Question: I would like you to comment on the recent statement made by the RA President Serzh Sargsyan in the Andranik Margaryan Political School according to which painful solutions and concessions are expected in the NK problem. How do you assess this? In general, how are the issues of compromises and territorial concessions treated in Karabakh? Are you ready to cede territory?
Ashot GHOULYAN: Firstly, it would probably be incorrect for me to comment on the words of the President of the Republic of Armenia, because I am sure that those words came after a long speech with the explanation of what the negotiation process is and what kind of developments can be.
We are in a little hurry while speaking about compromises and solutions. I am deeply convinced that we are far away from that stage since what we see today in the negotiation process clearly shows that Azerbaijan is not only far from, but also has no intention to go for solutions. In this situation, indeed, we should continue to keep negotiations on, and to try to explain them some things; most importantly that the negotiations are two-way road. We exclude any situation where Azerbaijani reluctance to respond our readiness will be followed by new additional steps from our part.
I am sure that today, especially after April 2016; we imagine all the components of our security system much more properly. This system includes both territories and our economic viability, and we cannot weaken those resources. I think we should not allow such conversations ahead of time, as they only undermine our internal social strength. We begin to look for someone who says that we can cede and who says we cannot, as if the issue to cede or not depends on a particular statement. Only one subject can give an answer to all these questions - the people of the Republic of Artsakh, who has such authority granted by the Constitution.
Question: Mr. Ghoulyan, now there is an uncertainty on the Armenia’s agenda related to the Prime Minister’s post for 2018. After 2018, the negotiations will be officially held by the Prime Minister. What is the official position of Stepanakert on this issue? Who will negotiate with the Azerbaijani President: Karen Karapetyan or Serzh Sargsyan?
Ashot GHOULYAN: It’s the sovereign right of the Republic of Armenia and this fact is treated respectfully in Artsakh. There is much spoken about this. Perhaps, I can only add that I don’t think we have the answers to all the questions at the moment. The time will come and those issues will be presented to the public. I am confident that in the person of the incumbent President we have proper preparedness in the negotiation process, but at the same time I am sure that we have preparedness in another respect, since this is a process that involves a very wide range of people working on both foreign policy and security issues.
Question: In this sense, the Republicans consider Serzh Sargsyan indispensable. Mr. Ghoulyan, after all, what do you think: Karapetyan or Sargsyan?
Ashot GHOULYAN: You know, I cannot answer instead of the members of the Republican Party of Armenia. It’s the Republican Party in charge to decide.
Question: Mr. Ghoulyan, the Armenian sides toughened their positions after the April four-day war. But the Geneva meeting has shown that we have softened our position. Now, trying to analyze the Geneva meeting with a “cool head”, don’t you think that we should demonstrate tougher position, especially, taking into account the fact that the arrangement - although it was gentlemen’s - is nevertheless violated?
Ashot GHOULYAN: We have not weakened our positions neither after nor before the Geneva talks. If we have not negotiated for more than a year, and there is not even a preparation for this, it means that we should use any occasion to at least resume the negotiation process or create such conditions. In my opinion, this is just what has happened during the Geneva consultations. As for the future, I believe it should proceed in parallel with restoration of the negotiation process. The fact that after the April events of 2016 our position has become tougher is unequivocal. And there is no basis to soften our position yet.
Question: Does Azerbaijan’s behavior tell us that the war will resume?
Ashot GHOULYAN: Life has shown that Azerbaijan’s behavior is very unpredictable. Nothing today speaks of the fact that they have changed or their position is going to be softened or there are any positive processes. I am just sure that Azerbaijan has drawn proper conclusions after the 2016 April war. And today taking into consideration the behavior of our adversary we can say we are even more prepared and at any moment should be ready for such developments.
Question: In your opinion, how is possible Karabakh’s return to the negotiation table and at what stage should it be done? At the last stage, when the decision is made and you will be asked to give consent, or even earlier? And what is needed for that?
Ashot GHOULYAN: Nobody rejects Karabakh’s participation in the negotiations except for Azerbaijan. We believe that Azerbaijan’s consent on Karabakh’s participation and the establishment of necessary environment for the direct participation of Karabakh, will primarily testify that there is a concrete desire to solve the problem. The addressee of the most questions that are on the negotiation table or may arise during the talks is the Republic of Artsakh. And as long as Azerbaijan does not have such a desire or does not show that it has such a will, it means that Azerbaijan is trying to stay away from the real negotiation process. For us it is definitely clear that the Republic of Artsakh should participate in all stages of the talks.
Question: The protests and student-strikes are now taking place with the demand for a military deferment. This is the matter of both the army and the nation-army concept. How do you feel about these reforms, in your opinion, whether this will enhance overall security? Or maybe this situation will weaken it to some extent?
Ashot GHOULYAN: Indeed, I’m concerned about this issue and I think that we should not go to the contradiction what is more important: science or security? We have to combine them for a while. Security is very important but we should not ignore science as well. And the limitations to the right to deferment do not mean that we ignore the science. I believe, there will be a correct solution to this issue in Armenia. There is no right to military deferment in Artsakh. The only exception could be health problems. All young people, regardless of whether they are studying by state order or on a private basis, are drafted into the army.
Question: The sons of officials too?
Ashot GHOULYAN: Everybody. I don’t want to bring personal examples but all officials’ sons are drafted to army after 18. The President’s son as well.