AZG Armenian Daily #044, 13/03/2006


Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian guest of
Daily Azg readers

Ahar, Canada, 2006-08-03 01:56:06

Mr. Oskanian

You were born and raised outside Armenia and I presume
you therefore know the diaspora well. In your opinion,
what should be the optimal format or mechanism of
interaction between diaspora and Armenia? should it
involve a two level interaction i.e. individuals and
political parties, or are the latter useless today.
Interaction is quite intense between both parts of our
nation, but I think everybody has the impression
(right or wrong) that more efficient structures can
still be created, that the diaspora could have a more
formal role in the democratization of Armenia, that
youth from outside need still to be implicated more
profoundly in the Armenian life of the homeland and in
state building. I don't know how many diasporan
students study in armenian universities or if the
government encourages the venue of diasporans in its
institutions, if such programs exist on a large scale.
Perhaps the dual citizenship law is the foundation
that will facilitate this, perhaps there are other
factors that people don't notice, or perhaps there is
nothing special to do and simply time is needed for
both groups to get to know each other, time for
diasporans to grab the concept of "republic" with all
associated responsibilities and privileges. In any
case and in the general public's vue, diaspora-armenia
relations have not been perfected yet (although they
are regarded, by and large, to be developing
positively). What are your thoughts on this, as
foreign minister and as an armenian that knows both
segments of our nation?

OSKANIAN: As foreign minister, and as an Armenian, I
believe that all of the levels you mention are
essential for deepening Armenia Diaspora relations:
the personal interactions have to increase -- that
means more tourism, more active engagement by students
and young people, and that's why the Birthright
Armenia program is so valuable. The mindset, attitude,
assumptions, knowledge about each other will of course
have to change and become more realistic and
accepting. The institutional and legal frameworks,
too, have to be enhanced. Interaction at the level of
political parties, organizations must and has been
continuing. The legal framework still has to be
developed, now that the obstructions to dual
citizenship have been removed from the Constitution.
All are necessary, all will take time, but we're well
on our way in all these directions.

Ara, Canada, Calgary, 2006-07-03 22:35:48

Dear Sir,

Do you think there is a better way to obtain full
support from US government for Genocide Recognition,
and, do you think this is ever possible?

OSKANIAN: US Recognition of the Genocide is a strictly
political process. Our communities there must continue
to do what they can to make the fact of the Genocide
known to more and more people, as well as officials.
It is a pity that a country like the US, a champion of
human rights, a protector of the rights of minorities
cannot find a way to do the right thing regarding
Genocide recognition. It is not political expediency
that should be the guiding principle here. Much has
changed over the recent period -- major newspapers
like the NY Times call genocide by its name, films
like Andrew Goldberg's The Armenian Genocide is being
shown throughout the country on Public Broadcasting
stations, the International Assn of Genocide Scholars
has clearly characterized the 1915 events, those
processes and efforts have to continue, and one day,
the US, too, will join other governments around the
world and call the Armenian Genocide by its name.

Mikhail Astvatsaturov, Grand Forks, ND, USA,
2006-07-03 09:56:54

Greetings,

Armenia always leads a policy of neutrality towards
the West (US, Europe etc...), the Middle East and the
East (Asiatic/Asian States etc...) because of its
geographical location. It would probably mean the end
of Republic of Armenia if it ever were to pick a
position of the west or east. Now we must remember
back during the days of Armenia Minor and how it was
crushed by invaders from the east because the west did
not want to send military reinforcements to throw back
the invading armies. Now the threat still exits but
rather than coming from the east only, Armenia is
crammed in the middle and huge amounts of pressure is
being exhibited towards the state. Now for a state to
be in such a position, it requires a large military to
support itself from outer attack. For example Turkey
to the west would be a cause for concern. If ever
Turkey ever decided to attack Armenia (their target
was Yerevan as I remember) just as it did back in the
days of Nogorno Karabakh war? What kind of defensive
capabilities does the military have, I know you
probably wouldn't be able to answer this, but even
politically what can Armenia spur up at the last
moment, will Russia step in? Would Russia risk its own
solders to defend Armenia? Wouldn't it be a smart idea
for Armenia to build up its military to the point of
exhausting any military possibility of attack against
Armenia (I am not talking about offence I am talking
about defensive possibilities, treaties, defense pacts
etc...)? For this to happen Armenia would have to leave
some agreements and treaties it signed when it gained
independence from USSR. Azerbaijan is not a very
capable enemy; their military is disorganized and
infective. So wouldn't it be the right course of
action for Armenia to secure its boarders, reinforce
itself to the point that Turkey would think twice
before attacking, there is always a possibility that
Russia would give up its protection, this was the case
in history.

My second question concerns our diplomatic situation
with Georgia. I have been hearing lots of Armenians
being discriminated and Georgia is pressuring them to
change their way of life. The Georgian government is
forcing them to use Georgian as their main language,
and Armenian churches independence and right to
practice is under question. I have also heard that
these churches are losing their own property to the
Georgian Orthodoxy... Is there anything that Armenia can
do to stabilize and put pressure on Georgia to stop
this irrational, disrespectful, and childish behavior
towards Armenian Citizens of Georgia? If this does not
stop, and Georgia does not change its ways, what would
the course of action be held against Georgia if all
else fails?

Thank you Foreign Minister

Mikhail Astvatsaturov

OSKANIAN: It is not a policy of neutrality, but a
policy of complementarity that has resulted in
Armenia's having good relations with all the important
power centers: Moscow, Brussels, Washington. We
actively work at and develop relations with them, as
well as with our northern and southern neighbors. For
the record, let me say again, we also would want to
have good neighborly relations with Turkey, but it is
Turkey which continues to refuse to establish formal
relations even as we continue to discuss the bilateral
issues about which we differ. Regarding our ability to
defend ourselves, we feel confident that in our
military capacity, even as we insist that there are no
problems which can't be resolved through diplomatic
channels. Regarding our relations with Georgia, we
agree that this is a critical relationship, both given
our geography and our history. Georgia is our path to
Russia and to Europe. At the same time, Armenians have
been and continue to be an integral part of Georgia.
Our governments cooperate to make certain that all
problems are resolved in an equitable manner and that
the sizable Armenian minority in Georgia is able to
benefit from political and economic reforms within
Georgia.

[email protected], Dallas, Texas. USA, 2006-07-03
02:18:

I am not sure if this question will relate to Mr.
Vardan Oskanian but I will ask anyway.

Do you think Armenia is strong enough militarily to
defend it self from the naighbouring Azarbaijan.
Thanks, God bless Armenia

OSKANIAN: Armenians are confident in their military
capacity, and are not concerned about Azerbaijan's war
rhetoric. We hope however that this capacity will not
be tested and that the conflcit will be resolved
diplomatically and peacefully.

Sam, USA, Aliso Viejo, 2006-07-03 01:10:08

There is only one city where people desire to live;
Yerevan ('Erevan) for the whole period of Armenia's
existence as an independent state (after USSR
collapse). This is because Armenia's entire economy is
concentrated in this 1.5 mln population city. Is there
any public information available for EVERYONE to see
all governmental/private economic development plans
throughout Armenia? Don't you see this as a threat to
Armenia's survival as a state? Imagine that if 'Erevan
will fail in some very bad circumstances (lezus
papandzvi) Armenia will become a history forever.

OSKANIAN: Armenia's Poverty Reduction Strategy,
developed in cooperation with the major international
organizations, does indeed focus on the rural areas.
In addition, new proposals are being developed and
will soon be made public that will focus on this very
crucial need -- to improve living standards outside
Yerevan.

Emil Karapetyan, USA, Los Angeles, 2006-08-03 04:18:43

(Feel free to translate into Russian)

Mr. Vardan Oskanyan,

To my greatest sympathy and respect to you as a
greatest politician Of Republic of our County
(Armenia) allow me to address you the question that
perhaps most Armenians wonϢt grant me the credit
but still I would like to get an answer directly from
you.

Mr. Oskanyan, why now days Armenian governmentϢs
official orientation is fully dedicated to Russian
military support, alongside with difficulties that two
counties have in various financial issues such as Gas
fees, factories owned by Russian companies on the
territory of Armenia, dramatic increase of nationalism
in Russia against Armenians (not specifying the
comments of Luzhkov, who said that their biggest
problem are Armenians, Georgians, and Azeris). I can
bring more facts to your attention where Russians are
not really buying the fact that we are their strategic
partner in the region but as a Foreign Minister
IϢm sure you are aware of these problems.

So are we really afraid of Turkey to compromise the
negotiations in many important issues with Russia?

Thanks in advance

Emil Karapetyan

[email protected]

OSKANIAN: Our relationship with Russia is a
relationship between two sovereign states. We do
continue to have security concerns in this region and
Russia is a strategic partner. At the same time, our
economic and social relations have historically been
positive, and for the most part, continue to be good.
Our interdependencies are also somewhat the result of
decades of integration in the same systems. That is
changing to a situation among equals. Still, there are
problems and we do try to resolve them bilaterally.

Albert messerkhanian, Montreal, 2006-09-03 08:24:37

Dear Mr. Oskanian,

I am deeply convinced that our villages which are
located on our borders are the most vunerable areas
and a special attention should be paid, is there any
particular planning for that?

OSKANIAN: Our border villages, as most of our rural
communities, are indeed living in difficult economic
and social conditions. There is a plan being developed
now, as part of the next Armenia Diaspora conference,
which will attempt to address this crucial need
through the combined efforts of Armenia and Diaspora.