One national president speaking at a conference might be more than enough for most people, but The Silk Road in the 21st Century Conference last week boasted three presidential speakers.
The presidents of Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Republic of Georgia addressed the conference, held Sept. 19-21 at the Yale Law School, via teleconference or written statement. The conference also featured numerous panels, receptions and presentations all centered on the theme of “security and insecurity in Central Asia and the Caucasus.”
At 8:45 a.m. on Saturday morning, Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev gave a teleconference address about the conflict, cooperation, democratization and stability in his region. The audience was equipped with earpieces in order to listen to the English translation of the president’s address in Russian.
Aliev noted his friendly relations with the presidents of Turkey and the Republic of Georgia. He lauded the recent start of construction on an oil pipeline traversing the three countries. He said that this was one of the biggest economic projects in his country, since it would serve as a pipeline to the Turkish port of Cheyhan.
“With this project, we have fulfilled our goal to reach a connection between East and West,” Aliev said.
Aliev ended by expressing his country’s support for U.S. actions against terrorism.
“We are a member of the coalition with the U.S.A.,” he said.Ê”The war with international terrorism has to be strengthened.”
Kim Nguyen EPH ’03 said she was generally satisfied with Aliev’s speech.
“He hit upon most of the issues I was concerned about, though I would’ve appreciated hearing more about the refugee situation in his country,” she said.
Immediately after Aliev’s speech, Askar Akaev, the president of Kyrgyzstan, came on the screen to give his teleconference address. He began by emphasizing the importance of democracy.
“Democracy is the water which gives our society life,” he said.
He said that the war with international terrorists in his region was the country’s most central problem.ÊBut he said that another very significant problem was poverty, which is “very distinct in [his] country.”ÊHe assured that by the year 2010, the country will have decreased its poverty level threefold.
Although Eduard Shevardnadze, the president of the Republic of Georgia, was not able to give a live teleconference speech, he did provide a written address for participants of the conference.ÊIn his statement, he emphasized the importance of developing a Europe-Caucasus-Asia transportation corridor.
“In the modern context, the Silk Road envisages exchanges of technologies and know-how, creation of a common market, promotion of a dialogue between civilizations and cultures, and most importantly, gradual development of a system based on cooperative security,” Shevardnadze said in the statement.
In addition to the presidential speakers, the conference also included multiple panels with such titles as “Regional Interests of [Central Asian and Caucasus] Countries,” “Narcotics and Crime,” and “Islamic Movements.”
Michelle de Saram ’05 said that the “Islamic Movements” panel, moderated by Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and author of “Taliban: Islam, Oil and the new Great Game in Central Asia,” went far beyond her expectations.
“I thought the most important part [of the talk] was clarifying the role of Islam and jihad. The discussion really brought forward many different perspectives,” she said.
The conference ended with a round-table discussion moderated by Strobe Talbott, the president of the Brookings Institute and the former director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, in which participants discussed the question “What have we learned and where do we go from here?”
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