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British Friends of Artsakh – 360 Panel Discussion in London

Artsakh 360 Panel Discussion in London

AYF London Branch organised an evening on Artsakh at one of the Halls of Westminster University in Central London on October 17, 2014. Among the guest speakers were Baroness Caroline Cox, MP Stephen Pound and others.

Reports Hasmik Harutunyan from London.

AYF’s London branch chaired an informative and open discussion in a BBC’s Question Time style. The momentum for this panel discussion was symbolic: twenty years ago the war in Artakh ended with the liberation of Shushi, and the founding of a democratic Republic of Karabagh with its own parliament and government.

After the opening speech of Hagop Krikorian of AYP, a short video was projected on the history and the struggle of people of Artsakh. The first speaker, Baroness Cox is a very well known defender of the Armenian cause who has been adopted and loved by Armenians in Armenia, Karabagh as well as worldwide. She emotionally spoke about her first visit to Artsakh, when she witnessed aerial bombardments, 400 daily missiles shot by the Azeris on Stepanakert. She told how she saw inhabitants decapitated, men, women and children dying, and not only that: amputations with no painkillers or surgeries with no anaesthetics, and that she could not sleep back home. Baroness Cox decided to go back just after 12 days, again risking her own life, and delivered painkillers and medication, donated by big pharmaceutical companies to her Charity called HART.

In the past twenty years, Baroness Cox has visited Artsakh more than 80 times including during the fierce fighting. She continues her help and support in various shapes and forms. Firstly, she delivered cows so that the local people could get back their livelihood; she was quite shocked to hear from a grandmother that her grandchildren did not know the taste of milk. Baroness Cox spoke with passion about The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre that she opened in Artsakh, where people with physical, mental and post-traumatic stress are treated. Her Rehabilitation Centre is now a Centre of Excellence offering treatments to children and adults, not only for Armenians but also for neighbouring countries.

Baroness Cox said while”Stepanakert was a place like hell” some 20 years ago, now it is a green and flourishing capital of Karabagh with 80.000 inhabitants and beautiful town centre. She read a touching poem by a little boy called Gegham, whose message was that he would never seek for paradise in any other land.

“I cannot do Everything, but I cannot do Nothing!” said Baroness Cox asking the audience to visit this hospitable and beautiful country more often.

The next notable speaker, MP Stephen Pound talked about the war in Karabagh, for Armenians in Karabagh it was not a “War to Take something but to Protect something”. Mr. Pound admitted that while he did not have a drop of Armenian blood, he was proud of their courage. Mr. Pound mentioned that there were still daily attacks from very well armed Azeri side, and the situation needed a political solution. Mr. Pound compared the lack of democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan, with Karabagh that has fully embraced international law and has created a democratically elected government.

He confirmed that though Azeri government spends vast sums on their PR abroad, generated by oil and BP investments, he profoundly hopes that British government will change its policy towards recognition of Nagorny Karabagh. He reassured the Armenian community of London that as long as he was in Parliament, he would continue to fight for the Armenian cause and the Armenian Genocide.

“This nation has suffered too much for too long”, said Mr. Stephen Pound to end his presentation.

Journalist and photographer Russell Pollard shared his impressions of his first trip to Armenia by accident and how he fell in love with the country. He told how shocked he was to find out about the Armenian Genocide by visiting the Museum of Genocide, and was captured by the history of this ancient land. Since 2000 Mr. Pollard visited Artsakh 9 times and documented the history of this fragile democracy in his photos and reports. He spoke about the landmines that still cause injuries and fatal accidents. Mr Pollard said that he found the young generation in Atsakh very well educated, well informed and hungry to learn. He believed that it should be priority to keep those young people in Artsakh, as many of them tend to emigrate to Russia and other countries to seek for work opportunities.

In his presentation Dr. Andranik Kasbarian focused on the economic development and future opportunities.

“Economic development in Karabagh is not only about economy, it is about survival”, said Dr. Kasbarian. While Karabagh is a true wonderland, rich in mineral resources, it has been hard to develop this fertile land. According to Dr. Kasbarian Karabagh requires foreign investment in the areas of light industries such as tourism, agriculture, renewable energies and manufacturing. The speaker outlined the Italian entrepreneurs investing in a silk factory already employing 700 people. As the road and IT infrastructures have improved, the country can encourage and support more foreign investors. Dr. Kasbarian also mentioned the importance to develop green energies in Artsakh and said that it is already exporting energy to Armenia and other neighbouring countries.

The final guest speaker of the evening was Mr. Giro Manoyan who presented the brief history of Artsakh, and emphasized that Russia has never been interested in political solution for Nagorno Karabagh region. Mr. Manoyan mentioned Minsk negotiations that started in 2007, and covered in detail all elements of the peace proposal. According to the speaker, both USA and Russian governments have agreed that all six elements of this proposal should be fulfilled, and elements cannot be picked and chosen. Mr. Giro Manyan also confirmed that the peace in Artsakh was very fragile, and outlined that Karabagh government should be included in all negotiations, as until now only Armenia and Azerbaijan have been part of the negotiating table.

The evening ended with question and answer session, and the audience had the opportunity to ask questions to the panel. Among them, there were Azeri students, as one of them asked about UN resolution on Karabagh. Baroness Cox answered that it was the right of the people of Karabagh for self-determination, in the same way as it was the right for the people of Kosovo for self-determination. Dr. Kasbarian outlined that Armenian government has not asked for Karabagh to be part of Armenia, it is Artsakh people who have asked for auto-determination.

Artsahch 360 Panel Discussion in London was a well-organised informative event, especially for young generation of Armenians and other nationalities living side by side in this cosmopolitan capital.

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