The National Citizens' Initiative
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel.: (+374 - 1) 27.16.00, 27.00.03
Fax: (+374 - 1) 52.48.46
E-mail: [email protected]

September 9, 2004

National Citizens' Initiative Examines Armenia's Place in Regional Security

Yerevan -- The National Citizens' Initiative (NCI) today convened a
specialized policy discussion on "Armenia in the Current Security
Systems of the Region" to discuss optimal options for Armenian
security amid a rapidly changing region undergoing global geopolitical
developments. In view of Russia's apparently scaled-back, and the US's
and European Union's evidently growing, impact upon the region the
roundtable brought together policy makers, public figures, academic
circles, and representatives of the mass media and NGO communities
to consider Armenia's challenge of making a strategic choice among
the available security systems in the region in order best to meet
its needs and avoid becoming the "odd man out."

Given the fact that Armenia is the sole regional member of the
Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), while its South
Caucasus neighbors aspire for NATO accession, key questions arise. In
which security system should Armenia take part in the future,
is it possible to combine close cooperation with both systems on a
complementary basis, how real are the prospects for the establishment
of a common Caucasian security system? These and other issues critical
to the future of Armenia formed the day's agenda.

Hovsep Khurshudian, analyst of the Armenian Center for National and
International Studies (ACNIS), greeted the participants and capacity
audience with opening remarks. "We should seek ways both to provide
for the security of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh and to foster
their sustainable economic and human development. Otherwise their
safety would be endangered in the near future," Khurshudian maintained,
attaching importance to making correct choices in view of contradictory
events and in particular NATO's enhanced role in the region.

In a paper on "The Prospects for Forming an All-Caucasus Security
System," Giro Manoyan of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
reflected on the perspective of shaping a common Caucasian approach
based on the region's place at the crossroads of European, Eurasian,
and Middle Eastern security spaces. "The perfect form for the
provision of regional security is the inclusion of all the states of
the region within the same system. However, at present that is not yet
possible to achieve," Manoyan asserted. In his opinion the peoples of
the region hold different perceptions on security matters; for some
it is a guarantee to protect what they currently have, whereas for
others it is a way to bring back their losses. Manoyan is convinced
that high living standards, economic growth, and democracy will play
a large role in accomplishing security.

ACNIS analyst Stepan Safarian focused on regional security guarantees
in reference to the results of both a specialized questionnaire and
a public survey on "Armenia's National and International Security in
the Next
Decade," conducted by the Armenian Center for National and
Studies in August. "The problem is that Armenian society perceives
both NATO and CSTO with reservations." The speaker sees a future
Armenia within the same security system as its neighbors. Otherwise,
the alternative will lead to "closed gates and regional crises." The
main impediment to formation of a shared system in the South Caucasus
is the existence of non-resolved or "frozen" conflicts in the region.

Against the backdrop of pipeline policies and the region's inclusion
at the forefront of the Euro-Atlantic agenda, Yerevan State University
lecturer Aram Haroutiunian focused on "NATO or Collective Security
Treaty Organization, European Union or CIS?" In his assessment Armenia
faces the following four challenges: the Ankara-Tbilisi-Baku triple
arc, the possibility of sudden political volte-faces in the neighboring
republics, the Karabagh challenge, and the efforts to resolve other
regional conflicts by force, that is insatiable revanchism. On
the NATO-CSTO dilemma he opined: "It is expedient to preserve the
traditional strategic relations within the CIS, which is a condition
for maintaining the equilibrium among regional forces. Otherwise,
we might increase the level of our vulnerability." As for NATO, its
penetration into the region is happening step by step. The Pankisi
operations were a vivid example of this, Haroutiunian said.

The remainder of the session was devoted to exchanges of views
and policy recommendations among the public figures and policy
specialists in attendance. Noteworthy were interventions by MP Grigor
Haroutiunian of the People's Party of Armenia; former minister
of state Hrach Hakobian; Aramazd Zakarian of the Republic Party;
former presidential adviser Levon Zourabian; Artak Poghosian of the
Republican Party; Edward Antinian of the Liberal Progressive Party;
Haroutiun Khachatrian of the Noyan Tapan news agency; Narine Mkrtchian
of the National Press Club; Petros Makeyan of the Democratic Fatherland
Party; Samvel Shahinian of the National State Party; and many others.

The National Citizens' Initiative is a public non-profit
association founded in 2001 by former minister of foreign affairs
Raffi K. Hovannisian, his colleagues, and fellow citizens with the
purpose of realizing the rule of law and overall improvements in the
state of the state, society, and public institutions. The National
Citizens' Initiative is guided by a Coordinating Council, which
includes individual citizens and representatives of various public,
scientific, and educational establishments. Five commissions on Law
and State Administration, Socioeconomic Issues, Foreign Policy,
Spiritual and Cultural Challenges, and the Youth constitute the
vehicles for the Initiative's work and outreach.

For further information, please call (3741) 27-16-00 or 27-00-03;
fax (3741) 52-48-46; e-mail [email protected]; or visit