Vienna, 19 September 2011 Press release

Conference: Role of Religious Communities and the Civil Society in Conflict Solution in the Southern Caucasus

Vienna, 19 September 2011 – “Sustainable stability in the countries of the Black Sea region, especially in the Caucasus, is also of importance for the safety of Austria and Europe”, says Martin Eichtinger, Head of the Division for Cultural Policy at the Austrian Foreign Ministry on the occasion of the opening of a conference on “Role and Responsibility of Religious Communities and the Civil Society in Conflict Solution in Southern Caucasus”.

The initiative aims at strengthening bilateral and regional relationships with the South Caucasus region that has become a geographic focus region of Austrian foreign policy in the course of the past few years. Relationships between Austria and this region are already multi-faceted in terms of politics, business, culture and human aspects. An Austrian Embassy was opened in Baku in 2010, and in June 2011, Yerevan was the second city after Tbilisi where an Austrian Honorary Consulate was established. In addition, the Austrian libraries in Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi are important centres of a lively exchange between Austria and this region.

The region as an interface between Europe, the Near and Middle East and Central Asia is, however, still an area characterised by frozen conflicts. Austria’s many years of experience in the dialogue of cultures and religions offers a strong platform for dialogue with constructive approaches to solutions.

It was with this in mind that more than a dozen representatives from religious communities and the civil society of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia came to Vienna to discuss possible conflict solutions in the presence of an interested audience. After the public conference, concrete projects and initiatives were discussed in workshops not open to the public. The participants examined how open and sustainable dialogue could further promote conflict prevention and solution with Austria’s support. “There is no doubt that there is huge potential in this dynamic region and it is up to us to establish a network that is suitable for making use of this potential”, Eichtinger said. A high-level meeting of the three religious leaders of Southern Caucasus is planned to follow in spring 2012 in Vienna.

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