Saturday, 23 August 2008

Civil Society Organisations from Armenia, Turkey, Georgia and the US call for opening the Turkey - Armenia border

A number of Civil Society Organisations from Armenia, Turkey, Georgia and the USA have signed a statement urging to open the Turkish-Armenian border for at least 10-15 days.

“Open up to your neighbors!”
Call of the civil society representatives upon the Governments in Ankara, Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan.

The war in Georgia has left the countries of the South Caucasus struggling with substantial risks and challenges. As a consequence of the recent crisis, which further exacerbated an impasse created by the existence of the protracted conflicts, the region is deprived of a vital vain to transport goods through the countries of the region. That is a matter of our strongest concern. The railroad running through Georgia is practically useless today because of the destruction of the bridge near Gori, whereas reconstruction is being delayed for different reasons. This situation and its consequences threaten to deprive people in our countries of their basic rights and endanger their hopes for stability, security and prosperity.

This crisis should make us assess the situation realistically and initiate a new age of cooperation. The Governments in Ankara, Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan have a unique chance to prove their credentials of good neighbors willing to contribute positively to the regional peace and stability. We request them to take a collective action and unblock immediately railroad communication networks in the region.

We made our own calculations that we would like to share with the public. Any train can reach from Samsun on the Black Sea coast of Turkey to Yerevan in 34 hours, to Tbilisi in 36 hours and to Baku in 49 hours. From Mersin, which is on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, it will take 37, 39 and 52 hours respectively. This simple. The railroad can become functional in few hours, once a political decision is made.

Thus, we urge to open the Turkish-Armenian border at least for 10-15 days to address the urgency in the Caucasus.

For years we have been engaged in Track Two Diplomacy projects and have been able to build excellent working relations with our colleagues across those borders. Having enjoyed the positive experience of cooperation, we would like to take this opportunity to call upon the Governments in Ankara, Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan to reconsider their positions on that matter. We urge our leaders to demonstrate their statecraft in these times of turbulence and uncertainty and prevent possible escalation of distrust in this region.

Tevan Poghosyan, International Center for Human Development, Armenia
Noyan Soyak, Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council, Turkey
Natela Sakhokia, Strategic research Centre, Georgia
David L. Phillips, Columbia University, Visiting Scholar, Center for the Study of Human Rights
Co-Director, Study Group on U.S.-Russian and Georgian Relations, the USA
Dr. Murat Cagatay, GAYA Research Institute, Turkey
Artush Mkrtchyan, Chairman, Caucasian Center for Proposing Non-Traditional Conflict Resolution Methods, Gyumri, Armenia
Guran Abashidze, Caucasus Business and Development Network, Tbilisi, Georgia
Klara Galstyan, Director, Gyumri Development Foundation, Armenia
Levon Barseghyan, “Asparez” Journalist Club, Gyumri, Armenia
Alu Gamakharia, Caucasus Business and Development Network, Kutaisi, Georgia
Betty J. Sitka, American University, Center for Global Peace, the USA


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