Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
May I begin–Mr. President–by congratulating you on your election as President of the 53rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. I am confident that the skills and vast experience you have acquired throughout your distinguished diplomatic career will provide the guidance we need to guarantee the successful outcome of the session. I must also recall the valuable contribution of your predecessor–His Excellency Mr. Hennadiy Udovenko–to the work of the last session of the General Assembly.
1998 has been a year of warning signals and signs of hope. We have witnessed both setbacks and forward strides in the quest for peace and international security. Particularly–we have witnessed great progress towards the settlement of one of the longest and most intractable conflicts–that of Northern Ireland. The Irish peace agreement has proven to the world that it is never too late to find answers to seemingly impossible problems.
Unfortunately–wars–armed conflicts–acts of terrorism and other forms of violence shook the world during this last year and negatively impacted on international stability and security.
A party to all international treaties in the sphere of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction–Armenia is deeply concerned about the possible consequences of the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan this year. We believe that as the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty comes into force–it will substantially contribute to the strengthening of international security. Also–within the framework of the Conference on Disarmament–Armenia’supports drafting an agreement on the prohibition of the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices.
The United Nations plays a great role in different aspects of international life–ranging from tackling global environmental problems to combating organized crime and illicit drug trafficking. In support of UN activities in these spheres–Armenia actively participated in the 30th special session of the General Assembly. We strongly believe that the illicit traffic of drugs and psychotropic substances seriously jeopardizes the economic prosperity and political stability of many countries and regions of the world.
Armenia has also actively participated in activities leading to the establishment of the International Criminal Court–since we attach great importance to the battle against international crime–including the crime of genocide–crimes against humanity and war crimes. Believing that the United Nations should play the leading role in the formation of an international anticriminal strategy–Armenia’supports the idea of holding–in Vienna–in the year 2000–the 10th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders.
Armenia unequivocally–condemns all acts of terrorism as acts that have no justification on political–ideological–ethnic–religious or any other grounds. The recent terrorist attacks in Kenya and Tanzania once again show us the necessity of cooperation among all countries to combat that evil. We call for the accession of the maximum number of countries to universal conventions against terrorism and support for the Russian proposal on a UN convention for combating acts of nuclear terrorism. Armenia–likewise–supports including in the agenda of the 53rd session of the General Assembly–issues dealing with the declaration by the UN of a Decade of International Law–as well as of events to be organized in 1999–devoted to the 100th anniversary of the first Peace Conference.
For the international community this is the year of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The semi-centennial anniversary of the Convention enables the member-states of the UN to conduct a review of human rights conditions in their own countries and highlight ways to further develop the foundations of democracy and promotion of human rights and peoples’ rights.
This year also marks the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. As is well known–the international community did not–at the time–duly condemn the Genocide of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and that encouraged certain regimes to commit new crimes of genocide.
After the Holocaust–the UN addressed the problem of genocide–defining it as a crime against humanity and adopted on December 9–1948–the above-mentioned Convention. Despite that fact–during the last five decades–crimes of genocide were committed in different parts of the world on more than one occasion. The recent recognition and condemnation by several parliamen’s of the Genocide of Armenia’s committed at the beginning of this century is evidence of an increased understanding of the necessity to combat that evil.
The general Assembly–upon the presentation of Armenia and five other member-states–included in the agenda of its present session the issue of the 50th Anniversary of the Genocide Convention. We hope that–by combining efforts in the struggle against the crime of genocide–humanity will take a decisive step towards the elimination of that crime in the next century.
Equality and mutually beneficial cooperation among countries in the political and commercial-economic spheres–based on free-market principles should become an important factor of political stability in the third millennium. We have no other choice. Armenia adheres to this policy in everything from her approach to cooperation with international organizations–to the process of becoming a member of the World Trade Organization.
We attach special significance to regional cooperation–be it in the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States–the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation or the TRASECA project. Armenia is sincerely open to such cooperation–although we have to state with regret that the blockade imposed on Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan is a serious obstacle to such cooperation. It is obvious that the region’s vast potential cannot be fully utilized if attempts are made to isolate one of its constituents. Such attempts are doomed to failure.
Another factor of concern for political-military stability in the region is the gross violation by Azerbaijan of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. In three categories of ground Treaty Limited Equipment our neighbor significantly surpasses the national limits set forth by the Treaty.
Despite the potential threat to our security–since the first days of our independence–we have clearly and unambiguously renounced the possibility of developing weapons of mass destruction and adhere to the principles of non-proliferation of such weapons and of control over destabilizing accumulation of conventional arms.
The peaceful settlement of regional conflicts is one of the most important safeguards of stability and peace in our region–the Transcaucasus. Armenia is committed to the cease-fire established in the zone of the Karabakh conflict in May–1994 and will assist in its rigorous maintenance.
We emphasize the contribution of the Minsk Group and of its individual member states–both to the maintenance of the cease-fire and to mediation.
Unfortunately–at present–the negotiation process is at impasse. We believe that the main reasons for this impasse are the unclear definition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status as a party to the negotiations; Azerbaijan’s refusal to directly negotiate with the elected leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh–as well as Azerbaijan’s insistence on preconditions regarding the future negotiated status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The international community must exert maximum efforts to overcome these obstacles. However–given the specifics of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–its resolution demands unconventional approaches based on the principle of equal legal rights for both parties of the conflict–ending the enclave status of Nagorno-Karabakh and providing international security guarantees for its population.
Armenia is ready to move forward and we call upon Azerbaijan to resume negotiations without preconditions in order to reach a comprehensive settlement for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The challenges that the international community faces today are diverse and complicated. We believe that only a reformed UN can cope with the increasing number of problems. This holds true especially for the reform of the Security Council–since ensuring peace and security throughout the world depends on a Security Council which functions effectively. We also call for a deeper institutional reform of the United Nations–including the administrative-budgetary sphere. We believe that the fulfillment by all member states of their financial crises in the UN is to be overcome. Despite serious economic hardships–Armenia will fulfill its duties in this sphere. We only need to realize that a stronger and reformed UN serves our common interests.