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South Caucasus countries try to resolve their own security issues

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, December 14
The Yerevan-based Analytical Centre on Globalisation and Regional Cooperation, with the support of the German Council of Foreign Relations, Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, held the second Security Forum of the Southern Caucasus on December 11 at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Tbilisi. The participants of this forum, foreign diplomats, analysts and political figures, expressed their viewpoints on how security should be protected in this region.

The meeting consisted of four sessions. At the first Davit Sikharulidze, representative of Vice Premier Temur Iakobashvili, and European participants made speeches. At the second Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijanian analysts gave their views. The third session was dedicated to the views of US and Turkish delegates and the last summarised the first three.

Sikharulidze stated that over the last 20 years the situation in the South Caucasus has been significantly strained and these kinds of forums have a crucial importance for beginning the stabilisation of the region. "The Georgian people have always had good relations with those of neighbouring nations. At the present moment, we have relations of course but they are not very deep, and this is one of the main reasons for the instability in this region. South Caucasus nations should get to know one another better, as this will be the precondition of advances in the security direction,” Sikharulidze said.

Many different and controversial viewpoints were expressed about how to resolve the South Caucasus' security problems. Frederik Lojdquist, Ambassador and Special Envoy for Georgia of the Swedish EU – Presidency, suggested that civil society development in the region and the Eastern Partnership would play a positive role in normalising relations. "Civil societies should be more informed about Western achievements, human rights and democratic values; everything starts from personal development,” the Ambassador suggested. This view was supported by Katja Plate, from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, who mentioned that years ago Germany and Poland had also had negative relations but civil society and diplomatic involvement had changed this. "Civil society's correct development and the increasing of its knowledge have vital importance for the security of this very diverse region, that is why our Foundation is actively working in this direction,” Plate stated.

Cursten Lenk, from the Bosch Stiftung, added that the youth of the region should be more involved in the issues taking place in the South Caucasus. “Some voluntary organisations involving young people from different countries of the region should be created. If the young are brought up on democratic principles and aware of what is called political culture, the situation will necessarily be improved,” Lenk suggested.

Peter Semneby, Ambassador and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, underlined the importance and necessity of the EU's Eastern Partnership Programme, which he said would be the most powerful precondition for security in the region. However, he also outlined the obstacles it would meet. "The South Caucasus Region is very diverse, with different national values and religious, which prevent regional consolidation. Other serious obstacles are the frozen conflicts, worsening interstate relations and closed borders. To begin with the EU and other foreign structures should work with the various national Governments to resolve these internal problems,” Semneby said.

The same issues were raised by the Armenian and Azerbaijani Ambassadors. Rauf Rajabov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan and head of the international analytical centre Third View, talked about the South Caucasus countries' divergent political and economic goals, which make the region unstable. "We should concentrate on the region's internal conflicts. Georgia and Russia have a strained relationship, and the same can be said of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Karabakh conflict is not to be forgotten when speaking about security. Turkey has an absolutely different direction again and wants to be the leader of the region." Davit Shahnazarian, Armenian Ambassabor and head of the Concord Centre of Political and Legal Studies, each country of the region should sit down and think about how to behave. "If there is a confrontation in any one of the countries of the region there is instability in the whole region. Everyone should realise that the Caucasus is an absolutely different phenomenon and the Caucasian countries and Governments should realise this first of all,” stated Shahnazarian.

A different view was expressed by Viacheslav Igrunov, Director of the International Institute for Humanities and Political Studies and member of the Russian Duma from 1993-2003, who said that, "When someone talks about some kind of union of South Caucasus countries, they should consider Russia as well, as Russia is not only a neighbour, it is also part of the South Caucasus and without its involvement nothing positive will emerge from any process. Likewise the Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities should also participate in any collaboration, as they are also citizens of the region,” Igrunov mentioned.

The views expressed at the meeting have been commented on by analysts. Giorgi Volski, from the International Centre for Geopolitical Studies, underlined the North Caucasus factor, which may seriously affect the regional situation. "It is quite clear that there is already a war going on in the North Caucasus, and when we talk about regional security this issue should also be taken into consideration, as this war may cross the Caucasus mountains and threaten the South Caucasus too. Therefore without Russia and Turkey’s participation regional security is unimaginable,” Volski said. Nugzar Iakobishvili, an analyst in IDP rights, stated that if the region's countries cannot resolve their problems alone no advances in regional security can be expected. "This region always waits for assistance from foreign countries and institutions. The most important thing for ensuring regional security is that regional problems are resolved internally, without foreign parties being involved all the time,” Iakobishvili said.

Stepan Grigorian, one of the organisers of the forum, mentioned at the end that it had been a step forward, as almost all regional representatives had attended it and close cooperation within the region had thus begun.