International conference on WWI opens in Belgrade

An international conference on the First World War started on Friday, organized by the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD).

Source: Tanjug
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CIRSD President Vuk Jeremić opened the two-day gathering in Belgrade to say that "the tensions and crises in regions far and wide are not so unlike those of the early 20th-century multipolar world."

“The First World War is no doubt a pivotal event of the modern era,” said Serbia's former foreign minister, and former president of the UN General Assembly.

The gathering is held under the title, “The European Tragedy of 1914 and the Multipolar World of 2014: Lessons Learned."

“Our present circumstances are intimately related to the past hundred years-a historical trajectory shaped by what happened between 1914 and 1918 in far-reaching, not always fully appreciated ways,” Jeremić said, and added:

“In many obvious ways, the First World War set the stage for the Second remembered for the appalling disregard for human life and the transgression of moral limits practiced with unimaginable ferocity."

“All these horrors, it is sometimes claimed, might have been avoided if the Great Powers had not taken up arms in 1914,” the he said, stressing that the tensions and crises in regions far and wide are not so unlike those of the early 20th-century multipolar world.

“Then, as now, we had a constant interplay of domestic and international factors rendering the resolution of specific conflicts difficult and, when achieved, often extremely unstable,” Jeremić underlined.

“Then, as now, the underlying intentions of the most important players were sometimes opaque to one another and to other actors, making for a lack of trust and insufficient commitment to achieving compromise solutions. Then, as now, there was more than enough room for single-minded pursuits of particular goals, potentially serving as triggers for violent clashes on a much wider scale,” the CIRSID president noted.

“And then, just as now, vigorous attempts were made at manipulating public opinion to believe in the belligerence of others and the peaceful intentions of one's own side,” Jeremić said.

Taking Ukraine as an example, Jeremić said that the situation in which the country finds itself today is much worse than a year ago.

“Everyone appears to be worse off today than at the turn of the year, when irresponsible leadership placed Ukraine in the untenable position of having to choose between East and West-despite being perfectly obvious that there can be no political and economic sustainability without the country being able to work closely with both,” Jeremić said.

Serbia's foreign minister said that Ukraine's citizens now face a prolonged period of internal disruption, while the EU and Russia are experiencing a deterioration of their political ties, with clearly negative impact on their respective economies.

“The trust between the U.S. and Russia has largely disappeared, having been replaced by mutual suspicion and reciprocal feelings of contempt,” he said, adding that in an atmosphere suddenly reminiscent of the Cold War, cooperation on many issues in the UN Security Council could prove much harder, or even impossible to achieve.

The risk of massive destruction is now greater than ever before, but in our times, humanity faces an additional danger-an existential crisis unlike any the world has experienced so far: the rapid physical deterioration of the Earth itself caused by global warming and climate change, Jeremić underlined in his opening address.

According to announcements, the conference is attended by OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs of Columbia University, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaube, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz, and Stratfor Chairman George Friedman.

The speakers will include internationally renowned historians Christopher Clark, Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann, who was the first to argue that Germany bears the main responsibility for the war, as well as several historians from Russia, Italy and other countries.

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