April 27, 2012 - 10:11 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner”. These words were spoken, with characteristic eloquence, by former South African President Nelson Mandela. Through a gradual process of dialogue and trust-building in the early 1990s, President Mandela and others brought about what was previously thought impossible: political settlement and reconciliation, said The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, Eamon Gilmore.
“His words have a deep resonance in Ireland. The adage ‘you don't make peace with your friends’ was used frequently during our own peace process. Indeed, President Mandela and others were active in sharing their experiences with key figures involved in the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement.
Not all of these experiences were directly relevant or applicable; the point was to listen, to share, and to gain a fresh perspective on seemingly insurmountable problems. International support of this kind played a key role in the peace process and continues to be drawn upon.
In turn, we too are engaging in efforts to share our own experiences. Ireland has its own unique story of the impossible made possible. The Good Friday Agreement has transformed relations within and between Ireland and Britain. Following decades of distrust, relations between our two islands have never been stronger, symbolised by the State Visit of Queen Elizabeth II last year. The visit to Ireland by the Olympic torch in June is a further sign of this transformation in relations.
Ours is not a complete example of conflict resolution; there remain areas where further effort is required by all. But I firmly believe it is our responsibility to draw upon our experiences in offering support to those working for peace in other parts of the world.
For this reason, I am hosting an international conference in Dublin today at which the experience of achieving a peaceful political settlement in Northern Ireland will be presented as a case study. The conference is part of Ireland’s Chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. I will be joined by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, whose working relationship as First and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland is a potent symbol of what can be achieved through peace, as well as by former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martti Ahtisaari, US Senator George Mitchell, and Secretary of State Owen Paterson.
We will not be presenting ‘lessons learned’ or prescribing blueprints for action. But there are some universal experiences I believe we can highlight: that with political will and leadership the seemingly impossible can be achieved; that peace is a process which begins with the signing of an agreement; that things which appear beyond solution can be addressed as confidence is built through implementing an agreement; and that, with peace, prosperity, economic growth and a better life for all can be achieved.
I hope that this conference will support and inspire those who are striving to craft lasting settlements to conflicts in the OSCE area and elsewhere to search for the middle ground where agreement becomes possible. Above all, I hope we can encourage them to think of their enemy as their future partner,” he said.