This is very important. When this idea was initiated, I was in Baku and asked people there about it and got similar replies. My friends who were in Yerevan received similar feedback as well. At the public level this idea is not accepted. What does Georgia have to do with anything if it cannot solve its own problems especially after 2008. In this regard, the reputation of Georgia is damaged. And this is very important. There is another very important issue concerning Georgian citizens of Armenian and Azerbaijani ethnicity. These people live peacefully in Georgia. What is it to live peacefully – nowadays it is an abstract notion, but at least there is no fight, no tension between them. I am very much afraid that the powers who do not favour the change of the situation as a whole in the Caucasus region will set these people against each other. I am afraid that there are very serious powers involved in the preservation of status quo in the whole South Caucasus. These powers are very serious and they struggle against each other, get in each other's way. This happens in the Minsk group and other formats and not only with the Karabakh issue but other ones too. I think it is not only the impression that there are very serious powers in the world who favour preservation rather than the resolution of conflicts. This is an axiom and even a trite thing. And among these powers there is a very serious one, Russia, and even Turkey, which sees the South Caucasus as in the realm of its influence. Turkey made it especially clear after the August events of 2008. You all remember Erdogan's initiative. It turns out that two big regional players, not talking about others such as the EU, USA, are interested in the preservation of the situation as it is and are not interested in the situation improving. By the way, I have to say that both countries have great experience, gained over the centuries, in creating such a situation where the people of the Caucasus are set against each other. Such a situation is in their favour because they handled it easily in the South Caucasus. So I think status quo is in their interest and if some third party, say, as weak as Georgia will decide to change the situation there will be serious problems. Problems such as setting Georgian residents of Armenian and Azerbaijani ethnicity against each other and other problems. I will not go into details about what Russia will do. Those who are closely engaged in the Russian-Georgian problem know little. They think that after 2008 Russian stopped, took positions, strengthened its military posts, built infrastructure. Unfortunately, it is not like that. Russia now takes little steps at occupation on the perimeter of Georgia's northern border which goes beyond the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That is, Russia is active. And does its job. If you remember in 2009 the case with the Mamison pass, this is a Rachin area, which was occupied by Russian border guards and later they ousted Georgian border guards from there. This concerns other zones neighbouring with the Kazbeghi region.
By the way, I looked up historical examples when such a relatively weak side tried to help a neighbour and influence the situation. From the European space I remember the example of Sweden where it tried to stop the Soviet- Finnish war. Sweden could not achieve anything, of course, and as a result it ended up with expeditionary forces of different countries on its territory and was close to being involved in a war with Russia. I repeat that Georgia will take a serious blow from Russia in this case.
And this one also. Giorgi said that Georgia does not experience friction with Armenia or Azerbaijan on a state level. But there are some instances. For example, with Armenia there is a tension because of the Bavr settlement. With Azerbaijan an area of the monastery complex of David Garedji. These issues are not on the surface, but many know that there are many other unsolved issues concerning demarcation of the border which could not be solved in 20 years. It means there are certain difficulties in relations. And if Georgia were to become involved in any initiative these problems will come to the surface in no time. We should not forget that there are nationalist forces in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia too which are in opposition and will immediately make use of this situation. In such a case not only border issues will be raised. Yerevan, for example, will remember how the rights of Armenians are violated in Georgia. Azerbaijan will remember the violation of the rights of Azerbaijanis in Georgia. And so on. This will grow very quickly. Even if official Yerevan and official Baku will agree to the mediation of Georgia in this issue, then they will get such a "blow from below" that it will hurt. You know what will start… There will be talks that again our people are abused there, and you invite them to solve our problems. That it, I expect an escalation of nationalist and anti-Georgian hysteria in both countries and of course there will be a counter-reaction in Georgia too. We have had this with Abkhazians and South Ossetians. So this hysteria and antagonism will be directed and fuelled. That will be for sure. Of course, we have certain political experience, political resources, and we have gone through a lot, but I do not see that all three of us, and Georgia in particular, have learned a lesson. We have a situation when we don’t learn each others' lessons, but also our own. Some justify this by saying that 20 years is a short little time to gain political maturity. But it seems to me that it is time for us to gain this political maturity and evidence for that is 2008.
I have written something beforehand that was raised during questions and in particular those asked by Malkhaz. Lets virtually suppose that Georgia has the support of the EU and all that. The only case when Georgia can participate in this issue will have to be through acting unusually and suggesting some unusual idea. Lets say this idea. Georgia says it gets involved in the Karabakh conflict, primitively speaking, and both countries [Armenia and Azerbaijan] get involved in its conflicts – Abkhazian and South Ossetian. This is a definite proposal – you go there, we go here. Or another idea. The Georgian representative goes to Yerevan and says he will pass up Nabucco (which is very silly) and you will return the occupied lands and the gas pipeline will go through your territory. Only in this case may the position of Georgia and its willingness to mediate in the conflict be accepted. Only in this case. You understand this is unreal. Otherwise Georgia gets involved in a calmed down fight and with its involvement the fight starts again. The other day I was in Baku and we met with Turkish-Cypriot and Irish representatives. Turkish-Cypriots started to teach us all how they solve their problems, but I do not see that they solved them all finally. But when it came to the Irish, they were going towards their objectives step by step and reached it and there was no player in this conflict who would get in the way. We have a different situation.
That is why I think if official Tbilisi states today, if there is not a drastic decision, that it will participate in the process nothing will come of it.
Giorgi Khutsishvili: I am thankful to Mamuka for raising some very serious arguments that I did not touch in detail because of a distribution of positions.
Chairman of the panel: It seems Mr. Khutsishvili indirectly calls on the audience to vote for the position of Mamuka Areshidze?
Giorgi Khutsishvili: No, no way. I do not have questions to the speaker, but I would like to say a couple of words regarding what I have already said. Georgia does not have state problems with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Of course, there is a problem of demarcation, but these are not inter-state problems. This is another level and because of that they are easily solved. And regarding the remark about Cypriots: of course, Turkish and Greek Cypriots did not solve the conflict, but there is a change in the dynamics of the situation. They solved the problem in terms of forming trade relations, communicating with each other, establishing a simplified regime of border movements. They have taken the economic component out of the political conflict. If we could achieve opening borders for trade and economic relations then this would be a good base for the political stage. Other nations cannot do that.
Chairman of the panel announces the session of questions and answers.
Niyazi Mehti: You have noted theoretically the case when there may be support from the EU for Georgia's mediation. What does Georgia have to do to earn this support when it is necessary. Is there now the need to change something in terms of the foreign policy of Georgia?
Mamuka Areshidze: It would be good if the people of the Caucasus could solve their own problems in their territories themselves. But it will be difficult for todays' governments to solve them.
Niyazi Mehti: Is the issue of Georgia's mediation and finding new dimensions of cooperation a good reason for interaction on a state level?
Mamuka Areshidze: I can guess what Georgian authorities discuss with Armenia and Azerbaijan and do not think there is need now to raise this question. I have to say that issues which are being discussed do not contribute to the solution of many problems in the South Caucasus. They contribute to completely different things. There are issues that concern Russian-Georgian relations where some countries try to play a mediation role, but there are big economic projects being discussed with Baku. In any case, everything develops in the framework of maintaining the status quo. At the same time, Armenia goes through hard times. It is tangible. A country cannot develop economically while being in blockade.
Zaur Dargali: Can EU put this mission of mediation for Georgia on the agenda and assign Georgia with this mission?
Mamuka Areshidze: Even if there will be something like that, Georgia will try to sidestep it.
Zaur Dargali: In fact, in case of the scenario of unusual solutions, Georgia will have to compromise its interests? For example, if Georgia suggests to exchange to its participation in the Nabucco project.
Mamuka Areshidze: Georgia has to suggest such an idea to the participants of the negotiations that would be in favour of both parties. The thing is Nabucco is a political project aiming to maintain peace in the region and attracting investment to the region. Earlier in the 90s when we were in touch with the representatives from the EU, still paving their own way, they would often tell us that they are interested in having something to do with the South Caucasus as a unified region, as a single economic unit. They would tell us that we needed such laws, such borders which would create opportunities for a single economic space – for us and the EU – to maintain this region. It would be beneficial. Here I have a position "For". Besides, I play my own role too (laughter in the audience). After all, despite Nabucco being a political project, we can compromise it in order to create an economic space tomorrow which will be attractive for investments.
Ali Babaev: I agree with your arguments and want to ask this question. How do you think? Will the situation change for the better if there is a change in the ruling regime in Armenia since it is being governed by separatist groups which created this conflict.
Mamuka Areshidze: I think answering in this case will not be appropiate. I can talk about the Georgian government.
Voskan Sargsyan, journalist: A mediator should be honest. How can Georgia be honest if it participates in regional projects, oil and gas for example, and has dividends in these projects and therefore is more or less interested in sidestepping Armenia and actually indulging the interests of Azerbaijan?
Mamuka Areshidze: But the return of the occupied lands is in the interest of Azerbaijan as well. If Georgia as a mediator will contribute to that this will contribute to the interests of Azerbaijan as well. I actually moved to the position "For" by assuming this case scenario. That Georgia will compromise its interests and help Azerbaijan is another matter. Regarding honesty as a mediator, I do not know any country in the world or any organization that considers itself a mediator and and is honest. There are no honest countries in the world.
Sabina Kaligova:I am interested in your opinion. If Georgia will manage to talk to Russia as an equal, can Russia or third party players allow Georgia to be a mediator?
Mamuka Areshidze: This is out of the question. Roughly speaking, no one will allow Georgia "to speak up". Georgia has to work through European structures itself in order to gain some support if Georgia wants to participate in this. And European structures themselves have to "talk Russia into this” which is unlikely. But there is another option. Armenia and Azerbaijan want Georgia to participate and at the same time they both somehow become mediators in other conflicts. If there wasn’t any Armenia-Turkey protocols I wouldn’t be talking about it. After the signing of the Armenia-Turkey protocols it turned out that despite strong pressure from many world players these two small countries took a position and both Armenia and Azerbaijan did everything so that their interests came in the first place. That is they ignored the positions of big players despite pressure. It means if we really want it then it will be possible to do something about Armenia and Azerbaijan through negotiations with them. But this is fiction and unreal for now.
Galina Petriashvili: I have two questions: one imaginative and the other something actual. If the meditation of Georgia may be somehow conditioned by the participation of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the resolution of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts, does it assume establishing a supra-national, regional initiative which would deal with these three conflicts? Second question: what is the purpose of Russia when it takes kilometers of land from Georgia. Why does Russia do it?
Mamuka Areshidze: Regarding Russia this is a definite plan and long history but in two words I will say that the first border of defence in case of war with NATO was soviet-Turkey border as stipulated in the plans of soviet military HQ in 1982. After the collapse of USSR the first border of defence disappeared, but the second border was marked along the Caucasus mountain range, the third one – along Stavrapol of Rostov region. The second line turned into the first one. That was 40 km along the Georgian territory from the Caucasus mountain range, 20 km – zone of active defence, 20 km zone of passive defence. Russia started serving this border by getting hold of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Now 40 % of that plan has been implemented by Russia. Now Russia tries to move Georgian military servicemen on the border down below in order to have a space of maneuver. Overall, it is a part of a big plan in case of war with NATO and also considers construction of necessary communications.
As for the first question, I have already said that in this case there will be more of a chance. Giorgi proved this model very well by saying that the process may start on the grassroots level. Honestly, I am tired of attending different conferences, listening to my Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues drumming the same. That is, we have grown up in our understanding but we could not create a certain platform which would be heard by the authorities. Such networking platforms exist, but they do not influence the governments. Irishmen showed me a good example in this regard.
Giorgi Khutsishvili: I would like to add something if it is okay. There is such a notion as the infrastructure of conflict resolution. The most effective ones in the world turned out to be in Kenya, Ghana and Costa Rica. What does it represent? These are reconciliation commissions which consist of the representatives of official bodies as well as representatives of NGOs. These commissions have an official authority confirmed by the state. Do you imagine this possibility in our countries? I do not. But in any case there is a positive global experience.
Question from the audience: Your opponent said that even the departure of Russian influence will not lead to the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani and Georgian-Abkhazian conflicts. What do you think in this regard? Do you not think that the Russian presence works against the resolution of conflict?
Mamuka Areshidze: The departure of Russia will certainly affect the situation in some sense but this is a fiction. But supposing that Russia departed and gave certain autonomy, then it will be possible with the help of western partners to find a solution. With Abkhazians it will be easier because they are Russia-centric, but not Russian-centric. These are different things. With Ossetians it will be harder. There is no external power governing there. All possibilities are destroyed and now we wonder why they do not trust us.
Question from the audience: Do you not think that the withdrawal of the Russian base from Georgia and their billeting in Armenia, as experience shows, would become an simple method to provoke the conflicts?
Mamuka Areshidze: This weapon was not yet in demand in 2008 but it will be needed against Georgia next time. Why? I will explain. Back in 2008 the Gyumri base was not under the formal subordination of the HQ of the 58th army which was set on Georgia. Now the situation has changed, now it is a southern direction. Both the 58th and 49th armies have been recently established in the North Caucasus, the 7th is based in Abkhazia and the 4th in South Ossetia, and also the Gyumri base are all under the subordination of one HQ. That is, all equipment and weapons located in the territory of the Gyumri base and all of the people are subordinate to one HQ. In case of a new war with Russia it will all be called out. I will not be cynical if I say that any party tries to defend its own interests and prioritize them in this situation. Considering this, it would be important for Georgia to remove the bases, but where will these bases go is a second priority. There have been similar cases in Azerbaijan and Armenia and in the whole world when your own interests come first. Whether this will be called out in Georgia or not, in case of a new war, definitely.
Question from the audience: So Georgia is in a win or lose situation?
Mamuka Areshidze: If there is a new war it is a loss, if there is not a war it is even.
Giorgi Khutsishvili: I think that the withdrawal of bases from the territory of Georgia is a natural process and it was successfully completed in May 2005. After that we should not have ignited the situation. But we gave way and got involved in a fight and contributed to the establishment of new bases of Russia on the territory of Georgia.
Roza Kukhareshvili, Association of Abkhazian women: Here it was said that Georgia cannot be a mediator in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. But I want to ask. We have large Azerbaijani and Armenian communities. How do you imagine their involvement in the process of resolution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict?
Mamuka Areshidze: The fact that they sit together and are involved in the issues of civil society is a starting position. But they do not deal with conflicts. Can you imagine Abkhazian women? We have 5,000 Abkhazians in Adjaria. Did anyone try to talk to them during and after the war? There was a Gudaud girl who got married in Makhindjauri and we were asked by people in Abkhazia to drive them to Adjaria. It turned out that old people there speak the Abkhazian language better than Gudaud Abkhazians. For them and for us it was a confession. Since then no one made use of these people in a good sense of the word. Gold is always on the surface and the Georgian authorities always stumble on the same rock. They don’t want to use this resource available to them and no one wants to deal with these people.
Rizvan Guseynov, journalist: Considering that all bases and the ones located on the territory of Georgia are under the jurisdiction of one HQ, is the military involvement of Georgia in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict already stipulated?
Mamuka Areshidze: Of course. It has been so since the start of the conflict until now. Russia uses this conflict for its own political purposes, keeping and maintaining the South Caucasus under its control. By the way, 2008 was a message to the whole South Caucasus and in particular to Azerbaijan so as to teach them not to do something wrong again. What was important? To hold the territory of Georgia and control the energy routes of Azerbaijan? This was the main aim. Not South Ossetia or even Abkhazia. And look now how these military bases are formed. Russia spends a lot of money, in Vladicaucasus, Stavropol… it is a horrible sight to see where soldiers live, but here it is simply a European level. They control the whole South Caucasus including Karabakh. But I have to say that the reason why the Karabakh problem is in the air is that it is in favour of Russia. Remember the trips of Medvedev to Yerevan and Baku. He signed a treaty in Yerevan and then went to Baku and what did he talk and agree about there? You know these territorial issues – with one hand Russia pampers Yerevan and with the other Baku. This way Russia will always keep the situation under its control. My colleagues in Yerevan (and they are very well aware of situation) told me that at least in case of a war we cannot rely on Russia because the latter didn’t sign a treaty providing for mandatory military assistance. Probably it would be a moral support, or the Gyumri base, but it will not be in the format which has been stipulated by the treaty. This is what my Armenian colleagues told me. So, everything that happens in the South Caucasus and has to do with conflict is certainly what Russia favours and needs so that the South Caucasus is in a disconnected and non-assembled state. And if there is no Baku oil, Russia will be happier.
Giorgi Khutsishvili: I agree with what Mamuka has said just now and would like to add that there is a balance in terms of soothing and escalating the tension. From the viewpoint of the superpowers, who have powerful instruments in their hands, there should not be too much tension. It means it is also somehow regulated. In our particular case, there is a military base in Akhalgori which is very close to Tbilisi and this very much affects regional security and stability in the Caucasus. I think that Russian holds this instrument as a last weapon.
Mamuka Areshidze: I will only add that the first Russian outpost, the first Russian tank, stands at a distance of 2.5 km from the Trans-Caucasian highway in the settlement of Orchosan in the Akhalgor region. They can block the Trans-Caucasian highway in a matter of 15 minutes.
Chairman passes the floor to the members of panel for making comments.
Niyazi Mehti: I was asked in the lobby what the point of this hearing is. I think the point of this hearing is about the debates. The similarity of ideas is obvious in ours and your problems and we should not think that these ideas will be realized by those sitting, say, at the Ministries of Foreign Affairs. Public power should be involved in this. I have found new ideas for myself in this discussion and I will try to write an article about it. Here I found a reinforcement of ideas I have long been wanting to make customary, the idea that there is a need to virtualize the conflicts. There is a stereotype concerning conflicts: if there is a problem it should be completely resolved. I came to a conclusion that there is a category of ever-being-solved conflicts. There is the mistake in terms of Azerbaijan regarding Karabakh. There is the mistake of Armenia regarding the Azerbaijani population. There is the mistake of Georgia regarding Abkhazia. We have to find a method of "ever-solution" regarding these problems. And in future we have to work out a system of ideology of ever-being-solved problems. Thank you.
Ragim Aliyev: I want to stress the issue of nationalism and the nationalist factor. One of the main obstacles in terms of resolution of these problems are nationalists. Parties and movements that is, because they provoked a war and then came to power. Now there is an idea to open a cross-border point in Nagorno Karabakh to facilitate communication with the local population. Neither Baku nor Yerevan agrees with this idea. This is a big misfortune for the politicians. There is another aspect. All these conflicts are a part of the world political balance, the political order. It is same in Palestine, it is same here. You have said a clever thing here, Mamuka, that when people are fighting all alone face to face they later become best friends, but when half of the world supports one side, and the other half supports the other side, the conflict is only fuelled. We all are hostages. I think the subject of our hearing has a common sense. There are cultural relations, the role of the media, economic factors. For example, here in Teqali we can create a free economic zone so that people can trade… this all has sensible roots.
Yuri Manvelyan: The position "For" is closer to me, but not because I am sitting next to Mr.Khutsishvili. Mr. Areshidze has convinced me. He was talking about the reality and how people who have gathered here together have a minimal impact on the situation today. Most people do not agree with this reality. Personally I do not agree with this reality as well. I think that mediation of Georgia in the Karabakh conflict will not cause its solution, but will more likely be the consequence of its solution. If we suppose that it will be possible then many issues in this conflict will be solved between Armenia and Azerbaijan and mediation will be symbolic. Both sides will say that we decided to make peace and you, Georgia, will play a role in making us friends. So, this wishful position is closer to me. Lets dream so that it becomes true.
Emil Adelkhanov: Firstly, I want to say that this is the most interesting hearing I have ever attended and I thank the organizers and participants for that. It was more difficult to defend the position "For", I think. Maybe it was because that I thought the arguments "Against" were more convincing, unfortunately. I want to say that in my opinion Mamuka was in a more favourable position. I was impressed by the episode from a trip of David Darchiashvili to Yerevan. For those who have not heard this story, I will tell you. So, NGOs in Yerevan are all conferencing and one Armenian human rights activist runs in and says: "it is terrible, refugees are called up to the army, we should protest, we should write a letter to the president". And our David says: "I will also sign". Suddenly Seda, I cannot remember her last name, asks: "which president will you write a letter to? Our president?". David replies: "I just thought if I am from a neutral country…" And Seda replies to him: "what neutral country?!"… Here it is.
Zaur Dargali: This event itself showed that there are real ideas which can be implemented and I vote "For" the mediation of Georgia. Why not? Why not try? If the governments in Armenia and Azerbaijan agree, Georgia can participate. I think Georgia may be effective in creating civil, grassroots diplomacy. Real projects such as youth meetings can take place…
Giorgi Khutsishvili (remark): There are episodic meetings happening on a grassroots level but we have to turn it into process.
Zaur Dargali: I think Georgia can do much to turn this into a process.
Chaiman gives the floor for final word to the Speakers.
Giorgi Khutsishvili: The importance in assessing this idea is the following: the mediation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict takes into account that Georgia is objectively interested in an indelible Caucasus, in some processes and developments in a common Caucasus, and in economical processes such as a common market, common space, some interaction in decision-making. Objectively Georgia is interested. If there is awareness in Armenia and Azerbaijan that Georgia is interested in an indelible Caucasus then there will be a high level of trust in Armenian and Azerbaijani societies including in the conflict zone. The trust in Georgia's ability to play a positive role. In this case this idea can "catapult" to Brussels and other places where European opinion is formed and from where support for these ideas may come. There are perspectives to work on this idea.
Mamuka Areshidze: I have been to all the hot spots of the Caucasus during war and natural disasters. I was in Spitak in 1988, I was in Baku after January 20, and I was in Karabakh at the time when the USSR still existed… What was interesting to me was that In Tbilisi I met a guy who was military and in the Soviet army. You know, maybe after April 9 almost all Georgian military servicemen left the Soviet army, but there were single cases when some guys stayed and served. It was in the 90s if I am not mistaken and he told me this. He was serving in the artillery unit and it turned out that he shelled Gandja and Stepanakert… the same military unit was bombing this and that city with intervals. I, of course, was aware of the situation overall. But with this story I had a complete picture. It has been the same picture for 20 years. Maybe the same unit does not bomb both sides, but figuratively speaking, the same people do the same thing… All the time everyone tries to set Caucasus people against each other and people in the Caucasus always argue with each other. Only when we are mature for big politics, regional politics, we will be able to start the process of becoming closer to each other, the process of our own identity emerging. We will do that when we will say that we will solve our own problems (in the region), you solved your own problems (outside the region). I want to live up to this.
Voting is announced
Summary: 28 votes for the mediation of Georgia, 9 votes against the meditation of Georgia, 2 votes neutral.
Comment from the audience: I voted against mediation because I do not agree with the opinion that Georgia does not have conflicting issues with Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is why if, at the moment, Georgia acts as a mediator it will only ignite the situation not only in the conflict zone but also on its own territory. It can lead to an internal conflict.
Sabina Kaligova: Until I listened to the arguments of the speakers I thought that I would vote "for," but now I voted "against". Georgia is not ready to be a mediator. We have to learn not to fuel additional conflicts. God forbid, it is not very difficult to do that.
Zurab Zubashvili, Confederation "Tskhinvali home": Despite the fact there are many objective obstacles, I voted "for". Because we, Georgians, care about peace in the house of our neighbours.
Sabina Kaligova: I want to add something. To some extent Georgia participates in the mediation because it is a multi-ethnic country and there are some processes and dialogue going on inside which can spread to neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan. But becoming a mediator to some extent in such a complicated conflict as Nagorno-Karabakh is impossible. 100 percent mediation is needed here and Georgia is not capable of it.
Leyla Mamedova, “Azeri Youth Union of Georgia”: I voted "for" and will explain why. The arguments "for" sounded weak today, but arguments "against" were convincing and realistic. Nevertheless, hope dies last and I understand that Georgia will become a mediator in this issue not tomorrow but there is a chance. I have a small comment to that of Mr. Mehti who said that we should move this question to the category of "ever-being-solved". Of course, to look at it from the top virtually and abstractly is easier and better probably. But lets not forget that this concerns the lives of hundreds of thousands people in Georgia and millions of people in Azerbaijan.
Sabina Kaligova: If we do whatever we want against the will of the powerful and make the mediation of Georgia an objective we can stumble on a bomb and endanger the lives of people.
Zaur Khalilov, Civil integration foundation: I voted "for" because it is a fact that Georgia acts as a mediator. What happens here now is already the mediation of Georgia. There are certain processes open and hidden, political and economic, and on a grassroots level. But I would also like to say the South Caucasus can be independent and free. Society should contribute to that as well, and not just in the political and economic processes where there is a position of the sides who won and lost, where there are certain manipulations. Today society should show one thing to the authorities: its readiness to start the process. As soon as authorities can see that people are ready to do that it should be done genuinely for the sake of freedom and independence. I know many people who say one thing when they meet in South Caucasian events and when they go back to their countries they cannot repeat it and it all becomes artificial. This should come from within. People are ready for that, but on unofficial level. This is our problem, the problem of civil society when people cannot speak openly and ask each other questions openly from the positions "for" and "against" and the need for it. This subject is not discussed nowadays, it is taboo. In Armenia, in Azerbaijan, let alone in Georgia. It is a very complicated issue for Georgia. I would vote "against" with great pleasure given the present reality. And what happens today is very scary.
Ali Babaev: I want to thank you for this first step. I have been involved in politics for a long time. I myself suggested to our Armenian community here that we create a group and address both presidents and our nations. This step forward has not been taken since. Today as I sit with you I remember an interview with Djigarkhanyan… These three countries have always been kindred but today society is split. Who did this? Politicians. What? Sargsyan and Aliyev cannot sit and talk? (comment from the audience: they have recently sat and talked). Why do they need Americans or whoever else… We ourselves can sit, talk and solve this problem. When society stands up there is nothing politicians can do. Thank you for starting this. The truth should be told straight to the face. As long as there is separatism and terrorism, society will not think sensibly.
Malkhaz Chemia: I want to explain why I voted "for" not only because I am a hopeless optimist. Caucasus is a single cultural and economic organism. Like it or not, this has been so for centuries. Why do I still hope that this organism can be unified and pulled together? There is a need for stability in the world. Pacts of stability for the Caucasus have been drafted in the UN and EU, but they didn’t work. If Georgia initiates its proposal now, it will not work. But the world is changing and there will be a time when the world will need an economically unified Caucasus. Why was I talking about smuggling? Liquidation of cross-border markets such as Ergnet and Sadakhlo was a big mistake. It is impossible to prevent economic relations in the Caucasus. In a everyday life there is no hate between us. This is the most important. This is grounds for hope. And we simply have to be a mediator and solve all the conflicts.