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Monday, October 25, 2004

Presentation of the NKR Foreign Minister Ashot Goulian

"Nagorno Karabakh: Realities and Prospects for Development"
Presentation of the NKR Foreign Minister Ashot Goulian
at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
October 19, 2004

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to address the Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS), an institution known worldwide for its work on
issues of global concern and particularly on international security.
When contemplating the state of present-day South Caucasus, the
international community, including American policy-makers and policy
analysts, frequently express anxiety about stability and security in our
region. Establishment of normal civilized relations between Nagorno Karabakh
and Azerbaijan is, without a doubt, a necessary condition for the long-term
stability and security in the South Caucasus. For these reasons, the
attention you are granting me and the people of Nagorno Karabakh that I
represent is especially worthwhile. That is even as the entire United States
and much of the world are preparing to hold their breath over the
unnervingly close context in the Presidential elections, just two weeks

The South Caucasus today is region of competing geopolitical and
geo-economic visions and designs. It would seem that the attention accorded
by great power interests would contribute to the region's stability.
However, with the long-running conflicts still unresolved, the region
remains a powder keg and any misstep might risk turning it into an area of
chaos and instability. Any conflict resolution effort in the South Caucasus,
particularly in Nagorno Karabakh, demands careful analysis and consideration
of all local interests.

In the past 15 years, a number of delegations, among them American diplomats
and members of Congress, as well as regional experts, have visited Nagorno
Karabakh, met with its leaders and public in an effort to understand the
conflict and its roots. For our part, it was a pleasure to hear that the
approach we have adopted - to build a statehood based on democratic
institutions and respect for human rights - corresponds to their vision of
what our region should look like.

It can be argued that the violation of human rights and the rights of a
whole nation were and are precisely the factors at the root of the Nagorno
Karabakh conflict.

I would like to remind you that the Nagorno Karabakh issue first became an
international problem in 1918 after the fall of the Russian Empire and as
newly independent Armenia and Azerbaijan began to demarcate their borders.
Karabakh was at the time internationally recognized as a disputed area.
But in the end through a decision of a political party organization of a
third state - the Caucasus bureau of the Russian Communist Party - the
overwhelmingly Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh was denied its
natural territorial and national unity and transferred to Soviet Azerbaijan.
Through the entire period of this forced and unnatural incorporation, the
rights of the Karabakh Armenians were systematically violated by the Soviet
Azerbaijani government. In spite of this pressure, the local population
continued to defend its right to free development and preservation of its
unique culture.

A new stage of the movement for Karabakh's freedom began at the end of 1987,
with massive meetings and demonstrations involving tens of thousands of
local people. These actions of the Armenian population were strictly
peaceful and constitutional in nature. Unfortunately in response, the Soviet
Azerbaijani leaders tried to provoke inter-ethnic clashes. Azerbaijan
responded to Karabakh's democratic demands with pogroms and mass murders of
ethnic Armenians throughout Azerbaijan, including in Sumgait, Ganje and
Baku, and a complete blockade of Nagorno Karabakh, which remains in effect
today. An all out war was unleashed in 1991, which continued until 1994,
when in May of that year a cease-fire agreement came into effect and
continues to hold to date.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) began to deal
with the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in 1992, when the present format of the
peace process was established. While giving due credit to the OSCE and its
Minsk Group for all of their efforts towards resolution of this long-running
conflict, I would nevertheless have to note that in seeking a political
settlement of the conflict, the mediators have paid little attention to the
legal aspects of the issue. All through the peace process, Nagorno Karabakh
leaders repeatedly stressed that the basis for our separation from Soviet
Azerbaijan in 1991 was so legally sound that it could provide an important
foundation and support to an eventual political settlement of the conflict.
The establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) was declared on
September 2, 1991, shortly after Azerbaijan announced its own independence,
in full conformity with basic norms and principles of international law.
Creation of NKR did not contradict the "Declaration of re-establishment of
the state independence of the Azerbaijan republic," since Azerbaijan was
re-established in the framework of the 1918-20 republic, which did not
include Nagorno Karabakh.

NKR's independence was supported by a popular referendum, in which the vast
majority of Karabakh's population voted for complete independence from
Azerbaijan, whose leaders had in turn proclaimed their independence from the
USSR. That referendum was conducted on the basis of the Soviet law "On the
procedure of secession of a Soviet Republic from the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics." Article 3 of that law demanded that should a republic,
such as Azerbaijan, decide to leave the Soviet Union, autonomous entities
and compactly settled national minorities, such the Nagorno Karabakh
Autonomous Region and adjacent Armenian-populated districts, have a right to
decide their own legal and political future through a referendum.
Negotiations with participation of mediators began just as the major
fighting was getting underway. The Nagorno Karabakh leadership participated
in these negotiations from the beginning, pursuing two major goals: to stop
the bloodshed and to convince the international community that subordinating
Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan was impossible. Our principle and position
from day one and to date is that there is no alternative to a peaceful
settlement of this conflict.

As you know, the current stage of the peace process is not marked by
intensive negotiations. Recent meetings between Presidents of Armenia and
Azerbaijan, as well as their Foreign Ministers, certainly facilitate the
peaceful dialogue. However, as the most recent meetings in Prague and Astana
confirmed, not much progress has been made in terms of content of these
talks. Moreover, considering the recent unfortunate experience with the
Paris and Key West negotiations, when Azerbaijan disowned principles reached
at those talks, we are not overly optimistic about Azerbaijan sticking to
whatever new approaches we may agree on. A logical question is therefore
should the parties agree to another set of principles, would they share the
fate of Paris and Key West principles.

Regarding our own participation in negotiations, our position is clear -
Nagorno Karabakh cannot remain outside the process of settlement that
relates directly to its own fate. Mediators recognize this quite well and
they continue to insist on Karabakh's participation in the process. Only
with Karabakh's participation, can these negotiations become truly effective
in the way of achieving the soonest and most viable settlement. I would
recall that the May 1994 cease-fire agreement, which marked the most
tangible progress towards resolution of the conflict so far, was achieved
with direct participation of Nagorno Karabakh as a full party to the talks
that undertook and delivered on a set of commitments in terms of
establishment and preservation of the cease-fire regime.

We are also convinced that a successful continuation of the peace process
depends on stability in our region, which in turn is the sum of stable
conditions in all of the regional entities. In the years of independence, we
have succeeded in creating a functioning and politically stable state and
society, which is perhaps one of the most successful in the Caucasus. We now
have an established state institution including a legitimately elected
Parliament and President that enjoy popular confidence and command influence
throughout Karabakh. The Army of Defense of Nagorno Karabakh, which
protected our people from Azerbaijani aggression, today is under civilian
control and serves as the main and real guarantor of the security of our
statehood and our people.

Additionally, Nagorno Karabakh has embarked on the way of reform aiming to
establish a market-based economy. This is in spite of the estimated
multi-billion dollar damage the war caused our infrastructure. Due to
fighting, and especially due to Azerbaijan's indiscriminate aerial and
artillery shelling, close to half of all of Karabakh residents lost their
homes, that is more than 18,000 private houses and apartments; destroyed
also were some 200 schools and kindergartens, about 170 healthcare
facilities, close to 85 percent of our manufacturing capacity and hundreds
of other facilities.

To rebuild and, at the same time, reform our economy, we had to rely mostly
on our own resources, long-term credits from Armenia and humanitarian aid
from our Diaspora. We did not just survive. We have established a legal
system that regulates economic relations, which allows us to make a gradual
and balanced transformation to a market economy. We have completed
privatization of land and small and medium enterprises. Today, Karabakh has
become an attractive place to work for foreign investors, thanks both to our
natural riches and liberal tax laws, as well as our stability and security
of investments.

Just in the past four years, foreign investments in Karabakh have twice
exceeded the size of our budget, resulting in the overall economic recovery
and development. Today, the private sector makes up for 80 percent of our
industrial output, while that figure was only 20 percent in 1999, just five
years ago. Major foreign investment programs have focused on mining (which
we did not even have in Soviet days), agribusiness, communications, tourism
and other services.

Using this opportunity, I would like to again extend our gratitude for the
humanitarian assistance from the United States, which since 1998 has helped
the victims of war in Nagorno Karabakh. This assistance is allocated through
the USAID and its non-government contractors. The first portion of this
assistance in the amount of $20 million has already been spent. The second
stage of the program, worth $15 million, is currently underway. The funded
projects include restoration and construction of pipes for drinking water,
healthcare facilities, micro-financing and de-mining. This assistance has
eased the lives of thousands and I would like to assure you that every
tax-payer dollar allocated by Congress to Karabakh has served its intended

Confident of the international community's desire to establish stability and
viable peace in our region and interest in the development of the South
Caucasus, we have always been ready for dialogue to achieve these goals. We
remain committed to this constructive approach today, even though we have
yet to see reciprocity from our counterparts in Azerbaijan. Specifically, a
set of confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the conflict area, which our
leadership proposed in 2001, was rejected by Azerbaijan, even as the U.S.
Congress repeatedly offered to fund such measures. These CBMs are designed
to establish basic cooperation between Azerbaijanis and us, even before the
final settlement of the conflict. One example is water resources sharing
that could potentially benefit both sides and require only modest finances.
Such CBM's remain of utmost importance considering the near total absence of
mutual trust and recently stepped-up militarist rhetoric in Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani leadership, while avoiding all contact with Nagorno
Karabakh, goes as far as to try to prevent any contact between
non-government organizations and even individuals. Azerbaijani peace
activists who have visited Nagorno Karabakh have been harassed and assaulted
upon their return to Azerbaijan.

Capitalizing on Nagorno Karabakh's absence from international organizations,
Azerbaijan tries to discredit us through baseless accusations and
insinuations. There is really no limit to their propagandistic zeal. To
believe our opponents, Karabakh is straight out of the Mad Max movies, with
chaos reining, nuclear waste buried from around the world, slaves traded,
terrorists roaming free and illicit drugs plentiful. Even though it is
well-documented that it was Azerbaijan that enlisted the forces of chaos and
xenophobic hatred, such as the international terrorist Shamil Basayev and
radical Afghan mercenaries that later made up the core of the Taliban, in
its war against us in the early 1990s.

We have repeatedly requested that international organizations and
governments, including the United States, send monitoring groups to Karabakh
to study on location the baseless allegations made by Azerbaijani officials.
Not surprisingly, Azerbaijan for its part does all it can to prevent such

The goal of the Azerbaijani government is to maintain a verbal smokescreen
over Karabakh so that the international community and Azerbaijan's own
citizens remain ignorant of Karabakh's realities particularly that Karabakh
is well ahead of Azerbaijan in terms of democratic development. At the same
time, Azerbaijan also tries to avoid exposure of the baseless nature of its
accusations. In this regard, we would like to see a principled position of
foreign governments and international organizations, which, we are certain,
are interested in objective information out of Karabakh.

The United States, in particular, as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and
a country playing a leadership role around the world, certainly realizes the
importance of building mutual confidence in the region and are capable of
influencing the Azerbaijani leadership so that it backs off its military
threats, works towards promotion of tolerance within their country and
eventual peace throughout our region.

Today, we are witnessing the formation of an open society in Nagorno
Karabakh. We have the necessary legal framework and political climate for
continued democratic development. Since the declaration of independence in
1991, we have conducted several presidential, parliamentary and local
elections, which were observed and positively evaluated by independent
observers, including monitors from the United States. Most importantly, this
is a reflection of the commitment of our people to democratic principles and
our will to move forward as an independent state.

Our position on the peace process and foreign policy in general is based on
the fact that we are representatives of a democratically elected government
of Nagorno Karabakh, whose purpose is to serve and, most basically, provide
security to our citizens.

Democratically developing Nagorno Karabakh cannot be subordinated to an
Azerbaijani state, with its wholesale violation of the rights of
Azerbaijanis themselves and its history of genocidal policies against
Armenians. The Azerbaijani government, which has made not even a single
positive gesture towards Nagorno Karabakh since this conflict began, makes
it abundantly clear that Nagorno Karabakh's independence from Azerbaijan has
no alternative.

Our position is also based on realities of the world today. We believe that
the international community can serve as a guarantor of Nagorno Karabakh's
existence and security of its population by recognizing Nagorno Karabakh
Republic as a subject of international law. The non-recognition of NKR is
frequently explained by reluctance of setting a precedent. But these
precedents have already been set. New trends in international relations show
that nations that are forcefully incorporated into newly-established states
and suffer from pressure from central - in fact, colonial, - undemocratic
governments, have a natural right for a separate existence. We have seen
this in East Timor and Eritrea. Finally, in Kosovo it took the U.S.
leadership to stop ethnic cleansing and attempted Genocide and to establish
a de-facto independent entity, something, we as a nation succeeded in doing
almost exclusively on our own.

Based on this fundamental right, we will continue to seek international
recognition of NKR's independence. Our demand is legally sound and is
grounded on a simple human desire to live freely in peace and dignity. We do
not want what is not ours but we can not compromise on our basic right to
exist. In this effort we count on the understanding of the international
community, which is, without a doubt, interested in the long-term stability
and security of the South Caucasus. It is by taking into account the rights
and fundamental interests of all nations of our region, including Armenians
in Karabakh, that this important goal can be reached.

Thank you for your attention.