Thursday, 04 October 2007
Alert’s recent PeaceTalks event brought together civil society leaders to share their first-hand perspectives on the conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijanis over Nagorny Karabakh. Among the panelists of the event was Avaz Hasanov (right), Head of the Centre for Humanitarian Research, a member of the Human Rights House Azerbaijan.
Published by International Alert; placed on HRHF website by Shahla Ismailova/HRH Azerbaijan; photo by Shahla Ismailova
On 27 September, International Alert’s PeaceTalks discussion, titled ‘Reconciling with the other side: Perspectives from the South Caucasus’ saw a well-informed discussion at St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London. The discussion took place as part of week-long series of events dedicated specifically to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, considered to be one of the most intractable and forgotten conflicts on the borders of Europe.
Marc Behrendt, Alert’s Eurasia Programme Manager, chaired the event by giving an overview on the conflict and introducing the four panelists: Maya Barkhudaryan from Armenia, Vardan Tadevosyan from Nagorny Karabakh, and Avaz Hasanov and Vusal Rajabli from Azerbaijan.
The discussion that followed gave insight into the experiences of civil society working to bring peace in the region. Thorny issues, such as dealing with the unpopular idea of reconciliation, were touched upon with interesting perspectives from all sides of the conflict. Mr Hasanov, Head of the Centre for Humanitarian Research in Azerbaijan, explained how difficult things can be:
Human rights activists are unpopular in any society because we always raise issues painful for authorities… I knew the authorities did not like me and my family hated me as they believed it was my fault that they were refugees. And my family kept asking, ‘What’s the point of talking to the Armenians? They have taken our land and instead of talking, we should fight them’.
The discussion then shifted to prospects for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. Whether the conflict has been political or socially fuelled, the panellists all believed strengthening the peace process in the region is preferable to seeking a military solution. As Mr Rajabli said:
Am I willing to see my country at war? No. That is one of the reasons why Azeris have been seeking alternate solutions. I think people in Karabhakh also want [peace]. They have houses to protect and families to protect too.
The event concluded with ideas for peacebuilding. The question of how the conflict might be resolved was met by these views from Ms Barkhudaryan:
I don’t think to bomb is the answer. I don’t want my country to be Iraq. I think it’s good that our countries are mature and they dealt [with the conflict] without any peacekeeping forces. Developing and nurturing this place… I think that’s what we should do.
International Alert would like to thank everyone who attended and actively participated in the discussion with their questions. Information on future PeaceTalks events will be available through our monthly e-bulletin as well as our website.
Thursday’s PeaceTalks discussion was part of a week-long series of events in London organised by the Consortium Initiative, a coalition of international non-governmental organisations established to address the conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis over Nagorny Karabakh.
This is the first such series of high profile events organised in London focusing on the Nagorny Karabakh conflict and the prospects for its peaceful resolution. Key events of the week included: a public screening of films made by Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists; round tables and discussions between actors from the region; and an international conference on ‘Prospects for Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh’, co-organised with the International Institute for Strategic Studies and bringing together key international experts as well as public figures from Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan.
Established in 2003, the Consortium Initiative is lead by International Alert, with the participation of Conciliation Resources and LINKS.