ISTANBUL—Efforts by Azerbaijan to politicize the Black Sea Economic Cooperation were thwarted when head of the Armenian delegation admonished Azerbaijan for discussing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at a forum that “cannot become a platform for political discussions and accusations.”
During a presentation to the summit, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said conflict was a major barrier to the expansion of regional cooperation and the deepening of economic relations.
“The conflict has not yet been resolved and is a threat not only to economic cooperation but, in general, to peace and stability in the region,” said Aliyev.
In response Armenia’s representative, Deputy Foreign Minister Ashot Hovakimyan admonished the Azeri leader for his attempts to politicize the regional economic summit.
“According to the basic documents of the BSEC, the organization should stay in the limits of its economic mandate and cannot become a platform for political discussions and accusations. The BSEC summit is not a proper place to discuss the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The OSCE Minsk Group is the only agreed format for the negotiations on the Karabakh issue,” said Hovakimyan.
Diplomatic sources told PanArmenian.am that the adoption of a final declaration, which strengthened the resolve of members to states to further their cooperation, was marred by efforts by Azerbaijan to add amendments that would alter the focus and politicize the document in its favor.
The same sources told PanArmenian.net that Turkey’s high-ranking officials, under pressure of the European Union, succeeded in persuading Baku to withdraw its politically motivated provisions, as the Armenian delegation would never sign the document that would be detrimental to Yerevan.
The amendments were removed one by one, while the Turkish officials were negotiatd with both the Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations, according to the source.
The BSEC was established on June 25, 1992 with Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine as participating countries. In 2004 Serbia and Montenegro also entered the cooperation group.
President Serzh Sarkisian, who did not attend the summit, issued a written statement that was read at the gathering. The Armenian president stressed that economic progress was impeded by closed borders.
“I would like to reiterate that Armenia continues to adhere to the principles and goals enshrined in the charter of the organization, and always faithfully implements all decisions adopted by the organization as well as agreements and memorandums signed by the member states,” said Sarkisian. “I am confident that in the face of the thorny problems existing in the region, further enhancement of the multilateral economic cooperation in the framework of the BSEC will inevitably result in the facilitation of the political dialogue between the member states and establishment of regional stability.”
“There can be no implementation of economic programs in a multilateral or bilateral format under closed borders. Unimpeded contact and open borders, free movement of resources and equal conditions for competition remain the main prerequisites for the development of contemporary economic relations. Blockades and closed borders are not only artificial obstacles for bilateral and multilateral cooperation, but also unacceptable dividing lines on the political map of the 20th century. The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation has adopted all these provisions, and we have to ensure their successful implementation,” explained Sarkisian.