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Interview: Sarkisian On Upcoming Vote, Turkish Relations, Nagorno-Karabakh

Interview Excerpts: Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian
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WATCH: Excerpts From RFE/RL's Interview With Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian sat down with RFE/RL at the weekend for an exclusive interview ahead of the February 18 vote in which the leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia will be seeking a second term in office.

In an interview with Harry Tamrazian, the director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Sarkisian discussed his competition in the upcoming vote, the state of Armenian-Turkish relations, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the outflow of Armenian citizens to Russia and the West.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, during its post-Soviet period Armenia has always had difficulties during the holding of elections. Perhaps only the first presidential election was not criticized. And after that first election, each subsequent one was more or less criticized by international and local observers and the opposition has refused to accept the outcomes of these elections. Now Armenia, as they say, like air, needs a clean vote -- that is, free and fair elections. How are you going to ensure that? How will you guarantee that the results of the elections are acceptable to Europe, the West and, most importantly, to the people?

President Serzh Sarkisian:
You know, elections in Armenia have had difficulties not only in the post-Soviet years. First, I don’t think that perfect elections were held in Armenia during the Soviet years. Secondly, maybe from your point of view the first [presidential] election was not subjected to criticism, but I think that the first elections were criticized more than our last elections. I mean the parliamentary elections.

Without agreeing with the way the question is formulated, I should say that, yes, we ought to raise the benchmark. We have always tried to hold elections that would instill both our people and our partners with more confidence, and I think that the parliamentary elections that were held in 2012 elicited more positive than negative responses. And the elections to local government bodies held in September were evaluated as elections fully corresponding to European standards. We consider these achievements of 2012 to be the lowest benchmark for holding the 2013 elections.

I am confident that we shall be able to hold such elections, because holding such elections first of all meets our own interests and then the interests of our partners. In many cases, in order to find an excuse for difficulties or other problems that emerge during elections, some start to say that we do not hold elections for the Europeans or, say, the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) -- for this one or that one. Of course, we hold elections for ourselves. But we are acting within the domain of the international community and it is a very desirable – and I would even say necessary – requirement that members of this community consider you to be one of them.

RFE/RL: After all, we have relations with the European Union…

Of course, of course, with all...So we will do everything for the results we have registered, I repeat, to be the lowest benchmark, so we will do everything to consolidate this success.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, who is the candidate against whom you are competing? Who is, at this moment, your main rival? Is it Paruyr Hayrikian, Raffi Hovannisian, or Hrant Bagratian? Or maybe someone else?

Your first word was much more correct – a competitor rather than a rival because, frankly, I have not regarded anyone to be my rival at any of the elections. We have always – and if, indeed, you look back at the electoral processes you will surely notice -- that we have not worked against anyone. We have always supported the principle of being in favor of something, not against.

And we have waged our struggle, competed so that our ideas find broader support rather than tried to expose the mistakes or weak points of others. In this sense, I think that this election will not be an exception. And despite certain circumstances, this time we will remain committed to our approach.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, opinions are often voiced today that the elections are not competitive. My question was in that sense. Anyway, do you have an opponent?

I am inclined to believe that it is not the government’s problem to nurture a competitor. I think that the task of the government is to provide a competitive environment, although this is not the responsibility of the government alone. But what should we have said? Were we supposed to go to Europe or the United States and bring one of our compatriots, force him, or were we supposed to raise someone here?

This is something that they are trying to blame us for, that we are doing. Thank God we have never done it, nor will do it, and generally this is a thankless job. I think that nevertheless we have managed to create a competitive environment and a competitive field. The matter concerns the possibilities for the expression for candidates, political forces. I am very glad that the success we registered during the parliamentary elections has been consolidated now – even though we are at the beginning of a process – as the Yerevan Press Club has already registered that the problems that used to exist at preelection stages in 2012 no longer exist at the same stage during the current election. And we should continue our way forward in the same spirit.

Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian
Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian
You know, I don’t agree with those who say that there are no strong competitors or people who could poll a significant number of votes. And who has said that Raffi Hovannisian, Hrant Bagratian, or Paruyr Hayrikian, who have merits and a track record, are easier competitors or have less experience of debate or public speaking? In general, I strongly believe that presidential elections are not restricted to just voting. Presidential elections start from elections to local government bodies, where a corresponding political party gets represented in local government bodies and then continue in parliamentary elections and finally end in presidential elections proper.

Of course it is very difficult for them because members of the Republican Party today are leaders in more than 70 percent of local government bodies across Armenia. And no matter how much they say that this is due to the use of government resources, I can never agree with that. People there waged political struggle and got into leadership positions. And why shouldn’t they use their leadership -- I mean their prestige -- for their political party or for ensuring the victory of their party’s leader? I think time is needed for our public to understand that to come out of obscurity and say I will be a president tomorrow is wrong. People become presidents with their teams, due to their track record, and not by criticizing the government.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, how do you evaluate [opposition leader] Levon Ter-Petrossian’s decision not to participate in the election?

This was his decision and I have to treat it with respect.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, do you hold meetings, consultations with the first and second presidents? And if yes, then around what issues are your discussions held?

I think that it is the goal of not only the first and second presidents, but also more or less known people, to have a better Armenia. Simply, each of us probably has his own solution to this problem. So I think these meetings, discussions, though not directly, are constantly present in our society. Once they can be expressed in the form of statements, some other time they could be in the form of interviews. But I think that they are constantly present and thank God they are present.

Of course, it would be very good if all former leaders gathered on some occasion and tried, perhaps not publicly, to hold some discussions but, as they say, hope is a good thing. I hope that one day not only the former presidents of Armenia but also former prime ministers, foreign ministers, defense ministers, people who think they made a contribution to this service, could easily gather and have discussions, without insulting each other.

RFE/RL: Do you want it to be so?

Of course I do.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, in the modern history of Armenia, the events of March 1 [2008] are marked as a unique case of violence used by the government against the opposition and the opposition electorate. Innocent people were killed. You must yourself have taken it hard. I remember one of your first interviews, there was even speculation that you did not want to assume the leadership of the country. In your program speech, Mr. President, you mentioned that during your time in office the atmosphere of intolerance was eliminated, that there is no longer an atmosphere when what the opposition says is regarded as high treason.

Now, what happened on March 1, in fact, was the display of the intolerance of that time. Looking back at that tragedy of the recent past, what thoughts do you have to share with our listeners, our viewers, and what efforts would you make to prevent such things from recurring in our society? And, most importantly, if you had an opportunity, what would you tell the families of the March 1 victims?

I deny the speculation that I even thought of not assuming the leadership of the state because that would be an instance of treachery and I have never left the battlefield during hard times. I think that in Armenia there are very few political figures who were satisfied with the course of March 1. Yes, personally, I took it hard. But I don’t think that the government is the only side responsible for the stability of the society and the state.

A burned-out car on a street in the captial, Yerevan, following deadly clashes between riot police and opposition protesters on March 1, 2008.
A burned-out car on a street in the captial, Yerevan, following deadly clashes between riot police and opposition protesters on March 1, 2008.
Yes, the government is the first to bear responsibility, but all political forces are responsible for the stability, freedom, and calm atmosphere in the country, including the political forces that always try to condition their problems and failures by the activities of the government and for which they always accuse the government. You spoke about the absence of intolerance. I would add freedom of speech, an almost 100-percent freedom of expression. These are means to, indeed, reduce animosity and intolerance inside the country. But each of us should realize that everything should be done for these processes to become irreversible. Though even in states with traditions this danger is present.

Therefore, I repeat, all political forces must feel their responsibility for stability and also for the results. The less intolerance there is, the fewer adventure-seekers we will have who want to try to use this intolerance for their own interests. You say the government used violence. But was it only the government that used violence? The government did not need that at all. Why would the government need that if it had a majority in the elections? Did it need that situation to overshadow the results of the elections? Did the government want additional difficulties? I think that the tragedy occurred because all of us were to blame.

I am not saying this on condition that if others say we are to blame what I say will be correct. If they consider that they are not to blame, at the end of the day they, too, remain alone, talk to themselves, eventually they are also accountable to their conscience. So let them think about it. I consider that all of us are to blame. If we consider ourselves to be people who have influence on the course of life but could not prevent that bad thing from happening then it means that we all are to blame.

RFE/RL: Now, Mr. President, let’s go back to your election program. You promise to reform the justice system. This perhaps is a very important matter for Armenia. It is important that you want to solve this problem and, as nongovernmental organizations like to say, eliminate injustice in Armenia. We know that during your time in office a high-ranking police officer was arrested and, as you said, he was fabricating a case against innocent people. And as a result of his activities an innocent person was jailed.

Now I will cite an excerpt from your speech at a meeting with senior police officers: “Instead of you, I feel ashamed. You should have been the first to come forward and say to that high-ranking policeman, ‘You immoral type, why are you putting our system to shame?’” Now this official is in prison, but it was only due to your interference. We know that the system needs to be reformed in order to exclude such abuse. If you are reelected, how consistent will the government be in pursuing these reforms?

Being surprised is typical of a normal person. And I am glad that people, including yourself, were surprised when a high-ranking official was arrested in Armenia. It is always so. After that, people take it for granted, as it happened in Armenia, because not one but several senior officials were arrested. It then becomes an ordinary thing and many now are not even interested in it. We do want to achieve a situation in which a person, regardless of his position, must be arrested if he commits a violation.

I always think about how to make it so that all of our citizens, broad sections of the public, understand that the situation in the country also depends on them. It seems to many that if the president wants this or that thing it will happen tomorrow. They don’t have a good idea about it. They don’t understand that appropriate conditions are needed for correct decisions to be made. With the absence of these conditions, even your most correct decision may have an opposite effect. We have such examples in our region, in our country, and I can cite them, but the problem here is not citing the examples but for us, together, to do everything depending on us to create such conditions.

I should do so by reforming our economy, our business environment, so that our GDP per capita grows, so that our only source of revenue, the taxes, give us an opportunity to pay salaries to all officials at least in the amount that could be enough for them to make both ends meet and maintain their families. Members of the public should understand that it depends on their activity. Otherwise our legislation, which is very like the European one, does not allow punishing a person whom even you know as a bribe-taker, because the bribe-giver can always say that he was just paying back his debt rather than bribing [the official].

I am not saying that this is the only reason, but I would like the political forces to understand that this law is not only for others but also for them and by their conduct and style of work they make others think so as well. This is a complex approach. It is impossible within a second, with the use of a magic stick, to change the situation completely. But it is apparent that there is certain progress. And this is not what I say -- this is the opinion of international organizations. I am certain that we have already created sufficient conditions to make the solution to this big problem visible for our society.

We, I repeat, should be able to provide social guarantees to our state officials so that they are able to perform their duties properly. There is no more dangerous person than a tired, rough, illiterate official. They harm the government in the first place. It is the matter of the government’s prestige, even if this official has no party affiliation or is a member of another party.

RFE/RL: Now a question concerning the economy. “We have been able to make Armenia incomparably more attractive to a businessman and incomparably more reliable as a country for investments.” This is the statement that you made in your program speech. You have pledged to continue efforts in this direction, but we know that in terms of economic freedom, there are a number of big businessmen in Armenia who abuse their monopoly positions.

Today, in Armenia, any person can start any business. But we know that a commencing businessman will meet difficulties in selling his or her product or service on the market. Why? We all know that this market is occupied and is divided among large producers and large importing businesses. Besides, some of these producers and importers are in parliament, and in this sense they are in a more privileged situation. We know that free enterprise and competition are very important for having a healthy economy, but often competition in Armenia does not proceed by the rules of a free market. Administrative levers are used in the process and some of the businessmen possess such levers.

Mr. President, what can you do to redress this situation, to make this field for free competition more stable?

You know, I am inclined to think that we do have problems here, but these problems are not as grave as to have a great impact on free competition and, in general, on the prospect of the country’s development. Why am I saying this? Because there are two objective criteria apart from the GDP growth. I think the first objective criterion is the ratings of prestigious international organizations. As you know, in 2012 we made big progress and by this index we are in 33rd place in the world today. That is, we are among the top 20 percent of the world’s countries. Is it a bad indication? This is a modest but sufficient, normal achievement.

A street market in Yerevan
A street market in Yerevan
The second objective criterion is the attitude of businessmen to tax bodies. As far as I can see, the animosity that used to exist between these two segments is gradually fading away. I am sure that the time when the businessmen will realize the necessity of paying taxes is not far off. I am not saying that they will realize that they should voluntarily provide some of their means to the state. No one does it with pleasure anywhere in the world, but in many places businessmen do realize that this is something that must be done.

When the matter concerns monopolies...I’d like [to say] that many critics first thought and then jumped to conclusions. Does this really depend on the environment, legislation, or the government of Armenia alone? Or is it that it does exist but at the same time there are other objective conditions as well -- that is, difficulties with communications, the inaccessibility of markets, and other circumstances. When the matter concerns starting up a new business, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, I want everyone to finally have the courage to state in public that, yes, the government must do everything; yes, the authorities must do a lot of things, but are all people capable of doing business?

After all, a certain vein is needed to engage in entrepreneurial activities, certain skills are needed. But that 99 percent of people try to do business, this is a natural, understandable desire. I think it should be no tragedy when some of them fail to do that. Because besides personal skills and other things, there are also other circumstances -- for example, the need for affordable resources. In Armenia today the average [annual] interest rate on bank loans is 11 percent in foreign currency and a little more than 12 percent in Armenian drams. This is -- by 3 percentage points -- lower if we compare it with what it was in 2008 in both cases. But is 11 percent enough for a person...?

There is also another problem. We pay very little attention to educating people. A businessman should understand what he is doing, especially a small- and medium-sized entrepreneur who cannot afford to hire consultants or business managers. There are problems. Yes, there can be no doubt that there are companies in Armenia that have a dominant position. There are state officials in Armenia who try to abuse their office. There are businessmen in Armenia who want to be solo participants of the market, monopolists. Therefore, we create appropriate instruments and try to improve the existing ones.

Today, we have an antitrust commission, which I think started to work very well and it already has results. We already have the evaluations of an international structure conducting the monitoring and also have certain progress in this field. It is typical of all markets everywhere -- be it small-, medium-sized, or large [businesses] -- but there are appropriate instruments that regulate this matter. I am confident that we will have very visible progress in this sphere during the next five years.

RFE/RL: Now about the outward migration and job creation, Mr. President. Perhaps this is the most difficult socioeconomic problem for post-Soviet countries. Every year Armenia, which is a very small country, in fact loses tens of thousands of people who emigrate to Russia or Europe or the United States. Research was published last year showing that about 55,000 Armenians acquired Russian citizenship in 2009 alone, which was the second-highest rate of citizenship acquisition among the top 10 nationalities whose representatives apply for Russian citizenship.

According to the same research, more than 272,000 Armenians acquired Russian citizenship in the period from 2001 to 2009. According to the official data of the U.S. Census Bureau, about 20,000 of the Armenians who went to the United States during the past decade have acquired American passports. Any country would consider such a loss of population to be a disaster. I am sure, Mr. President, you think so as well. But what are you going to do to stop this outflow?

Indeed, there is a problem here and this problem, unfortunately, is perhaps the biggest of all problems that we face. On one occasion I said recently that in no circumstance can a country be a prison for its citizens. That is, I think that artificially closing the border, creating artificial obstacles, may have only more catastrophic consequences. We have only one way – to create conditions in Armenia that would be, if not like, then at least close to the conditions that our citizens seek abroad.

I categorically disagree with those who sometimes speak about the lack of justice and freedom in Armenia, etc., and that this is the reason that our citizens are leaving. Because when we look at the geography of their emigration, the countries where they go, we can clearly see that these are not countries with much more justice. They mainly go after high wages and this problem indeed exists in Armenia today. I can say today that there is no problem connected with finding jobs in Armenia, but in Armenia there is a problem with finding high-paying jobs, because even if you watch TV you will see announcements every day with vacancies being offered.

We resumed the Vanadzor chemical plant and had a lot of trouble finding people who are supposed to do simple work. Today there are modern factories in Yerevan that need workers. True, the wages are low. Today, no one in Armenia wants to be paid less than 150,000 drams (about $370) a month. For one thing, it is something to be glad about, that people have higher demands. For another thing, however, it is something to worry about because people need to be paid twice as much as they are paid now for them to want to be employed.

I don’t want to go into citing different reasons, making excuses. I want to say only one thing: We always need to be careful in how we approach and deal with figures. If what they are saying now is a reality, then we would not be sitting here with you or would not be seeing anyone in the lobby of this hotel, because it is known what the population was in Armenia in 1988. It is known what annual figures they speak about. We can multiply these figures by 20 or 21 very easily and see that there is no such thing.

But even if 20,000 people leave Armenia annually, it is really a big loss for us. If we were a nation of 15 or 20 million I would consider that a positive thing if 20,000 or 30,000 people went abroad every year to make us more recognizable, create additional opportunities for investment in Armenia, integrate into different societies. It would only be beneficial to us. And I disagree with your assumption that we lose these people. We don’t lose them. We constantly think that, yes, perhaps some small part of them is lost. Perhaps some of them cannot resist other temptations. But in the main they remain Armenians, but unfortunately work for the enhancement of other countries, other economies.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, now perhaps we should pass on to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, because this is an issue that is interesting at least for our region.... I have followed the negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from the very beginning. I have covered many rounds of talks. And at least I have the impression that everybody seems to be pretty satisfied about this situation of [Nagorno-Karabakh’s] de facto independence. Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized officially, but it de facto enjoys independence.

On the other hand, we hear threats from the Azerbaijani side that if the situation continues like this they will have to resort to resolving the issue militarily, recover their territories, that they constantly modernize their army and very soon will be capable of achieving this goal. Mr. President, such threats have been made to Armenia, especially in the past few years. What do you think? Are these threats really serious? And if they are, then what steps does Armenia take to neutralize this threat?

I strongly believe that in the long term it does not suit anybody to leave the issue unsettled. First of all it is not suitable for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, then the Republic of Armenia, and I am also sure for Azerbaijan. Because living in conditions of a constant threat of war is not that pleasant. And since 1988, already for 25 years, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh has been living in conditions of this threat. Consider that there is such a threat for children, for young people, for everyone.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian meets with soldiers on frontline duty in Nagorno-Karabakh in October 2012.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian meets with soldiers on frontline duty in Nagorno-Karabakh in October 2012.
Therefore, I am absolutely convinced that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh want the problem to be settled as soon as possible. And Armenia has additional problems. Unfortunately, we are not rich in natural resources and naturally have no easy inflow of investments. We have no other means to be able to develop our economy. That is, the more open our economy is, the more developed our communications are, the easier it will be for us to do. And the situation of the unsettled conflict is a constant impediment to these circumstances.

There is also another problem. From its scarce resources Armenia has to allocate a large share for security and defense. We simply have to do it. We have to have the army that is disproportionate by its size to the size of our state. I will tell you more. It does not correspond to the dimensions of our state also in terms of its combat readiness and armaments. But we have to have a combat-ready army with modern armaments in the amount that will enable it to fulfill the tasks given to it.

Why should we be interested in having the problem linger on? I have repeatedly said -- and was frequently criticized for that – but today, too, I consider that a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem should be achieved as soon as possible [because it] will be only positive for the development of Armenia. But as they say, it takes two hands to clap. Azerbaijan’s agreement is also needed for the problem to be resolved.

But in my opinion the leadership of Azerbaijan has lost a sense of reality. In my view easy money, the petrodollars, do not have a positive effect on the leadership of this country and their appetites increasingly grow to the degree that they no longer limit themselves to regarding only Nagorno-Karabakh as theirs. They already think that Armenia, too, was created on Azerbaijani lands and that Yerevan is a historically Azerbaijani land. And this is said by the president of a country which got its name only about 100 years ago. Soon we will mark the 2,800th anniversary of the foundation of Yerevan.

It is simply unrealistic to expect in these conditions that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow we will reach an agreement, create a document by some miracle, and ensure a peaceful coexistence of the two peoples. But on the other hand I think that the leadership of Azerbaijan cannot be as shortsighted as to attempt a new gamble. After all, only 20 years separate us from the blunder of Azerbaijan when it seemed to that country that it could very easily capture Nagorno-Karabakh and thus ultimately solve that problem.

There is also another circumstance: It is clear that today’s means [in Azerbaijan] are the result of the sales of fuel resources, and these fuel resources are sold to the international community. And lately the international community on more than one occasion has proved that the presence of fuel resources does not always play a crucial role in making different decisions.

But since we, as I already said, have to deal with a country that has lost its sense of reality, or, as they say, with an irrational country, we should always be prepared to defend our people -- first of all the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, then the population of the border regions of Armenia, and Armenia in general. Therefore, we will continue to strengthen our armed forces. We will continue to be constructive. We will always be ready to continue the negotiations because the alternative is war. And as I said we do not want a war. But if we are forced to wage a war, then I think we will never fail the work of our companions, our perished heroes.

RFE/RL: Now about the current state of Turkish-Armenian relations. Mr. President, the Turkish side, as they themselves write in the media, is getting ready for an Armenian tsunami. The Turks believe that the Armenians have big plans for the centennial of the genocide and that the Turks are in for hard times. Is such a tsunami really expected?

I have no doubts that the Turks are really in for hard times. I have no doubts because having no desire to face up to history and at the same time showing European ambitions cannot be combined easily. Yes, 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of the [beginning of the] Armenian genocide. After 1915, the Armenian people made superhuman efforts to survive, to treat their wounds, so that [Armenia] could again appear as a people and a nation to the world.

Thank God our people managed to do that, and I am confident that there are all grounds for our people to last -- to last and constantly remember the genocide regardless of whether the Turks admit it or not. But memories differ. If the Turks indeed have the courage and recognize the Armenian genocide as soon as possible, I think our people could have some understanding toward the people of today’s Turkey, the government under which the genocide was admitted.

Yerevan residents lay flowers at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in the capital in April 2012.
Yerevan residents lay flowers at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in the capital in April 2012.
But as long as the Turks refuse to admit the genocide -- moreover, continue to deny it -- naturally, any representative of our people will always bear in mind and constantly consider this fact in his or her actions. The problem is not only that there was the genocide and this genocide must be admitted. It’s not only that we must respect the memory of the victims. The thing is first of all that by admitting the genocide, future genocides are prevented, and also a possibility is created for eliminating the consequences of this genocide.

And until the consequences of the genocide are eliminated – and this is not a matter of one day, a year, or even 10 or 20 years – this crime will always be like a sore spot on a human body. This crime will always remind us of itself. There is no doubt that this is going to be like that. With this pain in our heart, we still tried to establish certain relations with the Turks, but everyone was witness to how the Turks refused to live up to their commitments. We appeared before the foreign ministers of the countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council and signed a document and the Turks refused to implement the provisions of that document.

I think there are two causes. The Turks, indeed, have a complex and don’t want to face up to history. And secondly, today they have a complex because of their fraternity with the Azerbaijanis. Or maybe it’s not a complex, but their fraternity with Azerbaijan is an obstacle for them. You know that the Azerbaijanis made a big noise [regarding the genocide issue]. In any case, I consider that our initiative was useful and all our partners realized who we have to deal with. On the other hand, what kind of state are we, what kind of government are we, what resolve and goals do we have?

But with all that said, I still don’t think it is appropriate to compare the genocide [affirmation process] to a tsunami. They have failed to understand what pain we have. And I don’t think that the 100th anniversary is a watershed and I don’t think that we are in a 100-meter race, covering a distance of one meter a year, and that upon reaching the 100th meter we will stand or expect any big victory.

No, this is a landmark and we, of course, will reach this landmark. And I think both the state of Armenia and the pan-Armenian organizations worldwide will naturally become more active in connection with this anniversary. But to say that we are going to make a storm in the isn’t our goal. Our goal is for the Turks to admit the Armenian genocide. I am convinced it will happen. But the sooner it happens, the better, because denying the genocide means continuing to commit genocide.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, one question in the end. In your programs you promise to make drastic improvements in the economic and social situation in Armenia. In the West, they usually ask the incumbents why they couldn’t realize that during their first term in office. How would you answer this question?

As far as I know, they also say that they have done this or that, have new programs and now want to realize them. But I will answer a little bit differently, because your question about Karabakh led me to thinking and prompted me to remember what difficulties we experienced at the beginning of the war and what efforts we made in order to stop the Azerbaijanis, who already reached [the towns of] Martakert [and] Askeran. And that moment is very dear to me. But for that moment, we would not have had our subsequent successes.

The same is here: I highly evaluate the efforts that we made to eliminate the consequences of the global financial-economic crisis. You know, it is always easy to criticize and it is always easy to say from the side that our country is small and ask why the global crisis should have had any impact on it. One can always find an occasion to criticize the government and belittle its work. But I think that today we have an economy that is completely different from what it was before the crisis. We can compare the structure of our economy and see it.

On the other hand, the results that we have today are not that small. International institutions, leading banks, suggest that the world economy grew by 2 to 3 percent in 2012. We had 7 percent growth. Now, is that good or bad? It can’t be considered bad. I can also cite other indices. I can say that our exports every year grow by an average of 15 percent. This is a modest figure, but it is good. This 7 percent economic growth was first of all promoted by a 10 percent growth in industry and agriculture. And this is, to say, the good aspect, a good indicator.

Why am I speaking about it in detail? I am doing so in order to answer your question in the end with one sentence. We have prepared all grounds for having much bigger successes in the next five years. I’d also like to add that promises are always present in political life. During all elections there are promises, there are big pledges and small promises, but the leading political force always ought to try to set higher standards. And even if it does not achieve these standards, it is still the right thing to do.

I was obliged to speak about the North-South highway, which is a project worth several billion dollars, so that after two or three years of speaking about it we started the work. I had to speak about the railway, the nuclear power plant, otherwise these project worth billions of dollars would not have been set going and be in the process of implementation now. There is only one promise that I think should not be given unless you’re absolutely sure you can keep it, and we have given this promise to our people. It is the promise to work every day, from morning till night. And I think we have kept this promise. How successful we have been so far? Maybe not as far as we ourselves would want, but we have fulfilled our promise. Thank you.

Translation by Suren Musayelyan

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