Karabakh Parliament Speaker: Our goal is to live without coercion
Published: Tuesday September 20, 2011
Washington - Parliament Speaker Ashot Ghulian addressed a congressional celebration marking the 20th anniversary of Artsakh's independence, noting the unrecognized republic's accomplishments and challenges.
"Since the beginning of the Karabakh Freedom Movement in 1988, on the day when we declared our independence on September 2, 1991 and today our main goal remains unchanged: to live without coercion; not to oppress, and not to be oppressed," Ghulian stressed in his remarks.
While expressing Nagorno Karabakh Republic's aspiration for a peaceful settlement of the conflict with Azerbaijan, Ghulian noted the hardened attitudes in that country fueled by oil and gas revenues and argued that in absence of alternatives, the current cease-fire provided a basic foundation for future peace.
Karabakh Speaker also argued that "just like "blood diamonds" sometimes encourage warfare, the inflow of cash - including American cash - into Azerbaijan is what has made its leadership so intransigent and revanchist.
"By contrast, every dollar invested or donated to Artsakh strengthens today's tenuous peace and helps all parties retain a reasonable prospect for resolution that renewed warfare would postpone indefinitely," Ghulian added.
The event was organized by co-chairs of the Armenian Congressional Caucus Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and attended by Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). Congressional speakers noted their continued support for NKR, its recognition and U.S. aid.
According to media reports, Azerbaijan's foreign ministry downplayed the importance of the congressional event whereas Azerbaijan's Embassy in U.S. attempted to thwart it, sending a five-page letter to all members of Congress urging them not to attend. A Baku news agency claimed that Azerbaijani students staged a protest outside the event venue, but no such protest could be observed throughout the two and a half hour session.
Accompanied on his Washington visit by fellow member of NKR's National Assembly Zoya Lazarian, Ghoulian also met with Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, other members of Congress, Washington-based experts and Armenian American groups.
English translation of Ghulian's remarks as delivered at the Capitol Hill event on September 13 and provided by NKR Office in Washington:
Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear compatriots, ladies and gentlemen:
It is an honor to celebrate my people's main holiday - our Independence Day, the 20th anniversary of Nagorno Karabakh Republic - here, in the US Congress, with such a distinguished audience.
I want to express gratitude to the organizers of this event - members of the Armenian Caucus, especially the Caucus Co-Chairs - Representatives Frank Pallone and Ed Royce, as well as the Armenian Embassy, personally Ambassador Margaryan, Office of Artsakh in the USA and all the Armenian-American organizations who facilitated this reception.
When Americans declared independence in 1776, my country was not yet free. But this was a dream Armenians shared already at the time, as in 1773 the first Armenian constitutional project was published by Hakob Shanamirian in Madras, India.
We continued to cherish those ideas when the Soviet Union declared the policy of reform and the perestroyka, which were welcomed by the United States Government and the whole American people.
Since the beginning of the Karabakh Freedom Movement in 1988, on the day when we declared our independence on September 2, 1991 and today our main goal remains unchanged: to live without coercion; not to oppress, and not to be oppressed. We find any expression of violence abhorrent.
All of us remember the tragedy, which happened to the American nation ten years ago. On behalf of the Artsakh people, I want to express our condolences and support to the United States in its struggle against the global terrorism.
In the dark days of war in Karabakh, we also had to resist aggressors who espoused similar radical and terrorist ideology.
Today, the United States is making tireless efforts to find a positive and peaceful negotiated solution to the Nagorno Karabakh problem, which will be fair and acceptable for the conflicting sides. We appreciate the mediating efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, and give a special significance to the personal involvement of Presidents Obama, Sarkozy and Medvedev.
In modern world, problems can only be solved through patient negotiations. Only through this path, issues previously considered unsolvable can and have been resolved.
But first bloodshed must stop and new bloodletting prevented. In this regard, it is crucial to continue maintaining the May 1994 ceasefire agreement, despite Azerbaijan's continuing military provocations.
We are sincere in our aspiration for peace and cooperation. We have repeatedly expressed our readiness to meet Azerbaijan half way. Unfortunately, we have not seen similar readiness by Azerbaijan, and we do not see it today.
We realize that the status quo is not what we had hoped for when we embarked on our struggle. Yet, particularly considering Azerbaijan's openly and repeatedly stated threat of military action, the current situation with all its components represents the system of our security. Any changes to this arrangement without real guarantees and real definition of what peace and our sovereignty will look like are unacceptable for us.
Our country and our society are open to the world. We have offered cooperation to various international structures. And we hope and expect that, from now on, any report on Karabakh will based on reality, and not on conclusions by "experts" without first-hand knowledge of our country. I am not trying to idealize, we are not perfect, but for the past twenty years, our republic has made significant progress in all directions of development.