Foreign Minister Oskanian Addresses NATO -EAPC Summit in Istanbul

June 29, 2004
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Fax: +3741.543925
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Foreign Minister Oskanian Addresses NATO – EAPC Summit in Istanbul

Armenia’s Foreign Minister led Armenia’s delegation to the NATO-EAPC Summit
in Istanbul, on June 28-29. This year’s annual meeting was attended by
nearly 50 heads of state. The agenda focused on Afghanistan, the Balkans,
and included a discussion of a strategic shift by the North Atlantic
Alliance to focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In the margins of the meeting, the Minister held a bilateral meeting with
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. This was the fourth meeting between
the two over two years. They discussed the steps necessary to move towards
normalizing relations. In addition, Armenia’s, Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s
foreign ministers met to discuss various regional issues.

Following the meeting, Minister Oskanian reiterated his position on such
trilateral meetings. He explained that they are useful because are held
among equals, among neighbors who have many matters to discuss or resolve.
The three ministers agreed to consider meeting again in the margins of an
international organization meeting.

Below is the transcript of the Minister’s spoken remarks.

Statement by H. E. Mr. Vartan Oskanian
Minister of Foreign Affairs of
the Republic of Armenia
at the EAPC Summit
29 June 2004, Istanbul

Mr. Secretary General,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

History is moving so quickly that nearly each one of these summits can,
without great exaggeration, be said to be a meeting which will appear in the
annals of history as a most important one for the development of the
Euro-Atlantic Partnership. This summit marks the 10th anniversary of the
Partnership for Peace program. We can, in hindsight, congratulate ourselves
on a well-designed, well-thought out, useful, successful program.

Within this program, and in response to the Alliance’s policy shift towards
our region, Armenia has undertaken a number of steps aimed at enhancing and
deepening our relations. Today we can surely state that Armenia is actively
engaged with NATO in all spheres of cooperation considered by the Allies as
main priorities and objectives of the Partnership.

First, let’s speak of the future. Armenia has officially presented its
intention to continue and deepen relations within the framework of the
Individual Partnership Action Plan. Armenia has also offered to host NATO
PfP Exercise Cooperative Associate 05.

As for what we have accomplished: First, political consultations with the
NATO leadership are held on a regular basis, and are considered by both
sides as important components of Armenia-NATO relations. Second, Armenia
actively participates in the PfP programmes on developing interoperability
and undertakes appropriate steps aimed at the reforming of its defense
system. Third, Armenia is a member of NATO-led peacekeeping operations. The
positive experience that we have gained from this encourages us today to
examine new ways and possibilities of increasing the overall volume of our
engagement in international peacekeeping. Fourth, Armenia successfully
hosted the `Cooperative Best Effort 2003′ NATO/PfP exercise, and also
greatly benefited from improved peacekeeping capabilities. This Cooperation
also made it possible for Turkish troops to participate in that exercise.
Ten years ago who would have thought such a thing possible? That Turkish
troops would take part in NATO exercises on Armenian soil, and the Turkish
flag would fly in Armenia.

Mr. Secretary-General,
The benefits of our participation in the EAPC, which is really a unique
forum unifying all states of the Euro-Atlantic region, continue. That we are
here, today, with a large delegation, is evidence. That we are here, today,
at all, in Istanbul, is evidence of our further belief that Turkey has a
role to play in that integration path, not just for Armenia, but for the
entire South Caucasus.

Turkey’s choice of a logo for the NATO Istanbul summit is a bridge, probably
signifying the link between East and West. This bridge could and should also
signify the link that Turkey can be between the Caucasus and Europe. Turkey,
by geography, is the bridge between the Caucasus and Europe. Turkey is the
only NATO member with which the three countries of the Caucasus share a
border. Further, now that the Caucasus is part of the European Union’s New
Neighborhood initiative, our links with Europe go through Turkey. With
Turkey itself on a path toward Europe, ahead of the Caucasus, this whole
area is truly on its way to becoming neighbors of Europe, and eventually a
European neighborhood. Armenians believe that just as Turkey has normal
relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia, it must have ties with Armenia as
well, in order to draw the whole region together into a real neighborhood.

Such a move would have an immeasurable impact on the Nagorno Karabakh
conflict as well. Nothing can compensate for our people’s deep feelings of
insecurity so long as neighbors are not a source of comfort, but a reminder
of recent and old grievances. In this new era, with new challenges, and new
alliances, Turkey’s even-handed regional policies would go a long way to
convincing the Armenian public that a Nagorno Karabakh resolution – which we
all want – must be fashioned for a region at peace, and not for neighbors at
war. Turkey is a neighbor whose words, actions, relations – or absence of
relations – influence the environment in which security concerns must be

It goes without saying that Nagorno Karabakh is a serious security problem.
The President of Azerbaijan, however, addressed this issue from a purely
narrow, ethnocentric perspective. The conflict is deeper, broader than the
simple terms in which it was presented here. The allegation of terrorism in
Nagorno Karabakh is so absurd that I won’t even bother to try to respond.
But, I will speak about the other issues he raised: territories, refugees
and the status of Nagorno Karabakh. These are serious problems that we do
need to confront. The fact of the matter is that territories and refugees
are the consequences of a serious core issue: the status, the future status,
of Nagorno Karabakh.

This conflict started peacefully when the people of Nagorno Karabakh opted
for self-determination. Azerbaijan rejected that decision, and resorted to
military operations to suppress that right to self-determination. So, what
we have today are the consequences of Azerbaijani aggression against the
people of Nagorno Karabakh. In addition, and as my president said recently,
Nagorno Karabakh has never ever been part of independent Azerbaijan. These
realities need to be factored into our future negotiations. As President
Aliyev made his perspective known, let me say, too, that we have long been
ready and willing to make the necessary compromises to reach a peaceful
solution to achieve long-lasting peace and stability.

Thank you.