Washington Conference in Search for Diversity and Stability in the South Caucasus and Central Asia

Photo: Washington Conference in Search for Diversity and Stability in the South Caucasus and Central Asia / Azerbaijan

USA, Washington, Sep. 12 /Trend special corr. Natalie Zajicova/

Sevinj Fataliyeva, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign and Inter-Parliamentary Relations of the Parliament of Azerbaijan delivered keynote remarks at a conference on "Secular and Moderate Islam in the South Caucasus and Central Asia: Models and Challenges." The forum was held on September 11, 2012 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC.

Ms. Fataliyeva began by pointing out the importance of the CSIS conference, since having open and frank discussions about the problems only increases the chances of solving them. She declared that she is proud to represent a country that fosters culture of understanding and coexistence, and rejects extremism.

"Azerbaijan is an integral part of the Islamic world, Islam is our religion, and Islamic and national values are dear to us," Ms. Fataliyeva said.

"At the same time, the commitment of Azerbaijan to women's rights, political pluralism, its diverse heritage, and to preservation of cultures," Fataliyeva stressed. "An example of this is the restoration of Roman catacombs funded by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation."

In conclusion, Fataliyeva reiterated Azerbaijan's commitment to international efforts to prevent the spread of extremism and radicalism.

"As part of the conference, a panel of experts also addressed internal and external factors related to maintaining diversity and stability in the region," she added.

In his remarks, Joshua Walker, an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and currently Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stressed the role of Turkey as it asserts itself as a major player following the Arab Spring.

"Russian maintains a major role in the region due to its historic ties and geopolitical interests," Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation said. Cohen pointed out the growing Russian nationalism and the rising role of the Russian Orthodox Church, which may alienate the Muslim population in Russia, and cause a spillover into the Caucasus.

"Is it obvious that the South Caucasus cannot become genuinely stable and secure unless the territorial disputes, especially, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are resolved," Dr. Brenda Shaffer, Senior Lecturer at the Haifa University in Israel said.

Shaffer spoke about the dangers of entering a stage where young people from opposite sides will not "shake each other's hands." "This, until recently, was not the case in the Caucasus," Shaffer said. "However, the situation is changing. The escalation of is ever more likely as the human factor - rejection of each other's value as human beings -- becomes increasingly important in the territorial disputes."

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