At Socialist International, ARF Rep. Discusses Caucasus Challenges

NEW YORK–On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the Socialist International Executive Council, which took part in the assembly with observer status, held its session, with the participation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Maria Titizian, who was elected a vice-president during its international convention this summer.

Titizian addressed the council with a briefing on the situation in the Caucasus, with a special emphasis placed on upcoming challenges.

This week we present excerpts from Titizian’s presentation at the Executive Council Session.

A new situation exists in the South Caucasus today because the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia, turned into a full blown war with Russia. It is a situation which has not yet stabilized. This instability, depending on how powers in and from outside the region assert themselves, can move beyond the borders of the Caucasus, having a global impact.

The war, which lasted only a few days, adversely impacted the people of all the countries in the region and exposed the security vacuum in the region. While the Georgian authorities believed that they could resolve the territorial dispute by armed force, Russia, after years of confused and contradictory policies and a seemingly disinterested attitude toward the Caucasus, responded assertively. This conflict also contributed to the new confrontation between the United States and Russia, and a strong temptation on both sides to start a new cold war – a course our movement should resist.

Today, there’s a lot of discussion for a new security structure in the region. Turkey’s proposed Caucasus Stability and Partnership Platform, while being an interesting proposal raises some serious questions. Turkey has much work to do to gain the credibility it would need in order to broker a new security architecture. As things stand now, it is seen as a divisive factor in the region. Not withstanding President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Armenia earlier this month, at Armenia’s initiative, the basic facts remain: While it recognized Armenia’s independence in 1991, Turkey never established diplomatic ties with the country; it unilaterally closed the border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan; it has isolated Armenia from a variety of regional initiatives, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline, the Kars-Akhalkalak-Tbilisi railroad, etc.

It is imperative that the three internationally recognized, independent states of the South Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, have a direct role and say in what and how that new security structure will be formulated and realized.

Along with these three states of the South Caucasus, all three neighboring countries/regional powers must also be involved – Russia, Turkey and Iran. They must contribute positively to this process and not create or encourage new lines of division/dividing lines. The same applies to other interested parties like the European Union and the United States.

As of now, however, the region is militarizing. The last several years has seen an unbridled arms race in the South Caucasus. For Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to take the initiative to form such a security architecture in the region, the international community, at the very least, must demand the normalization of military spending in the region. For 2008, Georgia’s annual budget for military spending capped $1 billion USD, Azerbaijan’s was over 1.2 billion USD, and Armenia’s was just over 300 million USD.

The global community should also ask the the three internationally recognized states to undertake an international legal obligation to resolving their differences through peaceful means; all conflicts in the region should be settled peacefully. The Georgian example is a clear message to the world that military actions only create further problems without resolving any of the pending issues.

A stable, developing and secure Georgia is important for the region, as is the stability of all the states of the South Caucasus. We believe that the best way for restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity, is by the creation of a Georgian confederation, with all its peoples and regions having equal rights, where the preservation of their national/ethnic identities is respected and where they have an equal opportunity to participate in the development of their country. The majority Armenian populated Samtskhe-Javakheti region, along with other similar regions, should be one of the component units in this confederation.

The conflict in the Caucasus also demonstrated the need for the international community to be more involved in the region, whose past attention can only be coined as something close to complacency. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and as a legacy of that system, there remained several frozen conflicts, deriving from territorial and border issues, which are developing into dangerous hot spots, threatening the people and the stability, not only of the entire region but also other regional and world powers.

We believe that the SI family can and should be more active in the region, through state-to-state, region-to-region and party-to-party endeavors, in order to prevent further deterioration of the situation and to help start a new, constructive trend in the South Caucasus.

In this sense, the recent high level contacts between the Presidents of Armenia and Turkey should be encouraged by the international community not to remain as mere PR occasions, but to render concrete results. Here too, the SI family has a very important role to play.

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