "

When asked what the EU plans to do to protect the rights of forcibly  displaced citizens of Artsakh, besides financial assistance, taking  into account the fact that its silence led to the current situation,  Mr. Stano assured:" First of all, the EU was not silent when it comes  to that, we are very well aware of, maybe disappointment or criticism  that the EU has not done enough, but I have to remind everyone that  the EU is not an interventionist force. The instruments we have at  our disposal are political and diplomatic and we are using them in  terms of political or diplomatic instruments. There were statements,  public statements condemning the unilateral military operation in  Nagorno Karabakh by Azerbaijan very, very swiftly. I can recall only  two very strong statements by the High Representative and Member  States on this issue, I can recall the special session of the United  Nations Security Council, where the High Representative, on behalf of  the European Union, publicly delivered very strong messages  condemning this, expressing our shock about the sudden displacement  and mass exit of people from Nagorno Karabakh. So, the European Union  was loud and vocal, not only in the public domain, because we were  doing the same in international fora, which are maybe not so loud and  not so visible to the broad public and the same we were doing  bilaterally, delivering messages to partners who are relevant in this  context, not only to Azerbaijan, of course, but also allies of  Azerbaijan, because as I said, the EU is very transparent and it's  important for us to speak up when the principles are violated. And  then we are demanding very clearly, that the people of Nagorno  Karabakh need to have guarantees for a safe return. You know, their  property cannot be reoccupied or confiscated or resettled by someone  else. There needs to be guarantees for the safe return of these  people if they decide to return. We also increased our humanitarian  assistance to those who fled to Armenia. We keep demanding  international access and international presence in Nagorno Karabakh  as part of these assurances for the people. We are also encouraging  Azerbaijan authorities to launch really a meaningful, credible  dialogue with the Karabakh Armenians, because the situation needs a  solution and the solution cannot be that these people, more than  100,000 people simply leave their houses and their home basically.  So, we continue working in engaging both with Azerbaijan, Armenia but  also with international partners, because this is a task for the  international community. Again, it's not the EU who will come and  impose a solution on someone. So, we need to use diplomatic and  political means through international fora and through cooperation  with international partners to make sure that there are enough  guarantees so that people, if they decide so, they can return to  their homes, " the EU representative summarized.

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