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Dialogue and integration as the main pillars for ensuring stability and security in the Greater Black Sea Area
12 December 2013 | Hayk Kotanjian

I want to express my gratitude for the invitation to participate in the 12th Harvard Black Sea Security Program international conference, which brings together distinguished experts in regional security dynamics to share ideas and discuss possible scenarios of development in the Greater Black Sea Area in coming 20 years.

I believe that the main path towards a more stable and secure region is through fostering integration and dialogue among the regional states, as well as the power centers involved in the Black Sea Geopolitics. Dialogue and integration are also the pillars of Armenias foreign policy. Since gaining independence in 1991 my Nation has been actively implementing the principle of complementarity in its foreign policy developing strategic partnership with Russia and promoting cooperation with the Western power centers including the US, EU and NATO. Armenia is a founding member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and simultaneously does have close relations with NATO through participation into the Alliances peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Kosovo and currently in Afghanistan and implementation of defense security reforms laid down in the Armenia NATO IPAP.

Dialogue and integration have been the key driving force for Armenias active involvement in the EUs Eastern Partnership Program with the simultaneous negotiations over the possibility to sign Association Agreement with the EU. In parallel, Armenia has held consultations with Russia over the issue of joining the Customs Union. In September 2013, Armenia made ​​a pragmatically calibrated decision to join the Customs Union which is largely due to the military security realities in the South Caucasus. At the same time, Armenia continues the constructive cooperation with the EU to further relations in different areas of mutual interest.

One of the obstacles towards a more secure and sustainable development of the Black Sea region is the unresolved Karabakh conflict and the possibility of the resumption of hostilities by the neighboring country against the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. As you know, the NagornoKarabakhRepublic was established by means of direct democracy through a legal referendum during the breakup process of the Soviet Union before the Alma-Ata Declaration on the Soviet Unions dissolution in accordance with the Soviet law of the Perestroika time. Despite the inclusion of the Azerbaijani minority into the electoral lists by the Armenian side, the Baku authorities ordered the Azerbaijani electorate to boycott the referendum. Unfortunately, the democratic path of creation of the legally valid Nagorno-Karabakh state through referendum didnt become a basis for Azerbaijani and Armenian parties for peaceful and just Karabakh conflict resolution. Instead, Azerbaijan committed an act of aggression against the legally established entity and initiated the bloody war with death toll of 25 thousand.

Since the armistice of 1994 both Armenia and the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic in concerned manners have supported the peace process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. The Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublics efforts aimed at fostering confidence building, as mutual trust is the key for lasting peace and stability among the Republic of Armenia, the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, until the recent negotiations between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, the actions of the neighboring state were publicly undermining any base of confidence building.

We believe that the recent meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents held in Vienna is a promising signal for re-launching the peace process.However, it should be noted that the success of this round of negotiations depends on the ability of the Azerbaijani leadership to accept the realities and abandon the policy of coercion towards the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic.

The respective international mediators engaged in the process of conflict resolution should soberly take into account that the Karabakh conflict is not solved since Azerbaijan does not recognize the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublics right to exist. The armed phase of the Karabakh conflict started because of Azerbaijani attempts to destroy the legally self-determined Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic with the threat of recurrence of the Genocides catastrophe. The OSCE Minsk Groups call to switch the negotiations on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict to the constructive dialogue envisages the return of the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic to the negotiation process as a party to the conflict along with Armenia and Azerbaijan. The basis for the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict within the format of tri-party Armenia Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic Azerbaijan negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk group should be as in the case of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict the mutual recognition of the main parties to the conflict the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic.

Reckoning on the productive switch of the negotiations process one should be sure that only the mutual recognition will secure stability and lasting peace in the South Caucasus, which as a part of the Greater Black Sea Area will contribute to the overall stability and security of the region. Another pillar for the resolution of the Karabakh conflict should be the internationally backed security guarantees for the Nagorno-KarabakhRepublic, which should be elaborated during the negotiation process.

In conclusion, I would like to share the experience of the Armenian Institute for National Strategic Studies in the promotion of the dialogue and integration through organizing Strategic Policy Fora with participation of the CSTO member states leading organizations, as well as with the engagement of our trusted Western partners, including Harvard and Oxford Universities; US National Defense University; Chatham House; Istanbul Kadir Has University; Jerusalem University etc. These fora offer an opportunity to consider in the academic format different approaches to the solution of thorny security problems in the region and beyond. The next Strategic Policy Forum is scheduled for May 2014 and may form an academic platform for experts and policy makers to discuss the challenges, as well as the opportunities facing the Greater Black Sea Area.

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