For Immediate Release
October 2, 2000
ACNIS CONFERENCE ON REGIONAL COOPERATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION
International Gathering Addresses the Caucasus, Challenges for Peace and Security
Yerevan, Armenia-Noted specialists and political representatives from around the world gathered in Yerevan on September 27-28 to participate in a region-wide conference on "Prospects for Regional and Transregional Cooperation and the Resolution of Conflicts."
Convened by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS), a leading foreign and public policy institute, the conference was supported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Lincy Foundation. It was conducted in the Aram Khachaturian Museum, one of the capital's many cultural settings, with simultaneous translation in three working languages, Armenian, Russian, and English.
Raffi K. Hovannisian, ACNIS's founding director and Armenia's first Minister of Foreign Affairs, opened the conference with introductory remarks and words of welcome to the thirty invited participants as well as the distinguished ambassadors, foreign diplomats, parliamentarians, civil servants, scholars, journalists, NGO representatives, and many members of the public in attendance. "It is our hope and expectation that the proceedings of this important 'trans-regional' encounter will allow for an uninhibited exchange of views and articulation of positions with an eye toward forging common ground in terms of future cooperation, confidence building, and security in the region," Hovannisian concluded.
Armenian President Robert Kocharian's message to conference participants was delivered by Deputy Foreign Minister Ruben Shugarian, who along with Deputy Defense Minister General Artur Aghabekian took part for the entire duration of the forum. Government chief of staff Andranik Hakobian conveyed the greetings of Prime Minister Andranik Margarian.
***Main Focus: From Conflict to Collaboration
During the first working session on "The Bases for Regional Cooperation: Contemporary Contradictions and Areas of Mutually Beneficial Interest" chaired by ACNIS executive director Hrach Hakobian, the speakers introduced the parameters of conflict and cooperation in and around the Caucasus.
Deputy Foreign Minister Shugarian presented the Armenian perspective on "Regional Cooperation before and after Regional Conflicts." Ambassador Marton Krasznai, director of the Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, discussed institutional priorities in "The Future Role of OSCE in Resolving Conflicts and Fostering Cooperation in the Caucasus Region." Dr. Michael Kaser, emeritus reader at Oxford University, considered "Widening the International Economic Dimensions of Potential Cooperation among the Caucasian States" as a way to counter the conflictual relations and socioeconomic decline common to the region's peoples. Dr. Igor Semyvolos, executive director of the Association of Middle East Studies in Kiev, Ukraine, addressed "Peace Negotiations as an Element of Geopolitical Maneuvers" in a comparative analysis of the Mountainous Karabagh and Middle East peace processes.
A robust debate among participants was followed by questions and answers from the audience.
The deliberations continued in the afternoon session on "Prospects for Regional Cooperation in the Spheres of Economy and Security Against the Backdrop of Regional Conflicts." Chaired by Dr. Mkrtich Zardarian, ACNIS senior associate in public policy, the presentations focused primarily on geopolitical and security issues and motivated a brisk discussion.
Turkey's former foreign minister Ilter Turkmen, now a professor at Istanbul's Galatasary University, offered a diplomatic discourse on "Security, Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus." Dr. Michael Emerson, co-chairman of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, detailed "A Supplementary Note" to the "Stability Pact for the Caucasus" that he and his team have proposed for regional integration, dispute resolution, and security. Dr. Evgeniy Kozhokin, director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies in Moscow, challenged his colleagues in a Russian overview of "Prospects for Regional Cooperation in the Spheres of Economy, Security and Conflict Resolution." Dr. Suren Zolian, rector of the Briusov Institute of Foreign Languages and a former negotiator on Karabagh, completed the circle with an essay, of both theoretical and practical application, on "Non-Recognized States in the Regional Security System."
Day two of the conference, in an attempt to explore and deepen the themes and propositions of the first day's sessions, opened with a series of presentations on "International Economic and Political Interests and Their Impact on the Prospects for Conflict Settlement and Regional Cooperation." Moderated by Ms. Aghavni Karakhanian, ACNIS analyst of trans-Atlantic affairs, session three heard Dr. Ghia Nodia, chairman of the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development in Tbilisi, who delivered a critical paper on "Turmoil and Stability in the Caucasus: Internal Developments and External Influences." Dr. Leila Alieva of Baku, currently a research fellow of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, offered a combined personal-analytical Azerbaijani outlook on "Economics and Politics in Conflict Resolution: Problems and Prospects." Lieutenant Colonel Charles Blandy of the Conflict Studies Research Center at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England brought together historical and contemporary geostrategic currents in an incisive intervention on "The Caucasus Region: Meeting the Challenge of Change." Hrach Hakobian, ACNIS's executive director and a former Armenian minister of state, concluded the panel with a philosophical and pragmatic examination of "Regional Cooperation and Conflict Resolution: Intersecting Interests or Preconditioning Relations?"
This question stimulated an engaging follow-up consideration, both scholarly and polemical, of the question whether cooperation and conflict resolution can proceed in parallel, complementing each other, or whether either one is a necessary precondition for the other. The competition and clash of ideas on these premises formed a collage of views and an opportunity to seek creative models for their implementation.
***Armenia's Role in the Region, the Region's in the World
The international conference concluded with a Summary Round Table on the Prospects of Regional Integration and Dispute Settlement. Raffi K. Hovannisian delivered a background address on "The Caucasus and Its Geopolitical Neighborhood: Horizons for Peace and Security," which posited the importance of Armenia and the entire region for overall Eurasian security. He outlined the juncture of various interests in the post-Soviet space, proffered conceptual and juridical approaches to the Karabagh question, stressed the need normalize Armenian-Turkish relations based on "an assumption of history," and sketched the imperatives and potential pitfalls for achievement of these ends and the development of a new security architecture across the area. In response, Ambassador Roy Reeve, head of the OSCE office in Yerevan, offered thoughts on "The Future Role of OSCE within the Region."
A unique meeting of views and perspectives followed, with Russian officials sharing concerns with colleagues from NATO, and with special guests representing the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran joining in a mutual search for answers. Ambassador Alexander Chepurin, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) department, and Mr. Werner Bauwens, the personal representative of NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson, each took the floor to note areas of agreement and disagreement, and invitees US Ambassador Michael Lemmon and Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Farhad Koleini (as presented by diplomat Mahmoud Asvar) engaged on issues of civilizational dialogue, state interest, and practical cooperation.
The round table closed with a focused policy statement by Armenia's Deputy Defense Minister General Artur Aghabekian; a brief reflection by Georgian Ambassador-at-Large Konstantin Zhgenti; a dramatic but collegial exchange between Ilter Turkmen and Raffi Hovannisian on the role of history, and in particular the Armenian Genocide and its legacy, in contemporary politics and bilateral relations; and critical comments and questions from the participants and audience.
In conclusion, Hovannisian thanked each speaker as well as the interpreters for their good work, and welcomed what may have been unprecedented public participation throughout the conference. He expressed the trust of ACNIS and many conference attendees that the process of regional and supraregional discourse would be continued in a systematic way in the years to come. Finally, Hovannisian noted the presence of several participants who had officially taken part in the deliberations but had not made formal presentations: Mr. Gennadiy Altukhov, chief of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's department of political analysis and planning; Ambassador Alexander Cornelissen, head of the OSCE office in Baku; Mr. Hans-Georg Heinrich, representative of the OSCE office in Tbilisi; Major General Anatoliy Klimenko, chief of the Center for Military-Strategic Studies and director of Military Sciences at the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation; Ms. Nathalie Tocci, research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels; Ambassador Andzej Kasprzyk, personal representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office; and Mr. George Zarubin, regional director of the Eurasia Foundation's South Caucasus Cooperation Program.
During their stay in Yerevan, conference participants visited the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the resting place of Armenian alphabet founder St. Mesrob Mashtots at Oshakan, the Matenadaran Repository of ancient Armenian manuscripts, the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, the Sergei Paradjanov Museum, and the Ararat Cognac factory. They also attended a special performance, titled "The Flowers of Evil," by the Yerevan Pantomime Theater and a farewell concert on the 80th birthday of world-renowned composer Alexander Haroutiunian in the capital's equally famous Opera House.
The International Conference on Regional Cooperation and Conflict Resolution came to an end with a reception in honor of the participants at the National Gallery of Art on Republic Square. After remarks by guest speaker Mr. Vardan Oskanian, Armenia's foreign minister, and ACNIS director Hrach Hakobian, the honorees and guests from government, academia, media, and the public mingled against a backdrop of duduk melodies performed by the acclaimed Gevorg Dabaghian and of piano suites by Karo and Gevorg Kalenchian. Hrach Hakobian of Armenia and Leila Alieva of Azerbaijan together cut a cake marking the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies.