Foreign Minister Steinmeier has met his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian, in Berlin. Alongside bilateral and European issues, the focus was mainly on the crisis in Ukraine. On the periphery of the press conference, Steinmeier also spoke about the situation in Iraq.
In something of a reunion, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed Edward Nalbandian, Foreign Minister of Armenia, to the Federal Foreign Office on Tuesday (17 June). The two had previously met there several times in the course of Steinmeier’s first term in office. Nalbandian has been Armenia’s Foreign Minister since 2008. Steinmeier pointed to the intensity of the dialogue as evidence of the good partnership which links the two countries. Both sides also spoke in praise of their international cooperation in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised the support that Germany had lent to “Armenia’s road towards a more modern state and society” over the last two decades and pledged that it would continue to do so. On Armenia’s decision not to sign an association agreement with the EU in November 2013, the German Foreign Minister said, “We will of course respect that choice.” The issue at the time was that the association and free trade agreement that had already been negotiated with Armenia could no longer be signed, because Armenia had announced its intention to join the Eurasian Customs Union. (Find more information on the Eastern Partnership here.) Nalbandian made it clear that Europe’s support for his country’s reform processes nonetheless remained much appreciated.
Ukraine: situation exacerbated by disappointing developments
In the two Foreign Ministers’ joint press conference, Steinmeier also spoke about the latest developments in Ukraine. The Russian-Ukrainian negotiations on gas prices broke down on Monday (16 June). On 14 June, a Ukrainian military aircraft was shot down near Lugansk in the east of the country, killing many. Steinmeier called these developments disappointing, as they exacerbated the situation even further.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that this made him respect all the more new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s announcement that he intended to help further calm the crisis and continue to pursue the peace plan he had proposed. This endeavour, however, would require real control to be gained of the Russian-Ukrainian border, he went on. “We intend,” Steinmeier said, “to do what we can to assist.”
The situation in Iraq as a threat to neighbouring countries
On the periphery of the press conference, Foreign Minister Steinmeier furthermore addressed the current dangerous situation in Iraq in view of the advances made by the islamist militants of ISIS (“the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”).
He announced that the last German workers had been successfully evacuated from the refinery in Baiji (Iraq). The Federal Foreign Office crisis unit had been working “day and night”, he said, to bring this about. The evacuation had succeeded in the end with the cooperation of the Iraqi army. Steinmeier expressly thanked the staff at the crisis unit, the German Consulate-General in Erbil and the Embassy in Baghdad for all their hard work.
However, the Foreign Minister warned that the current situation represented a major threat not only to Iraq but to its neighbours too. Two key things were therefore vital, he said: firstly, Iraq’s leaders had to demonstrate their effectiveness and form a government “which appropriately represents the country’s various religions and regions”, and secondly, neighbouring countries had to recognise that they had an interest “in Iraq’s statehood being spared further erosion”.