Armenian leader attends EPP summit, addresses Karabakh, Turkish blockade, Ukraine crisis

President Serzh Sargsyan, who was on a working visit to the Republic of Ireland, on Thursday attended the plenary session of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Dublin. Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the opposition Heritage party, which is also a member of the EPP along with Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party, also made a surprise visit to Dublin to attend the session.

Hovannisian, who was Sargsyan’s main critic and rival in last year’s presidential election and challenged his official victory in the polls, in his speech said that the transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan was as unfair a step as the construction of the Berlin Wall. He urged European colleagues to recognize the legality of the correction of that blunder.

President Sargsyan also spoke about Nagorno-Karabakh, accusing Azerbaijan of xenophobia. “It is incomprehensible and unacceptable to us, when any manifestations of fascism are being tolerated, when evident hate speech of the President of Azerbaijan, a Council of Europe member State, is pretended to go unnoticed. For the Eastern Partnership to work effectively we should employ straight and honest talk on the issues of reciprocal concern,” said the Armenian president, as quoted by his press service.

He also reminded that Turkey, a member of the EU Customs Union, has not lifted the blockade of Armenia, even though last December the European Union made a decision to provide Armenia with an opportunity to benefit from the enhanced Generalized Scheme of Preferences.

“Nowadays, when humankind gets ready to mark the centennial of the World War I and the horror it unleashed, Turkey continues its policy of denial, attempts to bury the memory of more than one million victims of the Armenian Genocide and disregard demands of a nation that was deprived of its homeland, refuses to repent for what had been done and thus pursues a xenophobic policy that at its roots is aimed at harming Armenia and Armenians,” he said.

Sargsyan also addressed the crisis in Ukraine. “The Ukrainian events are a matter of serious concern to all of us. We regret profoundly that numerous human lives’ losses were registered in Kiev. Under the existing circumstances it is necessary to take all possible measures in order to ease the tension and find reasonable solutions by the means of a dialogue,” the Armenian president said.

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which are the founding members of the Customs Union and the nascent Eurasian Economic Union that Armenia is going to become a member of later this year, have not recognized the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. So, Sargsyan avoided making any statements about the legitimacy of the new government in Kiev, too.

Speaking about the future of international relations of Armenia, Sargsyan said: “As in the past we believe that expanding and deepening relations with a partner should not result in the emergence of new dividing lines. Armenia will continue its policy of complementing and harmonizing interests.”

“About two weeks ago the National Security Council of Armenia approved an action plan for cooperation between Armenia and the EU in 2014 and 2015. We are committed to continue our efforts at seeking effective cooperation mechanisms with the EU, which will both reflect the essence of the preceding discussions we had with the EU and are compatible with the other cooperation formats,” the Armenian leader concluded.

The EPP is known to be preparing for elections to the European Parliament due in May. However, experts believe that this time the EPP will not win the majority that it currently has and the head of the European Commission will be appointed by another political force. Experts predict that the bloc of Socialists and Democrats may become such a force.