Politics 20:18 10/06/2021 Armenia

Dutch ambassador: Minsk Group co-chairs are the ones to take the lead in finding more permanent solution to Karabakh conflict

Panorama.am’s interview with Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Armenia Nico Schermers.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, first of all I would like to congratulate you on receiving an Armenian PR award in the special Friend of Armenia category. Does it stimulate you to push ahead with the intensive activity that you have started since coming here?

Answer: For me it’s an honor to receive an award like this, because it’s a sign that not only myself, but we, as an embassy team, are doing things right. I see it really as an award for the embassy team, because the staff are also preparing all these meetings and helping me with my tweets, my Armenian teacher played an important role.

Question: Have you started learning Armenian?

Answer: Yes, I am learning Armenian [replies in Armenian]. I can read and write, I can say a couple of sentences and I am trying to improve that.

Question: You are the first Ambassador of the Netherlands to Armenia. You came to a country where the Netherlands did not have a so-called diplomatic "institutional memory". Taking into account your previous rich work experience in Indonesia, Australia, Egypt, what challenges did you face in Armenia, how did you adapt to the change?

Answer: I think maybe it’s nice to describe how I arrived here. That was at the end of August, I arrived by a Belavia flight on Saturday morning. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Protocol Department, picked me up from the airport, brought me to my apartment. I had to go into quarantine for a day. The apartment was rented by my colleagues in Tbilisi, we just did that with some pictures from the internet and did not know where it was.

Basically I didn’t know anyone in the city. I arrived here with my 3 suitcases, I didn’t have an office, I didn’t have a proper house, I didn’t have friends, a car. So, that was all quite interesting to start with. Days after, of course I started to meet people, I had, of course, met a number of people electronically, that’s I started to ‘build a skeleton’. After a week I was able to present my copy of credentials to the former minister of foreign affairs and then, two weeks later, my credentials to the president. In the meantime, also a colleague had arrived from the Netherlands, so there were two of us and we had settled down here in Marriott [hotel] in two rooms.

And from then first we got the war, so our plans to start building an embassy were basically hampered. We were to report on the situation here, and in that regard I was glad that I had landed before the war started, because that enabled me to inform my government about developments from this side, realizing that in many EU countries information was difficult because many European countries are not represented in Armenia.

The challenges were basically the fact that I had to really start from scratch, but I knew from the start the situation I was going to get in. What was nice in that respect is Armenia is a very warm country, very hospitable people, it’s a very safe city and country to live in. So, in that regard it was really a pleasure to be here.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, as you said, you came to Armenia during the most difficult period for us, when Azerbaijan unleashed a war against Artsakh. During all this time, the Dutch government and parliament have expressed support for Armenia through numerous resolutions and appeals. The ceasefire was established by the November 9 trilateral agreement, but the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unresolved. What is your perspective on the settlement of the issue?

Answer: Well, first of all maybe a couple of clarifications: the Dutch government has always regarded the conflict as a longer conflict than 44 days. It started 32 years ago, maybe even before that, that makes the whole conflict very complex. That’s where the Dutch government tries to seek some sort of balance in our position. Our parliament has adopted a number of motions in support of Armenia, but that is not the same as the government.

At the same time, we also acknowledge that a couple of issues are at the moment very important. Basically, I would mention the prisoners of war (POWs). That’s where the Netherlands are demanding from Azerbaijan to fulfil its commitments of the international law. We regard these prisoners as prisoners of war and they should be released according to international law.

But there are many other issues which are beyond me to speculate on how they can be solved. The Dutch position is that, well it has always been and still is that the Minsk Group co-chairs are the ones to take the lead in finding a more permanent solution. That’s what we support, all our work is done to support these Minsk Group co-chairs. And also the Netherlands is a very small country, with regard to this part of the world our interests are limited, therefore we look very much to the EU and beyond that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.

Question: Coming to the POWs, seven months after the war Azerbaijan refuses to release Armenian prisoners of war, violating international and humanitarian law, despite numerous calls, resolutions, and ECHR rulings. Shouldn't Azerbaijan's non-fulfillment of its international obligations, human rights violations, invasion of the neighboring country's sovereign territory lead to clear and targeted sanctions?

Answer: Well, that’s a question not to me to answer, because as an ambassador in Armenia, I report the situation here, what I see I give my views to my government, I give advices on certain topics, but then it’s my government in The Hague to decide on policies towards what to do with that kind of information. That is also discussed in Brussels, between the EU member states, in Vienna, between the OSCE members, etc. So, I am only in that regard giving input to my government for these kind of discussions, and then in the international multilateral fora something will be decided or not.

Question: On May 12, Azerbaijani forces invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia and captured six Armenian soldiers from the country’s territory on May 27. As far as I know, you were among the EU ambassadors, who visited the territory of the Black Lake. What can you say about your trip to the region and the consequences we are facing now?

Answer: It’s a very difficult and complex situation because we are working on the basis of non-delimitated borders. The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan has never been delimitated.

Basically, it was great that the Foreign Ministry was able to facilitate for us this trip, as it was a request form the EU to go there with the EU ambassadors to see for ourselves what the situation was. We went into the mountains and saw an area where there were a couple of hilltops where Azerbaijani flags were put on, there were Azerbaijani troops on those hilltops. And if you look at international maps, like Google Maps, you see that those hilltops are on the Armenian side of the border. So, that’s what I reported back to my capital.

We were shown some Soviet maps signed by both Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Supreme Soviet, indicating that these hilltops were on the Armenian side of the border. I cannot yet draw the conclusion that the legal border, as it’s now indicated on the international maps, is indeed the rightful border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. That’s the only question I still have. That question is basically to be answered between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and perhaps also Russia as part of the former Soviet Union to establish where exactly the border should be. And if it’s indeed on that place, then it’s clear that the troops are on the Armenian side. If for some reason the negotiations would lead to a different conclusion, that would be a different situation.

What I have seen is Azerbaijani flags on areas which are currently indicated as Armenian territory.

Question: The support of the Netherlands in mitigating the post-war effects was significant. As we saw, Dutch specialists came to Armenia to treat our wounded soldiers, a prosthetics department opened at the Homeland Defender’s Rehabilitation Center․ What other measures are being taken with the support of the Netherlands to overcome the consequences of the war?

Answer: I also want to mention that you have a very active diaspora of Armenians in the Netherlands. They are partly Dutch and partly Armenian. They feel often connected to both countries. They are Dutch citizens, they are Armenian citizens, they live in both worlds and make good connection between our two countries. Especially the project you mentioned was an initiative of that group, it was not a government-funded project.

Basically, when I arrived here I inherited a number of programs from my colleagues in Tbilisi covering Armenia before. And we are not active in the health sector as such, because we have a limited program, so we have to make choices. However, as they are Dutch Armenians or Armenian Dutchmen or whatever you want to call them, I very much support that kind of initiatives whenever I can.

At the same time, we are currently looking into possibilities to support Armenia in different ways. We have a couple of priorities also inherited from the past and that’s what we are now trying to revalue, is this still the right priority or not. Basically, that is in the rule of law, democracy issues, human rights in a wider sense, economic topics like agriculture and IT sector, maybe a little bit of tourism, if Covid allows again.

Question: You spoke about democracy, is Armenia democracy from your point of view? It is sometimes said that democracy does not work in all countries. This question comes to mind especially after the war. Being a democratic country, unlike dictatorial Azerbaijan, it did not help us to have the international community’s support during the war. Is it the best for all countries in our region?

Answer: I cannot speak for other countries. I can just say that from perspective of human rights and from the perspective of the development of a country truly developed democracy where freedom of religion, freedom of anything is possible will in the end lead to better societies. Why, because it allows all the people of your country to participate in the economy, in the social affairs, in the political arena and therefore will bring forth the best in everyone and therefore some of that will result the best situation for your country.

Is Armenia democracy? I think so.

In the past couple of months, we have seen quite some political turmoil and at some stage the issue of a coup d'etat was even mentioned. My colleagues in The Hague were asking me what is going on, they were very concerned and I told them, listen, I still see democracy at work. People are talking here, I don’t see tanks in the streets, I see discussions, demonstrations. That is part of democracy. Democracy is bringing together the voices of everyone, the opinions of everyone and that should result at some point in vision of the country to go in a certain direction.

You are now going to enter elections. I think it’s very important that everyone goes to the ballots and puts their vote somewhere because that will help Armenia in its further development whatever the outcome may be.

Interview by Anna Mkrtchyan



Source Panorama.am
Share |
Տեքստում սխալ կամ վրիպակ նկատելու դեպքում, ուղարկեք խմբագրին հաղորդագրություն` նշելով տվյալ սխալը, այնուհետև սեղմելով Ctrl-Enter:

Newsfeed

20:53
Trail of state racketeering. Court of Appeals annuls ruling on lifting the ban imposed on 75% of ZCMC shares
The RA Civil Court of Appeals ruled that the Syunik Court of General Jurisdiction erred in its conclusion on lifting the ban imposed on 75% of...
19:38
Armenian, Azerbaijani FMs to meet in Stockholm - Report
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov will reportedly hold a meeting on December 2 in...
18:53
TUMO Center in Kapan will be located in the city’s historic train station
The historic building of the Kapan railway station, dating from 1932,  will soon be revived as a new TUMO Center. The TUMO Center for...
18:41
Generation A: Edition 14. Exclusive chance to begin your professional career with Ameriabank
For the second time this year, Ameriabank opens its much-anticipated youth program Generation A.  As the Banks reports, Generation A 14...
18:05
Levon Aronian now listed on FIDE website as representative of the United States
Armenian GM Levon Aronian has completed his transfer from Armenia to the United States and is now listed as an American player on the FIDE...
17:05
Putin, Erdogan to discuss Ukraine in a telephone conversation - Peskov
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan may have a telephone conversation on December 3, during which...
16:41
Nikol’s sole demand
Seemingly, Nikol Pashinyan should have innumerable demands due to his unmeasurable anti-Armenian role. But, Nikol has actually one demand....
15:22
Tel Aviv named world's most expensive city
Tel Aviv has overtaken Paris, as well as Hong Kong and Zurich, to become the world’s most expensive city, The Independent reports,...
15:11
Armenian customs officers deployed at Goris-Kapan road in Syunik, SRC chief says
Customs officers of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC) have been deployed at the Goris-Kapan highway in Syunik Province, SRC Chairman...
14:45
Leonardo DiCaprio sells his Malibu home for $10.3 million
Leonardo DiCaprio has sold his property in California’s upscale Malibu after calling it home for more than 20 years – and...
14:33
Pashinyan dismisses head of his office's foreign relations department
Nikol Pashinyan has dismissed Hrachya Tashchyan as head of the foreign relations department of the Armenian prime minister's office. The...
14:22
Armenia’s National Security Service completes investigation of high treason case
The National Security Service (NSS) of Armenia has completed a preliminary investigation of the case of high treason by two Armenian citizens,...
13:58
Georgia reports 4,459 new coronavirus cases
Georgia confirmed 4,459 new cases of coronavirus, 3,957 recoveries and 65 deaths in the past 24 hours. Overall 45,799 remain infected...
13:43
Serzh Sargsyan taking part in international interparty videoconference
Third President of Armenia and RPA President Serzh Sargsyan today is remotely participating in the international interparty videoconference:...
13:34
Sisakan unit commander Ashot Minasyan arrested
Commander of the Sisakan volunteer unit and Artsakh war veteran Ashot Minasyan, a.k.a. Ashot Yerkat, has been arrested, his lawyer Mihran...
12:59
Yerevan History Museum hosting ‘Symphony of Silver and Ornament’ exhibition
The exhibition "Symphony of Silver and Ornament" opens at Yerevan History Museum on Wednesday, December 1. The works of Armenian...
12:33
Russian peacekeepers ensure safety of around 150 pilgrims visiting Amaras monastery in a week
Servicemen of the Russian peacekeeping contingent ensured the safety of more than 150 pilgrims when visiting the Amaras monastery complex near...
12:21
Armenia reports 502 fresh Covid cases, 43 deaths on Dec. 1
Armenia has confirmed 502 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 339,020 as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, December 1, the...
12:13
Roman Trotsenko hasn’t yet paid for 60% shares of Armenian mining giant – Pastinfo
Russian billionaire Roman Trotsenko, owner of the GeoProMining group, has not yet paid for 60% of the shares of Armenia’s mining giant...
11:19
Armenian businessman wins $1 million in Dubai Duty Free draw
An Armenian businessman in Dubai won $1 million (around Dh3.67 million) in the latest Dubai Duty Free (DDF) Millennium Millionaire draw on...
10:38
Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan to leave for Sweden
On December 1-3, Foreign Minister of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan will pay a working visit to Stockholm, Sweden to participate in the 28th...
10:28
Omicron symptoms 'very mild' so far, says South African doctor
A South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a different coronavirus strain among patients said on Sunday that symptoms of the...
10:12
Israeli cluster bombs sold to Azerbaijan kill and maim innocent Armenian civilians
By Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier Israeli journalist Yossi Melman wrote a lengthy critical article in the Haaretz...
20:31
US Embassy continues publications of historic facts to mark the 30th anniversary of US-Armenia partnership
The US Embassy in Yerevan continues publishing historic photos in celebration of the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations...
20:08
Lukashenko says he plans to visit Crimea
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told Ria Novosit that he plans to visit Crimea and agreed on it with Russian President Vladimir Putin....
19:33
Air temperature to drop by 10-12 degrees in northern regions of Armenia
No precipitation is predicted in the territory of Armenia at night of December 1, on December 3-5, Hydromet meteorological Service reported. In...
19:02
Europe and France must support the Armenian people in the face of Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression - French Senate
"France must show itself worthy of the hope it lit in the Armenian hearts," the official Twitter account of the French Senate wrote on...
18:22
Arno Babajanyan's jazz interpretations to be performed in the frames of "Yerevan Jazz Fest 2021"
The National Centre of Chamber Music and the Armenian Jazz Association organize a concert dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Armenian...
17:28
EDB publishes new report assessing the significant freight transport potential of the International North–South Transport Corridor
The Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) assessed the potential of the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) in the context of...
16:52
Russia to evacuate more citizens from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan
Russia will deliver another humanitarian aid shipment to Afghanistan on December 1, a spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Kabul told TASS on...

Follow us and get updates!

Most popular articles

{"core.blocks.header.spell_message1":"Selected mistake: ","core.blocks.header.spell_message2":"Send a message about the mistake?"}