Vartan Oskanian was a guest on the Al Jazeera English Broadcast's weekly Counting the Cost program, hosted by Kamahl Santamaria. The November 26 program was entitled The Euro Trigger and examined Armenia's export woes and challenges of economic diversification, Hungary's dealings with the IMF, and the role of the Eurozone crisis and Russia's economic ups and downs in global economic developments.
Last year, right around this time, Ragip Zarakolu was in Armenia at the invitation of European Armenian Federation. He came to Civilitas and met with fellow writers, publishers and students to speak about his work as a publisher, and a human rights activist. For him, the two have been inseparable. The books that his Belge Publishing House have produced over the last two decades are books which describe the abrogation of human rights for various groups – Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, and others, who continue to suffer from the Turkish government’s inability to enter the modern era.
Civilitas staff member Greg Bilazarian is featured in an article by Ben Hartman in the August 15th issue of The Jerusalem Post about Birthright Armenia program. Greg began as a Birthright Intern, and is now an invaluable part of the CivilNet staff. Read the full article below.
- You have followed the entire process of the Karabakh conflict negotiations and you know about the processes connected thereto. Do you think that the announcement of OSCE MG co-chair countries’ presidents in Deauville may support the execution of the peace agreement on Karabakh conflict as the Ambassador of France to Armenia Henri Reynaud has said?
- There have been thousands of statements like that. Personally I don’t believe that it will be possible to crack the negotiations because there are disagreements between the parties and it will be difficult to agree upon those issues.
Civilitas analyst Tatul Hakobyan was the guest of the “Question of the Country” (Yerkri Harc) talk show on Yerkir Media TV on Thursday, June 16th. The discussion evolved around the recent developments surrounding Karabagh conflict resolution. Mr. Hakobyan noted that Armenia is now in a weaker position around the negotiation table as related to domestic situation, public support, economy and other factors. He also elaborated on the history of negotiations and provided a brief analysis of what possible concessions entail. “The final agreement should be formulated in a very clear and strong manner so that sides cannot overlook their obligations,” said Mr. Hakobyan.
This week V. Oskanian was interviewed by “Mediamax” news agency and “168 hours” weekly. The interview with “Mediamax” news agency covered the issues relating to the Key West negotiations, the atmosphere and obstacles of the negotiation process, while the interview with “168 hours” weekly was dedicated to the issues of political monopolies, Armenia`s political and economic situation.
Vartan Oskanian was the guest of Aram Abrahamyan’s PS Interview program, on the A1plus internet channel on Thursday, March 31. The interview covered a host of topics including the dangers of political monopoly, Armenia’s economic dilemmas, and the efficacy of Armenia’s political institutions. Oskanian had recently published an article in Aravot Daily, edited by Abrahamyan on the topic, and the discussion revolved around the acute need for newly defined policy to support economic growth and rein in the continuing slump. Other questions, including those from the public included domestic issues, Nagorno Karabakh, genocide recognition, political engagement, and foreign policy.
The recent legislative initiatives undertaken by the government to contain inflation showed that the government is not ready to, or even worse, does not want to implement radical reforms. Inflation is not the only challenge confronting our government today. It is merely a result of a range of economic issues that need to be directly addressed. Four urgent steps should be taken to surpass the current deadlock.
Vartan Oskanian, former foreign minister and president of the Civilitas Board, will be featured in a regular Civilitas interview on issues of the day. Today, he speaks about inflation, the government's new draft law on trade and services, emigration, its effect on economic growth, monopolies, and their adverse effect on the natural development of an open market. The interviews will expose current issues of concern to the ordinary Armenian while offering a thoughtful contribution to the main discussion and highlighting priority areas for the public to deliberate.
Recently, Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobian appealed to Armenian youth around the world to come and serve in Armenia’s army, as is done in Israel. In an interview with Capital Daily, Salpi Ghazarian, Director of the Civilitas Foundation, says that so long as there is no general vision for Armenia-Diaspora relations, and no ideological underpinning, no individual program can succeed.
The journey from Turkey to Aleppo of the young girl who had lost her whole family in 1915 is the cry that is heard from the other side of the diplomacy that has been configured around the term ‘genocide’. The story of that young girl was told by her granddaughter, Salpi Ghazarian, who at one time was engaged in the efforts to arrive at diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey…
tert.am: Mr. Oskanian what is your opinion about recent developments in the Armenia-Turkey process?
Vartan Oskanian: My opinion is the same as it was at the start of this process. These documents are the product of miscalculations on both sides.
The Armenian side miscalculated, convinced that: 1. the Armenia-Turkey border opening is of existential importance for Armenia’s domestic stability and economic development; 2. it will be easy for Turkey to go counter to Azerbaijan‘s interests 3. If the document does not contain the words “Treaty of Kars,” “genocide” or “Nagorno Karabakh,” then by utilizing state propaganda mechanisms, it will be possible to convince the Armenian people that the formulations that indeed address those matters are harmless.
-Mr. Oskanian, how do you assess the fact that in Sochi, the sides agreed on the preamble to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement documents? Is this in sync with the initial principle guiding these discussions that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed?”
-That principle exists precisely for such complicated issues as Karabakh; every sentence of every relevant document is interrelated and every word is consequential. For this very reason, in agreeing on any public declaration, utmost caution must be exercised since not everything in the negotiating document is agreed to. In that regard, the declaration you cite, is at least cause for worry, since as a result of similar earlier “agreements,” whether the Meindorf or Athens declarations, Azerbaijan received plenty to use to its advantage.
Mr. Oskanian, the attention of Armenia’s political circles seems to be focused on the protocols’ ratification process. Yet, isn’t that interest already unnecessary and aren’t some things already pre-determined, so that focusing on them simply means not focusing on other more important matters?
Once these protocols were signed, the rest for me is already just a technical matter whose discussion is nearly pointless. For me, it's still incomprehensible, unacceptable and unexplainable that the independent Republic of Armenia, which as a full subject of international law, is obliged to defend our own interests, signed, without thinking long, a document which unambiguously contradicts our national interests. As you say, this situation that's been created is absurd: after this obvious capitulation, we are all, to a man, waiting and disussing what Turkey will do, whether they will open the border or not. The ball really is in Turkey's court, but i don't see that that's anything to boast about. After all these Armenian concessions, the ball should have at least been in our court. We are wasting our resources and energy on a process that is no longer under our control and which will require untold amounts of time and energy to neutralize its consequences.
Mr. Oskanian, it is obvious today that the executive branch and their majority in parliament are for signing the Armenia-Turkey protocols. It seems nothing stands in their way especially since their representatives constantly say that given the population’s grave socio-economic situation, it is obvious that they support the signing since that is the only way to have the border open.
First, there are more dignified ways to arrive at an open border, I’m certain of that. Today, it’s obvious that both in Armenia, and in the Diaspora the general mood is quite apparent. In Armenia, as a result of discussions, however superficial, and after Serzh Sargsya’s foreign visits, it’s obvious that there is a great deal of resistance to this initiative. As a result of this process, whose dangers were apparent to me early on, our nation finds itself in a complicated situation, from which the government is not trying to extricate itself; rather, it’s further intensifying it.
At the beginning of the Armenia-Turkey process, the political forces were reserved in their comments, and the pitfalls did not seem obvious to many. Was it possible to avoid publicizing these documents and to take the process in another direction?
Of course it was possible, but what we have today is the worst-case scenario. First, the process went public, which on the one hand enticed the Turkish side to exploit the process for its own sake, and as a result, important countries with differing interests engaged at very high levels.
RFE/RL: On debating members of the Armenian National Congress
VARTAN OSKANIAN: I have no problem debating anyone. I’m happy to debate any issue, but that debate must serve a purpose. Specifically on the topic of Nagorno Karabakh, I see no reason to engage in that debate because the opposition’s issue is not with me, but with the administration. So the opposition’s invitation to debate should be directed to the administration, to those conducting negotiations today. Of course we can sit and talk about history, about the past, about the last 17 years. Civilitas convenes such discussions. Perhaps in the coming months, it will be possible to convene one on the topic of Nagorno Karabakh and all those who wish to participate can come and do so. But right now, there would be no purpose to my debating the opposition. Their fundamental target should be today’s government.
Vartan Oskanian's interview with A1+ discussing negotiations regarding the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict Resolution, the OSCE Madrid Principles, and the current condition of Armenia-Azerbaijani Negotiations within the OSCE Minsk group framework.
Mr. Oskanian, the Madrid principles as they’ve been made public, are they more acceptable to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh or to Azerbaijan? In general, how do you assess that proposal?
If we’re speaking about the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, public sentiment can theoretically be divided into two segments. For one segment, any sort of concession is unacceptable. For this segment then, any document that emerges from Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, is in and of itself unacceptable. This approach is understandable but then, in this case, we must accept that we do not need negotiations, and that option depends solely on the price that Armenians are prepared to pay.
Nevertheless, if the issue is to reach a negotiated settlement, then it is important to understand that any document that is the product of Armenian-Azerbaijani talks must be viewed from two different perspectives. First, the principles on which the document is based. Second, the document itself in all its detail. For example, if one of the principles is that the people of Nagorno Karabakh have the right to self-determination, that principle is naturally considered acceptable. But in the final document, how this principle is actually formulated, is a different matter.
Mr. Oskanian, it’s been a while since the Armenian leadership declared that foreign policy should be pro-active and enterprising. In your opinion, can we assess, albeit preliminarily, the results of that approach, and generally what differences do you see between the pro-active approach and the foreign policy that came before?
About being enterprising, I want to say two things. First, before ‘initiating’ something in foreign relations, we must be able to calculate all steps from beginning to end, otherwise the initiative may work against the initiator. Second, being enterprising must be correctly understood. International relations are not static, and at different times, a country is under pressure to take or not take a step, to implement steps or counter other steps being taken in the immediate environment. In such a situation, deciding not to act requires as much initiative as deciding to act. For example, if the April 22 joint statement by the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries was the product of a pro-active policy, then deciding not to take such a step could also be called being pro-active. If participating in NATO exercises is the result of a decision to be pro-active, the decision not to participate is equally pro-active. It is important to understand the nature of the initiative. The point I want to make is if we think that it is only by initiating ever-new steps that a policy or a country is pro-active, then, in the process of reaching for that next step, we risk going down the wrong road, as we’ve recently witnessed.
Vartan Oskanian's Interview with Gala TV discussing the Civilitas Foundation's "The Right to Elect" public discussion, the 2008 Armenian Presidential elections, and the lack of 'Free and Fair Democratic Elections' in the 17 year old Independent Republic of Armenia.
Vartan Oskanian will be in Boston Wednesday June 17 at the Bentley University La Cava Center Dining Hall to speak about his new book of speeches, SPEAKING TO BE HEARD, and about his years in office. The presentation will begin at 7 and is sponsored by the National Assn for Armenian Studies and Research (the book's North American distributor) and Bentley's Global Studies Program.
Hourig Mayissian: What led you to prepare Speaking to Be Heard?
Vartan Oskanian: Even when I was in office, I was conscious that a public official—elected or appointed—has a responsibility to communicate with the public, especially in a country like ours, where every event, every agreement, every international organization, everything is new.
Vartan Oskanian's Interview with Yerkir Media discussing Armenia's Independence, Nagorno Karabakh, Shushi's & Lachin's Liberation, Armenia-Turkey Relations, their links to the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict Negotiations, the recent Russian-Georgian War, its repercussions for Armenia, and Mr.Oskanian's work while in office as Foreign Minister of Armenia from 1998 to 2008.
Vartan Oskanian's Interview with Kentron TV discussing the United Nations Resolution regarding Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan's 'Territorial Integrity', the nations who support or are against Azerbaijan in terms of Nagorno Karabakh, the position of the major powers of the United Nations, and Armenia-Azerbaijan Negotiations over the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict.
Was there a way to prevent this panic and the losses that so many have incurred?
Yes, certainly, the shock of sudden Dram devaluation would have been mitigated if the government had been frank and honest with the public, and if it had better understood the crisis. The reason the Dram fell so abruptly is because the government miscalculated. They apparently thought they could continue to sustain its artificial strength by continuing to spend dollars to do so. But, look at what we have. They spent more than $400 million just last year and then still had to go to a sudden decision to float. That is irresponsible.
Salpi H. Ghazarian, director of the Civilitas Foundation, hosted by Gala TV in Gyumrii, discusses the activities and goals of the Civilitas Foundation, and former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian's efforts to continue the use of his experience and resources toward the development of the Republic of Armenia and its society.
Vartan Oskanian of the Civilitas Foundation on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Armenian service discussing the Russian mediated agreement signed in Moscow between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the Madrid Principles, and the impact renewed Russian-American relations will have upon the South Caucasus.
Vartan Oskanian's Interview with discussing the gathering of the Armenian National Assembly, the relationship between members of parliament and society, Nagorno Karabakh negotiations and the Moscow Agreement, the negotiations in Prague, the political climate in the South Caucasus, and the responsibility of the Armenian Presidency.
Vartan Oskanian's Interview with Gala TV regarding the founding of the Civilitas Foundation, the Foundation's initiatives, Gala TV's political and economic issues, resolving the issues of Armenian Society, Armenian Civil Awareness, and Armenian Foreign Diplomacy.
Vartan Oskanian's Interview with Kentron TV discussing Armenian Foreign Diplomacy in the South Caucasus, regional cooperation and economic development, as well as former President Robert Kocharyan's administration and policies.
Vartan Oskanian's Interview with "25 Minutes" discussing the founding of the Civilitas Foundation, Armenian Political Development, Civil Awareness, Mr.Oskanian's Political Involvement, as well as the responsibility to express one's opinions and impressions freely.
I think there’s a big responsibility here. I believe NATO at least publicly but more so through diplomatic channels should talk to Russia and consider reviewing their policy vis-à-vis the Caucasus, Ukraine. I’m not suggesting that they change anything, but at least they should be prepared at this stage to sit down and talk with Russia and express the willingness to review things, to see if they can come up with an option that will be viable and also acceptable to all parties.
The overall objective of the project is to improve access to water for the population of remote villages in the region of Meghri. The specific objectives of the project are to restore and reconstruct the underground water supply system of wells and tunnels (chaheriz) in Alvank and Shvanidzor villages and to train and develop the necessary local capacity for continued further maintenance of the system.
Civilitas Around the Web
With the support of Norwegian and German governments, a few months ago the Civilitas Foundation began to conduct polls throughout Armenia. The results of the polls will be made available to the media and will serve as the topic of public discussions.
What can be expected of or for Syria in the immediate future? Can there be justice without peace? Can there be peace without an accounting and without justice? What do Syrians want? What does the international community want?
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