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The minutes of the public hearing that took place on March 8, 2014 in the village of Tekali, at the intersection of the borders of the three South-Caucasian republics, with the participation of the dwellers of Tekali and guests from Agstafa, Baku, Gori, Gyumri, Ijevan, Marneuli, Kazakh, Noyemberyan, Tbilisi, Rustavi, Yerevan and the frontier villages of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
OPENING OF SEASON
Huseyn Huseynov
Tekali, Georgia
Huseyn Huseynov, head of Tekali elementary school: Speaking on behalf of the intelligentsia of Tekali, speaking on behalf of the owner of this house, Mushvig, I greet you all, welcome! If I am right, we have guests here coming from the three republics: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The mission of Tekali Process is clear to us all, we know mister Vanyan for a long time, and we hope to see the Process still rolling. We, the residents of Tekali, will be happy to contribute to the peaceful solution of conflicts that exist in Caucasus.

This day is a special one, and I congratulate all women who are present here (March 8 is celebrated as Women's Day in various societies, notably in ex-USSR states). Welcome! I give the floor to the facilitator of our meeting, Georgi Vanyan.

Applauds.

Georgi Vanyan: Dear friends, I welcome you! Last year we’ve lost some individuals who were the part of Tekali Process, and who have left us all some memories regarding their participation and support. Giorgi Khutsishvili is not with us anymore, the first speaker of the first Tekali hearing, and Karine Azizbekyan, the head of the House of Culture (community centre) of Noyemberian. I ask us to respect the memory of Karine and Giorgi with a moment of silence.

Moment of silence.

All the events and meetings of Tekali Process that will take place throughout the current year are dedicated to the memory of Giorgi Khutsishvili, the founder and head of Tbilisi-based International Center on Conflict and Negotiation, a scientist and a fighter for peace in Caucasus, for freedom and human rights.

Applauds.

Precisely three years ago, on 9 March 2011, Tekali Process kicked off, and the first speaker of our hearing was batoni (Mr. in Georgian) Giorgi, Giorgi Khutsishvili. The first hearing of Tekali Process dealt with the topic of mediation of Georgia in the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, Giorgi Khutsishvili stood for the proposition. Today the spinning of Tekali Process already means that the conflict regulation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan is mediated by Georgia. The widow of Giorgi Khutsishvili, kalbatoni (madam) Nino, is with us today, and I hand her the mic.

Applauds.
Giorgi Khutsishvili on the meeting-point of the borders, before the beginning of the hearing on:
The mediation of Georgia in the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict
Tekali, 09.03.2011
Photo: Sasun Khachatryan
Nino Tskhistavi-Khutsishvili
Tbilisi, Georgia
Nino Tskhistavi-Khutsishvili: I welcome you all! Today I want to say big thank you to Tekali Process first of all for honouring me and our daughter, Victoria. I want you to know that I pray with you that peace be with all those who left us and passed away. I met here some people I already know, we again talked and agreed about the fact that life goes by so fast that at the end it is not clear what matters the most, and to what we should dedicate ourselves. I am proud that I can present myself to you as the widow of Giorgi Khutsishvili, I am proud of that as thanks to him I have achieved the most important goal of life: the most important contribution that we can make during our lifetime, which seems such a tiny and insignificant thing in all the universe, is our life itself. And it is the most important and significant thing in one’s life: support one another, without any discrimination, any stereotypes, without any politicized attitudes. The most important thing is to understand, to look into each other’s eyes and support one another, and maybe this is what we can call love. I am proud that I experience immense sense of joy while being among you today, and I am so honoured to sit with you side by side. We all pray for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters today, I know, and it is not a coincidence that we all have gathered here today, and we pray for them in our hearts and in our souls, we pray for them, for all the deceased who have left this earth through fighting for justice, fighting for peace, fighting for serenity and safety of their families. With no discrimination, without any particular and general political struggles which are artificially imposed on us, on humans and on nations. I want to thank you all once again, I apologise, I wasn't ready for a speech, I wasn't warned, and even if I were, I wouldn't be able to speak out too much being able to pass on to you what I sense in my soul and which I want to share with you. Thank you.

Applauds.

Georgi Vanyan: Dear friends, by dedicating Tekali Process to the memory of Giorgi Khutsishvili, who knew so much about conflict resolution and political science, who was our friend and most importantly our teacher, we all vow to try to keep going with what he has started, to do what he would approve of, to be the part of his great venture, I daresay. I now give the floor to Luiza Poghosyan from Yerevan and Zamira Abbasova from Baku so that they can present the future events of Tekali Process during the year 2014.
And it is the most important and significant thing in one’s life: support one another, without any discrimination, any stereotypes, without any politicized attitudes.
The most important thing is to understand, to look into each other’s eyes and support one another, and maybe this is what we call love.
In July 2014 there will be a speech competition in Tekali. Visit the following link for more details:
www.tekali.org
Luiza Poghosyan: A new and a very interesting project that awaits us will be presented by Zamira, and I just want to say that we will continue having public hearings in Tekali. Three more hearings will be held this year. We are trying to discuss all the problems and bring to life all the ideas that we receive through applications that people fill in to take part in hearings. This is not a competition per se, and we will try to allow everyone who sent an application to become speaker at Tekali. Moreover, we are trying to secure that it’s up to us to decide when we gather, so that any person living in South Caucasus who needs to meet someone else from another country will be able to do that in Tekali. That is our dream and we are getting there step by step. And we will be very happy if your thoughts, your specific propositions will help us in making that dream come true.

Zamira Abbasova: Good day dear friends from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. This event is a sellout and it’s a good start. Apart from all the other events that will take part in Tekali this year, there also will be a youth-driven project: speech competition and camping. I will be coordinating this project in Azerbaijan. Youth from both Azerbaijan and Armenia will take part in the competition, so keep an eye on our announcements that will appear in near future. How can we deal with this conflict? (between Azerbaijan and Armenia) What should we do? We will be happy to meet you, to hear you, to learn about your views on the conflict, your vision in this situation.

Georgi Vanyan: Many of you are familiar with the format of the hearing, and I want to offer you a new approach which will be implemented on the current and later hearings. The full texts of the reports are already published, and this time we will ask the speakers to convey to us only the core of their report or point of view so that everyone present on the hearing can become a speaker themselves. We want to spare more time for questions and answers and to your comments.

The moderator hands the word to the speaker.
SOUTH CAUCASIAN UNION: FOR AND AGAINST
Khamis Masimov
Kazakh, Azerbaijan
Khamis Masimov I have been thinking over Nagorno Karabakh issue for a long time, over the issue of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well, and this is what I have come to. I skip the part of the report regarding the history of Seim, how it was created, why it fell apart, what historical motives were there to create Seim and what has led to its decline. I will try to communicate the core of my report to you through series of theses (the full text of the report in Russian)

• The republics of South Caucasus were never completely free and independent states.

• The interests of stronger states were considered which those to dictate their own conditions were.

• The leaderships of these states always considered their own mercenary, selfish interests without taking into account those of ordinary members of their societies.

• Local internal conflicts which were created by the mighty ones ruling over this world were supported by local governors and were used to serve as a factor to secure the regress of the development of civil societies of our republics.

• In these states armed forces were formed to solve the conflicts in South Caucasus between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Until these days this policy is being implemented. The Karabakh conflict which was insinuated by the leadership of ex USSR and which has led to confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the conflicts between Abkhazia and Ossetia on the one hand and Georgia on the other hand, are handy for almost all interested parties except the ordinary citizens of these regions.

Armenia is welcomed with heavy open arms of Russia without the right of solving its problems on its own.

Georgia is being integrated into Europe and it paid for that with the loss of Abkhazia and Ossetia. Georgia cherishes some vague hopes about getting these regions back.

Azerbaijan is tossing and turning between European Union and Customs Union without knowing what to do. Considering the interests of Russia in this region, the return of Karabakh to Azerbaijan seems a pipe dream as well.

Armenia has de jure lost its independence after getting Karabakh. What is the perspective for Armenia’s development? A tough question which has no answer so far.

None of these states can war with other states which are located nearby. Iran, Russia and Turkey are super-states against these dwarf states.

Another question springs from this. Why these states spend huge amounts of money on armed forces? Ideally this money could be invested into the development of the peoples.

Considering all the abovementioned, there are two scenarios or ways of development for the region.

First scenario: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan progressively continue the current politics of escalation dreaming about some opportune occasion. But I think that this is the worst of possible scenarios. Iran is on the agenda today. And before Iran, Ukraine has become another object for geopolitical games unfortunately. Intervention into Iran can start at any moment, by forces that are busy with remaking the world and establishing a new world order. If that happens, the borders of the states of South Caucasus may as well undergo changes. It is hard to say what it will lead to.

Second scenario: The states of South Caucasus reach an agreement on South Caucasus integration and on creating a South Caucasian Union of independent states. That Union should be founded on the principles of freedom of movement for people, goods, services and capital. The leadership of the free states of South Caucasian Union must deal with general issues of the union. These issues may include human rights, questions regarding customs, perspectives on common social and economic development, questions regarding investment bank for development. The external policy should in general be that of political nonalignment. We war with no one, and no one wars with us. That should be the general principle. The armed forces of the states must be abolished.

We think that new perspectives on solving Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia-related conflicts will emerge. Naturally there should be strong conditions for widespread cultural independence of national minorities of these states during the establishment of the Union. The borders of independence should be specified by the commission which will deal with general legislation regulation issues of this Union.

The main motto of South Caucasian Union should be peace and dialogue in case of any conflict. We know that peace is the basic condition for any vital activity both for individual states and for the Union. I can still recall the days when the population living near the borders between all the three states were freely trading with one another which would ultimately lead to the formation of friendly relationships. The creation of a general customs committee will result in open borders for the local population and that in turn will lead to normal economic interactions between the citizens. Caucasus is our common house. We, methinks, should have one general currency which will ease our economic interactions. The worst kind of peace is far better than the best kind of war. Caucasian mentality is basic for our peoples. The salvation of Caucasus depends on its ethnic diversity and on the diversity of its cultures.

As individual states we are weak just like small children are, and we feel the need of stronger states which turn us into their slaves and the perpetrators of their own will. If we succeed in creating a Union, then we will be able to gain voice and articulate our own interests.

There is no alternative for mutual understanding and friendly relationships. South Caucasus must become a region offering well-being and prosperity for all its citizens. This is a preliminary offer which we all should discuss and express our views on. This is just a position of a human rights defender. I think that a competent commission, specialists should work on this. And during the last week I started thinking that there are a couple of states which really abuse us in all aspects without our consent, they don’t even regard us as human beings. But no state will achieve anything if acting separately, that is certain. If South Caucasian Union is formed, then the Union will be taken into account, our opinion will be considered and they will talk to us, as the three republics are located in a very advantageous area geographically and politically. We will dictate what we agree on and what we don’t agree on. I think this is the best way out of the current situation.

Applauds.
Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan continue their politics of escalation disregarding their own gains and losses dreaming about an opportune accident. But I think that it’s the worst of possible scenarios for the situation.
David Mchedlidze, opponent speaker: How much time will it take, according to you, to create such a commission and to work on the basic principles for establishing such a union?

Khamis Masimov: There are a few peculiarities. Currently the societies of Armenia and Azerbaijan seek a way out of the existing situation. If the societies regarded one another as enemies in the past, now the societies have finally understood that it’s a big game, and it is time to bring it to an end, and I’ve visited Armenia several times. We send a message to our states, to the leadership of our countries, but it is hard to know how much time it will take. If the governments of our states consider this an acceptable idea and support it, then we will need one year maximum.

Yulia Chechenashvili, Tbilisi, journalist: We’ve talked about what is happening in Ukraine these days at the beginning of our meeting, which is to say we all understand that an alteration is taking place, a large-scale alteration. I mean, on the one hand there is Russia, and on the other hand there is the U.S. And you openly come out in favour of creating such a union. So, in your opinion Russia and the U.S. will allow South Caucasus to forge such an alliance? Russia has its plot – Eurasian Union, and Georgia, for instance, is part of another one: European Union. Will the three republics have any freedom to act while creating this new union?

Khamis Masimov: I think that if the peoples decide themselves, if they come to a conclusion that it is time to create this union, then neither Russia nor the U.S. will be able to do anything about it. This is my opinion.

Nuzgar Gogorishvili, chairman of Union for South Caucasus Peaceful Development: When did this idea come to exist? Based on what is happening in Ukraine? And you’ve said that human rights defenders should work on this, if I am correct. If not, then who? But the most important question is when did this idea came into existence and what brought you there?

Khamis Masimov: This idea was shaped before the events in Ukraine followed first of all, and I said that this idea comes from human rights defenders, but these issues should be addressed by other professionals.

Voskan Sargsyan, journalist: My question is as follows: do you think South Caucasian Union will be created before solving the Nagorno Karabakh issue or after solving it?

Khamis Masimov: I think that both issues should be solved simultaneously. And in case if you think we need some special causes and proofs that it’s possible… Once we’ve met with representatives from Council of Europe in Netherlands, we sat there with Karen Ohajanyan next to one another, you probably know him, and we, friends, made a joke. I said to him: Karen, why Azerbaijan is spending two or three billions of euro on arming its military forces, with whom will it war? Let’s do the following: every year we give Nagorno Karabakh 600 millions of euro, to the people of Nagorno Karabakh, and the conflict is over. He said: dear Khamis, 600 millions is not enough, we need 3 billions. I answered: dear Karen, 600 millions with the right to live there, or 3 billions without the right to live there. We laughed. And then the representative of Council of Europe got curious about what we talk, and why two enemies laugh. He got it translated, he started laughing, too. You know, the most important thing is that the human being lives happily once they are born, and the society should help this to happen. Matters not where Karabakh belongs. Let’s think about it the following way. Armenia has financial difficulties, there are various problems. And Azerbaijan spends 3.7 billions of euros on arming, the half of this amount ends in… in a word, the situation is unclear. This money can turn Karabakh into the Garden of Eden where everyone will come from around the world, and those who live in Karabakh now, as will as those who lived there before the conflict; they all will live in good conditions. This is my humble opinion.

Giorgi Kuchava, political scientist: Here is the question I’ve got. Suppose we make a federative or a confederative state, how do you imagine it function in Central Caucasus? Because that is not South Caucasus, I agree with the term suggested by mister Lado Papava and an Azerbaijani scientist Eldar Ismailov. What form do you imagine that state will take: federation or confederation? Because it will not be a Unitarian state.

Khamis Masimov: I imagine it will resemble the European Union, and I reckon that we should not attract other regions except South Caucasus; North Caucasus is part of Russia, and today it is very and very dangerous thing to become an enemy of Russia.

Samvel Beglaryan, writer, journalist: Dear Brother, these all-mighty Russians, as you’ve described them, live both in Georgia and in Azerbaijan, and in Armenia. And if they won’t like the idea of living in that united state, what then?

Khamis Masimov: If that happens today, and if those Russians address Vladimir Vladimirovich… he will come here.

Audience laughing.

Farida Abulfatakhi, journalist: You said that it is possible to solve Karabakh issue and the issue of the union simultaneously. But for twenty years now the Karabakh issue is not solved. And how will we unite if this problem is not solved?

Khamis Masimov: I think that those three states must first of all consider their own benefits, and not those of Turkey, Russia or U.S.A. or European Union. That is my first point. The second one is that everything depends, I have already said, on financial capabilities and relationships between various local players, let’s put it that way. I think that today Azerbaijan has more financial capabilities than Georgia and Armenia do, and that wealth is wasted away, thrown in the air, and it’d be better to use it for the well-being of ordinary people, and I think this should not cause any trouble.

Alladdin Karayev, journalist from Azerbaijan, telegraph.az: : I have a question for the person who just said that we want to create Great Caucasus.

Khamis Masimov: Not great Caucasus, just Caucasus, humble Caucasus.

Audience laughing.

Alladdin Karayev: And if people coexisted here peacefully some time ago… do you think that the big players will allow us even think about it when what they think over is how to divide Great Caucasus, and by the way they indeed divided Caucasus and Created Armenia in Azerbaijan, a state…

Khamis Masimov: As а doctor I reckon that regardless one’s sex, skin colour, everyone should be healthy and happy. That’s the first point. And next, does it matter? Why you do not fight in here? You are enemies, well, let’s then break one another’s faces right now.

Sasoun Evanesyan, student: You say that if we only want, we will be able to create that union. But some time ago we decided that we leave behind USSR, and more than 20 years are gone, and we supposedly have some independence, and to what extent this new wish of ours can come true in your opinion?

Khamis Masimov: I think that the specialists dealing with the problems of the Union should work under the watch of this group of ours, which is gathered here, under the watch of all human rights defenders. Politicians should not be left unseen, without inspection. Otherwise it is hard to forecast what they will cause.

The floor is given to the next speaker.
Tigran Hovhannisyan
Yerevan, Armenia
Tigran Hovhannisyan: I would like to start with an answer to a question apropos why we should put forward this idea and why I supported Khamis. (the full text of the paper in Russian)

First, I reckon that we are fed up with the state-of-neither-peace-nor-war which now exists between our states, with reports on the deaths of the military near the borders, the constant escalation of arming process, the adverse rhetoric between our states, the incessant reproaches and accusations against one another, we are fed up with all this, we are tired of this to be honest. Who likes the idea of sitting on a powder keg realising that it can explode every moment? Therefore I believe it is very important to put forward such an idea, an idea of not only rapprochement of the two peoples, but also the peoples of Caucasus, so that an atmosphere of trust, an atmosphere of love toward one another, as said the wife of Khutsishvili, could be brought into being. It does matter. And Dato had a question on how much time will this take. I think that the time is required not for creating a commission. The commission per se will be easy and fast to create if the states and governments, and very importantly society, are motivated. The leaders will have to do this under the pressure of communities. But before that we should undertake several measures, methinks, which will generate the trust of the communities: regular contacts with one another, more seminars or discussion groups and meetings. I suppose there will be greater need for setting up the wanted social atmosphere than for the work of the commission for the sake of unification. If all this comes to exist, if this idea is propagated, the creation of the Union will be only a matter of technique.

I reckon that the creation of South Caucasian Union is possible, following the example of that of European Union, and the Union can also welcome, granting the same rights and conditions, Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia along with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In case of ensuring such relations of powers and resources, international problems, numerous territorial pretensions against one other can be put aside and never be discussed anymore in the future. Consequently there is no necessity in keeping promises on repairing the integrity of a country (Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia or on recognising the independence of disputed areas. The heads of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan will maintain the power and the images of their states will cure the consequences of wars and international conflicts jointly.

It is necessary to note that the international community regards the countries of South Caucasus for a long time as one single unit. It is not surprising that in many cases these states would join authoritative international organisations like UN and/or Council of Europe simultaneously.

I agree with Khamis that better a bad peace than a good war. It is apparent that some states will be happy with this new political and economic formation, and in particular it is Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan that will be happy with it and some other states may not be happy about it. However, the members of the Union should not have too many concerns regarding that. Much later South Caucasian Union may be able to negotiate on associative membership with European Union, as one single state union. I don’t say a word on Customs Union as it exists only de jure and did not justify itself as a system.

Let us speak about the dividends which we will get through creating a united union. First, we will put an end to the long-lasting war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and an atmosphere of friendship and mutual trust will be established, and the same will happen for all the states of the region.

Next, an opportunity for economic growth will emerge as a result of tight economic cooperation of the three states involved, and as a result of establishing non-economical links throughout the region, as one single unit, with other states, new enterprises will emerge, new workplaces will be created, the functioning of all transportation communication means will be resumed and new ones will be manufactured.

Then, The South Caucasian Union will be able to avoid, finally, the influence of the superpowers and stand for its own regional and national interests, and the states will be able to administer their own foreign policy. Thank you.

Applauds.
I suppose therе will be greater need in setting up the wanted social atmosphere than in the work of the commission for the sake of unification. If this idea is propagated, the creation of the Union will become only a matter of technique.
Mariam Hovsepyan, historian: You said that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will be happy. My question is do you really think we will be content with that? Let’s see how many people have come here and what they think on this; those who live in their respective countries. Do you really believe that people will be happy and this is what they want?

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I cannot respond instead of peoples, but as an individual, a representative of the Armenian people, I may say that we ought to be happy, as the Union will be a single body which will help in representing its interests in better ways and in escaping the influence of superpowers. This is why they will be happy. It will be fine if we have one single currency installed, there will be trading.

Alladdin Karaev: You just said that Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh can join in, too. Before creating that Union you have already decided to divide those states? This is what I heard from you.

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I didn’t say “states”.

Alladdin Karaev: You said that let Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia join it. Why you divide away South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and Nagorno Karabakh from Azerbaijan? Are you not happy with the fact that you have created a state named Armenia on the soil of Azerbaijan?

Audience laughing.

Georgi Vanyan: Mister journalist, I think you’ve got it a little wrong. This is the wrong stage for you. If we start discussing who established their state on whose lands, then, as one known publicist, an American of Azerbaijani descent Beidulla Manafov notes, we will “progress in circular motion”. Our procedure is a very bold one: question-answer, and please, hold on to this format. There will be time for comments, you may then express your opinion. But please consider that there are many arenas in South Caucasus where analogous quarrels are held, and not only in South Caucasus; these arenas are set up all around the world, where Armenians and Azerbaijanis meet and start the to-whom-this-belongs and who-did-what type of discussions. This is not the appropriate stage for that. Whether the speaker answers or does not answer your question, let him decide that for himself.

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I think that once the peoples decide to go forth and create the Union, then the details regarding the conditions and other formalities will be solved, too. Once they step in, the rest will be a matter of technique (technical issues). Whether Karabakh joins this union as a separate unit or as a state which is governed by two countries... I am not an idealist, I clearly realise that one of the obstacles for the creation of this union might be conflicts, conflicts indeed. But if the parties involved decide to go for this, then they will have to reach an agreement. Karabakh will either be a separate unit, if both states agree for the benefit of all sides and for making that region more prosperous, or it will be jointly governed, or the issue will be solved otherwise, I don't know what they will decide. Regarding the fact that conflicts constitute a challenge for setting this Union up, I clearly understand that.

Samvel Beglaryan: Allow me to thank from the bottom of my heart the generous Azerbaijani people for allowing us not only create a state, but also live in it...

Georgi Vanyan: I urge you, Samvel Beglaryan, please, ask a question, only ask a question.

Samvel Beglaryan: The Armenian state will not be able to fool either Azerbaijan, or Georgia, neither Georgians will succeed in fooling us. Each state fools its own people today first of all, and what should we do to stop it? If each of them fools their people, their own people, then who will believe them?

Tigran Hovhannisyan: This is why I said that there should be initial steps during the creation of that union. One of those steps is about bringing to an end the adversary rhetoric. Both anti-Armenian and anti-Azerbaijani. This must be stopped. Such propaganda should not be carried by the means of mass information. The fact that we have gathered here today and can meet as good neighbours, as compatriots, we often use that word when we meet, say, in Moscow or somewhere in Russia, means that there already exists some underpinning for creating such union.

David Djaparidze, citizen from Georgia: It’s the first time I’m in Tekali, I welcome everyone, and I am very happy for being here. In general it is very pleasing to see that such processes are going on here. I have a question to both speakers from Azerbaijan and Armenia. You are speaking about the positive effects of all that, and no mention on negative sides. Is there anything negative that may come to pass in case of creating that union? And the second question regarding the armed forces which now stand on the lands of these three states. These are the forces of Russian Federation. They stand on the territory belonging to Georgia, they also are present in Armenia, and there exist their bases in Armenia. Do you reckon it is easy to tell that state to take its soldiers away, and how do you imagine that happen? And did you consider that issue when the idea of creating such a union came to exist and when you mention we need no armed forces. Who will defend the independence of that very Union, If there are no military forces?

Khamis Masimov: One big disadvantage we have is that the superpowers have great interest for this region. I am careful in considering all that, but I think that if the communities and the intelligentsia get in charge of this business, then there will be no problems as there is no single soldier coming from Russian army in Azerbaijan at the moment. There is a base in Armenia, but to my belief there is nothing in Georgia either.

Remark: What do you mean there isn’t anything?!

Khamis Masimov: There are some in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Remark: That is the territory belonging to Georgia!

Khamis Masimov: You know, we should address the problems of Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia very carefully. Indeed all the foreign soldiers that are located in South Caucasus should be taken out. As for eliminating all the armed units on one’s own territory, that is my own vision.

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I am telling this again, I am not an idealist, I clearly realise that it will be very hard at the beginning. There are many passages in history, many states on whose territories there were located bases of other states, but they succeeded in stepping in, they have exhibited political will, and now they don't even remember about the time when foreign armed forces of foreign states were present on their soil. I think that this problem depends, once more, on the will of the community. If the community decides on its own that they want the armed forces of foreign states on their lands no more, then, believe me...

Remark: In this case you speak of the community of Abkhazia or...

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I first of all speak of the communities of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. And in general, when I first read about this idea of Khamis, I really thought that the biggest obstacle on our way could be the process of going into detail on conflict settlements. We would start arguing about to whom Karabakh belongs… I consider this is the very reason for starting the discussion re creating the union. If we get stuck on conflicts once again, then we will never reach an agreement, and the bloody war between the peoples will never end.

Khamis Masimov: I think that the military base which is located in the territory of Armenia is not set there for Armenia’s sake, it is there for the sake of geopolitical interests of Russia. Do you agree? If South Caucasian Union will be able to guarantee that neither Iran, nor Turkey will interfere into Russia’s affairs through its territory…

David Djaparidze: You can’t guarantee that without armies.

Khamis Masimov: I think we can. Switzerland does exist, right?

Giorgi Kuchava: We are speaking about historical foreign affairs. Even if we create that union of Central Caucasus and suppose we eliminate all the bases, consider that Russia is nasty toward all the unions which exclude her. GUUAM was one of those Unions, and in all media and in scientific discussions they would say it is pointed against Russia. Do you think we can persuade that northern bear that this particular union created in Caucasus will not be an offensive against Russia? What obstacles will Russia generate against this Union?

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I don’t think we can push Russia away at all in this case. If we look at it that way, it's impossible. Because we know of her interests for being present in Caucasus. But meanwhile we need to recall that there were such unions created throughout our history twice. Right? That happened in 1918, and if I am correct, in 1921. In both cases these unions were created under the command of foreign states. The first time it was dictated by Turkey, and that union did not live, it fell apart. Then the second time it happened under the influence of bolshevik Soviet state. That one fell apart as well. What I mean to say is that this union should not be created by an external decree; peoples themselves should come to this, the peoples of South Caucasus. Only in that case such a union will persevere.

Nouzgar Gogorishvili: Considering the fact that we cannot anyhow ignore Russia…

The floor is given to the next speaker.
David Mchedlidze
Tbilisi, Georgia
David Mchedlidze: Good day, I am pleased to speak in front of you on this interesting theme, and I will deviate from my own paper taking into consideration the way in which the discussion is spinning. (The fool text of the paper in Russian)

To begin with, in all the three papers of ours there was a historical tour guiding us one century back. I think that the unification of Caucasus back then happened only because of clumsiness of political forces back in the day, both that of mensheviks and musavatists, and of dashnaks. They just didn't know what to do, and just got united in a mechanical manner, and didn't last long by doing so. The same will happen now as the societies of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are not ready to this. Therefore this idea can rest in the dreamworld.

I assume that first of all, before the unification, the societies themselves should unite with one another from within, we need to focus our strenghts on developping our own states, states which will be oriented toward the human being, the individual. Because conflicts, as we see it for ourselves, cannot be solved by force. Conflicts are solved gradually, one might say in an evolutionary manner, and through integration. We need time for that, and for this to happen, there should take place processes which will make politicians and governments more honest, make them to respect human rights, ecology, make the governance process more transparent. When all these three states hold on to universal values, when they hold on to democracy, integration will occur all by itself. European Union was raised over hundreds of years, European Union wasn’t built in a day, not yesterday, and this was a long process. If we are to speak about a common home, about a Caucasian home, this is a matter requiring long time, too. First we will need to become states in our own states, and then think about the union of the three states. A common home is like an Italian court in Tbilisi; one may live there with neighbours, but it doesn’t work out on governmental level, not for the time being.

If we are to speak of the main problem of ours, meaning conflicts, then we cannot reach an agreement indeed. Is the Georgian society, for instance, ready to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia? It is not. Is the Armenian society ready, for instance, to accknowledge Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan, or else is Azerbaijan ready to do the opposite? They are not. Let us get ready for integration, get ready for something that will exclude violence as an option, without such artificial processes. And only then we shall speak of the Union. As big players are involved in it. One cannot negotiate only with Russia. Both the U.S. and Turkey have their own interests, too. We have our interests, too. But we are weak at the moment. Let us gain strength at our place so far, and then we shall speak of defending our interests with joint forces. In this (abovementioned) lies the heart of my paper.

There are some economic aspects, too. Some have lots of resources, others dispose only of infrastructure, the thirds have only got clean air and mountains. We need to balance the interests in this area, too. Because dealing with separate economies is different from having a common market which would include nearly 15-20 million individuals, it is quite a resource. But first let us build our own railways, our aviation, our army, and then speak of uniting all these resources. Thank you.

Applauds.
We are weak at the moment. Let us get stronger at our place, and then speak of defending our interests jointly.
Zamira Abbasova: How much time will we, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, need for developing ourselves, for becoming developed enough and ready for getting united?

David Mchedlidze: It will be a long process. Twenty years are gone after getting the independence, we are still going around in circles. Our politicians didn't yet mature to become adult humans, and the societies didn't mature either to insist on politicians being honest, on compelling politicians to create strong societies. We have committed so many follies, against one another, during this period that it will take long to fix it all. We just need to see the process commence. When it does commence, then we will be able to track the time.

... President Shevardnadze was asked a question: when will Georgia enter NATO? It happened somewhere around the year 1998. He said: maybe in five year, maybe in ten years, maybe in twenty years…

Remark: Then there will be a chess tournament organised in New Vasyuki… (Joke)

Khamis Masimov: If we are to continue to behave like this, when, according to you, will Russia lose its interests?

David Mchedlidze: There is this tenet, and our politicians love to assert it, that when Russia becomes a democracy, when it becomes more humane, then it will get better at our places, too. I don’t think this tenet is correct, as Russia will always be interested. Not only Russia, but many others, too. We have our interests, too. Some will throw sand in the wheels, too. But the functions of politics is exactly about neutralising, balancing, in a good sense, I don't mean compromise or stuff like that... It's just that we need to build our own states, and do it properly, without risking anything serious, by defending ourselves when it is time to do so, and by negotiating when it is time to do so. No matter what you say, it took ten years to take Russian armies out of Georgia. And within one hour they left by the door and got in through the window. We are not strong enough to chase them away actually.

Khamis Masimov: What should we do then?

David Mchedlidze: I already said; we should build states on the territories which we've got at present. On those territories which belong to us de facto.

Manana Abuladze, «Youth For European Future» NGO: You just were speaking of the territories we have de facto, what territories exactly do you mean?

David Mchedlidze: In this case I mean Georgia, and I speak of building a state on territories which are controlled by Tbilisi.

Manana Abuladze: And what will we do about occupation?

David Mchedlidze: Well, what can we do about it?

Manana Abuladze: 20% of our land is occupied.

David Mchedlidze: Well, what can we do about it at present? What resources do we have for building a state in the region of Tskhinvali, for instance?

Manana Abuladze: So you think that the region of Tskhinvali belongs to Georgia and that territory is occupied?

Georgi Vanyan: I beg you, this would be your third question which turns into interrogation already.

Manana Abuladze: Let's pretend he didn't answer the question.

David Mchedlidze: I have only one answer for that: we are not capable of returning those territories presently.

Khatuna Chapichadze, political scientist: I have a question for all the speakers. Are we somewhat more different or more similar to one another? If we take into account politics, culture, mentality etc, can we theoretically view all that we share as a chance for creating the union?

David Mchedlidze: I don’t think that, say, the Bulgarian and the Spanish are very similar mentally, albeit both states are members of European Union. The differences between us are big, immense, but we can discuss the idea of one common state. But let us develop our respective cultures, make histories, acquire our own values. And based on that we will talk about the unification. If we consider the level of social maturity, we are on the same level, and unlikeness and difference are not a problem.

Khamis Masimov: This is a pure matter of science. I suspect that Armenians and Azerbaijanis do not have the problem of being different from one another. They spoke the languages of one another, they lived side by side. There were some minor issues, but that didn’t matter. Next, if the human being lives happily, then cultural differences do not create insurmountable problems for them.

Elvin Bunturk, active citizen from Georgia: If I got it all right, we have two options. Either the forming of the union results in solving the conflicts, or solving the conflicts results in forming the union. My question is do we need some political will to bring the union into being? We know that Azerbaijan and Armenia are rivals, and the role of Georgia is very important in this context, as the latter is a partner country, and sometimes is even a strategic partner for both states. What role should be assigned to Georgia according to you?

David Mchedlidze: My answer is a short one: at present I see no specific role for Georgia in that union.

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I would like to ask our esteemed opponent speaker if he believes that everything is possible if playing big in politics. I mean 24 years ago when there existed an extremely powerful state, Soviet Union, nobody would suppose back then that it would collapse like a house of cards.

David Mchedlidze: Well, we thought it wouldn't collapse, but some people did believe it would collaps, and they worked on making it happen. I don't think that there are people in Yerevan, Baku or Tbilisi who sit there and think about the problem of uniting our countries. And I want to get back to what happened a century ago. It was just coincidence. And let me be blunt, mensheviks didn't want to proclaim Georgia as an independent state. They just had to do that. Which is why I see no role for Georgia in the process of unification.

David Djaparidze: I have a question for all the three speakers who have shared their thoughts with us, and we all had a discussion here about something that doesn't exist. And we don't know whether it will come into being or not, so my question is on what basis did this question emerge at all? Based on what historic facts, what economic facts, what political opportunities of that union? I mean what lies at the heart of this idea?

Khamis Masimov: There is one thing I understood. Each individual, regardless of their nationality, faith and skin colour has the right to live in good conditions, as a human being, and those who surround it must help that human, so that it lives a good life. This is the reason why God has made us. Then, can you tell me what is happening now in Ukraine? I think that the West is grinding its own axe.

David Djaparidze: That is another matter to discuss.

Khamis Masimov: No, we all basically are always used by others. I am against that usage. As a human I am against it! I want to live free, in good conditions, as a decent human being.

Tigran Hovhannisyan: I can briefly answer the question. The basis for the idea has to do with the regional interests. We are always viewed as one single entity. An outsider’s eye sees us as one single body. And the basis for the idea of a union, in short, is about the regional interests.

David Mchedlidze: I have nothing to add. When serious shifts take place, there always rises this question: what if the three states get united? Because there is something purely human about it. When the neighbour builds a big house, we want a big house for ourselves, too. We have a big aggressive neighbour in the north, and a very powerful one in the south. And we want to be strong, too, but we cannot achieve that separately from one another, so we want to get united. But get united around what concepts? It doesn’t work out artificially. We need a process.
We need a dialogue, not just a meeting. If we cannot reach an agreement in this room, then we will not be able to reach one on an international level. We can achieve this all elsewhere, if only we succeed in succeeding in this room.
Misha Agakhanyan, economist in international economic studies, trainer on civic education (human rights, intercultural relations and conflicts): Today, when I was on my way to get here, I was thinking that it's impossible to create a South Caucasian Union. And now I believe it is necessary to make one. We need to do it step by step, as many have explained it. And now I would like to explain why it is both possible and necessary to accomplish. Because we have conflicts and everybody knows that perfectly well. There are two ways for solving these conflicts. Either it is the way which we discuss here today, meaning each entity is on its own. Or it's the other one which is much more efficient, say safer and which can lead to peace. I would like to add some call on my behalf. This would be the second meeting during which we use the concepts of ”ours and yours”, and I would love to ask one thing: when we stand on this soil, let us forget for some time about “ours and yours”, and speak about how we can unite those mine-and-thine, because we can talk about those concepts separately in Georgia, in Azerbaijan and in Armenia. This platform is different methinks, it’s a different arena, and let’s just benefit from that fact, so that our dialogue becomes constructive; a dialogue is needed, and it should be a constructive one. There will be use in this only in case if the dialogue is a constructive one.

And now I shall return once more to the idea of creating South Caucasian, or Central Caucasian Union, as it was named several times. I suspect one needs to be ready for creating something. And there should be competent forces involved. Instead of gathering for dozens of times and just blabbing about it, let’s just try to think over our steps, try out and see what does work out. It all should be made in a competent manner, in the frame of dialogue and it all needs to be implemented with mutual understanding. We need dialogue, and not just a meeting. If we cannot reach an agreement in this room, then we will not be able to do that on an international level. We can succeed in general, if only we can reach an agreement in this room, and that in turn can be done if we listen to one another, respect each other, and think about what can we do considering the present situation, and not talk about how we are stuck here and we cannot do anything and calculate some time. All will be a success if we get on the right track, everything will work if we take the right steps. The most important thing is make haste slowly, as ancient Romans used to say (festina lente). We need to make haste as we have little time, but we need to make haste slowly so that we avoid crude mistakes. First of all, if we do not love one another, do not tolerate one another, then we at least should respect one another. Thank you very much.

Applauds.
Misha Aghakhanyan
Tbilisi, Georgia
Norayr Eghiazaryan
Noyemberyan, Armenia
Nijat Imran
Baku, Azerbaijan
Samvel Beglaryan
Noyemberyan, Armenia
Norayr Eghiazaryan, student: After hearing all the opinions that were voiced here, I have come to a conviction that, as Misha Aghakhanyan put it, we do not just want to create that union, but we just need it, it is essential for our peoples. And we can turn that dream into life only by means of absolute democracy. Because the people needs to have all the levers to control its leadership, to make them get on the right track.

Applauds.

Nijat Imran: I am for the Union, because if we stay where we are now, slaves to other states, and I mean all the three states of South Caucasus, then this will be incessant. For us to become, at long last, independent and to be able to go forth, we should stick together. We have no other choice now, and there will be none later.

Applauds.

Samvel Beglaryan: I am for the Union, and I will use popular language to explain my stance: I am fed up, I don't want my son and grandson to have enemies. I have fought myself, I don't want my grandson to go to war, too. And that is all.

Applauds.

Zoya Bezoyan: I am against the Union. I shall explain why. Because if the peoples want to communicate, they have both culture to do so and all the other possibilities. We don't need to create a governmental structure, the creation of any new structure is the beginning of dictatorship. This is why we don't need to do it. If you want to communicate...

Remark: Come to Tekali!

Zoya Bezoyan: Not just Tekali, communicate everywhere, there is a bunch of spheres: music, culture, theatre, internet, what prevents you from doing it? If you do not want to fight, then just don't.

Applauds.

Mariam Hovsepyan: I want to say today and here, that I am against the Union. I think it's too much of a Utopia, it's not realistic. Because we don't know one another, we war against one another, we kill one another, and we want the states to come together? It's not realistic. Let’s see what we can do right now. We may just start to learn about one another more. But the unification is impossible. We have a bunch of problems. Economic problems. We have different partners. I don’t want that!

Applauds.
Zoya Bezoyan
Yerevan, Armenia
Mariam Hovsepyan
Gyumri, Armenia
... And if we want someone to create that Union for us, then I don’t want someone to come and create something in my country, in my region. Because I have seen, several times, what that results in.
Zaur Khalilov: I am against, too. Young people were speaking just now. I absolutely agree with their arguments. We don’t know one another. It’s the first point. And I remember well the first Tekali meeting, when I spoke back then, too, and said that we will not be able to do anything until we become independent. Neither Georgia, nor Armenia, nor Azerbaijan are independent states at present. We are on our way. Some of us went further with that process, others lag behind, but today we are not yet independent for real. And that type of Union can be forged only by independent states.

Remark: Not societies, but states.

Zaur Khalilov: Believe me that societies and states is the same. And if we speak of values, then I will bring a simple example, although we agreed that we will not speak about Ukraine. But today that country was able to and proved to the world one thing: it matters not how big your population is, what political ang geopolitical dividends one wants to get. Sooner or later there will be one question to think about: either there must exist an independent state or there should be another way to form states. For me it matters not who does that and how one does that. Russia didn't leave this region, don't get illusions about that. That state is present here, and it has been present here for the past 200 years with its own army, its policy, its own interests. Let's start with one thing. And this is the second point of my line of thought. I am not South Caucasian Union. Let's start learning to live independently. When our own states have their proper ambitions, don't fear that word, it was a bad word to use in Soviet era. The unification is a matter of values. We throw the garbage in our streets, and it means that until this day we didn't realise the fact that it's our country, our state. And there are still people who dream about, who miss the fact that they could fly to Moscow for paying 37 rubles, and there they used to lead good life... let's put away the issue of the Union until these people still live. Or else it means we are bound to make a semifinished article. Let's look at history; what was created here in South Caucasus was the foundation for making Soviet Union, from which I cannot get rid even today, because I was the particle of that product, too. It was a production line which used to make small products. So I apologise, but that reality is still living, let's not fall into illusions, and if we want to create something, we should start from the very bottom, start from ourselves, and not because some uncle or auntie said us to do so. Let's be frank and admit that we cannot and don't want to, we don't like to work. Regardless of the fact that we live in our own respective states. We are always happy if someone does something insead of us. But if we don't want someone else to create that Union, then I don't want someone else to come to my country, to my region and create something. Because I have seen, several times,. what it results in. And I don't want your children, as well as my children and grandchildren see that again. And I want Tekali process to end as soon as possible, I am sorry dear Georgi, but I want this Process to end as soon as possible, becuase we need to upgrade to another format, to other ideas. Should we discuss for the upcoming 50 years the fact that Armenians and Azerbaijanis cannot reach an agreement, who lives where and what life they live? Well, excuse me, but it's impossible. The fact is we don't walk too far away from our illusions, and to create something one needs to be more realistic and to start WORKING. Not someone working for us, but us working for our independence. And I thank the Ukrainians once more for the fact that they slapped us all in our face and proved that it is possible.

Applauds.

Georgi Vanyan: Thank you Zaur Khalilov. But we need to specify one thing: Zaur Khalilov calls everyone to vote for the South Caucasian Union or against it?

Zaur Khalilov: I call everyone to start doing it, so that we end up having it. I mean I am for the Union :)

Audience laughing.
Zaur Khalilov
Tbilisi, Georgia
Farida Adulfatkhi
Baku, Azerbaijan
Zardusht Alizade
Baku, Azerbaijan
Sasoun Evanesyan
Koti, Armenia
Samson Khojoyan
Berdavan, Armenia
Mirzakhid Gajiev
Agstafa, Azerbaijan
Alladdin Karaev
Baku, Azerbaijan
Farida Abulfatkhi: I am against this, because we are not ready for today. Just the way we were not ready in 1990. Yes, our generation has seen the Soviet Union, how it was. And now we see how things work today. And what did we offer to this youth after 1990? Nothing. Yes, we want to unite. What language will they speak? Russian? We were taught scientific bases of communism, and what will we teach them? Nothing. Firest we've got to make these children ready for it ideologically. After that we may speak of unification. Yes, we want to unite. But some (states) are rich, some are poor... should we finance them? Azerbaijan will argue that it has got more oil, we invest way too much, a Georgian will say we provide transit roads, Armenians will say we have water, so we will bargain everyone into this union. No. We first need to prepare these children, this youth for this. They are right. We didn't offer them anything yet after the year 1990. We only offered them bullets, so that they shoot the enemy. Yes, an Armenian woman and an Azerbaijani man are enemies. They are not enemies, we have turned them enemies against one another. Not just Russia and the U.S. We all did that. Because everyone sat in the comfort of their homes, and I am not speaking as a journalist now, I am speaking as a mother. We sat there and frightened our kids by saying if you don't behave, an Armenian will come and take you away. An Armenian said to their kid the same about the Turk. If we cannot put the word genocide away from our history, how then we will bring our children up? I am against (the union).

Applauds.

Zardusht Alizade: There is no one in this room who is absolutely happy with the state of affairs back in their home countries. No one that tells we have got an ideal political system, our people lives freely and perfectly well; there are no such individuals here. Even if there are some, I believe they are wrong. But we seek ways. How to overcome this state of affairs? Georgi for instance just said that you as citizens have the right to express your opinions. Two individuals, an Armenian and an Azerbaijani, have stated that the way out of this lies in creating the Union. Another one from Georgia has stated that it's not possible. But this is not a specific objective. Are we obliged to make that Union just tomorrow? No. This is just a theme we discuss in order to start to think. Start to think about the Union. If we are friends, partners and allies, and if we start thinking about that, then the topic of Karabakh will stop irritating and separating us. That land will unite us, and not divide. This is why me personally, I am standing for the union.

Applauds.

Sasoun Evanesyan: Suppose we all stand for the proposition, suppose we have decided and forged that union. How will we benefir from that? I think it will give nothing, because we all have enemies today. But who wants to become enemies with such states as Russia or the United States? I think no one does. I think it's impossible. And there is no sense in doing that. And stop cherish barren hopes. We've got to change the system we have today. We first need to become independent, and then think about the possibility of creating such a union. It's impossible to do for today.

Applauds.

Samson Khojoyan: Imagine the following situation. A person is asked if they want to get 10000 rubles. And they says no, becuase that is impossible. Is it a reasonable response? The person should answer yes I do, and imagine how they can get that money. Each journey starts with the first step. And we need to make that step. It's another matter when we reach the destination. So vote for the Union.

Applauds.

Mirzahid Gajiev, chairman of Council of Veterans of Afghanistan, branch of Agstafa: I am for the Union, because if we don’t create that union today, then we will not even get into the process of communication. We need to create that union to communicate with one another. I am for the union.

Applauds.

Alladdin Karaev: We've just heard that making this union is like offering someone a job and paying them 10000 rubles per month. And the individual says it's impossible. And I want to say even if we say we stand for the union, what does it make?

Remark: Union.

Alladdin Karaev: For example Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan have created such a union, GUAM, and what did that union...

Remark: They get salary, they are employed :)

Alladdin Karaev: And who will finance this union? I am against, because it's impossible and nothing will work out.
Valentina Budinok
Tbilisi, Georgia
Neimat Novruzov
Kazakh, Azerbaijan
Elvin Bunturk
Tbilisi, Georgia
Avaz Gasanov
Baku, Azerbaijan
Ibrahim Masimov
Kazakh, Azerbaijan
Manana Karapetyan
Tbilisi, Georgia
Valentina Budinok: I stand for the unification; maybe it will have an unusual framework, unlike Soviet Union, European Union or similar institutions. I am for the word “unification”. Why? My mother taught me since I was a little kid: you never know what you can do till you try. And today even those who say “I am against” have come here, they have thought about the possibility of that, and they unwillingly work on helping us in creating a society which will allow us to get rid of many problems. And if we do not make unification our aim, then we will never solve the problems either concerning the upbringing of youth or helping the latter in relieving all the negative they grew up with. If there is some objective, then there are goals and action plan which we need to implement. If these are absent, then there will be no next step. This is my opinion.

Neimat Novruzov, journalist: I am for. Short and simple. We have gathered here, and everyone knows why we are here. If you live with your neighbour well, making friendship, in peace, then I believe everyone approves of that. There's nothing better than that. I ask you to vote for the motion. And everyone here is for.

Applauds.

Elvin Bunturk: I thank madam Valentina. She put it right that the key word here is unification. I stand for it, as long as we speak of unification. Then, it was said here that we don't know one another. Agree, but if we are not together, how we will know one another? In the given context we will not learn about each other for another century. Next, it was said that every new structure supposedly sets base for new dictatorship. I think vice versa, transnational structure can weaken our own dictatorships. And having said all that, I want to add that we in fact know one another very well guys, we are all human, and we all, the youth, what do we want? Sustain our families, good public service, insurance, education for our children. Everyone wants these, including Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians. We shouldn't say that we don't know one another. We have one common need, common problems to solve, and we need to be together to solve these. In order to stick together, we must at least think about it. And to say outloud that we want it to happen, and the rest will come with time.

Applauds.

Avaz Gasanov, human rights defender, scientist on conflict resolution: I am both for and against. I am for, because we have no other choice, no other way out. We live in Caucasus, our region is called South Caucasus, if one day the aficionados of the idea of unification succeed in creating some sort of structure or union here, naturally they will not be able to get there without us. So regardless of what we want or don’t want, we will have to become part of that structure. The youth which speaks out here now will lose its interest in communicating with Azerbaijanis or Georgians in 10 or 20 years. They have already got their virtual, online world which will make them even more virtual. In 20 years there will be no necessity to communicate with an Armenian from Gyumri, from Vanadzor, from Dilijan. There will be decent people, without any political pressure, detached from all political processes, youth will communicate with the offline world through virtual means. And we will have no interest in communication. I am for, because until we are formed as states, we will continue to be oppressed by all sides, we will still be talked off, and we will not solve our econimic, territorial or political issues. Therefore any unification, any support for one another is for the good of our states. Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, doesn’t matter. I am for, because for 20 years, against all commonly accepted paradigms and interests of Azerbaijanis, Armenians and Georgians I work in the region, I travel through the region. I am against this motion, because I am not a naïve person, I know that we have different interests, it’s natural, and we have different political interests, now even different cultural and economic interests. But I still stand more for the motion than against it.

Applauds.

Ibrahim Masimov: I am for, as we lived peacefully and freely before the problem, before the Karabakh problem. Right? And we still can live that way, if we come to an accord. I was in Tbilisi recently, I met an Armenian there, his name was Borya. He said “We are Caucasian, we are friends.” And I said to him: “May I ask you one thing?” He said: “Go on.” And I asked: “You have children, right?” He answered: “Right, three daughters.” And then I asked him: “I am Azerbaijani for instance, and you bring your three daughters up, what do you tell them; I am an enemy or a friend?” He couldn’t answer that one…

Manana Karapetyan, teacher: I teach at a Georgian school, and Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians study together in one classroom. It’s a Georgian school. And our children grow in peace and love. We teach that to them. And the future of our states directly depends on how we educate these children. Thus we need to be together. True, we cannot see that peace coming just yet, but it must happen. You cannot war all your life. You must find the common ground. And the discussion of today was worth taking place, because we need peace. We don’t need war, neither us, nor our children, nobody needs it. Not to mention the citizens who live in a different, in a third state, like myself.

Applauds.
Sabina Talibova
Marneuli, Georgia
Sevak Kirakosyan
Yerevan, Armenia
Bakhtiar Hidaet
Kazakh, Azerbaijan
David Djaparidze
Gori, Georgia
Giorgi Kuchava
Tbilisi, Georgia
Zamira Abbasova
Baku, Azerbaijan
Sabina Talibova, “Golub” (Dove) NGO: I want to say that I am against the formation of South Caucasian Union. Why? Because I am always against such things, I was against this also before what happened in Ukraine, and after it, because the events in Ukraine may cause dissection of the territory of Ukraine. I just saw how powerful our northern neighbour is indeed, what options it has, and that it can use Hitlerian approach, for instance. The day before yesterday Putin said that they want to protect their compatriots, the same did Hitler before he engaged into war with Soviet Union; his intention was to protect Germans, similarly. So it’s the same. And if fascism does exist, then we won’t be able to avoid further conflicts in South Caucasus. Maybe the situation of 2008 will happen again, I really don’t want blood to be spilled in Caucasus, that’s one thing. And then, when I was on my way to this place, I was thinking to myself that I will not be asking questions, bring arguments, because I wanted to listen to speakers, and I gotta tell you that the speakers that stood for the motion didn’t persuade me. When I speak about my standpoint, make comments on my opinions, I bring arguments which carry a lot of weight. I didn't hear such arguments, I didn't hear how we can start the process of unification at all. As regards our communication as humans, thank God, Georgia is the best example, all the peoples can be friends in Georgia, live in friendship, treat one another well, and we didn't need any union inside Georgia to achieve that.

Sevak Kirakosyan: I am for, because I look back at what European Union has gone through. European Union was under construction in 50s, when Soviet Union was the most powerful entity in the region, and that could hold them back, they could argue that if they had united, then the Soviet Union would have had attacked and crushed them. Both France and Germany fought against one another. The French used to call the Germans “Fritz”, and it was the enemy. Not to speak of England and France… wars all the time, also between Spain and England… They used to kill one another, but it became possible not to war. If they could learn to do it, then we can learn to do it, too. And one important basis for that is the economy. They shifted the paradigm in France and Germany, so that fighting against one another became not just bad, but economically not profitable. Through business and economy they have created a very powerful, effective system. I am for South Caucasian Union.

Applauds.

Bakhtiar Hidaet: I am for, too, once we’ve gathered here to make friendship. And we all want to live as friends.

Applauds.

David Djaparidze: I am against it. Not that I oppose any kind of process of unification. Union between these states exists anyway. To be together, as you said like in European Union, we first need to understand what is going on in our states. And by saying states I mean separate states. We need to make the individual states themselves stronger, and then think about establishing contacts with other states or unions. No, it wasn’t this way in European Union. All the states that got united already had something in common. Not that they got united because they had a common enemy. No, everything started, you said it right, from economy, so there was a common economy. We have common economy in our region anyway. We don’t need to get united on a governmental level, but on a level of communication, of culture. And you speak about uniting states, which is impossible to accomplish. And I will say one more thing. The historical experience of the unification of these states since the very beginning of that process would always lead to suffering. The fact that we all sit here means there was a reason for this, one regarding unification in a specific year, and maybe that is why we are here. But uniting the states is not possible to do at the moment.

Giorgi Kuchava: I want to say that I am against, but I’d like to say why I oppose. Because that unification of states into one common federation will not happen anymore. Never. I may make friendships, forge alliances, call it however you will, a common defence union or otherwise, but the states of Central Caucasus will never unite to become part of one single state.

Zamira Abbasova: I am for the South Caucasian Union, because during these 20 years we didn’t have a chance to get to see one another, we didn’t have a chance to talk to one another just the way we do it now, me to you and you to me. We weren’t given such a chance. What has started now is a process. This is why Tekali gives us that chance, so that we start the process. And what will happen later, no one can know. As regards European Union, after they got united, for more than 60 years they have peace. Not just because they are linked economically, but also by values, and unity is seen as a value. This started at the peak of a war, but they have got unity. We can do this, too.

Applauds.

The speakers are given the last chance to speak up.

David Mchedlidze: Whatever is created artificially will not last long and won’t be efficient.

Khamis Masimov: I call us to get the chance to live quality lives, like human beings. How often we see either U.S. or Russia cheat on us. Or Turkey does the same. I don’t get it, can’t we be human? We can’t have our own interests? Apart from those interests which were dominating until this day. Think for yourselves. This is my proposition, you may accept it, or you may reject it.

Tigran Hovhannisyan: Maybe I should agree with those opponents which think that this is not realistic, who think that we are not in war with one another, we, our propaganda machinery at least, affirms that we are all enemies. But I disagree with that. We cannot live like this, like enemies, for a long time. We are neighbours after all. It’s like opening the door of your flat and considering the next door neighbour your enemy. How can you live like that? So I believe that this idea is a great one, and we need to call it to life. But before doing so we need to take many steps, to make this great idea come closer to reality.

Voting and cоunting the votes. 42 for, 16 against, 3 abstain.
TEKALI TRANSIT
Georgi Vanyan: Tekali Transit is one of the ideas which was born in Tekali. There is no single individual standing behind this idea, it was born during our actions. The novel “Gugark” of Seimur Baijan traveled to Armenia through Tekali. Now “Gugark” is being published in Armenian, on epress.am. “Absolute Democracy” of Paruyr Hayrikyan was presented here in Tekali, the samples of that monograph traveled all through the region, and this transit, I am sure, will bring fruits during the near future. Today we secure the transit of a book called “Vernissage” by Levon Javakhyan, this book needs to fall into the hands of readers and translators. Not the virtual, not the propagandist, but real Armenia is presented in that book. And that book needs Tekali Transit.

Presenting the book.

Luiza Poghosyan: I am happy to some extent that Levon Djavadyan couldn’t come today to Tekali, and I can calmly present both the book and the author. First, let me explain why the author itself couldn’t make it. Because today, 7-8 March, Vernissage is vivid and busy, and our writer works, sells there with silver articles. By profiting from the absence of the author, I can also make plea to those of you who come from Armenia. Please, don’t take the books; leave that opportunity to other people. You can purchase “Vernissage” in Yerevan, from Levon Javadyan. Tell him the password – Tekali – and you’ll secure for yourselves one sample with author’s signature. Today this book containing signature “I offer this with love. Levon Javadyan” has arrived to Tekali for the transit, for those in Azerbaijan and Georgia who can read Armenian, and for those who will translate this book.

This is a compilation of stories which starts with “Kirva” and ends with “Unpeaceful peace” which is a report text presented by Levon Djavadyan here, at Tekali, during one of our public hearings. Allow me to read a passage for you from the story called “Human’s morning” in Russian (the passage is translated into English below):

"... You’ll hardly find a person in our republic who doesn’t know where the memorial for the victims of genocide is situated. We lie down to sleep and wake up, turn the TV on to hear what nation is next to recognise the fact of Armenian genocide. And do we recognise ourselves? Unfortunately, there are those who pay tribute to the memory of the victims of Great Slaughter every year on April 24, but they don’t know where the tombs of their own parents are located. My brother is a sculptor. One cannot earn for a living only for being creative. He makes tomb cross-stones to gain a piece of bread from time to time. We’ve made one cross-stone for an individual, we brought it to Shahumyan cemetery, he tells me, and then the block couldn’t find the grave of his father to place the tombstone there. It was clear that he didn’t visit the cemetery too often. And probably once, during a toast they drank for their parents’ memories, he recalled that he had a father once, and decided to immortalize the latter's memory. And here we are, him jumpling from one tomb to another like a disoriented goat, from one bordure to another, but the father's grave wasn't seen anywhere still. Dumbfounded, he stops, takes the mobile phone out of his pocket, calls and shouts: Mama, where's papa's tomb? He was shocked. It was hard to understand at that moment whether he has lost his father or his father's tomb. He jumped a while more, from one bordure to another one, but he didn't succeed in finding either his father or father's tomb.

"We need revolution. A coup in the man's mind in which there is not only the memory of his ancestors is stored, but in which there is the human and the humanism. Jesus of Nazareth gave a try a while ago, but he couldn't make it, becuase one cannot change everyone, but everyone can change one. Even the one who wants to push the red button. Everyone will change one, if they reject barbaric customs of their ancestors. I write these lines, and I myself am not sure neither about myself, nor about those who reads this. A book with Tumanyan’s selected oeuvres is being sold for 100 dram (0.25 $) in vernissage, but we are dreaming about some humanitarian revolution, a revolution for humanism. And still money and profit take us back into the dark caves. Which means we need a revolution. A revolution for the cause of humanism. Today, tomorrow and always. I start this revolution in Armenia. I start this revolution with myself.”
Translated by Sevak Kirakosyan
Original language of the content - Russian
SOUTH CAUCASIAN UNION:



Organisers of the hearing:

Teqali Association, Georgia

Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives, Armenia

Kazakh-Agstafa branch of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly of Azerbaijan

Photo: Epress.am,
Tavush TV, CCPMI,
Manana Karapetyan
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South Caucasus Integration: Alternative Start
   
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