Karabakh Foreign Minister Visits Greece

ATHENS – Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Arkady Ghukassian arrived in Greece Friday where–upon the invitation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and Armenian National Committee of Greece–he will meet with the various communities and Greek political figures.

The delegation greeting him at the Athens International Airport included–Prelate Archbishop Sahag Ayvazian–members of the Prelacy Executive Council–leaders of the Greek-Armenian Catholic and Evangelical communities–Armenia’s Ambassador to Greece Arman Kirakosian with the embassy staff–as well as members of the ARF Executive Council of Greece–the editorial board of the ARF publication of Greece–Azad Or–and regional executive bodies of the Armenian Blue Cross (ARS)–the Homenetmen– the Hamazkayin and the Armenian Youth Federation.

Welcoming remarks were made by ANC of Greece chairman Serko Kouyoumdjian– Ambassador Kirakosian–Arch. Ayvazian and Armenian Blue Cross Chairwoman Liza Avakian.

Ghukassian also made brief remarks at the airport reception upon his arrival.

On Saturday evening a public gathering was held at the Zavarian Center in Athens–where the foreign minister addressed the hundreds gathered at the Zakarian-Saradjian halls to hear the visiting dignitary.

Ghukassian was accompanied by deputy Karabakh representative in Armenia Nayira Melkoumian.

Kouyoumdjian commenced the program with brief opening remarks highlighting the importance of Karabakh for the entire nation–and discussed ways in which the Diasporaand the Greek-Armenian communityhave assisted Karabakh.

He stressed that the Karabakh question is an indivisible part of the Armenian Cause and pledged continued solidarity and struggle for the people and the cause of Karabakh.

In his remarks–Ghukassian pointed out that the Karabakh conflict could be categorized in three phases–the first of which was the "romantic" phase when "we thought that the Karabakh question would be resolved in Moscow."

He stated that in this regard–demonstrations–rallies and meetings were organized to demand the just rights of the people of Karabakh–but instead this phase ended with the brutal genocide in Sumgait and the massacres in Baku.

The emphasized Karabakh’s organization as a self-defense force as the most important phase of the Karabakh question–since following the Soviet breakup–Karabakh faced war and was left alone to defend itself.

Ghukassian explained that after Karabakh organized itself and its self-defense mechanism and was able to emerge victorious in the military offensives launched against Karabakh by Azerbaijan.

It was through the organized military structure which "we forced Azerbaijan to sign the cease-fire agreement," Ghukassian said.

The foreign minister categorized the current phase as the third one–where the Karabakh question has become a political issue and its legitimacy is a topic of discussion within international forums such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–which is currently the main mediator of peace talks.

In his remarks–Ghukassian also referred to the recent OSCE Lisbon summit–during which a resolution was almost adopted which would maintain Karabakh within Azeri borders in an effort to not violate Azeri sovereignty.

He rejected this proposal set forth by Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti–saying that any agreement on conflict resolution must emerge from talks and dialogue.

Ghukassian warned of Azerbaijan’s latest attempts of resolving the conflict militarily–by pointing to Azeri troop activity on Karabakh borders and the national security zone established by the Nagorno-Karabakh self-defense forces.

He explained that Karabakh was now a de-facto independent state–and the period of cease fire has and would be utilized to enhance the republic’s socio-economic capabilities–and called on the Diaspora to assist in this rebuilding process–ensuring a future for Karabakh.

Melkoumian also addressed the gathering by saying–the Armenian women have a definite role in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict and that they must be on the forefront of the movement.

Ghukassian visited the Greek-Armenian community of Thesalonika Sunday

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