AAA: Armenia This Week – 05/21/2004

Friday, May 21, 2004

Armenian officials confirmed this week that President Robert Kocharian would
not attend the NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey set for late June. Foreign
Minister Vartan Oskanian, who will head the Armenian delegation to the
Summit, said that the president made the decision due to absence of any
appreciable progress in relations between Armenia and Turkey after years of
talks. At the same time, Oskanian noted that Armenia’s partnership with the
NATO alliance would continue to expand.

Turkey has steadfastly refused to establish diplomatic relations with
Armenia, since the latter became independent in 1991. For over a decade
Turkey has also kept its land border with Armenia closed, linking
normalization to Armenian concessions on the Armenian Genocide and Karabakh
issues. Turkey has also provided military and international support to
Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict, and has been slow to improve the rights
of the Armenian minority and conditions of the Armenian cultural heritage in

U.S. and the European Union have long urged Turkey to reconsider these
policies. Direct Armenian-Turkish contacts resumed after Armenia lifted its
objections to holding the 1999 summit of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Istanbul and as several Western democracies
officially affirmed the Armenian Genocide. The new Turkish government
elected in late 2002, after initially hinting at a positive change of
policy, has now ruled the lifting of preconditions as “out of question.”

In the meantime, Armenia has significantly strengthened security links with
NATO and directly with the United States, by signing new multilateral and
bilateral agreements, hosting NATO events and deploying peacekeeping forces
under NATO command earlier this year. Armenia is expected to join the NATO’s
Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) program – a key stepping stone for
potential future membership. Last month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
Elizabeth Jones noted that “Armenia has taken big steps to enhance its
security relationship with the United States and NATO.”

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer noted this week that, among
other issues, the summit will focus on “increasing our co-operation with the
Caucasus and Central Asia – areas that once seemed very far away, but that
we now know are essential to our security.” So far, out of the three
Caucasus countries, only Georgia is publicly seeking NATO membership.
Armenian leaders, while expanding cooperation with the Alliance have said
that membership is not presently on the country’s agenda. Following several
contradictory statements, Azeri Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov
announced earlier this month that “Azerbaijan is not planning to join NATO.”
(Sources: AAA R&I Fact Sheet: Armenia and NATO 2-17; Lider TV 5-4; Mediamax
5-4; Arminfo 5-17, 21, 24)

Azerbaijani officials said this week that they will continue to push for the
so-called “stage-by-stage” settlement of the Karabakh conflict, which has
been repeatedly dismissed by the Armenian side and dropped by the mediators.
The plan first considered in 1997 called for Karabakh Armenian withdrawal
from areas adjacent to Nagorno Karabakh in exchange for lifting of the
Azerbaijani blockade of Armenia and limited security guarantees, with the
status of Karabakh left to be determined in future talks.

Both President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov discussed
the plan in talks with senior European Union officials and media this week.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted down a similar proposal
when discussing a resolution on the Caucasus. Incidentally, the Parliament’s
Caucasus Envoy Per Gahrton who raised the possibility of the Armenian
withdrawal came under a blistering attack this week, when he told the Azeri
press that Nagorno Karabakh could no longer be ruled by Baku. Former senior
presidential advisor Vafa Gulizade and pro-government MP Rafael Husseinov
accused him of “taking bribes from Armenians.”

Azeri officials have said publicly that the “staged” plan’s implementation
would put Azerbaijan in a better position to exert more pressure on Armenia.
This week, Armenia’s Defense and Foreign Ministers again ruled out the plan,
with the Armenian side perceiving exchange of the security buffer for
communications as inequitable. (Sources: Armenia This Week 2-26, 5-7, 14;
Arminfo 5-15, 17, 18; EU Observer 5-18; EuroNews 5-18; AFP 5-22)

Note to Readers: Armenia This Week will not be published Friday, May 28 due
to the Memorial Day Holiday. Publication will resume on June 4.

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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS