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FM Oskanian Participates in Conference on Wider Europe Initiative

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  • FM Oskanian Participates in Conference on Wider Europe Initiative

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia
    Contact: Information Desk
    Tel: (374-1) 52-35-31
    Email: [email protected]

    Armenia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vartan Oskanian, participated in a
    conference on Wider Europe - The New Agenda, in Bratislava, Slovakian, on
    March 19. The conference, attended by presidents, prime ministers and
    foreign ministers from Europe, North America and the CIS, focused on
    Europe's Wider Europe Initiative. In a panel on Europe's Black Sea and
    Caucasus Neighborhood, the Prime Minister of Romania and the Foreign
    Minister of Bulgaria joined the presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia, and
    Armenian's Foreign Minister Oskanian to speak about the prospects for the
    Caucasus in a future, wider Europe. Following statements by President
    Saakashvili, who recounted recent events in Georgia and their implications
    for Georgia's European future, and by President Aliyev on Azerbaijan's
    economic and political prospects, Minister Oskanian spoke about Armenia's
    expectations of Europe, and responded to Azerbaijan's standard accusations
    which were repeated by President Aliyev in his statement.

    In the margins of the meeting, Minister Oskanian met with NATO Secretary
    General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and they discussed the recent murder of an
    Armenian officer at a NATO Language Training program, in Budapest, Hungary,
    by an Azeri officer. They also discussed Armenia-NATO relations.

    Minister Oskanian also met with the co-chair of the Minsk Group who were in
    Bratislava to attend the conference. The Minister will meet with them in
    Prague later this month.

    Minister Oskanian was interviewed by Azerbaijani, Slovak and Armenian
    journalists, about the Conference.

    Below is the entire text of Minister Oskanianıs extemporaneous comments on a
    panel on Europeıs Black Sea and Caucasus Neighborhood
    At a Conference on
    Wider Europe: The New Agenda
    Bratislava, Slovakia Friday March 19, 2004

    First let me say that Iım honored to be present here, in this distinguished
    gathering, and let me also say that the government and the people of Armenia
    appreciate this initiative. The Wider Europe initiative, and the Caucasus
    inclusion in it, is an important initiative. It is a clear signal from
    Europe to our region, to the 3 Caucasus republics, that indeed there are
    prospects for these three countries to be integrated in European structures
    and especially to become part of the European family. And the fact that two
    presidents of Caucasus republics and I (representing my own president who
    could not attend for reasons beyond his control) are here is testimony of
    the fact that the European direction is high on the agenda of all three

    I recall in the early 90s, there was a debate within the Council of Europe
    about whether the Caucasus belonged to Europe and to that organization. The
    debate ended with a resolution that indeed the three Caucasus republics do
    belong to Europe. And the membership accession process began at that time.
    That was 1992. Before 10 years were over, Georgia first, then Armenia and
    Azerbaijan also joined as members of the Council of Europe. But those years
    of the accession process were extremely useful in advancing democracy, human
    rights and rule of law in each of our three countries. In other words,
    Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia became the beneficiaries ­ not just of
    membership itself, but of the process.

    A month ago, in Brussels, the Council of Ministers asked the Commission to
    make a recommendation before the end of the term of the Irish presidency
    back to the Council of Ministers on the issue of including the Caucasus in
    the Wider Europe ­ New Neighborhood Initiative. I want to draw a parallel
    between this and the 1992 decision by the Council of Europe to consider the
    Caucasus as part of Europe. We ourselves as leaders, and historians, will
    look back at that date as marking the beginning of the process of accession
    of the three Caucasus republics into the European Union. I have no doubt
    that this road, too, will be difficult and tortuous, but I also have no
    doubt that we will get there. Because we got the signal from the European
    Union that yes, indeed,, the three Caucasus republics, if they meet the
    criteria, someday, down the road, can be considered for membership in that

    This is extremely important. It gives new hope, new prospects to the
    Caucasus and the three republics. But we have to make a clear distinction,
    so we do not have any false illusions. The European Union offers us the
    prospect, not the promise. We have to make a clear distinction. What we are
    getting today, and what we will hopefully get before the Irish presidency is
    concluded, is a prospect, but not the promise. This is clearly understood by
    Armenia, and I have no doubt that it is understood by our neighbors. But it
    is we in the Caucasus who will turn that prospect into a promise. The sooner
    we do that, the better it will be for the region and for the countries that
    comprise that region. Thatıs why putting not just our own houses, but the
    whole region in order, is extremely important. President Saakashvili was in
    Yerevan and in Baku recently. He was visiting the two neighbors. Both in
    Azerbaijan and in Armenia, he spoke about the common Caucasus, a free trade
    zone, deeper integration. We share that vision President Saakashvili, and we
    would like to work towards that end. We would like to see Azerbaijan also
    join in, not just through Georgia, but to accept that the three of us must
    move in that direction.

    Let me not underestimate the true problem that we face. There are indeed
    obstacles which stand in the way of Armenia and Azerbaijan fully engaging in
    regional cooperation and integration.

    That problem is the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. But we have to be realistic.
    We have to look at this conflict from the perspective of the future, not
    from the perspective of what we have on the ground at this moment. Thatıs
    not to say we can ignore the past or ignore history. Nor can we ignore what
    we have now, but we must look to the future. Thatıs why the European
    prospect gives us a better context not only to advance democracy, human
    rights and rule of law in our countries, but also to try to put regional
    conflicts, ethnic conflicts within that global process. If we can do that,
    we can succeed in resolving even the most problematic, the most contentious
    problems, and among them, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

    I must say frankly, I was disappointed to hear President Aliyevıs statement
    today and the way he approached the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. At least in
    this forum, he should have put a different light on this issue and should
    have looked to the future.

    President Aliyev, Armenia is not an aggressor. Armenians are not aggressors.
    Youıre not the vanquished, weıre not the victors. At this moment, we are
    both victims. We have to work so that in the future, we both become victors.
    This phase of the conflict is only one frame in a much longer sequence of
    frames. We can not just look at this one frame and make a judgement. This is
    not the end. The conflict is not over, and weıve never claimed anything
    beyond what we think we deserve -- that the international community look at
    this from the point of view of the rights of the people who live on those

    Yes, there are refugees. But on both sides. Weıre tired of hearing the
    number one million. Yes, there are one million refugees ­ but thatıs a
    cumulative number. There were 400,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan before
    this conflict began. President Aliyev, where are those people? Arenıt they
    refugees? If they are not living under tents as a showcase to the world,
    that does not mean that they do not exist. They do exist. There are refugees
    from both sides just as there is suffering on both sides. Both sides have
    certain rights that need to be addressed. I understand that you want to
    recover the territorial integrity of your state, but we want to see the
    people of Nagorno Karabakh and their right to self-determination respected.
    They donıt want anything beyond a normal, peaceful life. They want to join
    their brothers and sisters in Armenia, as people throughout the world have
    done throughout history. They want to belong where they do belong. Thatıs
    what they want and what Armenians want in the region.

    Let me tell you this: we have no claim to anything beyond the right of the
    people of Nagorno Karabakh to self-determination to be recognized. We have
    to look to the future, put this conflict within the context of integration
    into the European Union. We still think that we can begin cooperating in our
    region. We can work together on a second track, parallel to the Nagorno
    Karabakh conflict negotiations and try to make the two complementary. We can
    work to create a better environment within which we can address and resolve
    the Nagorno Karabakh conflict for the betterment of our two countries and
    our two peoples.