WASHINGTON – Armenia’s ambassador to the United States, Varuzhan Nersesyan, is an experienced diplomat with many years of service. He began serving as ambassador in January 2019. Now he is adding a resolute and calming voice to the coronavirus crisis as well as contributing to the furthering of Armenian-American relations.
Nersesyan said that the embassy in Washington D. C. continues its daily activity while observing the rules of quarantine and isolation regulated by the local authorities. He declared, “We as an embassy are able to conduct our activities both from the office and from our homes, so we are flexible. At this point we are able completely to maintain our functions and our regular activities.” The consular section only accepts people with emergency cases, while routine cases are done via mail or postponed in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The consular section responds rapidly to questions placed to its hotline (202-674-9348).
He continued, “Unfortunately, the coronavirus affects all aspects of our lives, including our diplomatic activity. We cannot have our regular meetings with our counterparts as was the case just a week ago, but nevertheless we remain in touch by phone, videoconference and email. We maintain our contacts and make sure that our embassy fulfills its mission irrespective of the crisis.” Postal communication with Armenia so far continues to operate uninterruptedly.
One of the aspects of international diplomacy that has been affected is the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, which works for a negotiated peaceful solution to the Karabakh issue. The spread of the coronavirus has led the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, to announce a temporary halt of monitoring at the line of contact and at the Armenian-Azerbaijan border. The OSCE Co-chairs also made a statement, noting that they “appeal to the sides to reaffirm their commitment to observe the ceasefire strictly and refrain from any provocative action that could further raise tensions during this period. Recognizing that the region’s medical resources should be dedicated exclusively to combating the spread of the virus and treating those affected, we urge the sides to exercise the greatest possible restraint to lessen the risk of escalation including by making maximum use of the existing direct communication links.”
As the United States is one of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, Nersesyan maintains regular contact with the US co-chair, though embassies do not participate in the negotiating process. Nersesyan stated, “I hope that the opposite side [Azerbaijan] will not use this situation for provocation or escalation.”
On the other hand, Nersesyan said that the ceasefire has largely been self-monitored since 1994 and in the meanwhile, he was sure that the cochairs of the Minsk Group irrespective of travel difficulties continue their activities on a daily basis and are in touch with the parties to the conflict. Consequently, he said, “Any issues that will come up will be dealt with by the cochairs despite the temporary suspension of the monitoring.” He emphasized that this crisis was not only about Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan but was a global one, and hoped that everybody understood and would act with restraint. In any case, he said, the Armenian and Karabakh armed forces remain on high alert and control the overall situation at the line of contact.