with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan
JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General and the President will each make opening statements and then we have time for some questions. Secretary General.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Good afternoon. It's indeed a great pleasure to welcome President Sargsyan here in Brussels today.
I have just had a very good discussion with the President about a variety of issues: our operations, especially in Afghanistan; the NATO-Armenia relationship; and regional issues.
The Alliance is grateful for Armenia's support to our operations and missions in Afghanistan and in the Balkans. In Afghanistan we are very much focused right now on the future transition to Afghan lead responsibility. To that end we need to train and educate Afghan soldiers and Afghan police, so resourcing the NATO training mission remains a priority.
We either generate more trainers to support the Afghan Security Forces and underpin NATO's transition strategy or we prepare ourselves to stay longer in Afghanistan.
So every offer of dedicated trainers and mentors makes an important contribution to the success of the overall ISAF mission.
A few words on the NATO-Armenia cooperation. I can inform you that Armenia is successful in implementing its Individual Partnership Action Plan, but there is more work ahead. Defence reforms are progressing well, but they must go hand-in-hand with political reforms and democratic institution building.
I have to say that NATO is very much interested in maintaining strong links to all countries of the region and we are very much interested in deepening the cooperation with Armenia in the framework of the Individual Partnership Plan.
SERZH SARGSYAN (President of Armenia): Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. Thank you for the interesting meeting. I attach great importance to this meeting. It is the first one since the Secretary General assumed his current office. We bilaterally highly appreciated the continuing dialogue between Armenia and NATO. Such regular meetings give us opportunities to discuss all the aspects and spheres of the Armenia-NATO cooperation, as well as regional issues and challenges.
We stand ready to continue and to maintain mutually beneficial cooperation with the Alliance and the allies in all the items of the agenda of cooperation. We remain focused, of course, on the Armenia (inaudible) so Individual Partnership Action Plan implementation.
The 2009 positive assessment report on IPAP indicates Armenia's progress achieved during the past year, especially in the fields of defence and security, as well as reforms and other sectors.
The defence and security system improvements and modernization is also aimed at ensuring interoperability or high degree of interoperability with the defence and security systems of the advanced nations. Armenia recognizes the importance of a need for international joint efforts in overcoming the present-day international threats. Armenia attaches great importance to her participation in the NATO-led peace operations and the operation in Afghanistan, where Armenian peacekeepers participate.
We're satisfied to note significant improvement in our cooperation with the Alliance in emergency management. The Armenia 2010 natural disaster consequence elimination training drill in one of the regions of Armenia in September of this year will be another example of effective cooperation in this area.
We discussed with Mr. Rasmussen the current process of normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey. We presented how the Turkish side continuously comes up with preconditions and engages in a practice of delaying, gaining time, eventually failing the process, which left Armenia no option but to suspend the process of ratification of the protocols.
I presented to the Secretary General our views on this process, and I told that even this step has not sobered up Turkey, being well aware that the Armenian side would never allow Ankara to get engaged or to interfere with the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict they, nonetheless, continue on a daily basis to make the Armenian-Turkish normalization process fail completely and utterly.
During the meeting I also emphasized the need and importance for a balanced approach by NATO to the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh process. I expressed hope that future statements about NATO and documents of NATO on the Nagorno-Karabakh will be in keeping with the ministerial statement of the OSCE issued in December 2009, which evenly represents all three of the key underlying principles.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate Armenia's willingness to continue engaging in this mutually beneficial cooperation. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General.
Q: ...Rasmussen, NATO and international organizations have not spared efforts in post conflict zones to help the election of governments, to help elections of governments. Plus Sunday in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh there was a parliamentary election. The election was in line with the international democratic principles on free and fair elections and the election took place without any external support whatsoever.
The question is, how do you assess this fact? Is NATO not going to provide any support to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in these good aspirations?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I have to say that NATO has no role in assessing the elections, or in addressing the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh more in general. The Minsk Group have the lead. They have released a statement on the elections and that is for us the assessment that matters.
Of course, we all want to see this situation resolved and resolved peacefully.
Q: The question was not on the conflict or the assessment of the election. The question was really about support to the democratic institution building. This is an initiative of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. NATO and other organizations, international organization, have supported other post conflict areas. To do what is currently happening in Nagorno-Karabakh without such support, how do you assess the initiative by the people as a politician?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I believe that I actually answered your question by stressing, by stressing, that NATO's position is clearly that the Minsk Group has the lead and this is the reason why NATO, as an organization, has not engaged itself. We follow the development closely, but the Minsk Group is in the lead and should be in the lead.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Azerbaijan always (inaudible...) actually recently at the meeting with the representatives of NATO the Minister of Defence, Defence Minister Azerbaijan, Safar Abiyev, told that he can... Azerbaijan can attack all the territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia in particular.
So my question is, what special measures does NATO have... can take, to prevent any new aggression from Azerbaijan?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: As I said before, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains, of course, a matter of serious concern to NATO, and it must be resolved peacefully. But NATO seeks no role for itself, but we support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and we hope these efforts will come to fruition. Soon.
And I hope to see a continuation of the frequent high-level meetings between Armenia and Azerbaijan within and outside the Minsk process.
Q: (Inaudible...) unleashed if there is a new war? NATO will... will NATO interfere, or stay away?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: NATO is not engaged as a party to this conflict. We have partnerships with the parties involved and we urge our partners to find a peaceful solution to this, but I don't envisage an armed engagement of NATO.
JAMES APPATHURAI: Pascal.
Q: Yes. Pascal Mallet, Agence France-Presse. My question is for President Sargsyan. If, as the Secretary General has said, once or twice just now, if NATO has no role in solving the Nagorno-Karabakh question, what do you expect from NATO though, knowing that you will be never a member before this is solved because of the Turkish position. As we know other bilateral problems might force a country to wait before he can be a member, as it is in the case of Macedonia as well.
SERZH SARGSYAN: You are right in that we do not aspire to NATO membership. But I did not hear anyone say now, or I have not heard anyone before say that NATO has nothing to do with... or in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, if all of a sudden there were military action.
The OSCE Minsk Group is engaged with the conflicts of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia and Azerbaijan are both members of the Council of Europe. European organizations are engaged with the resolution process and the normalization of all relations. As far as I understand NATO is also responsible for security in Europe. As far as I understand Europe has no other armed forces.
Now if there were a military conflict in the future I do not mean that NATO would certainly come and engage in the region. My point is also clear, I think. By cooperating in the framework of an IPAP we benefit and we multiple... we augment our expertise and capacity. For security this is a key factor.
Q: My question is to the President. Armenia is a member state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. It also cooperates with NATO. Also trains instructors and officers in NATO member states and supplies a model that is similar to some allies. What is the model of the Armenian army currently, after all of this?
SERZH SARGSYAN: The Armenian army has the victorious army model. It is an army capable of combat. An army that is well organized as an institution. And it's ready to accomplish any task given to it. The Armenian army has types of ammunition that countries ten times the size of Armenia would dream of having. The professional capacity of our officers is well known to our colleagues in the West and in the East when we engage in joint operations or drills.
Our army was born and baptized in the battlefield and the core of the Armenian officers, top officers, led by the Minister and the Army Chief of Staff, have a wealth of experience of warfare and it's a positive experience, a successful experience. With all of this our army is an army that is under democratic control, that operates transparency.
It's an army that cooperates with NATO, yes, and it's an army that cooperates with the Collective Security Treaty Organization member states, Armed Forces. Let me reiterate, it's an army that is ready to accomplish any task.
We're proud of our army. But on the other hand we dream of the day when in our region there will not be huge or oversized armies relative to the capacity of our states.
JAMES APPATHURAI: Thank you very much. (Inaudible...).