UNITED NATIONS–Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday Defended Karabakh’s right to self-determination and blasted Azerbaijan’s continued threats of military action and actual military build-up, saying that the international body has clear guidelines for such actions that were not being adhered to.
“We, the member countries of the United Nations, must adhere to the letter of the United Nations Charter. If any country, in a short period of time, enlarges its military budget on several occasions and is proud of that; If it blatantly violates international armament agreemen’s; If a country has signed a cease-fire agreement, which is a legal international document, but at every juncture threatens to resume war; These require a prompt and decisive response,” said Sarkisian referring to the continued threats of war by Azerbaijan.
In his first major address before the international community, Sarkisian highlighted the significant role Armenia plays in the vital South Caucasus region, emphasizing its central role as a humanitarian corridor for refugees and diplomats seeking safety during the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia.
“Once again blood was shed in the South Caucasus and once again innocent people died because we, the leaders failed to bring a peaceful resolution to the existing conflicts. The armed conflict, which erupted in a matter of hours, threatened not only the entire region but well beyond it,” he said, calling on the international community to prevent conflicts that threaten to reignite “Cold War” sentimen’s and hostilities.
“I think on that direction our main task should be the establishment of a new, dependable, and viable structure,” Sarkisian said, adding that complex geopolitical challenges make it impossible to manage regional and international relations “exclusively within the structures established after the World War II.”
“Regional cooperation can become one of the essential means to address these new challenges,” Sarkisian said. “Armenia has always been promoter of this kind of cooperation, and we are confident that cooperation is one of the most effective means of attending to the problems existing among the states. With this regard open borders, crisscrossing lines of communication and interrelated economic systems are crucial.”
He also urged the General Assembly to realize that the time has come for the international community to look at the right to self-determination of peoples as a guiding principle for the resolution of conflicts.
“We reject the notion that every expression of self-determination is viewed as separatism,” said Sarkisian, adding that the Karabakh conflict must be resolved through peaceful means within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.
“There is no doubt that to be viable, such an outcome should be endorsed by all parties involved, which was why Armenia continues to negotiate with Azerbaijan in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group,” he said, noting that negotiations have sought to gain Azerbaijan’s recognition of Karabakh’s independence.
“The people of Nagorno Karabakh, who followed the legal path for declaring their desire for self-determination, were subjected to a brutal war. For months they were on the brink of extinction,” Sarkisian explained. “At that time it was only an autonomous region which had neither a regular army, nor arms and ammunition, nor any intention or ability to occupy any Azeri territory. I think it is at least not fair to label as the %u218occupiers’ those people who fought for their right to live.”
The Armenian president also spoke about a UN vote on a resolution dealing with “the situation in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories” that was passed in March with 39 states supporting it, seven voting against and 100 states abstaining.
“Several months ago, 146 countries that participated in the vote within this building, with only 39 %u218for’ votes adopted a resolution that has a certain relation with one of the episodes of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process.”
“A decision on an intricate and sensitive problem that has deep roots and has gone through painful and bloody developmen’s and has received massive efforts aimed at finding a peaceful resolution was made just like this, with a motivation of mainly supporting one of the sides. And the result was very predictable ‘s a new wave of war rhetoric in Azerbaijan, false laurels in political speculations, etc.,” Sarkisian said.
“Is there a need for blood to be shed again for understanding that frozen conflicts need a professional and informed approach and that they cannot be resolved through organizing votes at different forums?” Sarkisian asked, stressing that the countries informed about the conflict, including the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing states–the United States, France and Russia–either abstained or voted against the resolution.
Speaking about the situation in the South Caucasus in the wake of the brief Russian-Georgian war in August, the Armenian leader voiced the opinion that “a collective demand for excluding a repetition of similar developmen’s” should become the primary objective during the current session of the General Assembly.
Meanwhile, he stressed the importance of regional cooperation as a basic means to grapple with the existing challenges and emphasized that Armenia has always been for such cooperation: “What is needed for this is open borders, intercrossed communication ways, interlinked economic systems.”
Sarkisian also discussed his decision to invite Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Armenia for a meeting on the sidelines of the Turkey-Armenia’soccer match. He said the most important issue emanating from his meeting with Gul was the agreement that unresolved issues between the two nations should not be left to the next generations.
“I was glad about Gul’s bold step to accept my invitation by which he became the co-author of my proposal of ‘football diplomacy,’” he said. “We discussed numerous bilateral and regional issues. The most important is that we agreed not to leave the existing problems to the next generations. I believe that indeed time has come to solve problems in Armenian-Turkish relations and I also saw President Gul’s readiness in this matter.”