International Conference in Yerevan Discusses EU’s Role in Region

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–A two-day conference on the European Union’s role in the South Caucasus kicked off in Yerevan Friday, bringing together experts and analysts from the countries in and around the region to discuss cooperation with the EU on the footing of a security partnership.

Attending the conference, were analysts from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russian and Armenia, as well as members of the European Parliament from Germany and Poland, representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations in Armenia and Georgia. Political scientists, economists, legal experts, students, and media were also present.

Speaking at the conference, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosyan, described the Caucasus as a region intrinsically linked but unusually divided and called for greater cooperation in the region.

“It’s hard to imagine another region that would be as harmonious geographically, linked economically but divided politically by different national interests and aspirations,” he said. “The three countries of the South Caucasus are included in broad regional programs. We are all countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, neighbors and partners of the European Union, but our common Caucasian identity should be further reinforced.”

But stable development in the region is tied to economic development, democratic modernization and cooperation, he explained, noting the role of the EU in helping the region realize those goals.

The three countries, he said, are part of the European Union’s Neighborhood Action Plan. For “Neighborhood means a group of secure, peaceful and developed countries, and to reach this target the EU proposes programs connected with economic development and political partnership.”

He said Armenia began spearheading the drive toward regional cooperation before the Georgian-Ossetian conflict made the need for cooperation painstakingly clear.

“Our sincere aspirations for regional cooperation may be commented in different ways. But, the most important is that Armenia’s policy is consistent and well-grounded,” Kirakosyan said, noting Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s invitation to Turkish Presidetn Abdullah Gul to Yerevan before the Ossetian conflict erupted.

“We are glad that our neighbors shared our approach for having a more secure and prospective region,” he said, welcoming Turkey’s initiative to form a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. “We welcome those regional initiatives, which will contribute to the establishment of normal relations between countries and yield expansion of cooperation in line with the broader agenda of international cooperation.”

Commenting on the declaration signed on November 2 between the presidents of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan in Moscow, Kirakosyan noted that “some changes can be expected” regarding Azerbaijan’s uncompromising approach toward Armenia.

The declaration has the potential to create an atmosphere of trust, he added, explaining that a measure of goodwill is needed to create trust.

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