German Foreign Minister Pushes for Reform in Armenia, Georgia

Deutsche Welle, Germany
April 22 2004

German Foreign Minister Pushes for Reform in Armenia, Georgia

Armenian President Robert Kocharian is under pressure to resign.

Joschka Fischer will wrap up his trip to the Caucasus region on
Thursday with stops in Armenia and Georgia. His visit in Armenia
comes during considerable political instability in the country.

Following visits to Afghanistan and Azerbaijan, Germany’s Fischer
continued his week-long trip abroad by arriving in the Armenian
capital Yerevan on Thursday morning. As he did in Azerbaijan, he is
expected to encourage both southern Caucasus nations to continue to
improve their democratic and human rights credentials by holding out
the prospect of closer ties to the European Union.

Fischer will need plenty of diplomatic tact in Yerevan, since
Armenian President Robert Kocharian is under increasing pressure to
step down. On Wednesday, opposition groups held a protest rally that
attracted an estimated 10,000 people, according to the Associated
Press. Opposition groups allege Kocharian won reelection last year
only through widespread election fraud, a charge which the president

Tensions in the country rose on April 13, when police used force to
break up a protest rally. Around 100 people were reportedly detained
and several protestors were injured. “Any administration relying on
violence is doomed. Kocharian must go,” said Stepan Demirchyan,
leader of the opposition Justice Party and runner-up in last year’s
presidential election, according to the Reuters news agency.

Kocharian’s opponents hope to oust him though continued popular
unrest, similar to how neighboring Georgia toppled the government of
former President Eduard Shevardnadze late last year. But some experts
are skeptical Kocharian will be removed from power.

“The Armenian authorities are better consolidated and will defend
their position more strongly. Moreover, there’s no clear leader of
the opposition like there was in Georgia,” Andranik Migranyan told

Conflict with Azerbaijan

While in Yerevan, Fischer will also address the dispute over the
Nagorno-Karabakh region, which though part of Azerbaijan has been
separated from the country since the mid-1990s after a war with
ethnic Armenians. A cease-fire in the conflict was signed in 1994,
but the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. In
the Azerbaijani capital Baku on Wednesday, Fischer already said
Germany and the EU were prepared to help find a solution to the

Fischer’s visit to Armenia will also include a memorial for Armenians
killed by Turks in 1915. The Armenians claim Ottoman Turkish forces
committed genocide at the time, slaughtering some 1.5 million people
between 1915 and 1923. Turkey rejects the charges, saying the
Armenians were killed in a partisan war as the Ottoman Empire

Heading to Tbilisi later in the day, Fischer will meet with Georgian
President Mikhail Saakashvili to show support for his western
oriented reform course. Saakashvili came to power in a bloodless coup
that ousted Shevardnadze in November, but he has run into trouble
recently, as military commanders in the rebellious Black Sea province
of Adzhara refuse to follow the orders of the central government.