The “Security and Cooperation in and around the Caucasus” International Conference continued in Yerevan today. Speaking at the conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian expressed hope that the discussions held at the Conference would be useful in generating innovative ideas that would help evaluate and repel efficiently security risks and threats in the region.
“The wider Caucasus region represents a hot spot on the world’s political map with almost a full set of security threats and challenges. The region is devastated by conflicts and interstate tensions, sometimes deriving from unfair historical past, the dividing lines caused by the clashing interests of regional and global actors, economic blockade and closed borders. This presents a situation in which cooperative actions and joint economic projects in energy, transportation and other sectors on a regional level could prove much more effective and mutually beneficial than policies of isolationism and enmity,” Edward Nalbandian stated.
According o the Foreign Minister, for Armenia, regional security was always a priority. “We have been stressing over and over that creation of new dividing lines is unacceptable. And differences should be settled by peaceful and political means. Threat of or use of force for the solution of conflicts is not an alternative and could seriously destabilize our region and have grave consequences.
The Caucasus needs constructive ideas and initiatives, not violence. Outbursts of violence can only fuel new animosities, escalate new tensions, and trigger new repulsive demonstrations of destruction. If we fail to come to terms with the new realities and reshape our political thinking, it would only mark a roll-back to the cold-war realities in this small yet important corner of the world, with negative consequences for all.
The foreign policy and external security priorities for Armenia, therefore, include, among others, the establishment of an overall regional security and cooperation framework. This could be achieved through dialogue, negotiations, alleviation of existing tensions and peaceful resolution of conflicts.”
Minister Nalbandian stated that Armenia openly votes for a balanced and pragmatic foreign policy that sets its targets based on its own vital interests and those of others. “Our foreign policy focuses on developing relations with neighboring countries in a way that highlights common concerns and interests, rather than differences and disparities. Advocating political positivism and pragmatism, we pledge to be ‘for’ and not ‘against.’ We are confident that through joint efforts and manifestation of political will the region’s nations can reach win-win solutions in conflict resolutions and settling other differences.”
Minister Nalbandian pointed to two main security challenges that are of a paramount importance for Armenia: the peaceful and just resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. “These challenges are different, and by no means interconnected, even if some would like to see a linkage or parallelism in their resolution,” Mr. Nalbandian stated.
According to him, the legitimate concerns of the people of Nagorno Karabakh for security have been at the heart of insisting on their internationally accepted legal right to self-determination. “Indeed, their very physical security has been at stake as a result of the conflict in the beginning of the last decade. In the international arena Azerbaijan consistently misinterprets the essence of the Nagorno Karabakh problem, trying to conceal the ethnic cleansing and its policy of violence conducted against the people of Karabakh in 1988-1991. Consequently, these actions developed into open aggression and large-scale hostilities against the people of Karabakh, involving mercenaries closely linked to terrorist organizations, and which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians.”
“Over the past fifteen years Armenia spared no effort to exert its influence and, indeed, to engage directly in the process of negotiations to find a durable and just resolution of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. The problem could have been solved as early as 2001, after the Paris and Key West talks, when we were very close to the resolution, had the Azerbaijani side not backtracked from the agreements.
Even today, we would have been closer to the resolution if the co-chairs did not spent months trying to convince the Azerbaijani side to negotiate on the basis of the proposals put forward in 2007, and known as the Madrid document the very existence of which Azerbaijani side had denied for months,” the Foreign Minister stated.
Nevertheless, according to Minister Nalbandian, the latest meetings of the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents, the Moscow Declaration, the declaration of the OSCE Ministerial and Statement made by the Foreign Ministers of the co-chair states in Helsinki, are signs of progress in the process for which the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs has proven to be the effective and credible format.
“We are hopeful that a necessary degree of a political will from Azerbaijan and denunciation of the war as an option, as well as rejection of war propaganda and incitement to hatred towards Armenia and Armenians will eventually be demonstrated in order to bring the process to its successful completion,” he stated
Turning to the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations, Minister Nalbandian said: “Over the past year, following the initiative of the Armenian President, together with our Turkish neighbors and with the help of our Swiss partners we have advanced towards opening one of the last closed borders in Europe and normalization of our relations without preconditions. The ball is in the Turkish side now. And we hope that they will find the wisdom and the courage to make the last decisive step. We wish to be confident that the necessary political will can eventually leave behind the mentality of the past.
We have been most encouraged by the support of the international community. We are well aware of the fundamental and positive implications of the establishment of Armenian-Turkish relations and of the opening of the border for the security and stability of the region.
Our motivation is clear in the case of both challenges – and that is, perhaps, one single common element joining them. It is that we should not leave the burden of our differences and problems on the shoulders of the coming generations. We must build bridges between our nations, working out mutually beneficial regional cooperation schemes. And our common objective should be shaping of a region that is safe and prosperous for all.”