International Conference on The Caucasus: “Cooperation for Stability”
President Mikhail Saakashivili, Dr. Alexander Rondeli, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Gamarjoba. It is an honor and privilege to be able to make a few remarks here today. For this chance, I must thank Dr. Rondeli and his colleagues in the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies for inviting me.
I must confess that this is my first visit to Georgia, a country where democracy and economic growth have made remarkable progress, thanks to the leadership of President Saakashivili.
In my country, many Japanese first became interested in Georgia thanks to Kokkai, a sumo wrestler who made his debut in May 2003 and who has done well since then. Needless to say, Georgia later gained the attention of the entire world in November 2003, with the Rose Revolution. Further, since President Saakashivili’s visit to Japan last March, Japan and Georgia have begun a strong new relationship.
However, I am proud to say that the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, with which I am involved, began to work on building friendly relations with Georgia many years ago. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation has worked to improve capacity building in strategic decision making for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, providing a forum for exchange and for the sharing of policy information. We have placed particular emphasis, working with the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, on exchange programs between Georgia and Japan.
The dynamics of international relations have changed profoundly since the end of the Cold War. In the last decade of the Twentieth Century, the majority of the world’s people were optimistic that the world would continue to grow more stable and prosperous. However, the tragedy of 9/11 changed that equation, bringing new tension to the rapidly globalizing international community. At the same time, the recent economic advance of China, India and Russia has shown a need to build new international relationships on the Eurasian continent. South Caucasus in general and Georgia in particular are indeed caught up in a political, geopolitical and strategic dynamism.
The eyes of Russia, China, India and the EU are on the security of this region and on the protection of the energy routes that pass through it. In view of this speculation by the great powers, there is a danger that the friendly relations between neighboring countries could be damaged.
Nonetheless, the three southern Caucasus nations, though caught at the center of this relationship, must not hesitate to persistently work together to develop long-term trust. I believe that the building of social and economic cooperation, similar to the relationship built by ASEAN, is one very effective possibility.
Thinking of the state in which the three southern Caucasus nations find themselves, I believe that the human resources development and the network building that we have conducted with the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, have provided strong support for the creation of trust. In particular, we have encouraged the Foundation to organize this international conference, which was first conceived in January 2006, so as to provide a wider forum for promoting constructive dialogue among leaders, policy makers and public intellectuals from the South Caucasus, Asia, Europe and the US. We hope to thus move this region towards enhanced integration with shared opportunities for stability, peace and prosperity.
Through the conference of the next two days, I urge you to use your collected knowledge and wisdom as the drive that will help you paint a picture of the future for your countries, the countries you are involved with and, by extension, the world in general. I believe that the construction of a cooperative relationship among you, my friends of Georgia and the Southern Caucasus, is vital for continued peace and political stability. I believe that this meeting is the first step in that direction. Further, we would like to help you as you go about the work of creating cooperative relationships both within this region and with the world at large.
Finally, I would like to ask those present at this conference to discuss solutions to the problems presented here, and I urge you to not forget the circle of friendship that you create here after you have gone back to your home countries.
Please join with me, in showing your appreciation to Alex, Temuri and their team from the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies for their dedication in bringing us to Tbilisi.
Thank you for your attention. Didi Madloba.