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September 20, 2002

ACNIS Examines Peace and Security in the Caucasus

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened today a working seminar on “Military Security Issues and Prospects for Achieving Peace in the South Caucasus.” Officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and defense, national parliamentarians, ambassadors and defense attachés of foreign embassies in Armenia, representatives of international missions, and area analysts took part.

ACNIS research director Dr. Tatoul Manasserian delivered welcoming remarks. “It is our pleasure and duty to have invited government officials, political figures, and specialists to participate at this roundtable with informed and professional viewpoints on this topic of utmost importance. We trust their in-depth analysis will form a basis for candid and comprehensive deliberations,” he said.

The keynote topic, “Armenia’s Foreign Policy in the South Caucasus,” was presented by Ruben Shugarian, the Republic’s deputy foreign minister. “Armenia remains within the old security system, which consists of several components, first of all, the Collective Security Treaty in the CIS framework. Bilateral relations with Iran, Russia, and the United States also are of importance to us. An essential element is also our involvement in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. The September 11 tragedy now compels a common regional logic. The republics of the South Caucasus have different viewpoints in this regard. If we can find common ground here, the South Caucasus will become a viable geopolitical unit,” he asserted.

Arman Babajanian, international affairs analyst from the University of Southern California, presented his paper on “The Impact of Contemporary Political Processes on the South Caucasus.” “Having at its disposal super power and serious targets, and not always being guided by a strategy of principle, American policy potentially can become a destabilizing factor for the entire region,” he said.

ACNIS research associate Sergey Shakariants’s intervention explored the “American Military Presence in the Region in the Context of the Karabagh Peace Process.” “It is clear to most in the international community that the Russian concept of strategy contains primarily acceptable provisions. Moscow, however, does not take rational steps to ensure healthy competition between its strategic conception and that of the United States, in order to demonstrate which of the two approaches will be more effective in the contemporary world. As for the dividing line in the Karabagh-Azerbaijan conflict, the presence of any foreign forces there may very well produce highly dangerous results,” he said.

An open panel discussion on “Military Security and Prerequisites for Peace in the Caucasus” followed the formal presentations, with the participation of ACNIS founder Raffi Hovannisian; Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Farhad Koleini; former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian; National Assembly committee chairman Shavarsh Kocharian; member of parliament Stepan Zakarian; former Minister of National Security Edward Simoniants; military attaché of the Russian Embassy Colonel Yuri Urin; Mountainous Karabagh presidential advisers Georgi Petrosian and Manvel Sargsian; and many others.

In particular, Ambassador Koleini reviewed Iran’s role in the region and stressed the importance of promoting bilateral and multilateral relations.

Former Minister Simoniants added that the matter “is not if our inclination is pro-Western or pro-Eastern, pro-American or pro-Russian; it is something more profound. It is imperative that the system be allowed to evolve at least incrementally. And if Russia is indeed a strategic partner, it must act accordingly.”

Hovannisian offered closing remarks. “National security and international relations are intertwined concepts. We must necessarily define, and then exclusively pursue, Armenia’s sovereign interest. This is the vital benchmark for a policy of peace, security, and development.”

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi Hovannisian and supported by the Lincy Foundation and 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 2002, the Center focuses increasingly on public outreach, civic education, and applied research on critical public 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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