Azad-Hye, Dubai, 26 September 2006:

On 17th September 2006, Qatari based `Al Jazeera' channel broadcasted an
interview with President Robert Kocharian, conducted by Zawer Shoj.

Below are translated excerpts from the interview which covered several
domestic and foreign topics.

Shoj: Armenia is an independent country for the last 15 years. What are the
most significant achievements and failures during the same period?

Kocharian: One of our first tasks was to form a State of Law and Authority.
The most important issue in front of us was to undergo effective and active
changes and establish free market mechanism ... The collapse of Soviet Union
had brought Armenia into a difficult situation ... We needed to create the
basic components of an independent state such as governmental authority,
Army, economy, etc. ... Armenia had to face the new reality and circumstances
... Statistical figures confirm that we have coped the transitional period
with success... Nagorno Karabagh remains as the most difficult task so far.

Shoj: What are the measures you are undertaking in order to step out of the
energy crisis facing your country, knowing that Armenia does not have
natural petrol and gas resources?

Kocharian: I would not say we have energy crisis ... We do not have energy
resources, nevertheless, we are exporting electrical energy to neighboring
countries... Today we do not have any foreign debts related to natural gas or
electricity ... We are building some 50 hydroelectric stations and we had
restored the nuclear power station closed during the Soviet era... We are
thinking seriously about our energy security, this is why a second gas
pipeline from Iran to Armenia is being constructed now...

Shoj: The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the background of the
Nagorno Karabagh problem was the first bloody ethnic conflict that erupted
in the ex-Soviet Union. After 12 years of truce what are the prospects of
the peaceful solution in Karabagh?

Kocharian: I would like to clarify a point. The conflict is actually between
Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabagh ... After the collapse of the Soviet Empire
two independent states emerged: The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic
of Nagorno Karabagh. We believe that the legitimacy of Nagorno Karabagh as
an independent state is beyond any doubt. There was an attempt to subdue
Karabagh to Azerbaijan, as a result the war exploded ...

Shoj: Today some 20% of the Azerbaijani territory is under the control of
Nagorno Karabagh forces... Is there any progress in the negotiations with
Azerbaijan regarding Nagorno Karabagh?

Kocharian: The main problem is that Azerbaijan insists on the integrity of
its territory and in doing so it believes that Nagorno Karabagh should be
included in Azerbaijan. The Soviet Union was the last Empire... Dramatic
changes took place, all the map of Europe changed, have a look at what
happened in the Balkans... We are not against the territorial integrity of any
country... but we say that both Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabagh have the right
for territorial integrity, because they both have equal rights... Nagorno
Karabagh was never part of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan. I myself
was born in Nagorno Karabagh and I commanded the independent movement there
in the past ... Today a whole new generation exists, who don't know the Azeri
territories and would not imagine living in a foreign country.

Shoj: Will Armenia, or for that sake, Nagorno Karabagh raise claim to only
the administrative borders of Nagorno Karabagh or to the 20% of the Azeri
territory under the control of the Armenian forces?

Kocharian: There are two false claims, the first is the occupation of 20% of
the Azerbaijan and the second is the one million Azeri refugees. The real
figures are entirely different ... In fact the number of Armenian and
Azerbaijani refugees are the same (if we exclude Nagorno Karabagh). During
the Soviet era there were about half a million Armenians in Azerbaijan.
Where are they now? Some of them live in Armenia, others in Russia and a
third group is scattered all around the world. As far as the territories are
concerned they do not represent 20%, they are significantly less than that ...
We have always maintained and repeated that, except the corridor between
Karabagh and Armenia, we are willing to discuss the return of these
territories, something which is in fact a subject of negotiations these days
... If Azerbaijan had cared for its refugees it would have regained these
territories long time back by signing appropriate agreements ...

Shoj: What are the political ambitions of Nagorno Karabagh? Is Karabagh
aiming to be an independent state or wants to be part of the Republic of

Kocharian: The legal situation of Karabagh indicates that Karabagh is an
independent republic. The authorities there are strengthening the State
institutions. As far as Armenia is concerned, both possibilities are
suitable and I believe that in the future the relations between the two
countries will develop towards confederation ... Future generations will
define the nature of this relationship.

Shoj: The Armenian people suffered massacres in the beginning of the 20th
century by the Ottoman Empire. Today there is extensive discussion about
this topic. What are your main demands from the Turkish Government: Is it
the recognition of the Genocide and the consequent apology or you would like
to ask for compensation for the relatives of the victims?

Kocharian: Whoever has been harmed by these massacres can ask for
compensation. Many Diasporan Armenians have the legal right to demand
compensation. Armenia has its own demands, mainly due to the absence of
diplomatic relations and the natural neighborhood relations with Turkey and
the attempts of Turkey to hamper Armenia by blockading communication means,
in addition to the policy adopted by in relation to the Karabagh problem ...
We have inherited a big burden of Armenian - Turkish relations ... The past
cannot be forgotten, but there should exist a natural process of
reconciliation between the two peoples, something which requires the
acknowledgment and repentance from the side that perpetuated the mistakes
and crimes - call it the way you want -, but today there is no desire [from
Turkey] to recognize its guilt.

Shoj: According to a certain viewpoint, the issue of the Armenian Genocide
recognition has been brought up only recently, coinciding with the
negotiation of Turkish membership to the European Union.

Kocharian: The issue of the Genocide recognition has been there for a long
time. Maybe lately it was discussed in a wider context. Armenia as an
independent state has expressed its position in 1998 in the United Nations ...
This was long time before Turkey's negotiation with the European Union.
Therefore I do not want to directly connect the two issue, but during the
period of Turkey's negotiations to join the European Union the subject of
Turkey evaluating its own history is brought forward. This is why we are
awaiting the expression of repentance on what happened. There should be a
conscious and rightful evaluation of the past, in order to avoid repetition
of these mistakes in the future.

Shoj: In your opinion is that enough to start normal relations with Turkey
and how would you evaluate the nature of these relations today with Ankara?

Kocharian: Today there are no relations. Our position is very clear. We are
ready to build up diplomatic relations with Turkey today and without any
preconditions ... But the Turkish side insists on preconditions such as:
agreement with Azerbaijan, withdrawal from Karabagh ... These are unacceptable
conditions ... The Greeks could do the same by refusing trade with Turkey if
no serious steps were taken in the resolution of the Cypriot Problem, but
international experience has showed that common trade and cooperation always
help in surpassing the difficulties. For example, there is the Coral Islands
problem between Russia and Japan but no side regards this as a condition to
establish commercial relations.

Shoj: There is a neighbor with whom you have good relations: Iran. What is
your country's position on Iran's nuclear program and the pressures exerted
on Iran.

Kocharian: The relations with Iran are developed in a dynamic way. There are
no disagreements between the two countries. We have large scale trade
exchange with Iran. With the Iranians we are carrying out huge energy
projects compared to the capacity of Armenia ... We consider Iran as a major
country in the region and we have historical relations with Iran. We
consider the Iranian people as the heir of an old civilization and we
respect this civilization. The Iranian nuclear program is a very sensitive
problem between Iran and the West, especially the USA. We believe that the
diplomatic solution of this crisis is the safest way out. We believe that
sanctions against Teheran will not be effective neither will any military
action, which could have catastrophic results in the whole region.

Shoj: Armenia is the main ally of Russia in the Southern Caucasus region.
What is the secret of the good relations between Armenia and Russia?

Kocharian: We have inherited a rich load of historical relations and
cultural exchanges throughout many generations, besides the existence of
common interests for centuries. We are keeping this heritage and trying to
activate it in our common interests. Up to this point we have succeeded in
doing so ... We work according to a policy of synthesis of the interests of
the major powers in Armenia and not confrontation. We try to avoid what our
partners perceive as dangerous to their security.

Shoj: There is a large Armenian community in the Middle East. What is the
nature of the relations between your country and the Arab World. Where do
the Arab countries stand in the foreign policy of Armenia?

Kocharian: We have very good relations with the Arabs. These relations began
as a result of the bloody events that happened against the Armenians in
1915, when the Arabs embraced the Armenians in their countries and assisted
them to stay alive and sustain themselves in small Armenian societies within
the bigger Arab population. We nurture respect towards the Arabs for this
stance. For a long time the Armenians and the Arabs lived under the yoke of
the Ottoman Empire and that historical period was reflected in the
literature and the culture of the Arabs and the Armenians, relaying warmth
to the relations between the two nations. This provides a suitable
background to build relations on the official level ... Through the life of
many generations the Armenians proved that they are hard-working, loyal
citizens and real partners. Through them these positive values are conveyed
to our relations with the Arab countries. We highly value this capital, this
is why we are friends with the Arab World and we will stay so. I believe
this friendship is not built on mere calculations of interests but it is
validated through the experience of generations of our two nations.

Complete text in Arabic language at Al Jazeera website: 4861-A656-57088C49C978.htm