H.E. Mr. Vartan Oskanian

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia


New York, September 15, 2002

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Distinguished Delegates,

May I begin by congratulating Mr. Ian Kavan upon his election to the post of President of this 57th session of the General Assembly and wish him success in his work. I would also like to thank Mr. Hang Seung-soo for having so ably conducted the 56th session.

It is with special pleasure that I welcome the admission of the Swiss Confederation to the United Nations. That we have the pleasure and the opportunity to welcome such a new member - a longstanding democracy which has only recently chosen to enter this forum - is continuing testimony of the vitality, viability and relevance of this unique body.

Mr. President,

This time last year, new states and old, were thunderstruck by terror that is still indescribable. We were reeling from the enormity of what terrorism had wrought, even as we looked for a place from which to begin to understand why. Millennia of experience with the devastation of war had not provided us with the tools necessary to diagnose this new form of combat.

Today, a year later, as we persevere with the arduous endeavor to eradicate the affliction, we also continue to search for causes. We distinguish, certainly, between comprehending and concurring, awareness and acquiescence, understanding and justification. At the same time, we recognize that diagnosis does not always bring its own cure.

We cannot go back to where we were a year ago, in either our assumptions or our actions. The fundamental question we must all answer is: What is it that we can and cannot, should and should not do to other human beings? The answer must include a rejection of plain injustice and abject poverty. This will go a long way towards alleviating the hopelessness that perpetuates those same societal ills.

It is with this in mind that we welcome the targets and timetables adopted to spur action on a wide range of issues at the just-concluded Summit on Sustainable Development. Critical among these goals is the need to provide and manage water, as a basic element of life, and a basic requirement of dignified living. Without them, neither economic nor political stability is possible.

The other two major UN events of this year - the Conference on Financing for Development and the Special Session on Children - also demonstrate that social and economic development must be tackled in tandem, for global peace and security.

In Armenia, too, we are focusing on both aspects of development. The Armenian Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy Program aims to establish an umbrella for formulation and implementation of sustainable human development strategies in areas damaged by earthquake and conflict. We shall do this by building domestic capacities for governance, restoring social services in education and health, agricultural development, reforestation, and disaster preparedness.

Armenia's response to the very Special Session on Children is the elaboration and implementation of our National Plan of Action for Children. The National Plan of Action sets 10-year goals for the protection of the rights of the child, outlines principal strategies and establishes indicators and mechanisms for monitoring progress toward the enumerated goals.

The decades of summits and forums on the variety of social and economic ills which face modern societies have amply demonstrated that committed partnerships are necessary for serious progress. At home, government and civil society have to work together to implement the decisions of these forums, but at the global level, governments and international agencies must also provide together the resources and impetus for these universal agendas.

Mr. President,

Economic prosperity hinges on internal, regional and international stability. That stability in turn depends on cooperation and goodwill. In our region, despite the existence of various conflicts, we continue to be hopeful that democratic processes will create civil societies with responsible leaders committed to a resolution of political issues.

In Armenia, we look forward to a year of elections: Presidential elections - the fourth since independence - will be followed by parliamentary elections, which in turn will be followed by a referendum on constitutional reforms. We are proud that we have had a working constitution for more than seven years, and that constitution has seen us through difficult periods without leading to domestic turmoil.

Nevertheless, as with any evolving society, we recognize the need to make some changes in order to more accurately reflect our commitment to becoming a society which respects the rule of law and the rights of individuals.

We are equally proud that the Armenians of Nagorno Karabagh, too, in the midst of their ongoing struggle for self-determination, have also completed another presidential election cycle. Indeed, the people of Nagorno Karabagh deserve to be commended for adopting the rule of law, despite continuing adverse social and economic conditions.

As the OSCE and its Minsk Group co-chairs continue to work with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabagh towards a settlement that will wisely, with an eye to the realities on the ground, determine Nagorno Karabagh's final status, it is self-evident that only a democratically elected leadership, which enjoys a popular mandate, will be able to actively and legitimately participate in the final negotiations that affect the status of their own people.

It was with this in mind that in 1992, at the Helsinki CSCE Council of Ministers, it was decided that elected and other representatives of Nagorno-Karabagh will be invited to the [Minsk] Conference, entrusted with determining the final status of Nagorno Karabagh.

Therefore, while elections and democratization do not presume any status, self-determination is always more legitimate when accompanied by democratic processes.

The international community seems to understand, often welcomes, and sometimes assists in electoral democratic processes in areas whose international legal status is still in flux and ostensibly subject to the sovereignty of an existing state. We do not understand why such wise and non-prejudicial approaches or strategies should be denied to Nagorno Karabagh where de facto self-rule is already in place for almost 10 years.

And, democratization and self-determination together become both necessary and inevitable when the formation of the new independent entity takes place inside states which are deficient in democracy and their respect of human rights and the applications of all the principles of the UN is unsatisfactory.

Nothing demonstrates this more than East Timor's upcoming membership in this body. So it is with pleasure that we extend to them the heartfelt congratulations of the Armenian Government. East Timor's presence here is proof that a blanket rejection of all self-determination claims is not valid, and does not take into account the very real fact that these movements are, by their nature, not all alike or even similar. Different self-determination struggles have evolved in decidedly different ways. Therefore, each ought to be treated differently.

The international community's challenge continues to be to adopt policies that will contribute to the peaceful solution of each conflict.

In order to adopt correct policies, criteria must be adopted by which to characterize and judge each case on its own merit, realistically taking into account the real situation on the ground, in order to reach lasting peace.

What the people of Nagorno Karabagh and the whole region are still waiting for is lasting peace.

And I would have thought that this is what the leadership of Azerbaijan would want, as well. Based on the very hopeful meetings which take place between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, we have reason to be positive.

However, having followed the comments of my colleague from Azerbaijan, made from this podium, I'm not just shocked, I'm also dismayed that he is not keeping pace with the progress being made in the region by his and my presidents.

It's been two years since the meetings of Paris, and Key West, when the international community put forth their views on the issue. Since then, some Azerbaijani officials, out of desperation or ignorance, use every means at their disposal to discredit the initiatives of that international community, looking for ways to artificially link them to the critical issues of the day.

After September 11, the talk of the threat of international terrorism caused Azerbaijan to make accusations which came full circle to damage its own reputation, when according to Western sources, Azerbaijan's own 10-year-long relationship with terrorists came to the surface, and it was demonstrated that indeed Azerbaijan had served as a regional terrorist hub.

So, that didn't work. Today, since the international community speaks of countries' responsibilities towards Security Council resolutions, Azerbaijan frivolously makes the same accusation about Armenia, without considering that indeed, Armenia has done exactly what the international community expected: use its good offices with the leadership of Nagorno Karabagh to help find a peaceful solution to this conflict.

Mr. President,

Azerbaijan has a choice: To continue with crude delusional manipulation and naive wishful thinking, and hope for a return to a historical, military and political situation that is long gone. Or, join the international community, through the offices of the OSCE's Minsk Group co-chairmen, to continue in the hard search for peace. The people on the ground, on all sides, have demonstrated their readiness for peace, for political and economic stability. The leaders at the very top persist with the honest dialog that will chip away at the political obstacles. We who are entrusted with transforming these efforts and desires into a just peace must approach our task honestly and responsibly.

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.

Mr. President,

I wish to take the opportunity this podium provides to re-iterate President Kocharian's statement before this General Assembly two years ago to work for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and to prevent the repetition of such human atrocity. We extend our profound appreciation to all those governments, legislatures, and international bodies that have recognized the Armenian Genocide, and pledge our cooperation to all those that are currently in the process of reaffirming the facts of this crime against humanity. As a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Armenian Government places a high priority on the struggle to prevent future genocides and to stand up against all attempts to deny past genocides. We support all initiatives that reinforce the international consensus behind this landmark treaty.

Mr. President,

It is becoming clear that this millennium, too, will not be violence-free. Today, when global peace appears a distant hope, Armenia observes the volatility in the Caucasus, the Middle East and elsewhere with trepidation.

To face such challenges, Armenia supports proposals by the UN Secretary General aimed at the strengthening of the organization so that it can face new challenges in a more satisfactory way. Additionally, Armenia is in favor of more equitable representation at the Security Council, as well as more transparency of its activities.

The situation in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and around Iraq, remains a continuing example of the need for a vibrant and strengthened United Nations, able to assert the will of the organization's membership, and empowered with greater authority to implement its decisions.

As states and governments continue to search for new ways to deal with emergent internal conflicts and increasingly complex interrelationships, Armenia is of the belief that the UN must stand for all the easy-to-orate but difficult-to-deliver principles of economic and political justice and equality among people. Given our uneven history and problematic geography, it is no surprise that Armenia is an advocate of multilateralism and collective security. From the vantage point of a country with our resources and limitations, we realize that peace is not possible without social justice, sustainable development and respect for the rights of all individuals and peoples in the community of nations.

Thank you Mr. President.