AGBU EU: Nagorno Karabakh, its Neighbourhood and the Wider Europe

PRESS RELEASE
Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) – Europe
Email: [email protected]

Nagorno Karabakh, its Neighbourhood and the Wider Europe

An AGBU Europe round table

Brussels, 19 October 2008. A delegation from Nagorno-Karabakh visited
Brussels from October 14 to 17 to take part in a round table hosted by the
AGBU in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Foundation Brussels office. The
delegation was composed of Eduard Atanesyan, Deputy foreign Affairs Minister
of Nagorno Karabakh and David Babayan, Head of the Information Department of
the Office of the President of Karabakh.

The Round table brought together representatives of various organisations
and institutions involved in European policy in the region, including NGOs,
Think Tanks, Embassies and the European Institutions. Azerbaijani diplomats
and NGOs in Brussels, though invited, did not attend.

Karabakh is one of the 3 territories in the Caucasus which declared
independence at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. After
successfully defending its independence in an unequal war with Azerbaijan
between 1992 and 1994, this small republic of 145 000 inhabitants has since
struggled to rebuild itself, to establish a functioning state and to
develop.

This is the first visit to Brussels by a delegation from Karabakh since
1999. The visit aimed to allow EU decision-makers and experts to establish
contact with representatives from Karabakh and to inform them about the
country¹s situation. Even though the EU¹s interest in the South Caucasus has
increased considerable in recent years, it has abstained from establishing
relations with Karabakh, even at the most informal level. Amazingly, the EU
current special representative for the South Caucasus has not yet travelled
to Karabakh, though he has visited other unrecognized republics.

The round table reviewed the state of Karabakh¹s economy, state and society.
Karabakh¹s economy is developing fast, but started very low after it was
entirely destroyed in the war. It faces challenges similar to those of most
other post-soviet republic, compounded by the absence of international
assistance and by potential investors¹ reticence caused by the country¹s
unrecognized status. On the other hand, the speakers claimed that governance
and democratic standards, facilitated by the country¹s small size, are
rather more advanced than in the neighbouring South Caucasian republics

Over the last 14 years, negotiations have been carried out under the aegis
of the Minsk group of the OSCE to seek agreement on its final status. In
this context, both Babayan and Atanesyan explained their government¹s
positions in the context of the negotiations by describing their territory¹s
specific situation and its experience of a terrible war. Karabakh aspires to
being included as a party in the negotiations on its future status, which it
is still excluded from. In a lively discussion regarding the right of return
of Azeris refugees from Karabakh, Babayan confirmed that they were welcome
to return, providing they accept the jurisdiction of Nagorno -Karabakh. He
insisted however, that refugees should not be used as pawns in a political
game, and that negotiations on the topic should genuinely aim to satisfy
their right of return. The round table held on Octobre 16 was the first in a
series of round tables and events which AGBU Europe will be organizing in
the context of its work with the European institutions. The next event to be
organized will be a conference (November 13) on the rediscovery of Armenian
Heritage in Turkey

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