Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
ArmInfo’s Interview with Ivlian Khaindrava, expert at the Tbilisi-based International Republican Institute
by David Stepanyan
Would you share your forecasts about the presidential election results in Georgia?
The intrigues of the upcoming presidential election in Georgia are two. Will Giorgi Margvelashvili, representative of the ruling coalition, win the election, or a second round will be announced? Who will take the second place, David Bakradze or Nino Burjanadze? Overshadowed by Bidzina Ivanishvili, Margvelashvili will have to try his best to somehow mobilize the voters who support Ivanishvili. Consequently, he may fail to get 50% of votes in the first round. Nevertheless, he cannot but win the election in the second round, because Bakradze's voters will never vote for Burjanadze and vice versa. As regards the second place, if Bakradze takes the second place, the balance of forces after the parliamentary elections of 2012 will be generally confirmed. If Burjanadze takes the second place, she may demand snap parliamentary elections. It will be a "flawed" demand, as she refused to run for parliament in 2012 denying the possibility to change anything through elections. She was mistaken, actually. Nevertheless, Burjanadze will claim adequate representation in the parliament for her party if she takes the second place in the presidential race.
Actually, Georgia is a non-competitive transit country for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Do you think Georgia derives maximum benefit from it?
I do not think that it is right to seek maximum gain from the relations with the closest neighbor. Quite the contrary, the countries should sacrifice part of their benefits today for more important and long-term goals. In Europe they have already realized that and stopped scrupulously calculating their own profits. As a result, the Schengen Area and eurozone were created. The Georgian leadership observes this approach and enjoys a similar attitude from the leaderships of Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
In what fields could Tbilisi and Yerevan promote their relations and cooperation today?
Not so long ago, at a meeting of Georgian and Armenian experts, I called Georgia and Armenia a EU-friendly zone. After all, Armenia followed Georgia's example and lifted visa requirements for the EU citizens. In addition, it has become much easier and comfortable now for the people to pass the border crossings and customs points between our countries. The perspectives would be wider if the two countries continued simultaneously moving towards the EU. Unfortunately, the situation has changed after 3 September, as Armenia was distracted to another path. But this does not mean that the promotion of cooperation will automatically stop. In this light, I'd like to outline the upcoming Georgian-Armenian Conference on Transboundary Cooperation to be held in Stepanavan with the support of the EU. Promoting human contacts, providing and learning reliable information about each other is of utmost importance for our publics. We must not allow minions and parapolitical speculators to stir up international conflicts from domestic problems that have always been and will always be in the lives of the two neighbor-states.
After Armenia had taken a decision to join the Customs Union, Russian experts started speaking of possible recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. They also say that Azerbaijan can prevent this by Eurasian integration only. How promising is this policy of “soft pressure” on Baku?
Russia manipulates pressure upon Yerevan as well as Baku, Tbilisi, Kiev and Chisinau. I cannot call it "soft force" when, for instance, they mean billion dollars weapon delivery, or blackmail in the context of energy supply. Russia will do what is beneficial to itself and at the time it wants. This is the rare occurrence when I agree to the viewpoint of the incumbent President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, which he expressed very much emotionally when making a speech at the UN General Assembly. As regards other countries, even Belarus, the most independent country from Russia, as well as other countries of the CIS, CSTO and SCO did not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
What are the prospects of the Russian policy of creation of a Eurasian Union in the post-Soviet area through economic and political pressure on the post-Soviet countries given that no other methods are observed, unfortunately?
Fortunately, no other ways or temptations are observed, I would say. Therefore, the Eurasian Union based on compulsion cannot have any prospects today. We used to live under compulsion for a long period of time. However, we have not lost the hankering to freedom and sovereignty.
Global politics is experiencing sharp fluctuations directly affecting the South Caucasus and the neighboring regions. The Syrian situation is one of the examples. What can these fluctuations do to small countries such as Georgia and Armenia?
Any upheavals more or less revoice even in the most far away points of our global world, especially that diastrophic movement happens in the neighboring country. Various risks increase in such cases especially for such small countries like Georgia and Armenia located at the lines of the civilized crackings. I think that we would feel ourselves more secure if the South Caucasus were an integrated region in the single system of collective security, but not a tinderbox, which every busybody in town may blow up. First of all, we should blame ourselves for that. However, not such countries determine development of events in the world policy, and those which determine development of events have often started doing that in an off hand way. What do we have to do? We should keep head down and should not put unattainable goals, but be steady in our purposes, which are in line with fundamental interests of our peoples.
What changes do you think the country’s foreign policy needs?
The foreign policy of Georgia needs no changes. It needs to be conducted more effectively and it definitely needs to be better understood by certain politicians of the West. For instance, a group of representatives of the European People's Party have been under Mikheil Saakashvili's admiration for a long period of time and do not want to see where our country has moved to during the second term of his presidency. Such politicians had better think about how and why Armenia has been drawn away from under their nose at this stage, as the interest in Europeanisation of the South Caucasus is not of the unilateral nature.