Oskanian Speaks at Hebrew University

JERUSALEM–Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian visited the Hebrew University Tuesday. University President Menahem Magidor received Oskanian–who has been in Israel since last Thursday holding talks with senior Israeli officials on bilateral relations.

On behalf of the Armenian Studies Program in the Institute of African and Asian Studies Mr. Oskanian delivered a lecture on "Armenia in the Post-Soviet Period."

The lecture was open to the university and Armenian communities. Prof. Y. Zakovitch–Dean of the Faculty of Humanities–introduced Oskanian. The heads of the Institute of African and Asian Studies and of the Department of Indian–Iranian and Armenian Studies were also present.

Speaking to a packed room–the Minister first outlined the economic and ethnic problems that beset Armenia after its secession from the Soviet Union. He described the disastrous results of the USSR’s collapse for Armenia’s fully integrated industrial plant–and the effects of the subsequent energy blockade.

Oskanian went on to analyze relations between Armenia and neighboring states. The chief foreign policy aim of Armenia–he stressed–is to create and maintain good relations with all of its regional neighbors.

He pointed out that Turkey still has no relations with Armenia–making such relations dependent on the resolution of the Karabakh issue in a way acceptable to Turkey’s interests. Armenia has cordial relations with Iran based on the two countries’ strong geopolitical affinities. Armenia is greatly interested in cooperation with Georgia and realizes the need to moderate the centripetal forces in that country in the interests of regional stability.

Georgia’s importance for Armenia is all the greater because it forms part of Armenia’s "north-south" axis of transportation–an axis made crucial by the blockade on its "east-west" axis.

Following this–the Foreign Minister addressed the question of Armenia’s relationship with its major trading partner–Russia. He noted that there are now no more than 4,000 Russian nationals on Armenian soil–half of whom are of Armenian ethnic origin.

On the issue of Karabakh–Oskanian called for an unconventional solution to the problem. Any solution to the Karabakh question–he specified–must find a balance that will satisfy Azerbaijan’s desire for territorial integrity and the needs of the Karabakh population. He mentioned that a new initiative by France–Russia and the United States will be tabled for consideration in the near future. .

In this context–the Foreign Minister spelled out the reasons for Armenia’s general European orientation. Europe and Armenia’share values of human rights and democracy–and Europe’s free-market economic policies are compatible with what Armenia is trying to achieve as an independent state.

Oskanian mentioned that his upcoming trip to Strasbourg would be dedicated to furthering Armenia’s cooperation with Europe.

Oskanian’s lucid presentation of Armenia’s foreign policy situation was followed by a lively question and answer period.

Hebrew University’s head of Armenian Studies–Professor Michael Stone–closed the session. He reminded the audience that Mr. Oskanian’s lecture opens a year-long celebration of 30 Years of Armenian Studies at the Hebrew University. He thanked the Foreign Minister for sharing his vision of Armenia’s world and regional role. Oskanian was presented with a copy of the book Armenian Inscriptions from Sinai.

Oskanian was accompanied by Dr. Edward Nalbandian–Ambassador of Armenia in Egypt–and by Tsolag Momjian–Honorary Consul of Armenia in Israel and his staff.

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