02, 2009

Speech by President of the Republic of Armenia H.E. Mr. Serzh Sargsyan at the 45th Munich Security Conference

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Speech by President of the Republic of Armenia
H.E. Mr. Serzh Sargsyan
at the 45th Munich Security Conference

Minister Bildt,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me profound pleasure to address this prestigious forum – the Munich Security Conference. I will outline Armenia’s perspective on the hot topics of South Caucasus. I emphasize that it will be Armenia’s vision, since I am confident that there are also other perspectives in the region. A region, which in the last two decades has re-emerged in the priority lists of states, international organizations, analysts, and leading media.

The South Caucasus, which for over 70 years was isolated from the major international developments as a separate factor, now re-gains its international importance as a transportation corridor, as a major root for export and transit of the energy resources, a platform for the establishment of democracy, as well as an area in the process of assessing its own role, meaning and mission in the contemporary world. Today, despite the existing differences and controversies, countries of the South Caucasus, are much more assertive in assessing their role and potential capacity to impact international developments.

Armenia is one of those countries. And it believes in values of freedom, peace, and cooperation. We truly believe that only regional cooperation and dialogue can help materialize our common vision for empowerment of a peaceful and stable region. And that is exactly what we aim our efforts and ambitions at.

Leaders from our region often make statements about their passion for peace, cooperation and stability. All that is possible if in our region we achieve combination, rather than confrontation of interests of all those states and organizations, which have special and very obvious role in the South Caucasus. If we look back at our history, it would be obvious that superpowers and empires historically had an ambition to establish their hegemony over this part of the world. It is also true today. Contemporary South Caucasus is a model of the multi-polarity of the world. It is one of the regions, where there are seemingly unyielding dividing lines, where internationally recognized political map is very different from the real one, where stability is extremely vulnerable, and the re-establishment of peace requires a joint and concentrated titanic efforts.

Dear colleagues,

We way too often speak about “what will happen” and “how will something develop” or “how to manage” questions, while in reality, I believe, it is correct to speak also about what lessons have we all learned from last years’ developments, from the bloody military events of the previous year, and from the global financial-ecnomic crisis? We – the countries of the region, superpowers and all those players, who have interests in our region, shall learn at least from our own mistakes what shall not be done. Year 2008 has left us lessons we have to learn. And let me turn to three of those lessons:

First of all, I believe that the August events have made it clear for everyone how tense the situation in the Caucasus actually is, how serious the challenges and threats there are. This was a reminder to all those involved that each careless word, each uncalculated step are potent with unpredictable consequences and that the arms race, substantial expansion of the military budget, militaristic rhetoric charge the atmosphere, which inescapably brings to provocations, actions and such situations, which, as it usually has been happening, can get out of control of those who are responsible for creating such atmosphere. It is a primer truth, that threats to use force challenge peace, and attempts against peace shall not go unnoticed.

Second, we have talked extensively about unacceptability of drawing new dividing lines. We should always remind ourselves, that the Cold War is over, and the political logic and modus operandi of that big controversy shall not survive. The world has witnessed the dangers of the world divided by power polar systems and their controversies. We have witnessed in our lifetime the consequences of regional divides.

The third lesson is that of the necessity to develop alternative transportation roots in the region. Much has been said about the importance of the region. What is the sense of talking about such importance, when any increase in tension can nullify the whole essence of economic significance, at least temporarily? We still have a long way to go to empower the economic significance of our region, and first of all with regard the development of alternative roots.

I think that the global crisis does not diminish the international meaning of the South Caucasus region. Meanwhile, I am confident, that the crisis and lessons it brings with it will make us switch to more effective models of regional development in fields of energy and transportation. Let me explain this. At the times, when world prices for natural resources are noticeably excessive, it in past allowed, at least in some cases, to adopt solutions, which are economically least effective, disregarding the well-known fact that the shortest root between two points is the direct line. Billions of dollars where wasted to satisfy different ambitions. Now, when hydrocarbons are cheap and the global economic activity has decreased, when returns on investments in regional infrastructures are getting more and more costly, the probability of masterminding irrational regional projects will significantly decrease.

It is logical that in present conditions the factor of economic efficiency will gain a bigger role in geopolitics, and it will become impossible to take in-office decisions to build new transportation lines, disregarding the existing blocked ones. This means that the time for “political railroads, roads and pipelines” is over. One should acknowledge a very simple reality: it is senseless to talk about stability in South Caucasus if the policy of mutual isolation and exclusion from regional projects continues. I regret to note that such unacceptable approach has been many times applied to Armenia, and it has never received a due response from the international community. There is only one conclusion one can draw: the global economic crisis will objectively compel the region to function as a single economic unit, and to function more efficiently.

The way to the future of the region is that of combination of existing interests, all other approaches are potent with new losses. Our challenge today is not only to connect the East and West, but also the North and South, to turn our region into a crossroad of peace and cooperation. I am confident that South Caucasus has a much bigger potential as a region, than the sum of their individual potentials is.

It is a region with its ancient culture, rich history and societies, motivated by new ambitions. Whatever the geopolitics of our region is, it is bound to include the “cultural” component, so called “human dimension.” When bombs go off in Ossetia, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel or anywhere else in the world I feel a profound pain for a number of reasons: first of all as a person who has personally experienced a war, since I know the real effect of its devastating power. Second, as the President of Armenia, knowing that it anyway does not serve the interest of my country, and last, but not least, I feel very troubled as an Armenian, knowing that wherever the bombs go off there are Armenians living on both sides. In those cases, the human factor dominates decisions I make. However, as a representative of the Armenian people, which by virtue of its history is spread across the world, I know very well what the “human factor” can do when used for positive aims, I know the power of it not from analytical reviews, but from historic experience of my own people, from my daily work.

Dear colleagues:

For the long history of the Armenian nation two recent decades on one hand are a moment, but on the other – the whole story of our current statehood. It is a story of a fight for freedom and independence, for peace and a better future not only for our state but for the whole region.

We have got to be able to learn the lessons of the history to be able to prevent the militarization of the region and the deepening of the dividing lines in it. We have got to be able to do it, since there have always been labels and stereotypes on the region of South Caucasus, and now it is the time to eliminate those for the sake of stable and peaceful future of our states.

I believe that today there are leaders in the region, who are ready to promote non-standard solutions, who can make non-conventional decisions, and to demonstrate sufficient will for their implementation. And this understanding allows me to be more optimistic towards the future of our region.

Thank you for your attention.

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