PRIMOSKO–BULGARIA (ARF Press Office)–With the closing of the second annual International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) Balkan round-table seminar on "Peace and Integration," members of the seminar then participated in the first annual meeting of the Black Sea Cooperation Pact’s "United for Just Peace" talks.
Youth from Socialist organizations from Russia–Belarus–Ukraine–Romania–Bulgaria–Georgia–Azerbaijan–Turkey–Armenia and Greece were present.
ARF youth office director Sarkis Mkrtchian and Eva Hagopian represented Armenia at both events. The ARF Youth Organization of Armenia is a member of IUSY.
To open the talks–representatives of respective organizations presented their organization’s profile and current undertakings.
Armenia’s Mkrtchian briefed the meeting on the ARF Youth Organization’s structure and projects and presented the history of the organization. He explained that the organization–during the Soviet era–was banned in Armenia. With Armenia’s independence–the organization re-emerged–and as a result–the ARF Youth office was established. He noted that there are ARF youth organizations in 17 countries–and that they came about as a result of the 1915 genocide of Armenia’s.
After the briefing–representatives inquired about ARF student organizations and other matters.
Later that day–participants met with the president of Bulgaria’s Socialist Party who addressed not only international affairs but also issues specific to the Balkans.
During these talks–the Turkish representatives stated that the state of the economy and the imminent US attack on Iraq–posed the greatest problem in Turkey.
The Azeri representative revealed many problems in Azerbaijan–stressing that the greatest issue is the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict–as a result of which "twenty percent of the country has been invaded and approximately 1 million refugees have emerged." He then addressed corruption and other matters.
During this session–the Armenian representatives talked about the current situation in Armenia–detailing corruption and economic problems. Addressing regional issues–Mkrtchian spoke of the Nagorno-Karabagh issue–Turkey’s hostile stance and the difficulties of Armenia’s in Javakhk.
Returning to the Nagorno-Karabagh issue–Mkrtchian emphasized that the ARF will never recognize Nagorno-Karabagh as a part of Azerbaijan because at no time in history has Nagorno-Karabagh been a part of an independent Azerbaijan. The arbitrary drawing of borders by Stalin can not serve as a basis for a just and stable peace. Speaking about Turkey–he continued that the greatest proof of its hostility toward Armenia is its policy of refusing to establish diplomatic ties with Armenia. "As far as the ARF is concerned," he continued–"Turkish-Armenian ties can be established only after Turkey recognizes its responsibility for the Armenian genocide." He also stressed the necessity of stopping conflicts from re-emerging in Javakhk as a first step to a resolution.
After the commen’s of delegates–the representative from Azerbaijan asked for voice. He was at first denied by the chairman of the meeting who stated–"were are here in the spirit of cooperation–and are not here to argue." He was then allowed to speak briefly.
He argued that Nagorno-Karabagh has never been an independent republic–and that Azerbaijan is willing to grant it sovereignty–and that this point–in his words: "is the one thing that ex President Levon Der Bedrosian had agreed to." The ARF representative quickly answered that Der Bedrosian is no longer president of the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh can never be a part of Azerbaijan.
The representative from Turkey asked to express simply one sentence: "We do not recognize the Armenian genocide."
At that time–the chairman of the meeting paused to state that when organizing these talks–the organizing body recognized the many conflicts within the region and the fact that problems would arise. In undertaking the talks–however–the body decided not to deal with politics; the intent rather–was to create a spirit of cooperation among the youth. If the youth–he continued–are ready to continue talks in the future–then perhaps regional conflicts could be an up-coming topic. Both organizers and participants–he revealed–are only prepared to deal with issues of cooperation–and are not prepared to delve into other matters.
Mkrtchian asked to speak again to state that if the meeting was not prepared to discuss all present issues–then the meeting is useless: "We speak of cooperation–but we do not talk about those issues which require cooperation. ARF youth welcomes the idea of conducting such talks–with the intent to allow youth to analyze issues. It is vital to discuss these issues in detail to give meaning to the talks."
The meeting later passed a resolution–supported by the Armenian delegation–which states that participants are ready to continue future meetings in the name of "United for Just Peace," to create a better future–and a better world.
The meeting decided that the next talks take place January 2003 and–based on earlier discussions and present situations–the talks address regional conflicts.
The ARF youth delegation thanked the IUSY for organizing the meetings and thanked the Socialist Youth Organization of Bulgaria for their hospitality.
The meeting closed with representatives of IUSY recognizing the need to address regional conflicts of Turkey–Azerbaijan and Armenia–and Greece–Cyprus and Turkey–as well as democratization of former Soviet states. In their closing remarks–IUSY director Enzo Amendola and vice president of IUSY Nesrin Can thanked participants and expressed the desire to collectively–as one organization–gather young statesmen to discuss matters and search for solutions.