Public diplomacy can help resolve Karabakh conflict

Thu 30 Sep 2010 04:04 GMT | 08:04 Local Time

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News.Az interviews Irina Ghaplanyan, a graduate student of politics and international studies at the University of Cambridge.

How would you comment on the recent cultural mission of Azerbaijani and Armenian diplomats, Polad Bulbuloglu and Armen Smbatyan, to Baku and Yerevan?

With words of praise. I think initiatives of this nature should occur more often and on a larger scale. The fact that both countries’ representatives were government officials says a lot. The unbelievers would say that this initiative is nothing more than a way to show the rest of the world that something is being done, when nothing really is moving forward, and this event carries nothing more than a formal nature. I, on the other hand, believe that whatever the motives behind an initiative of this kind, the fact that a significant resonance occurs in both societies is no mean feat. Whether this resonance is of a negative or positive nature is secondary, the core of this event was to unite the two nations through the appreciation of a universal value – culture – and to get them talking about each other on topics other than war.  

May such visits enhance mutual confidence between Azerbaijan and Armenia?

Yes, if the leaders, those who visit and those who initiate the visits, continuously emphasize the importance of confidence-building and if these visits occur significantly more often and not once every two years.

What role can public diplomacy and cultural dialogue play when the positions of the two sides on Karabakh are completely different?

Public diplomacy builds bridges that are used to conduct cultural dialogue, which in turn increases awareness about the two nations that are socially and culturally rather similar, but have been forcefully isolated from each other for almost 20 years. An increased awareness about commonalities in the cultural and socio-economic lives of the two nations will gradually increase the social as well as political will to find a mutually beneficial resolution of the conflict. The root problems of the conflict stalemate today are, first of all, a lack of political will and, secondly, an absolute lack of trust. I believe that through public diplomacy and cultural dialogue both problems could be addressed and the way paved to a resolution.

Do you think that NGO representatives should join Polad Bulbuloglu and Armen Smbatyan's mission in trying to bring the two nations closer to each other?

Absolutely. I think NGOs should play a very significant role in frequenting these kinds of events and making them logistically possible, but the participation of government officials is of crucial importance as the NGOs in both countries have not yet built enough social and political leverage.

Aliyah Fridman



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