The Words of the Marion Family
The South Caucasus embodies aspects of three strategic issues that UPF focuses on worldwide: the inter-religious dimension of the Middle East conflict (Islamic Azerbaijan versus Christian Armenia), the ideological dimension of the North/South Korea conflict (the Georgia-Russia struggle is also about different concepts of democracy), and the Millennium Development Goals dimension (the widespread social problems created in the region by years of conflicts).
From December 2-5, UPF held a peace conference in Azerbaijan headed by two of our leading Ambassadors for Peace, Dr. Vladimir Petrovsky, Chairman of the Russian Political Science Association and UPF-Eurasia Assistant Secretary General, and Dr. Eduard Yakovlev, a medical surgeon and president of the International Super-Marathon Association -- also a Vice President of our Russian Peace Council.
We were welcomed in Baku by a high-level delegation including former Prime Minister Rahim Huseynov, Members of Parliament Dr. Ilyas Ismaylov and Prof. Dr. Jamil Gasanli, long-time Head of the Football Federation of Azerbaijan Mr. Fuad Musayev, and Mrs. Zarifa Salahova of the Women’s Association of Azerbaijan.
The following day we visited a camp of refugees from the Karabakh war. We met with 40 women, many of whom lost children and husbands during the war, living in very humble, rundown buildings outside of Baku. We could feel the pain and resentment of these people who long to recover their lost homes. A donation was offered by Ambassador for Peace Dr. Akif Kerimov and by UPF-Azerbaijan.
Our peace seminar began with introductory remarks from Mr. Rahim Huseynov and a presentations on “UPF Approaches to Peace-building” and “UPF Vision on Conflict Resolution.” Dr. Vladimir Petrovsky concluded with a presentation on “Human Security and Human Development in the South Caucasus,” in which he proposed a resolution calling for a minimum standard of human security to be officially adopted by all parties in conflict.
The Georgia series of events was organized by UPF Representative Vitaly Maximov and Ambassador for Peace Dalila Khorava, the Minister of Health, Labor and Social Affairs of Georgia’s Abkhazian Government. Dalila single-handedly mobilized all the participants for the conference and organized the Global Peace Festival. Both were great successes.
The seminar was attended by 80 participants, including Mr. Vakhtang Kolbaia, Vice-speaker of the Georgian Parliament, and several officials representing in Georgia the regional governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
On the afternoon of December 7, the Global Peace Festival was held in Tbilisi at the Professional Workers Palace. A thousand participants attended. The master of ceremonies introduced the Global Peace Festival as part of Dr. Moon’s broad work for peace. Former Georgian President and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze attended the program, along with representatives from consulates, parliament members, etc.
On December 14-16, as our third and last stop on this South Caucasus Peace Initiative trip, our UPF delegation went to Armenia accompanied by Dr. Oleg Mironov, former Ombudsman of Russia (1996-2003) and UPF Ambassador for Peace.
Our seminar, attended in majority by people not in current political position, allowed us to perceive a certain openness for dialogue and reconciliation. When one young participant tried to emphasize the “enemy” status of the Azerbaijanis, she was opposed by other participants who on the contrary reminded participants that many Azerbaijanis sacrificed their lives to protect Armenians during the war. In fact the two communities had lived side by side for centuries, and many had intermarried.
There are several NGOs working for reconciliation between the two nations, even though they are hindered by government control on the peace process. One of their projects is to establish what they call a “South Caucasus Congress,” transcending national borders. We can conceive of holding a Global Peace Festival that would include participants from the three nations.
The conclusion of this year’s effort will be the Moscow South Caucasus Peace Initiative Conference on Human Security in Conflict Areas, to be held in January 2009 in Moscow. The conference will be co-sponsored by the Russian Political Science Association.