Today we mark the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of GUAM. On October 10, 1997, in Strasbourg, on the sidelines of the Summit of the Council of Europe, Presidents of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, signed Joint Communiqué giving birth to the regional initiative known by the acronym of the capital letter of country names, as GUAM.

Underlying the principle aim of the initiative «the Presidents underscored the need for strengthening quadrilateral cooperation for the sake of stable and secure Europe guided by the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of state frontiers, mutual respect, cooperation, democracy, supremacy of law, and respect for human rights». Among main objectives was to develop «…a Eurasian, Trans-Caucasus transportation corridor, considering joint actions taken in this direction a sound foundation for fostering friendship and cooperation, good-neighbourly relations and full utilization of existing economic opportunities».

Guided by these utmost goals, the leaders, while expressing their concern with respect to the long-standing conflicts in Europe, supported a prompt and peaceful settlement of the unresolved conflicts, as well as unanimously upheld the need for combating aggressive nationalism, separatism, and international terrorism.

With the security concerns proper at the initial phase, through gaining momentum and embracing new areas of mutual interest and cooperation, in 2006 GUAM initiative has been transformed into a full-fledged international organization under the new title the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM, with the Headquarters and Secretariat based in Kyiv. Political coordination, as well as close interaction in economic, parliamentary and business dimensions, constitute main pillars of cooperation. This development aimed at promoting peace, stability, shaping of a new architecture of regional cooperation in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea region, was met with enthusiasm and growing international attention and support.

However, military conflicts on the territories of GUAM member states remain to be the major challenge in the implementation of cooperation plans and objectives. Moreover, over the last decade or so, we have observed continuous escalation of tensions on the territories of the GUAM member states. The Russian-Georgian war of August 2008, the confrontation between the Russia and Ukraine, after the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, resulted in flagrant violation of territorial integrity of these countries, occupation and annexation of the parts of their territories, made this geographic area even more dangerous and explosive for the international peace, security and stability.

These days we are witnessing yet another flare of military hostilities in a hotbed among the oldest conflicts in the region, namely between Azerbaijan and Armenia in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. This time, the scale and the intensity of the military confrontation with high risks of slipping into a full-scale war with unpredictable consequences for the whole region causes particular concern. Targeting civilian populations of big cities, towns and villages located far away from the conflict zone, as well as critical national and strategic international infrastructure on the territory of Azerbaijan, grossly violates international and humanitarian law.

In justification of the occupation, illegal and criminal acts, unbridled propaganda manifested itself in its ugliest forms, utilizing the arsenal of the well-known contrived tricks and arguments about the «existential threat», «protection of religious values», «rectification and restoration of historical injustice», «ethnic or religious incompatibility» etc. aimed at deceiving and manipulation of international public opinion. All the above reasonings are incompatible neither with common sense nor with the norms and principles of peaceful coexistence in the XXI century.

This is unacceptable, dangerous and should be resolutely and unequivocally condemned by the international community. The only solid foundation for the resolution of disputes and conflicts among nations should be singularly the norms and principles of international law! Any arguments allowing dubious or dual interpretation, openly or implicitly implying double standards or the supremacy of one’s over the other will only incite hatred based on ethnic or religious grounds, add oil to the fire!

Numerous resolutions and decisions of supreme international bodies calling for immediate, full, and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces, and for the restoration of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the GUAM member states within the internationally recognized frontiers for over two decades are being defiantly ignored. Decades of mediation efforts by the international community in peaceful settlement of the conflicts on the territories of the GUAM member states are failing without any promising perspective. Such a situation gave birth to the belief in impunity and permissiveness for violations of international law and condoned further provocative and aggressive actions against the GUAM member states.

As an international organization promoting regional cooperation, we are deeply concerned with the existence of unresolved blazing conflicts on the territories of the GUAM member states that constitute the major source and threat to regional and international peace, security and stability, impede regional cooperation and sustainable development.

Therefore, we once again urge the international community to undertake resolute and adequate actions and measures aimed at returning the settlement process to the mainstream of international law, enforcing the compliance with the norms and principles of international law, the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and other major documents.

Peaceful and lasting resolution of the military conflicts on the territories of the GUAM member states is possible only on the basis of norms and principles of international law and the full restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of GUAM member states within their internationally recognized borders.

Just and sustained peace in this geographic area of growing geostrategic significance, which possesses enormous potential for international cooperation and development, with full observance of the legitimate interests of all sides, will contribute to international security, stability and shared prosperity.

This is the time for determined and decisive measures and actions for international community!