Tbilisi – Tekali. Exclusively for VK (vestnikkavkaza.net)
The Tekali Village on the crossing of Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani borders has held public hearings within the framework of the Tekali process to discuss mechanisms of affecting the situation on the contact line. The meeting was organized by several NGOs and National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a global structure operating all over the world.
Guests arrived from Baku, Akstafa, Gyumri, Ganja, Yerevan, Injevan, Marneuli, Noemberyan, Tovuz, Kazakh. They discussed trans-border problems, situation in nearby villages, pastures, mine-clearing at roads, frontline situation. In other words, they talked about fundamental issues of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, situation around Nagorno-Karabakh, global role in the Caucasus Region and interests of superpowers.
The conference hall was set at the vineyard of an Azerbaijani local’s two-storey house. All speeches were constructive and honest. The Azerbaijanis and Armenians who arrived in Tekali wanted to find common grounds. They started recalling the times of good-neighbourhood and mutual understanding, bringing in examples, simple stories of people, without histrionics and contrivedness.
People in Tekali speaks in Azerbaijani, Armenian, Georgian and Russian. Their accent cannot does not allow to distinguish the three Caucasus peoples. The local minibus driver who took us to Tekali spoke with Armenians and Azerbaijanis in their language, yet he turned out to be a Georgian. However, an Armenian writer rouses in pure Azerbaijani.
At times, it seemed as though there were no inter-ethnic conflicts. Regardless of diplomatic skills, it is impossible to play such benevolence or desire to understand others. Even the most edgy topics were discussed without hatred or aggression. “We used to fight with our Armenian neighbours when we were kids, but we became friends again. When one of our Armenian guys invited me to his place, I heard that his mother started telling him off and kept repeating “Turk”. But I am grateful to her, because I started thinking that I am really a Turk and proud of it”, Zaur Dargali from Marneuli said.
Russia still has mixed Armenian-Azerbaijani villages and schools. The Kvemo Kartli (Borchaly) Region has Armenian and Azerbaijani villages located in a checkboard order. You cannot move from one Armenian village to the other without passing an Azerbaijani one and vice versa. There are no conflicts thanks to Georgian authorities and local communities.
The case is more complicated with villages on the border of two states. Nonetheless, attendants found common grounds with the help of the Tekali process. They withdrew snipers during harvesting and mine-clearing. “Each subdivision has a sniper and if he shoots, he shoots according to an order, not own will. The same happens in Armenia: the military are ordered by politicians and we need to make our politicians stop giving such orders”, political analyst from Baku Zardusht Alizade said.
An Armenian film director called the Armenian authorities a “criminal group”. Yet, Tekali obviously lacked opposition mood. Rare invectives against Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities were neglected. The forum was organized for consolidation of opposition in Armenia and Azerbaijan. But they seemed more like episodes.
Armenians criticized the OSCE Minsk Group working on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: “A mediator is always promoting own interests that cannot coincide with interests of process-involved sides”.
Special attention was paid to cooperation of rural administrations on opposite sides of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and violations of the cease-fire regime on the frontline around Nagorno-Karabakh. Speakers avoided accusations. They joked about requesting governments to give a square kilometer of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to form the so-called South Caucasus Republic with the capital in Tekali. Georgian organizers presented designs of the Tekali Palace, a place where attendants of the talks could meet for further development of dialogue.
At the end of the official part of hearings, organizers offered all people to speak out at the forum. There were many volunteers with all speeches constructive. The inter-ethnic dialogue continued at a joint dinner. The only thing that spoiled the Tekali hearings was the incident after their conclusion. A member of the Armenian delegation, calling himself the head of the Noemberyan District, did not return to Armenia and went to Tbilisi instead. He was making rude jokes and frivolous comments to foreigners. He insulted a member of the international organization with diplomatic immunity (threatening to “make a corpse out of him”) and was about to start a brawl. It is surprising how such a man could be part of the Armenian delegation where most participants arrived to Tekali not for insults, drunk fights, abuses of foreign guests or encouragement of incidents, but for the sake of mutual respect and dialogue on complicated and sensitive problems of South Caucasus.