Updated: 02-Jul-2004 NATO Speeches


29 June 2004


by H. E. Mr. Vartan Oskanian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of
the Republic of Armenia
at the EAPC Summit
29 June 2004, Istanbul

NATO Istanbul Summit

Mr. Secretary General,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

History is moving so quickly that nearly each one of these summits can, without great exaggeration, be said to be a meeting which will appear in the annals of history as a most important one for the development of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership. This summit marks the 10th anniversary of the Partnership for Peace program. We can, in hindsight, congratulate ourselves on a well-designed, well-thought out, useful, successful program.

Within this program, and in response to the Alliance¹s policy shift towards our region, Armenia has undertaken a number of steps aimed at enhancing and deepening our relations. Today we can surely state that Armenia is actively engaged with NATO in all spheres of cooperation considered by the Allies as main priorities and objectives of the Partnership.

First, let¹s speak of the future. Armenia has officially presented its intention to continue and deepen relations within the framework of the Individual Partnership Action Plan. Armenia has also offered to host NATO PfP Exercise Cooperative Associate 05.

As for what we have accomplished: First, political consultations with the NATO leadership are held on a regular basis, and are considered by both sides as important components of Armenia-NATO relations. Second, Armenia actively participates in the PfP programmes on developing interoperability and undertakes appropriate steps aimed at the reforming of its defense system. Third, Armenia is a member of NATO-led peacekeeping operations. The positive experience that we have gained from this encourages us today to examine new ways and possibilities of increasing the overall volume of our engagement in international peacekeeping. Fourth, Armenia successfully hosted the "Cooperative Best Effort 2003" NATO/PfP exercise, and also greatly benefited from improved peacekeeping capabilities. This Cooperation also made it possible for Turkish troops to participate in that exercise.
Ten years ago who would have thought such a thing possible? That Turkish troops would take part in NATO exercises on Armenian soil, and the Turkish flag would fly in Armenia.

Mr. Secretary-General,

The benefits of our participation in the EAPC, which is really a unique forum unifying all states of the Euro-Atlantic region, continue. That we are here, today, with a large delegation, is evidence. That we are here, today, at all, in Istanbul, is evidence of our further belief that Turkey has a role to play in that integration path, not just for Armenia, but for the entire South Caucasus.

Turkey¹s choice of a logo for the NATO Istanbul summit is a bridge, probably signifying the link between East and West. This bridge could and should also signify the link that Turkey can be between the Caucasus and Europe. Turkey, by geography, is the bridge between the Caucasus and Europe. Turkey is the only NATO member with which the three countries of the Caucasus share a border. Further, now that the Caucasus is part of the European Union¹s New Neighborhood initiative, our links with Europe go through Turkey. With Turkey itself on a path toward Europe, ahead of the Caucasus, this whole area is truly on its way to becoming neighbors of Europe, and eventually a European neighborhood. Armenians believe that just as Turkey has normal relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia, it must have ties with Armenia as well, in order to draw the whole region together into a real neighborhood.

Such a move would have an immeasurable impact on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as well. Nothing can compensate for our people¹s deep feelings of insecurity so long as neighbors are not a source of comfort, but a reminder of recent and old grievances. In this new era, with new challenges, and new alliances, Turkey¹s even-handed regional policies would go a long way to convincing the Armenian public that a Nagorno Karabakh resolution ­ which we all want ­ must be fashioned for a region at peace, and not for neighbors at war. Turkey is a neighbor whose words, actions, relations ­ or absence of relations ­ influence the environment in which security concerns must be addressed.

It goes without saying that Nagorno Karabakh is a serious security problem. The President of Azerbaijan, however, addressed this issue from a purely narrow, ethnocentric perspective. The conflict is deeper, broader than the simple terms in which it was presented here. The allegation of terrorism in Nagorno Karabakh is so absurd that I won¹t even bother to try to respond.
But, I will speak about the other issues he raised: territories, refugees and the status of Nagorno Karabakh. These are serious problems that we do need to confront. The fact of the matter is that territories and refugees are the consequences of a serious core issue: the status, the future status, of Nagorno Karabakh.

This conflict started peacefully when the people of Nagorno Karabakh opted for self-determination. Azerbaijan rejected that decision, and resorted to military operations to suppress that right to self-determination. So, what we have today are the consequences of Azerbaijani aggression against the people of Nagorno Karabakh. In addition, and as my president said recently, Nagorno Karabakh has never ever been part of independent Azerbaijan. These realities need to be factored into our future negotiations. As President Aliyev made his perspective known, let me say, too, that we have long been ready and willing to make the necessary compromises to reach a peaceful solution to achieve long-lasting peace and stability.

Thank you.

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