"DON'T USE THE PAST AS A BLOCKADE FOR THE FUTURE"

(The exclusive interview of the President of Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe (PACE), Rene van der Linden, to Armenian
Mediamax news agency, April 2006)

- What are your expectations from the parliamentary elections to be
held in Armenia next year?

- Our Rapporteurs will visit Armenia this year and they will prepare a
report. I expect that we will have a debate in the Parliamentary
Assembly on this report next January. And then we will see what's the
situation, what has been done, what are the shortcomings, and we will
urge the Armenian government to take their commitments and implement
them.

- Despite numerous efforts and funding provided by the international
community for the development of the regional cooperation in the South
Caucasus, little has been achieved. Do you think such cooperation is
possible before the resolution of existing conflicts?

- It remains always difficult to solve conflicts. But when I visited
the region it was clear that on both sides there was desire to settle
the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

I am sure that in terms of young people it's necessary to solve this
problem. To my mind there are a lot of people outside Armenia who are
pushing the Armenian government and the opposition in a certain
way. And it's my conviction that the future for the young people in
Armenia is much more important than the feelings of Armenians outside
Armenia. And for that reason, it's necessary to solve this problem and
we will do our utmost in creating conditions, the right
environment. It must be helpful in creating a climate of peaceful
solution.

- Do you still believe that it is possible to resolve the Nagorno
Karabakh conflict in 2006?

- I would hope so. The international community is willing to help, but
it is difficult to solve problems if the political will
lacks. Especially it's also important that political parties,
government, opposition create climate in the whole country, in both
countries, which makes it possible for the people to accept the
solution. If you are exploiting the situation for your own electoral
advantage and if you are using this to try to get more votes in your
own country, you can't solve this problem. You also need a climate
which makes it possible also for all recipients to accept the final
agreement on this conflict.

- What do you think about the possibility of a new war between
Azerbaijan and Armenia?

- If that could be possible, it's impossible to have members of the
CoE which try to solve conflicts by using military force. In this
case, we have to discuss the membership of the countries in the
Council of Europe. It's really unacceptable that any member of the CoE
shows that it's trying to use military force to solve a conflict
between two members of the Council of Europe.

- What's your opinion about bellicose statements frequently made by
Azerbaijani officials?

- They have to be aware that if they finally use military force, to my
mind, it's over - the membership in CoE is over. They have to
decide. But I am sure nobody will accept this way of behavior.

- Energy security is becoming an important issue on the international
agenda. Can the Council of Europe play some role in it, especially
when it concerns relations of Russia and post-Soviet states?

- Of course, energy is one of the key issues for each economy. And
there are a lot of members of the Council of Europe, who are highly
dependent of imported energy from other countries. We are now thinking
in the CoE, how to deal with the situation. We are not an economic
organization and we don't deal with economic issues. But as far as
energy could be an issue in the frame of stability, peace and
prosperity, it could be an element of political settlement.

- The closed border between Armenia and Turkey remains one of the most
difficult issues in the region. Don't you think the Council of Europe
could play some role to help improve the Turkish-Armenian relations?

- The fact that both countries are members of the Council of Europe
creates an opportunity that members of Armenian and Turkish
parliaments can meet each other, come together and address the
problems from both sides. To my mind, if you live in a region and you
don't have real open contacts, trade-economic relations, personal,
cultural relations, tourism, then you don't serve your country for the
future. It's impossible to build a sustainable future in the region
where you are isolated from your neighbors. So, I am sure, I said this
also when I was in Armenia, that it's in the great interest of Armenia
to look forward and not to use the past as a blockade for the future,
and to try to find peaceful solutions.

Of course, if you want to find a solution, you will find it. But you
can never find a solution that gives you 100%. There is always a
compromise. The other side also has its arguments, and if you stick to
your arguments, to your feelings only, and you don't try to find a
solution and take into account also the other's position, it will be
very difficult to find a sustainable, peaceful solution, necessary to
build a prosperous future.

- Armenian officials have repeatedly expressed readiness to establish
relations and open the border with Turkey without any preconditions.

- Yes, but you know this problem has two sides. You know that if you
want to have an open border you must be sure that you have also
created conditions for open, transparent relations, also human and
personal relations, because trade and economic relations are based on
relations between human beings.