Following on from its previous meeting held in Yerevan in June this year, the Socialist International held a meeting of its Committee for the CIS, Caucasus and Black Sea in Baku on 11-12 October 2010, focusing primarily on the unresolved conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and on ways in which the International can contribute towards peace and security both between these two countries and in the region as a whole.
On a prior visit to Azerbaijan, the SI Secretary General met with the President of the Republic, Ilham Aliyev, to whom he proposed the holding of a meeting in Baku with the participation of delegates from Armenia to foster political dialogue on peace and security. The President agreed and supported this initiative, resulting in the first visit by a political delegation from Armenia to the country since the ceasefire of May 1994 and the first by members of the Dashnaktsutiun party for nearly a century. The President’s Administration was later represented at the meeting in Baku.
The courage of both the Azerbaijanis and the Armenians in taking this historic step in Baku was underlined by the SI Secretary General, highlighting the urgent need to move forward a process for peace and unblock the stalemate in existence since the ceasefire was agreed. While it was clear that peace was a process that could ultimately only be built by the parties directly involved in the conflict, the role of politics and political parties was crucial in fomenting a culture of dialogue, of moving away from entrenched positions and achieving a sustainable solution.
The Committee’s debates, which were widely covered by the media not only in Azerbaijan and Armenia but also in the region as a whole, included extensive exchanges between the delegations from the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan and the Dashnaktsutiun Party of Armenia, both members of the Socialist International, and contributions by representatives of fraternal parties from countries of the CIS and the Caucasus, as well as from other SI members.
At the conclusion of the debate on this subject, all agreed on the importance of building and maintaining a momentum and a dynamic towards reaching an early resolution to this conflict which has affected these two nations for so long and cost the lives of tens of thousands. As a contribution to this end, it was agreed that an outline of common principles incorporating areas of mutual agreement should be drawn up by the SI Secretary General from proposals to be presented by the parties to the conflict, for subsequent approval by the Council at its forthcoming meeting in Paris on 15-16 November.
The Committee went on to address wider issues of peace and security in the region as a whole and received reports on the national situations and electoral processes in countries of the region by the respective delegations.
Common threads affecting the whole region emerged, not least the challenge of strengthening democracy to achieve more inclusive societies with full rights and freedoms. Social problems and poverty as the cause of the underlying instability that existed in many states of the region was highlighted, and it was believed that solutions to these issues would contribute toward resolving the longstanding conflicts which persisted in a number of countries.
Participants emphasised the need to respond to the desire of the people of the region for peace, fully-functioning democratic institutions, social justice and economic progress. As social democrats, all were committed to working together to that end.
The Committee agreed that the next meeting would take place in Kazakhstan in the first part of 2011, where these crucial questions would continue to be a focus of discussion, with a particular emphasis on the Central Asian countries of the CIS as well as the situation of Georgia.