By Astghik Bedevian
About a hundred parliamentarians representing 11 nations aligned in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), including Turkey and Azerbaijan, met in Yerevan on Wednesday to discuss ways of reinvigorating the largely moribund organization.
The main focus of the two-day session of the BSEC Parliamentary Assembly is how to boost energy security across the vast geographic area around the Black Sea. Realization of that objective is seriously hampered by the unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus and strained relations between some of the member states.
The BSEC’s Istanbul-based secretary general, Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, was also in Yerevan and met with President Robert Kocharian and other senior Armenian officials on Tuesday.
The BSEC meeting was an occasion for a rare visit to Armenia by two Azerbaijani lawmakers. One of them, Musa Guliev, was born and lived in Armenia until the outbreak of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 1988. He used the occasion to visit his native village in the former Sisian district in southeastern in Armenia on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters the next day, Guliev said he found the village to have changed beyond recognition. “I couldn’t find the graves of my ancestors who lived there,” he said. “My grandmother, grandfather, my father’s uncle were buried there.”
He said he does not know any of its current residents but was glad to have found old Armenian acquaintances in a neighboring village.
“Many Azerbaijanis were born in Armenia,” said the other visiting Azerbaijani lawmaker, Asaf Hajiev. “This once again shows that peace must be established in this region. War won’t do our countries any good.”
Hajiev added that he believes Azerbaijan will never accept the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh for the sake of peace. He also echoed his government’s view that the unresolved Karabakh conflict will entail grave economic consequences for Armenia.
“Let’s face, it Azerbaijan is regional center of energy resources and all big [energy] projects bypass Armenia,” Hajiev told RFE/RL. “I think that in 20 years from now the [Armenia] people will ask why.”
Gagik Minasian, a senior Armenian parliamentarian and member of the BSEC assembly, indicated that Yerevan is concerned about being left out of the Azerbaijani oil and gas projects. “If new division lines are drawn in the region with gas and oil pipelines, then that’s not a far-sighted policy as we risk sowing seeds of evil, the fruits of which will be born by our children,” he warned.