H.E. Mr. Vartan Oskanian
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia
56th SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
New York, November 14, 2001
(Check against delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin, Mr. President, by congratulating you on your election as President of the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I would like also to express our appreciation and respect to H.E.Mr. Harri Holkeri, for the professionalism and dedication with which he conducted the previous session.
Since the September 11 acts of terrorism, each of us, as individuals and as leaders responsible for the future of the planet, has been trying to understand what happened, why and how. The universal condemnation of the arrogance and fascist mentality that conceives and implements such terror could not have been more justified. The immediate determination that the perpetrators must be punished and its bases eliminated was necessary and prudent. The awareness that this is a long and manifold process remains evident.
Scholars and analysts have attempted to explore and explain the Day of Terror, its causes and its ramifications. This is a necessary process that will, if we are patient, begin with more questions than answers. It will, if we listen, unavoidably lead to dialog. Not just this year but every year. If we are honest, this dialog will reflect the fact that although we all see quite plainly that there is a change, we don't agree on what this change is and how it affects each of us.
There are those who believe that the world has been taken off the path of economic globalization and democratization. There are some who insist that the nature and course of international relations has irrevocably changed, that the world order, as it existed, has come crashing down. That may be the illusory inescapable initial reaction. It may appear that bilateral and multilateral relations have been fundamentally and involuntarily retailored.
Yet, if this perception becomes more than a temporary, albeit natural, reaction, if the terrorists succeed in intimidating us, forcing us to take actions that are not in our best interests, causing us to abandon principles and agendas, then the terrorists will have succeeded. They will have terrorized their way to setting agendas and determining policies. But, Mr. President, just as New Yorkers have vowed a continued allegiance to their city and their way of life, the international community, too, must remain true to its structures, traditions and agenda.
That is not to say, however, that
life has or can return to business as usual. It certainly can not return
to thinking as usual. Our allied approach to the problems and realities
that we collectively face requires genuine, radical, rethinking. The deep
dissatisfaction, injustice, poverty, hopelessness, that does not justify
terror but that serves to validate it, legitimize it, guard it, must be
addressed and eradicated, too. These deep problems must be replaced by
equality, education, social justice, human rights including women's and
children's rights, civil liberties and democracy.
Armenia readily joined the global struggle to abolish the terrorism network because the success of this effort is as important for us as for the coalition leaders. However, Armenia asks that in our effort and responsibility to neutralize this enemy, we are careful of our own definitions and labels. Just as it is crucial that there be solidarity in the united battle against fighting the evil of terrorism, a divergence of interpretive opinion or varied agendas should not be construed as lack of solidarity.
Just as the coalition leaders are concerned about the effects of terrorism on their countries, peoples, lifestyles and values, Armenia is concerned about how the advent of such terror, and the extended battle against it, will affect our region and our country. The war on terrorism has added a dimension to our domestic and foreign policy agenda, not tapered it. The economic and political conditions which make this a volatile region have not gone away. Indeed, they have become exacerbated by the new alliances and priorities. Worse, they can be provoked if they are ignored and allowed to lie latent while all attention focuses on the immediate danger. By focusing on the hatred of thousands, we do not want to dismiss the frustration and needs of millions, many of whom stand at the brink of war.
That is why even as Armenia has offered
unreserved assistance to the global coalition, signed the UN and Council
of Europe anti?terrorism conventions, and offered military and strategic
assistance, we continue to insist that the fundamental, developmental,
short and long-term issues facing us also be dealt with. We are worried
about the stability of our region, because the basic freedoms which are
the hallmarks of modern society and which decrease the likelihood of violent
social and political solutions are not universally guaranteed in our neighborhood.
Security and peace around the world depends on stability in each region. If we are committed to world peace and security, each of us in our own regions must take on the responsibility to address the outstanding issues in a new light, guided by new thinking. It remains for the leaders to abandon the expediency of real politic for the efficacy of just politic. This is nothing that hasn't been said before, but perhaps in this new searching environment, our call will not fall on deaf ears. Our region has the wealth, the traditions, the opportunities, the links that can make it flourish and thrive.
As far as Armenia's contribution is concerned to peace and stability in the Caucasus, there are two intertwined issues with two of our neighbors. One is the absence of relations with Turkey, to the west. The other is the Nagorno Karabagh conflict with affects our relations with Azerbaijan.
From this podium, for the last ten years, representatives of my government have affirmed that the basic freedoms of thought, belief, conviction, ethics, traditions, values, culture belong equally to the men, women and children of Nagorno Karabagh. This is at the base of the conflict over Nagorno Karabagh. Azerbaijan's insistence on inventing numbers, redefining terms, creating history and obfuscating discussion are part of the problem, and not a search for a solution. Mr. President, in response to the charges made by my colleague from Azerbaijan with regard to Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh, let me say the following: Nagorno Karabagh has never been a part of independent Azerbaijan. Whether we consider history or geography, whether we adopt a long-term political perspective, or whether we face the reality of the facts on the ground, the men, women and children of Nagorno Karabagh have earned the right to live peacefully on their historic lands. For decades they have been denied this right. Today, a dozen years after the re-eruption of the conflict, the children of Nagorno Karabagh have completed an entire school career free of alien domination and foreign occupation.
Justice for the people of Nagorno Karabagh has been at the core of Armenia's policies and actions, not just because we believe it is right. But also because we believe that to achieve lasting peace, economic cooperation and political development, this conflict will have to be resolved fairly and fully. Azerbaijan's empty calls for a military solution that arise from an adherence to old clichés, rather than new realities, are not acceptable among neighbors serious about peace.
As for our relations with Turkey, perhaps in this post?September 11 world, when the Cold War has truly and finally ended, where erstwhile adversaries have found reasons to put aside ideology and establish partnerships, perhaps Turkey will put aside preconditions in the interests of regional and world peace. Armenia would like to have normal good neighborly relations with Turkey and is hopeful that Turkey will establish diplomatic relations with Armenia, open the borders and engage in constructive cooperation.
But the obvious must be said. The
memory of the Armenian Genocide continues to haunt and obstruct Turkey's
relations with Armenia. However, we are confident that this issue can be
addressed between the two governments, through dialog. The events of the
last two months reminded Armenians that man is indeed capable of immense,
indescribable evil and that mass violence is not a thing of the past. Yet,
if we, as the victims of Genocide, are unwilling to permit our own tragic
past to define our actions in the future, we can confidently call on Turkey
to do the same, and join us as equal participants in a dialog between our
There is no doubt that the UN is the most overarching, most inclusive umbrella for creating the conditions that will make states and peoples prefer peace to war. The UN - where possible with various multilateral and regional organizations - should identify and utilize the comparative advantage and specificity of each institution and each country as potential victim, as potential fighter, as potential instrument in the war for peace.
The United Nations did not need September 11 to acknowledge economic development and poverty eradication as the strategic battlefields in the war against terrorism. Donor countries can contribute to the success of this war, not only by providing military forces but also with greater financial and technical assistance.
Such assistance must be coordinated.
The new challenges call for the consolidation of existing mechanisms of
international dialog, cooperation and security. The UN can contribute much
to this process, especially if it more equitably reflects the political
and economic realities of today's world. We believe that the real reform
of the Security Council lays in the expansion of both categories: permanent
and non-permanent. We support the desire of Germany and Japan to acquire
permanent membership in the Security Council. Armenia also attaches great
significance to the issue of equitable geographic representation and, hence,
supports the increase of representation for the under-represented regions,
specifically Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In this regard,
Armenia is equally supportive of India's permanent membership in the Security
Council. We are convinced that any increase in non-permanent membership
should also ensure an enhanced representation of the Group of Eastern European
States through the allocation of one additional non-permanent seat.
Modern life has shaken up static societies: and the salvation lies not in any particular faith but in healthy, democratic institutions, legislation and viable economic systems:
V.S. Naipaul made that formulation,
and this year, the Nobel Prize was given to Secretary General Kofi Annan
and writer V.S. Naipaul. The choice of recipients provides much room for
thought. They have both been not exclusivists, but inclusive in their ability
to mix their deep traditions with the challenges facing our global society.
While Naipaul the writer teases and provokes, Annan the diplomat challenges
and soothes. They both do so with grace, from positions of strength. They
can both afford to be more extreme in their pronouncements. They are not.
The message here is that in this
year of Dialogue among Civilizations, there are successful ways of merging
the best of the world's traditions, even while challenging that same world
to move forward toward justice and democracy for all. Naipaul and Annan
do not reject the failures of the world, but challenge us to repair them.
We, collectively, could do worse than follow their example.