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Talk with an Ambassador: Arman Kirakossian

20.02.2015

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Armenian News-NEWS.am agency together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia launches a new series of interviews titled “Talk with an Ambassador”. The first interview is with Armenia's Ambassador to Austria, permanent representative of Armenia to OSCE Arman Kirakossian.

How are the relations between Armenia and Austria developing in recent years? The Armenians showed interest in the repair of the stage of Yerevan's Opera House by Austrian experts.

Over the past three years Armenia-Austria relations have reached a qualitatively new level as a result of mutual high-level visits. In 2012 President of Austria Heinz Fischer paid a visit to Armenia that was marked as the first high level visit of an Austrian official and was dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations. The visit was important in terms of strengthening of economic component of the bilateral cooperation: a business forum, signing of a number of agreements. As a result, we enhanced relations with the Austrian Development Agency that is carrying out several projects in Armenia. Among the most successful ones is repairing of the Opera and Ballet Theater, funding of the program on optimization of legislation, support of Armenian-Syrian refugees, Austrian hospital in Gyumri.

In April 2014, the regular meeting of Armenia-Austria inter-governmental commission was held where the sides discussed prospects of cooperation on agriculture, tourism, culture and energy.

 

Finally in late June 2014 President Sargsyan paid an official visit to Austria when a Declaration on friendly relations and partnership was signed.

During the visit, an agreement was reached on the implementation of programs to re-equip the Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall and repair the building of the Academic Theatre after Sundukyan. During the visit, the opening of “Armenia” multifunctional cente was held in Vienna that will contribute to the development of the Armenian-Austrian relations in the financial, economic and cultural sectors.

Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Heinz Fischer participated in the Armenian-Austrian business forum in the Chamber of Commerce of Austria.

In September 2014 the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria Sebastian Kurz traveled to Armenia where he held meetings with Armenia's leadership. He took part in the opening ceremony of the office of the Austrian Development Agency, met with representatives of Syrian Armenian refugees, visited the offices of the Red Cross in Armenia, mother and child hospital in Gyumri.

In January 2015 Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan traveled to Austria where a memorandum on cooperation in art and culture was signed.

In 2015, the documents will be signed on cooperation in the fields of education and agriculture.

 

The Armenian communities in German-speaking countries are not that large. How long do they live in Austria and what contribution do they make?

There are nearly 5,000 Armenians in Austria. The overwhelming majority live in Vienna and the outskirts of the capital, a small groups live in Salzburg, Linz and Graz. The Armenians first settled in Austria in the seventeenth century, while the Mechitarists [congregation of monks of the Armenian Catholic Church founded by Abbot Mkhitar Sebastatsi] moved to Vienna in 1810 after separation from the Venice order. In 1990s Armenians from Azerbaijan and Armenia moved to Austria. The Armenians are engaged in industry, construction, trade and services, as well as in arts.

A prominent center of preservation of Armenian cultural values and the Armenian studies is the Order of Mkhitarists, the monastery and church of which is located in Vienna. The Order has a library of manuscripts which contains about 2,600 texts in the Armenian language, a rich collection of Armenian media articles.

There is the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church with the church administration and pastor. In the 1960s the church of St. Hripsime was built where the Sunday school of the Armenian community opened. There is a number of NGOs and unions.

We pay great attention to the development of relations and cooperation with the Armenian community of Austria. While in Vienna, the President of Armenia, among other places, visited the Order and the Church of Mkhitarists as well as Hripsime Armenian Apostolic Church.

Franz Werfel, an Austrian writer famous for his novel about Genocide, had to flee the Holocaust. This year marks the 125th anniversary of his birth. Will the Armenian side participate in the events? What events will take place in Austria ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide?

A commission dealing with the coordination of events on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide has been working since early 2014. The commission is headed by Armenia's Ambassador and consists of representatives of the Armenian organizations. Numerous events have been held since last April. For example, the Armenian organizations of Austria submitted a petition on Armenian Genocide recognition to the Austrian deputies, NGOs and journalists.

I would like to note this year's events: parliamentary discussion in the European Union House, the 125th anniversary of Franz Werfel that will be marked in the National Library, a musical festival “Echo of Armenia”, exhibition dedicated to Armenian Genocide, screening of a film, scientific forum and classical music concerts. The events will be widely covered by the Armenian and Austrian media.

You are representing Armenia not only in Austria, but the international organizations located in Vienna, including in OSCE. How do you assess Armenia's participation in the work of organization?

First of all I would like to note that OSCE is one of the major regional organizations in the world and unites 57 countries in the territory stretching from Vancouver till Vladivostok. The organization is a platform of a political dialogue for security issues, including the settlement of conflicts.

Armenia is actively participating in the multilateral cooperation within OSCE that is first of all conditioned by the fact that the negotiations on resolution of Karabakh conflict continue within the OSCE in the format of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

Armenian leadership has consistently promoted the view that the conflict resolution should be based on the rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to self-determination. The OSCE member states are briefed on the approaches of Armenia and Karabakh (Artsakh). Armenia uses OSCE platform in order to raise issues of Turkey's policy of denial of the Armenian Genocide, its rejection of diplomatic relations with Armenia, the blockade. OSCE concept of security is comprehensive, including military-political, economic, environmental field, the sphere of human rights. Mission of Armenia to the OSCE is involved in dialogue in all planes. Priorities of our state are strengthening the regime of conventional arms control in Europe, the establishment of equal and mutually beneficial regional economic cooperation, protection of rights and fundamental freedoms. With the help of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, programs are conducted in all these three areas to strengthen democracy in Armenia, the rule of law and human rights, security sector reform and sustainable economic development.

How active is Armenia's cooperation with other organizations based in Vienna?

As you know, the United Nations Office as well as the headquarters of other international organizations are based in Vienna, and one of the important components of my work is the role of the Permanent Representative of Armenia to the following international organizations: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO), IAEA, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

 

I would like to note that the Permanent Mission of Armenia is actively cooperating with these organizations, in particular with UNIDO. A number of joint programs for the development of industry and strong economic growth in Armenia are being implemented. We have effective cooperation with the IAEA to meet the commitments on the safe operation of the power unit of Metsamor NPP. Armenia is working with UNODC in the fight againts organized crime, corruption and illicit drug trafficking.

In 2013, at the invitation of Armenian Foreign Minister UN Deputy Secretary General, the head of the UN Office in Vienna, Director of UNODC Yury Fedotov visited Armenia. During the visit, Fedotov praised the mission of the Armenian leadership in the struggle to achieve international goals of the UN.

We also have cooperation with the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) located in Vienna, as well as with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development. The goal of Armenia's mission is to serve as a bridge between the Armenian authorities and all these structures.

 

Historic works of your father telling about the Armenian Genocide are one of the first such publications in the Soviet Armenia. How much were you affected by the work of your father? When did you realize you want to choose the path of diplomacy?

Although my father, a historian and politician John Kirakossian, served as a Minister of Foreign Affairs of Soviet Armenia in 1975-85, I did not have any desire to become a diplomat. I was very impressed by the work of my father in the field of Armenian political studies. I chose the profession of a historian, in particular the diplomatic history of the Armenian Cause, and joined the Scientific Information Center of Social Sciences of the Academy of Sciences. Perhaps my close cooperation with my father and the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the publication of modern materials on the Armenian Cause played a role in appointing me to the post of the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs immediately after Armenia's independence.

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