YEREVAN (Armenpress)–"Today, Armenia has several unresolved issues with its immediate neighbors. These disputes originate from the past, but they are a liability for the future of both Armenia and its neighbors," said Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis while addressing students and faculty at Yerevan State University Monday.
"History has not been kind to your country, and there are many painful memories of past injustices and sacrifices," he said. "But it is important to remember that the other side has its own and different perception of the past. You may not agree with it, but you need to recognize and even respect it."
"An example that immediately comes to mind is the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. When Armenia joined the Council of Europe, at the same time as Azerbaijan, both countries committed themselves to pursue efforts to settle this conflict by peaceful means," he noted. "Unfortunately, the fact remains that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is still the greatest obstacle to peace, stability and co-operation in this part of Europe."
"I am not here to apportion blame," Davis said. "But I do want to encourage your Government in Yerevan and the Government in Baku to do more–not because they both gave a promise to the Council of Europe–but because a settlement of this conflict is in the interest of everyone in both Armenia and Azerbaijan."
Davis also commented on the lack of relations between Armenia and its neighbor the west, Turkey. "This relationship is still difficult because of the events which took place not ten years but more than nine decades ago. I understand your pain," he said. "Of course you remember the victims, but time is an important factor. It does not erase the past, but it should be given a chance to heal the wounds."
In calling for reconciliation between the two countries, Davis urged the students and faculty at Yerevan State to "accept that history can be neither ignored nor legislated." He went on to say: "We all know that many people died," but the time has come to pay respect to the victims and look to the future. "Everyone in Armenia and Turkey should do so not only for your sake but even more for the sake of your children," he added.
"Reconciliation is difficult and it takes much more courage than confrontation," said Davis. "It is especially difficult, and therefore even more important, to make the first step. But reconciliation is the only way forward. This is the real message of Europe today, born out of our long history of wars and confrontations. Understanding, respect and reconciliation. There is no other way."
The government in Yerevan has long been agreeable to a normalization of diplomatic relations with Turkey without any preconditions. Turkey, however, has consistently rejected this conciliatory offer, placing preconditions upon Armenia to withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh and drop international recognition of the Genocide.