“In case of any conflict the sides believe theirs is very unique, the world’s most complicated and difficult”-K.Bekaryan

NGO “European Integration” Chairman Karen Bekaryan gave interview to Panorama.am on August 21, 2013. Below we present an abstract from the interview.

-This June a group of Armenian and Azerbaijani experts produced a joint statement for local governments, international institutions, recommending measures to restore trust between the sides of Karabakh conflict. How realistic is the implementation of the very recommendations, and are there any steps taken on that direction?

- In the framework of this programme analysts, experts, non-governmental sector representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Artsakh gathered in Tbilisi. I personally tool part as a representative from the Armenian side. The firs main result was that people were capable of coming up with a common view and adopt a document. One the one hand it itself is not enough, on the other hand, it shows that in the societies from all the conflicting sides there exists a healthy “element”, that is eager to put efforts for the sake of peace regardless of any myths created or to be created. Even in the tension people are ready to work together and sign a document. The programme presupposes that after the adoption and dissemination of the document each of the sides is to organize round-tables in Baku, Stepanakert and Armenia and initiate discussions on the implementation of the very measures. Follwing it there has already been organized a round-table discussion in Stepanakert. Those in Baku and Yerevan are expected to be held at the end of August or the beginning of September. I think there are many realistic points. Everyone is aware that the enemy rhetoric affects the regulation process, the negotiation process, does not enable to take trust-building measures. Several points of the document refer to the enemy rhetoric used by high-level officials as well as mass media monitoring. It is one thing when you monitor on sheer theoretical basis, and another thing when you try to get out of the monitoring a tool that can be exercised by international institutions. This will have a preventive meaning and will contain elements of responsibility. The problem of the incidents in the line of contact, their investigation has also been prioritized. That is to say, everything that we ourselves experience is reflected in the paper. Is it realistic? And why not? It is no coincidence that the recommendations are addressed to both the authorities of the conflict sides, international institutions, and, certainly, mediators. In the case of their eagerness and support everything can be more than realistic. People showed that there exists a concrete united wave.

- Mr. Bekaryan, is there any international experience when the conflicting sides succeeded to reach the settlement of problems, a precedent that in the case of Artsakh problem can serve as a pledge for success and optimism?

- On thinking over such pledge for success my sight instantly turns to Europe. In case of any conflict the sides believe theirs is very unique, the world’s most complicated and difficult, and the settlement is something impossible. It contains both objective and subjective factors. One of the objective factors is that he or she, his or her family have immediately undergone the conflict. Time is also an objective factor. It should also create an opportunity for healing the wounds, for advancing. In the range of subjective factors there comes rhetoric, the propaganda of war, cruelty, the image of enemy. If we regard the history of Europe, I can draw two examples. The first one is Denmark and Sweden. If we see how many times they have been in war against each other with how many victims and with what severity, our conflict both in terms of history and the prism of the latest war would seem very mild as compared to the Dano-Swedish conflict. The second example is Franco-German conflict. You can observe what and for how many centuries has happened in the context of Franco-German conflict.

Some two months ago I had the honor to take part in a joint programme initiated by French and German governments that has been realized in the framework of the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty. One expert from each of the Eastern Partnership countries has been in Berlin, bordering German region of Saarland, then by crossing the border to Lotharingia and visited French bordering city of Forbach and then Paris.

During the whole period of the programme the inviting sides presented the bordering areas with all their history as well as wars. Let us draw some parallels. World War II and there exists an incomparable mistrust between the sides: even today there are political experts who insist that even if we use the phrase “trust crisis” for the time back then, it would say nothing as “trust crisis” means that there used to be trust which later on disappeared. There existed complete distrust between France and Germany. Elzas and Lotharingia, as a result of great and bloddy wars, have passed from one side to the other. And here is in 1963 Elysee Treaty is signed, and before that in the atmosphere of lack of trust the sides come to an agreement, and Saarland undergoes referendum (of course with the consent of France) to determine its fate in 1957, 12 years after the war. The referendum results show that Saarland want to reunite with Germany and in 1963 the great reconciliation and friendship treaty is signed. In fact, 18 years after the war great Elysee Treaty is signed and the Saarland referendum – in12 years.

Next year will mark 20 years since the ceasefire between Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Do we have an improvement? Is it a matter of political culture? It, certainly, is! Is it a demonstration of leaders’ will? Certainly! When you observe the history and speak with the locals, witnesses, it becomes clear that the leaders of France and Germany back then, Adenauer and de Gaulle, worked to stop the sowing of enmity and to build confidence. It was due the very atmosphere that it has become possible to achieve what is there in Europe today. For comparison, I should mention that within this year at least 3-4 times it has been announced by the Armenian president that there is no enemy nation to us. And it has been said in the context that the very Azerbaijani people is no enemy for us. But it has to come from the other side as well to be able to find edges of settlement. On the presence of such rhetoric that is there today, what can you settle? How can you go for confidence? What compromises should Artsakh people deliberate over when it hears threatening everyday on TV, radio and reads again threats on the internet? And they encounter the very threat addressed not by any marginalized political power or by any analyst, but the highest representative of the state.

To sum up, there is a positive experience, there are opportunities to study them. There is a problem of political will and vision.

NGO “European Integration”