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September 8, 2006

ACNIS Considers Prospects of Armenian Peacekeepers in Lebanon

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a foreign policy roundtable entitled “Armenian Peacekeepers in Lebanon?: Pros and Cons” to discuss the viability, against the backdrop of new geopolitical realities, of deploying an Armenian peacekeeping contingent in Lebanon.

ACNIS director of research Stiopa Safarian greeted the audience with opening remarks and deliberated on Armenia’s potential role in the shaping of the Greater Middle East. “What occurs in the Middle East today has certainly passed well beyond the perimeters of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and involves new realities that are forming in the region. The foreign policy of Armenia cannot treat the current happenings with indifference. In the interests of European civilization and security, in the spirit of peace, and as a sign of traditional warm relations with the Arab world, this policy should play a unique role in the strengthening of regional peace. Hence, a peacekeeping mission to southern Lebanon, where thousands of Armenians live, provides one such opportunity,” Safarian mentioned.

During his policy intervention, Yerevan State University lecturer and former Ambassador Davit Hovhannisian examined developments in the Middle East and Armenia’s position on them. What were the consequences of the Israeli-Hezbollah confrontation? In Hovhannisian’s view, the recent conflict weakened the US platform on this issue; it allowed Iran the chance to temporarily divert the world’s attention from its nuclear plans; Syria could not prove that this war was an outcome of the withdrawal of its military units from Lebanon; and the myth about the invincibility of the Israeli army and intelligence disintegrated. “Given that we have a very large Armenian community and a Catholicosate in Lebanon, Armenia cannot monitor the war there without interest or concern,” Hovhannisian emphasized. He also added that Armenia’s participation in the peacekeeping mission would bring nothing but positive dividends to the country.

In his address, Armenia’s former Minister of Defense Lieutenant General Vagharshak Harutiunian reflected on the military aspect in the possible dispatch of Armenian peacekeepers to Lebanon. The general likewise is confident that “Armenia must absolutely partake in the peace force, but it has to determine the correct means of participation. This is our duty since we have historically-profound and strong relations with, and a huge Armenian community in, Lebanon.” Harutiunian also noted that the presence of Armenian peacekeepers in that country is in Israel’s interests as well because this would prevent the Israeli towns from becoming targets of missile attacks from that area. In General Harutiunian’s view, this mission is beneficial for the two countries, for Hezbollah, and for the Armenian community of Lebanon.

In his assessment of the Arab-Israeli conflict, political board secretary Edward Antinian of the Liberal Progressive Party underlined Israel’s right to live peacefully and exist in its historic homeland. Before sending troops to Lebanon, he said, it is imperative to consider our interests and clarify our mandate. “In order not to damage our country’s reputation in the end result, multilateral discussions and debates as well as a general consensus are in order prior to making such a responsible decision,” Antinian noted.

The participants in the ensuing discussion included director Alexander Iskandarian of the Caucasus Media Institute; political analysts Tatul Hakobian and Davit Petrosian; Egyptian chargé d’affaires Abdelmohsen Said Shafey; Ruzan Khachaturian of the People’s Party; Anahit Aghoyan of the National Democratic Union Party; Gevorg Kalenchian of the Heritage Party; lecturer Yevgeniy Ponomariov from the Moscow State University of Economics, Computer Science and Statistics; professors Haik Demoyan and Haik Kocharian of Yerevan State University; Armen Aghayan from the “Defense of Liberated Territories” social initiative; and several others. The absolute majority of expressed opinions were in favor of sending Armenian peacekeepers to Lebanon, while the continued absence of invited representatives from Armenia’s relevant ministries bespoke the country’s official position on the matter.

Founded in 1994 by 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 2006, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am


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