Feb 11 2009

Speech by President of the Republic of Armenia H.E. Mr. Serzh Sargsyan
at the 45th Munich Security Conference

Minister Bildt,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me profound pleasure to address this prestigious forum - the
Munich Security Conference. I will outline Armenia's perspective on
the hot topics of South Caucasus. I emphasize that it will be Armenia's
vision, since I am confident that there are also other perspectives in
the region. A region, which in the last two decades has re-emerged in
the priority lists of states, international organizations, analysts,
and leading media.

The South Caucasus, which for over 70 years was isolated from the
major international developments as a separate factor, now re-gains
its international importance as a transportation corridor, as a major
root for export and transit of the energy resources, a platform for
the establishment of democracy, as well as an area in the process
of assessing its own role, meaning and mission in the contemporary
world. Today, despite the existing differences and controversies,
countries of the South Caucasus, are much more assertive in assessing
their role and potential capacity to impact international developments.

Armenia is one of those countries. And it believes in values of
freedom, peace, and cooperation. We truly believe that only regional
cooperation and dialogue can help materialize our common vision for
empowerment of a peaceful and stable region. And that is exactly what
we aim our efforts and ambitions at.

Leaders from our region often make statements about their passion
for peace, cooperation and stability. All that is possible if in our
region we achieve combination, rather than confrontation of interests
of all those states and organizations, which have special and very
obvious role in the South Caucasus. If we look back at our history,
it would be obvious that superpowers and empires historically had an
ambition to establish their hegemony over this part of the world. It
is also true today. Contemporary South Caucasus is a model of the
multi-polarity of the world. It is one of the regions, where there are
seemingly unyielding dividing lines, where internationally recognized
political map is very different from the real one, where stability
is extremely vulnerable, and the re-establishment of peace requires
a joint and concentrated titanic efforts.

Dear colleagues,

We way too often speak about "what will happen" and "how will something
develop" or "how to manage" questions, while in reality, I believe,
it is correct to speak also about what lessons have we all learned
from last years' developments, from the bloody military events of
the previous year, and from the global financial-ecnomic crisis? We
- the countries of the region, superpowers and all those players,
who have interests in our region, shall learn at least from our own
mistakes what shall not be done. Year 2008 has left us lessons we
have to learn. And let me turn to three of those lessons:

First of all, I believe that the August events have made it clear
for everyone how tense the situation in the Caucasus actually is,
how serious the challenges and threats there are. This was a reminder
to all those involved that each careless word, each uncalculated step
are potent with unpredictable consequences and that the arms race,
substantial expansion of the military budget, militaristic rhetoric
charge the atmosphere, which inescapably brings to provocations,
actions and such situations, which, as it usually has been happening,
can get out of control of those who are responsible for creating such
atmosphere. It is a primer truth, that threats to use force challenge
peace, and attempts against peace shall not go unnoticed.

Second, we have talked extensively about unacceptability of drawing
new dividing lines. We should always remind ourselves, that the Cold
War is over, and the political logic and modus operandi of that big
controversy shall not survive. The world has witnessed the dangers of
the world divided by power polar systems and their controversies. We
have witnessed in our lifetime the consequences of regional divides.

The third lesson is that of the necessity to develop alternative
transportation roots in the region. Much has been said about the
importance of the region. What is the sense of talking about such
importance, when any increase in tension can nullify the whole
essence of economic significance, at least temporarily? We still have
a long way to go to empower the economic significance of our region,
and first of all with regard the development of alternative roots.

I think that the global crisis does not diminish the international
meaning of the South Caucasus region. Meanwhile, I am confident,
that the crisis and lessons it brings with it will make us switch to
more effective models of regional development in fields of energy and
transportation. Let me explain this. At the times, when world prices
for natural resources are noticeably excessive, it in past allowed,
at least in some cases, to adopt solutions, which are economically
least effective, disregarding the well-known fact that the shortest
root between two points is the direct line. Billions of dollars where
wasted to satisfy different ambitions. Now, when hydrocarbons are
cheap and the global economic activity has decreased, when returns
on investments in regional infrastructures are getting more and more
costly, the probability of masterminding irrational regional projects
will significantly decrease.

It is logical that in present conditions the factor of economic
efficiency will gain a bigger role in geopolitics, and it will become
impossible to take in-office decisions to build new transportation
lines, disregarding the existing blocked ones. This means that the
time for "political railroads, roads and pipelines" is over. One
should acknowledge a very simple reality: it is senseless to talk
about stability in South Caucasus if the policy of mutual isolation
and exclusion from regional projects continues. I regret to note that
such unacceptable approach has been many times applied to Armenia,
and it has never received a due response from the international
community. There is only one conclusion one can draw: the global
economic crisis will objectively compel the region to function as a
single economic unit, and to function more efficiently.

The way to the future of the region is that of combination of existing
interests, all other approaches are potent with new losses. Our
challenge today is not only to connect the East and West, but also
the North and South, to turn our region into a crossroad of peace
and cooperation. I am confident that South Caucasus has a much bigger
potential as a region, than the sum of their individual potentials is.

It is a region with its ancient culture, rich history and societies,
motivated by new ambitions. Whatever the geopolitics of our region is,
it is bound to include the "cultural" component, so called "human
dimension." When bombs go off in Ossetia, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel or
anywhere else in the world I feel a profound pain for a number of
reasons: first of all as a person who has personally experienced a
war, since I know the real effect of its devastating power. Second,
as the President of Armenia, knowing that it anyway does not serve
the interest of my country, and last, but not least, I feel very
troubled as an Armenian, knowing that wherever the bombs go off
there are Armenians living on both sides. In those cases, the human
factor dominates decisions I make. However, as a representative of
the Armenian people, which by virtue of its history is spread across
the world, I know very well what the "human factor" can do when used
for positive aims, I know the power of it not from analytical reviews,
but from historic experience of my own people, from my daily work.

Dear colleagues:

For the long history of the Armenian nation two recent decades on one
hand are a moment, but on the other - the whole story of our current
statehood. It is a story of a fight for freedom and independence,
for peace and a better future not only for our state but for the
whole region.

We have got to be able to learn the lessons of the history to be
able to prevent the militarization of the region and the deepening
of the dividing lines in it. We have got to be able to do it, since
there have always been labels and stereotypes on the region of South
Caucasus, and now it is the time to eliminate those for the sake of
stable and peaceful future of our states.

I believe that today there are leaders in the region, who
are ready to promote non-standard solutions, who can make
non-conventional decisions, and to demonstrate sufficient will for
their implementation. And this understanding allows me to be more
optimistic towards the future of our region.

Thank you for your attention.