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Brussels, March 25, 2024 – Today a roundtable discussion titled “The Geopolitical Developments in the South Caucasus: Focus on Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh/Artsakh took place in the Belgian senate.” The event, hosted by Senator Mark Demesmaeker (N-VA) in collaboration with the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD), was widely attended by a diverse audience comprising Belgian parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists, and civil society representatives.

The roundtable featured four keynote speakers:

  • Els Van Hoof: Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Belgian Federal Parliament
  • Paul Meerts: International negotiation analyst and co-founder of Clingendael Institute
  • Gegham Stepanyan: Ombudsman of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh)
  • Benyamin Poghosyan: Senior Research Fellow at the Applied Policy Research Institute of Armenia

The primary objective of the conference was a comprehensive analysis of geopolitical developments in the South Caucasus region since September 2020, particularly in light of the Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict. The speakers provided insights from various perspectives, including international law, human rights, and the response of the international community. Special emphasis was placed on mediation efforts, with a particular focus on the role of the European Union. Additionally, the panelists elaborated on future prospects, exit strategies, and concrete steps to safeguard the inalienable rights of the Nagorno Karabakh/Artsakh Armenians.

The event commenced with opening remarks delivered by Senator Demesmaeker, the Deputy Head of Mission of Armenia to the EU, Mr Vardan Sargsyan, and the President of the EAFJD, Kaspar Karampetian.

Mark Demesmaeker initiated the roundtable discussions with the following remarks:

“I’m honored to host this crucial roundtable at the Belgian Senate. We must stay vigilant and prioritize this evolving situation on our collective agenda. Having visited Nagorno-Karabakh and the border region with Azerbaijan, I’ve seen the conflict’s impact firsthand. Azerbaijan’s aggression and the ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh, is utterly unacceptable. We need to pressure the EU and the international community to end impunity. Democracies must unite to safeguard human rights and prevent atrocities. It’s vital not to overlook the South Caucasus amidst the focus on the Middle East and Ukraine. We cannot ignore the suffering and instability in this region.’’

Els Van Hoof stated: “The recent demolition of Artsakh’s parliament symbolizes Azerbaijan’s ongoing cultural cleansing. We cannot remain silent on this matter. The EU must reevaluate its relations with Azerbaijan and utilize its available policy tools to halt the violations of the fundamental rights of the Karabakh Armenians. Additionally, the option to impose sanctions should be considered on the European level.’’

Paul Meerts delved into the negotiation process, stating: “There has to be a context change before the negotiations can be successful. Strength and negotiation go together. Armenia cannot engage in negotiations from a weakened position; thus, it’s imperative for Armenia to bolster its military capabilities and enhance its position at the negotiation table for stability in the region.’’

Gegham Stepanyan addressed the ongoing challenges faced by the people of Nagorno Karabakh/Artsakh: “The sufferings of the people of Nagorno Karabakh persisted beyond the forced deportation of September 2023. Upon arrival in Armenia, the people of Artsakh continued to encounter numerous challenges stemming from their refugee status, including social, housing, food, and employment-related issues. The seminar presents a valuable opportunity to address these problems and shed light on the daily struggle faced by the people of Artsakh, as well as to contribute to the mobilization of the international community in the protection of the humanitarian needs and rights of the people of Nagorno Karabakh.’’

Benyamin Poghosyan focused on the peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stating:  “There was a fundamentally flawed logic that the appeasement policy towards Azerbaijan and acceptance of the destruction of the self-proclaimed Nagorno Karabakh Republic would pave the way for Armenia – Azerbaijan peace. Instead, it only bolstered Azerbaijan to be more aggressive towards Armenia, and now we face a real threat of new escalation by Azerbaijan with the strategic goal to open the land corridor with Nakhijevan and Turkey by occupying parts of Armenia.’’

Karampetian conveyed gratitude to Senator Demesmaeker, speakers, and attendees for their unwavering commitment to the human rights of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh Armenians.

The president of the EAFJD emphasized: “This roundtable serves as an important platform for fostering debate and advancing efforts to defend the inalienable rights of the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh/Artsakh. Furthermore, it is imperative for Belgium and all European Union member states to push for sanctions against Azerbaijan for its ethnic cleansing committed against the Armenian people of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh, effectively ending the impunity of Azerbaijan. The international community must put pressure on Azerbaijan to release all Armenian prisoners of war and hostages in Baku. Furthermore, the EU should put pressure on Azerbaijan to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its Armed Forces from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. Continued advocacy remains crucial in ensuring peace, justice and stability in the region.’’

The roundtable concluded with a Q&A session during which speakers and politicians deliberated on prospective measures to promote peace in the South Caucasus and uphold the fundamental rights of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh.

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