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November 20, 2007

ACNIS: Armenian Youth Debate

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened on November 17 a policy discussion in order comprehensively to examine the current dilemma within Armenia’s external policy with respect to making a choice between Russia, and the West. The meeting brought together students from the leading institutions of higher learning, young political activists, and political scientists.

Welcoming the audience with opening remarks, ACNIS research coordinator Syuzanna Barseghian underscored the need for student involvement toward shedding light on this matter. “Instead of national interests, the direction of Armenian foreign policy is very often decided on the basis of deep-rooted stereotypes, and now it is up to the young generation to change this situation.” Barseghian also pointed to the results of several public and expert surveys, conducted by ACNIS, which show a clear difference of opinion between the body politic and policy specialists regarding this issue.

In his intervention, Hrair Manukian of the Armenian State University of Economics (ASUE) explored this matter from the perspective of national interests and noted that a country’s external policy must first reflect such interests. “Let us accept this question as our starting point: What are the imperatives of Armenia’s development and prosperity of Armenians, and are our measures taken toward solving the problems in—or against—the interests of Russia, US, and Western Europe?,” Manukian noted.

In his turn, Armen Vardanian of ASUE expressed a more unequivocal opinion. In his view, the shared historical past of the Armenian and Russian people and the specific political and economic facts show that “the bearing of Armenian foreign policy has no alternative to Russia.”

According to the next speaker, Sevada Gevorgian of ASUE, when choosing a foreign policy course the first precondition must be the lifting of all blockades. In his words, this is the reason why Armenia suffers from numerous political and economic setbacks. “Russia hinders the settlement of the Artsakh issue and Armenian-Turkish relations, whereas the US supports the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, the stability in the Caucasus, and the prompt resolution of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict,” Gevorgian maintained. He also emphasized the necessity for Armenia’s membership in NATO and its inclusion in the security system consisting of its neighbors.

The policy roundtable concluded with an exchange of views and policy recommendations among university students, civil activists, and political scientists. In consideration of the viewpoints presented by the students, political scientist Edward Antinian likewise offered his expert conclusions.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2007, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am ; or visit www.acnis.am.


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