BERLIN, MARCH 10, 2022 – The following interview was conducted by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach with Viktor Yengibaryan, the new ambassador of Armenia to Germany, after his appointment was announced.
Ambassador Yengibaryan, welcome to Germany! Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say “welcome back,” since you are no stranger here. You have followed courses at the Open University in Hagen and Ruhr University in Bochum. Now you are here as a diplomat; what priorities have you defined for your work?
Germany is a country of utmost importance for Armenia. Bilaterally and on the European level Armenia and Germany cooperate in all spheres of political and socio-economic life. We share common values and our people have a great sense of mutual sympathy. This year we also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries, which is an important milestone to evaluate the dynamism, achievements, developments and to address the unused potential; this is a moment to set a new and more ambitious agenda for the future. As the Ambassador of Armenia, my priority is to deepen the political dialogue, mutual support in international issues, to strengthen development cooperation, to intensify economic exchange and increase trade volumes, to promote decentralized cooperation, exchanges between scientists, artists and civil society.
During your recent visit to Saxony-Anhalt you met with Prof. Dr. Christian Tietje, the rector of the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, which hosts the Mesrop Center for Armenian Studies, and discussed collaboration between Armenian and German universities. Are there plans for student exchanges or other concrete programs? How do you envision enhanced cooperation?
Even though dynamic relations have developed, and positive results have been achieved in a number of spheres, including in the field of education between our countries, I think the existing potential has not yet been fully tapped.
Indeed, the Mesrop Center at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg plays a unique role in Armenology studies here in Germany, it is a unique institution of knowledge transfer and research. The center is funded by the university and together with Prof. Tietje we discussed the possibility of expanding our ties. On the other hand, the Martin Luther University has been a center of excellence since the beginning of the 16th century and I must affirm I was personally excited to pay a visit and make a tour through its museum.
The aim of the Embassy is to connect scientists, students and even schoolchildren. Our motto is “the more you know, the more you love,” so by connecting people we also strive for achievement of our basic goal; it is to enhance the relations between Armenia and Germany.
I was intrigued to learn that while visiting historic Naumburg, you delivered a lecture on Komitas. Can you tell me more about it?
In my view, Komitas is a symbol of Armenian-German cultural ties. At the end of the 19th century Komitas Vardapet travelled to Europe and studied Western European compositions in Berlin for three years.
The influence of the German school of composition is noticeable in his personal style, already during his stay in Berlin his knowledge of Armenian music ensured him high recognition, and he became one of the founders of the “International Musical Society,” for which he gave musical-historical lectures on various forms of expression of Armenian music from its pre-Christian roots.
Armenia’s IT sector is well-known in Germany and highly respected. On February 9, you delivered the opening remarks to a video conference organized by the “Tech Bridge” project, which focused on the German-Armenian technology partnership. I believe that was the first of four such planned events for 2022. The announcement noted that Armenia’s IT sector “offers German businesses a chance to accelerate their digitalization plans and address the lack of IT specialists in the home market.” Can you elaborate a bit?
I can happily state that cooperation in the field of IT also evolves quite dynamically, still, there is a lot of unused potential here too. In this context, one of the highlights of this cooperation was the opening of the TUMO Center in Berlin, the idea of which originally comes from Armenia. During her visit to Armenia in 2018, the then Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the TUMO Center, which offers IT learning programs, workshops and project labs for teens. The idea appealed to the Chancellor so much, that with her support a similar center was opened in Berlin, in November 2020.
Besides, in 2019 the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan paid a visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, during which he visited the Cologne Technical University. It is noteworthy that there is a memorandum of cooperation between the National Polytechnic University of Armenia and the Technical University of Cologne, which also still has to be implemented.
What role do you see for the Minsk Group of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) in helping to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Artsakh, following the 2020 war? And could Germany be a contributing factor?
Azerbaijan’s years-long military rhetoric and stance reached its peak in 2020, with the aggression unleashed on September 27 against Nagorno-Karabakh. In the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis, with the full support of Turkey and involvement of terrorist mercenaries, Azerbaijan launched a full-scale war against Nagorno-Karabakh. Due to the complete disproportion of forces and the lack of sufficient resources to fight against several forces at once, Nagorno-Karabakh was unable to hold, which resulted in loss of territories, including those formerly part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.
Consequently, a trilateral statement was signed on November 9, 2020, with the active mediation of Russia. This statement, of course, played an important role in terms of the cessation of hostilities, but the key issue, namely the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, remains unresolved. The tripartite statement is an important, but only an intermediate tool on the way to a final solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, Azerbaijan, ignoring the key principle of the non-use of force or the threat of force of the OSCE Helsinki Final Act, a key document of European security architecture, chose the path of a military solution. It must be borne in mind that the use of force in the 21st century cannot effectively resolve any conflict, it can at best only be the beginning of a new phase. Local, lasting peace in the region can be achieved not by the victory or defeat of one side, but by agreement between all parties without any coercion.
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship format, therefore, will continue to play the central role in finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict and we expect the international community, including Germany, to continue their support for this format.
How do you evaluate progress in the ongoing talks between Armenia and Turkey on normalizing relations? The talks have taken place in Moscow and have been welcomed by the US as well as Europe. Do you think Germany might have a role to play?
Armenia attaches high importance to the process of normalization of relations with Turkey without preconditions. For this purpose, special representatives from Armenia and Turkey have been assigned. Thus far, there have been two meetings between the representatives, first on January 14 in Moscow and second on February 24 in Vienna. Logically, this process should lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Of course, we highly value the support of the international community, including Germany, for this process.
Thank you, Ambassador Yengibaryan.