Serzh Sargsyan: Prospect of a peaceful and prosperous South Caucasus is a must

Distinguished Mr. Berri,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to have this opportunity to visit the friendly Lebanon again – a country which for a considerable part of the Armenian nation has become the second motherland. Taking this opportunity, I express my deep gratitude to the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Lebanon, my good friend Nabih Berri for this invitation, warm welcome and for the opportunity to share with you our objectives regarding the Armenian-Lebanese cooperation and to present Armenia’s position on a number of international issues.

The Armenian-Lebanese relations are not just those of partners – these are friendly relations since Armenia and Lebanon are bonded by the centuries-long friendship and strong historical and cultural ties. Armenia and Lebanon began their joint journey through the crossroads of history long, long ago. Very often, the courses of our two nations went concurrently, as did our histories, destinies, and cultures. The history proved, destiny decided, and culture harmonized all that. As a result, a strong Armenian-Lebanese friendship emerged.

We will always remember with gratitude the indispensable assistance offered by the people of Lebanon when as a result of the state policy of extermination conceived and carried out in the Ottoman Turkey, a large segment of the Armenian nation living and creating on its own land was subjected to the genocide and had to leave its homeland. The hospitable, considerate and tolerant Lebanon became a shelter where the fragments of the Armenian nation had found a refuge and safe haven, became stronger, drew themselves up, actively participating and integrating into the political, social and economic, cultural life of Lebanon, at the same time preserving their rich national culture and values.

I take this opportunity to express gratitude to the distinguished President of the National Assembly of Lebanon Nabih Berri and members of the parliament for the serious steps which Lebanon, unlike other countries of the region, has undertaken toward the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and adoption of the resolutions condemning it, earning thus a boundless admiration and respect of the entire Armenian nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From day one of independence, the leadership of Armenia has been attaching great importance to the development and expansion of its cooperation with the Arab world. Our first embassies were established in Arab countries. Undoubtedly, because of the reasons mentioned above, in the Arab world, Lebanon holds a special place for Armenia and Armenians. We view Lebanon as Armenia’s and Armenian nation’s precious friend and reliable partner.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Lebanon. During this visit, I have had opportunities to speak about our political dialogue, economic cooperation, and high-level people to people contacts. At this point, I would like to speak in particular about the development of the Armenian-Lebanese interparliamentary relations which were among the first in the modern Armenian-Lebanese relations to be established through the agreement signed in 1993. I believe, you personally, Mr. Berri, deserve credit for this, you who for the last two decades has always been on the first line of the Armenian-Lebanese cooperation and brotherhood. Today, the Armenian-Lebanese interparliamentary cooperation is developing dynamically.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nowadays it is almost impossible, to efficiently resist current challenges without assistance from friends. The changing nature of these challenges and their geographical extension have created a situation when cooperation between states has become an imperative. We are guided by the conviction that we all are responsible for the establishment of peace and prosperity in the world. Fully cognizant of the seriousness and supranational character of the existing challenges, the Republic of Armenia has adopted a course of creating a mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries based on good will.

Dear Friends,

Unfortunately, the South Caucasus and Middle East continue to remain explosive areas, full of contentions and conflicts. Armenia is concerned with the events unfolding in the Middle East: today they have become a priority for us and an item on Armenia’s foreign policy agenda. The Arab world has entered a serious transition stage which requires great patience, tenacity and faith to overcome. A wave of democratic upheavals, which is sadly not bloodless, is conditioned by a number of deep-rooted factors which have objective as well as subjective causes. They are of a social, economic and political nature. In a nutshell, evidently these processes are based on the rising demands of the population to improve and modernize state structures, and in some cases the authorities are not prepared for such reforms. As a result, a number of countries have to face challenges such as selection of the type of governing, constitutional changes, organization of presidential and political elections, implementation of democratic reforms, etc. However the greatest challenge is the establishment of peace and stability, as well as the cessation of violence.

We are deeply concerned with the destiny of the Syrian people. Continuous armed clashes and terrorist acts are simply unacceptable. One cannot watch without pain the ongoing bloodshed and watch the country being destructed day after day. I am confident that the existing situation is also a result of some regional countries’ proclivity to solve some of their problems with the blood of the Syrian people. Armenia has always advocated the ending of the bloodshed and a peaceful resolution of the conflict by the Syrians themselves.

Along with the brotherly people of Syria, thousands of the Syrian Armenians are also going through the hard times. Armenia’s position on that issue is clear-cut too: this is a calamity which must be conquered together. And we urge our Armenian brothers in Syria to struggle for the speedy re-establishment of peace in Syria – their second motherland which had once received them with open hearts. The Armenian Diaspora of Syria is a historically formed, strong and viable community which we are really proud of. Armenia and the entire Armenian nation have been and will continue to support the people of Syria in their desire to find peace in their own home and to preserve their hearths.

Prosperous and dignified life is an inalienable right of every nation in the world. Today, many peoples are struggling for the values which were enrooted in Lebanon long ago. Certainly, it was a difficult road for you too, however ultimately you became the regional leader of democracy, since from day one, the development of your country has been based on the principles of political and civil liberties, diversity, and equality. That road was difficult also because the neighbors of Lebanon were not ready for it, and for that Lebanon paid dearly. This is a reality which we, Armenians, unfortunately are also well familiar with.

Today, Lebanon indeed feels the results of the unfavorable regional developments. We were deeply shaken and condemned strictly the terrorist act which occurred in Beirut on October 19. Expressing our condolences to the families of the victims, we express hope that that dismal provocation will not shatter peace in Lebanon. We have no doubt that the collective wisdom of the country’s political leadership and undertaken practical steps aimed at the establishment of the atmosphere of national dialogue and mutual trust will preclude Lebanon from serious shocks. I am confident that the Armenian community of Lebanon, which once received a warm welcome from you, will always stand by you. The Armenian authorities in their turn are ready within the scope of our abilities to support Lebanon and the Armenians of Lebanon in addressing issues before you.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our region unfortunately is also familiar with the calamities of war; we know what the imposed war is and how fertile soil which breeds hatred is being created. Quite recently, the people of Nagorno Karabakh in response to their peaceful demand for their basic and legitimate right for self-determination were forced to face and win the war imposed on them by Azerbaijan. In the dilemma of the exodus from their homeland and self-defense, the heroic people of Nagorno Karabakh chose the second. Paying price in numerous victims and great blood, they won the right to live free on their own land. Now, Azerbaijan spares no effort to present a distorted version of the problem, spreading disinformation in various structures and misleading different countries. In some settings, Azerbaijan is trying to present the issue as a conflict on religious grounds which cannot be further from the truth. Armenia’s warm, friendly relations with many of the Islamic states prove our openness for a dialogue with different religions and civilizations. Regrettably Azerbaijan nevertheless occasionally succeeds through the exploitation of the Islamic solidarity in forming a distorted position regarding the NK conflict. Using this opportunity, I would like to once again express my heartfelt gratitude to Lebanon for its balanced position on the NK issue and for the assistance provided in the framework of international organizations. Your unbiased position contributes to the stability in our region.

Despite the ceasefire, today Azerbaijan continues to shell not only the borders of Karabakh but also borders of Armenia, killing innocent young people. In response to all efforts of the international community to solve the problem through peaceful means, Azerbaijan carries on with its bellicose rhetoric and unprecedented accumulation of weaponry. Just one example: according to different sources, weaponry purchased by Azerbaijan from Israel exceeds 1,5 billion dollars price tag. It is no accident that Azerbaijan refuses to cooperate on any proposal by the mediators to establish confidence building measures such as removal of snipers from the line of contact, or creation of the mechanism for the investigation of the border incidents.

Moreover, the Azeri authorities continue with great ardor to inject their people with hatred and animosity toward Armenians. How else would you comment on the statement by the leader of that country that “Armenians all over the world are Azerbaijan’s number one enemy?” Here, from this high podium, I state with the utmost responsibility that there is no nation in the world that Armenia and Armenians would call enemies. And it is quite natural. Our enemy is xenophobia which is so abundantly is being infused into the young generation of Azerbaijan. Our enemies are extremism and intolerance which for some have become dreams to erase Armenia and Karabakh from the world map, to cleanse them of Armenians, as once another part of Azerbaijan – Autonomy of Nakhichevan was cleansed.

As a result of this shortsighted policy, the people of Azerbaijan will never be ready for a peaceful coexistence, even if the agreement on the solution of the problem is reached somehow. After all, neither Armenia, nor I guess Azerbaijan are  going anywhere from our region, thus a prospect of the peaceful and prosperous South Caucasus is not a choice but a requirement.

Dear Friends,

It’s been a while since Turkey and Azerbaijan, standing shoulder to shoulder, continue the illegal blockade of Armenia which although has harmed and impeded our country’s development and prosperity, nevertheless has not been able to derail our advancement. I believe the time has come for our neighbors to look realistically at the events going on in the region, to reevaluate the efficiency of their steps. Maybe in that case, our weary peoples will get a hope of a peaceful and concordant future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Twenty-one years ago, the reestablishment of independence opened a new page in the Armenian history. Armenia has adopted the course of democratic development and stays that course. Overcoming scores of objective and artificial hurdles, today we have strong Armenian statehood, political stability, powerful Army, open and multifunctional economy, reliable financial system, strong social structures, and citizens well-aware of their rights.

One of the most cherished objectives of the Armenian leadership is to pass over to future generations values which are aimed for a stable, secure, peaceful and harmonious existence. Such future can be created only together with friends. I am confident that Armenia and Lebanon will go down that long road together.

Allow me to express thanks for your attention and wish the Republic of Lebanon lasting stability and prosperity, and unbreakable peace and new achievements to the brotherly people of Lebanon.

Long live the Armenian-Lebanese friendship!

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