UPDATE: Sep 24, 2019
Prospering Through Peaceful Political and Economic Reforms
—– Armenia is located in the highlands of the Caucasus region, and has a long history. How would you describe the features of Armenia?
Armenia is often referred to as a “survival nation.”During its four-millennia-long history, it has been located at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, different religious and cultural powers, and at times it was surrounded and subdued by powerful empires. Our nation is similar to Japan in many aspects. Due to the rugged terrains of the Armenian Highlands our people developed hard-working lifestyles. Just like the Japanese, our nation also had to deal with devastating earthquakes. Being predominantly mono-ethnic states, both of our nations stand out with their distinctive cultures, rich traditions as well as a unique language that has been preserved throughout history. Armenia also focuses on science and engineering education to produce innovation-minded experts who boost the nation’s high-tech industries. Meanwhile, there are also common challenges for both Armenia and Japan related to the rapid globalization process.
—– How has Armenia’s nation-building progressed after independence in 1991?
Immediately after independence we faced many social and economic problems which needed urgent solutions. But these challenges were met with a lot of enthusiasm by our people and an outlook to future opportunities. With international assistance and through hard work on social and economic reforms, we gradually transitioned into a democratic country with a free market economy. We are particularly thankful to the Japanese Official Development Assistance, which has been producing good results in wide-ranging areas and has clearly contributed to Armenia’s growth. Today, Armenia is a modernized country, with an open and democratic society that prides itself in its hospitality. A year ago, a week of large-scale peaceful demonstrations by the public led to revolutionary changes in the country’s political order. Our new government is currently aiming to achieve sustained economic growth as well as combat corruption and reduce poverty.
—–Japan and Armenia have enjoyed strong bilateral ties since 1992. What is your priority mission for further strengthening the relations as Ambassador to Japan?
The embassy focuses on introducing Armenia to Japan through publications, concerts, exhibitions, talks and radio/TV appearances. Armenia has a long history of wine making which is evidenced by the world’s oldest winery (6100y.o.) found in the Areni region. Armenian wines, brandy and other products are gradually gaining popularity in Japan and around the world. Armenia is a modern IT hub where the world’s leading multinational IT companies have branches, and we will host the World Congress on Information Technologies (WCIT-2019) in Yerevan this October. Last year, Armenia signed an Investment Agreement with Japan, making it the first country in the region to do so. Hence, we expect an increase in investments from Japan and further strengthening of our economic ties. The number of visitors from Japan has been growing steadily. In fact, since the opening our embassy in Tokyo in 2010 the figure grew 100 times. Last September, Mr. Taro Kono made his first visit to Armenia as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I hope Prime Minister Abe and other high-ranking officials and business leaders will follow suit soon.
—–Are there any prospects for a peaceful resolution of the prolonged Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan?
The Nagorno-Karabakh region, or as we call it Artsakh, has a very long Armenian heritage and Armenian people have inhabited this region for millennia. During the Soviet era, it was incorporated into the territory of Soviet Azerbaijan as an autonomous region. Before the collapse of the USSR, independence movements were taking place in many republics and regions, and the people of Artsakh was among the first who requested a change of their status, but the initially peaceful demonstrations, unfortunately, turned into an armed conflict. Since the 1994 ceasefire, it was agreed to negotiate the settlement with mediation of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group, led by France, Russia and the USA. The negotiations, which are based on the three major principles including respect of people’s right for self-determination, non-use of force and territorial integrity, are still ongoing. Even if it requires more years of negotiations, there is certainly no alternative to a peaceful resolution.
—–You lived in Japan for some years as Professor of ICU (International Christian University) before you became Ambassador to Japan. How would you view the current Japan?
During my work in academia, I have been involved in a wide range of activities as a foreigner residing in Tokyo. In my view, Japan is currently facing serious issues related to “rapid globalization” and as an “ageing society.” When I was a board member of the “International Society for Hospitality” in the city of Mitaka, and co-chair of the “Roundtable Committee on Internationalization” in the Mitaka-city Office, we addressed issues related to the integration of foreigners in the city, including matters of cross-cultural, health, education and language acquisition. At ICU, I founded the Global Leadership Studies – an intensive summer school for middle managers of Japanese major companies, which trains decision-making and leadership skills, with a global outlook focusing on cross-cultural competency and English proficiency. Japan’s economy must sustain its growth and high standards, and I think Japan is going in the right direction, as the serious issues I mentioned above are under scrutiny of the government and the public.
（Interview by Shu Tamaru, FEC Counsellor）