AAA: Bush WH Makes First Public Endorsement Of Armenia Trade Bill

Armenian Assembly of America
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Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-393-3434
Fax: 202-638-4904
Email: [email protected]

May 7, 2004
CONTACT: Christine Kojoian
E-mail: [email protected]


Activists Hail Announcement from Ambassador Jones

Washington, DC – Ambassador Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary of the
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, in a major announcement publicly
endorsed pending legislation that would extend trade benefits to Armenia.
Jones’ remarks, addressed to Armenian-American activists attending a
national non-partisan conference on April 19, mark the Bush Administration’s
first public endorsement of the trade bill.

The conference, April 18-20, was jointly held by the Armenian Assembly, the
Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Eastern and Western Diocese
of the Armenian Church.

Below is the full-text of Ambassador Jones’ remarks:

I’d like to thank our hosts, the Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian
General Benevolent Union and the Armenian Church of America, for their warm

I accompanied Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on his recent visit
to Armenia. It was a great pleasure to see such obvious growth and dynamism
in Yerevan. Mr. Armitage met with President Kocharian and Foreign Minister
Oskanyian during his stay to reaffirm our strong relationship with Armenia
and to encourage closer cooperation in the security area. President
Kocharian and Mr. Armitage also discussed the domestic political situation
and the need to intensify efforts toward political reform.

Armenian-Americans are making a critical contribution to economic reform and
growth in Armenia. We appreciate your input into the foreign policy process
and assistance programs. Thank you for inviting me to brief you on U.S.
priorities and policy in the South Caucasus.

This is an exciting time for all those interested in the Caucasus. The “Rose
Revolution” in Georgia decalcified Georgian politics by bringing in a new
generation of young, pro-western reformers. There is also a new, younger
leader in Azerbaijan with ideas on how to modernize his own country. The
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline will see the transportation of first oil next
year, bringing new opportunities for prosperity to the region, including
opportunities to improve energy options for Armenia.

NATO and EU enlargement has made the Caucasus a new “neighbor” to those
organizations, which are now taking a greater interest in the region. All
this change offers new hope for the region and new opportunities for the
U.S. to strengthen its relationships with the Caucasus nations.

What are the primary U.S. interests in the region? The most important can be
simply described as security, reform and regional stability.


The nations of the Caucasus are making an important contribution to
international peacekeeping missions as well as to the Global War on
Terrorism. Azerbaijan and Georgia have troops on the ground in Iraq;
Azerbaijan also has troops in Afghanistan. An Armenian cargo truck company
is expected in Iraq by September to contribute to stability operations

U.S. assistance to the region is aimed toward improving our cooperation. It
has the following goals:

* Enhance partnerships in the Global War on Terror;
* Strengthen democratic institutions and civil society;
* Create jobs and support for the emerging entrepreneurial class;
* Fight global threats including weapons proliferation and trafficking
in persons.

Our Foreign Military Finance (FMF), International Military Education and
Training (IMET) programs and peacekeeping assistance promote
interoperability with U.S. and NATO forces.

Armenia has taken big steps to enhance its security relationship with the
United States and NATO in the past six months

* Signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to become a partner in
the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program;
* Signed a reciprocal Article 98 Agreement with the United States to
prevent Armenian and U.S. troops from prosecution at the International
Criminal Court, an organization that does not have U.S. representation;
* Agreed to deploy a truck company to Iraq;
Concluded an Acquisitions and Cross-Servicing Agreement with U.S.;
* Hosted a NATO Partnership for Peace exercise in the summer of 2003;
* Deployed a peacekeeping company to KFOR in Kosovo

We have strongly encouraged the Armenian government to permit closer
military cooperation with the U.S. and look forward to a positive response
from Yerevan.


Economic Reform

Across the nations of the former Soviet Union, reform has both economic and
political components. Economic reform is essential to creating prosperity
for the people of the region. Armenia faced the steepest economic decline
after the fall of the Soviet Union, but has now reached 82% of its 1989 GDP.

Widespread unemployment and uneven growth plague the Caucasus. Our policies
focus on creating jobs and strengthening the investment climate by lending
money to micro, small and medium enterprises (SME) in order to promote
profitability and job growth, helping Armenia achieve energy security and
providing the tools to help Armenia quality for the Millennium Challenge

Our assistance programs have resulted in many tangible results.

* The total value of exports from companies supported by USAID in
Armenia jumped from $l.7 mil in 2002 to $2.4 mil in 2003;
* Through loan guarantees, we provided credit to four financial
institutions in Armenia making $450,000 available for loans to small and
medium size enterprises;
* Our agriculture programs created more than 2,000 jobs in FY 2003;
* Partly because of our assistance to the electrical sector,
collections rose to 92% in 2003 (from 70% in 2001);
* In the earthquake zone, by the end of 2003, U.S. assistance helped
provide 7,000 families with homes;
* U.S. supported Armenia’s WTO accession in 2003 and we’re providing
technical assistance to help Armenia meet its new obligations and benefit
from membership.

Breaking down the barriers to trade is one of our priorities. The U.S. and
Armenia have had normal trade relations since 1992, but the U.S. government
supports extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Armenia and will
support Congressional efforts to graduate Armenia from the Jackson-Vanik
Amendment to the Trade Act. The purpose of Jackson-Vanik legislation was to
encourage religious freedom and free emigration. Armenia is fully compliant
with Jackson-Vanik standards. The House of Representatives approved lifting
Jackson-Vanik on Armenia in 2003. This year, a similar provision is attached
to Senate Bill S1637. If Congress acts, the President will certify that
Jackson-Vanik no longer applies to Armenia.

Another key U.S. priority to facilitate increased trade throughout the
region is encouraging Turkey to open its border with Armenia. With this
border open, transportation costs would fall by 50 percent or more, likely
increasing trade between Turkey and Armenia, and between Armenia and Western
Europe via Turkey. As Mr. Armitage stated during his press conference in
Yerevan, we frequently engage the Turkish government on the border issue but
may not see progress in the short term. Ankara is currently struggling with
a panoply of other difficult issues, including stability in Northern Iraq,
Cyprus and the possibility of EU accession.

Political Reform and Democratic Change

We have noted slow and steady progress in democratic reform and institution
building in the nations of the former Soviet Union since independence, but
also backsliding in recent years. In the past year, all governments in the
Caucasus region were guilty of manipulating the pre-election environment and
limiting access to the media.

Georgia’s revolution showed the possibility of peaceful political change. We
did not play a role in the choice exercised by the Georgian people for a
change, nor should we have. However, U.S. assistance was key to building the
capabilities of Georgians and Georgian organizations.

The U.S. is also working on democracy and good governance programs in
Armenia and Azerbaijan. More than 400 Armenians came to U.S. in 2003 on
exchange programs. In addition to exchanges, the U.S. plans to spend
approximately $9.4 million on democratic reform programs in Armenia in 2004.
We are working with nongovernmental organizations, media, political parties
and parliament deputies and staff.

Since March 2003 presidential elections, relations between the government
and the opposition in Armenia have worsened. We are concerned about the
recent escalation in rhetoric and confrontation between the government and
opposition. The government’s decision to forcibly disperse protestors at an
April 13 demonstration and the detention of opposition members of parliament
and activists are not helpful. Such actions don’t encourage opposition
activists to engage in dialogue with the government in order to resolve some
of the differences that separate them, including accountability for the
flawed elections in 2003.

We urge both sides to agree to political dialogue and not allow
recriminations and tensions to build. There has clearly been little public
support for the government’s handling of the situation. The government
assures us it will reduce political pressure on the opposition.


Unfortunately, the Caucasus region is still plagued with separatist
movements and unresolved conflicts almost thirteen years after independence.
If these conflicts are left unresolved, the region cannot realize its
economic potential, and will forever be at danger of a return to war. The
U.S. is re-thinking how best to tackle separatist conflicts in Georgia and
seeking closer cooperation with the United Nations and Russia in support of
Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The U.S. continues to seek a resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict,
both bilaterally and through its role as Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group,
along with France and Russia. On April 16, we announced the appointment of
Ambassador Steve Mann as new U.S. Special Negotiator for Eurasian Conflicts.
Steve was our first U.S. envoy to Armenia in 1991 and helped setup our first
embassy until the arrival of Ambassador Gilmore. Steve will also continue in
his role as the coordinator for Caspian Sea Energy Issues. It has been ten
years since an uneasy cease-fire was declared between Armenia and Azerbaijan
on Nagorno-Karabakh. Unfortunately, Yerevan and Baku have made no effort to
prepare their populations for the politically difficult compromises
necessary to effect a genuine peace agreement. At Key West in 2001, the
parties came close to agreement, but momentum was lost. The status quo harms
overall security in the region and restricts economic growth in both
nations. This prevents Armenia and the rest of the Caucasus from fully
integrating into Europe and the other Euro-Atlantic institutions.

To recap, U.S. priorities in the South Caucasus region relate to overall
security of the region, intensifying political and economic reform and
resolving regional conflicts in order to attain long-term stability.
Armenian-Americans have made a great contribution to the development of the
modern nation of Armenia. My colleagues and I look forward to working with
you to push for reform in Armenia and to seek an improvement in the lives of
Armenia’s people. I wish you a successful convention. My thoughts are with
you this April 24 as you commemorate Armenian Remembrance Day.

Thank you.

The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide
organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian
issues. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.