AAA: Armenia This Week – 06/07/2004

Friday, June 4, 2004

Armenia and the United States committed to safeguarding the cultural
heritage of their respective citizens, and began talks on launching a new
U.S. aid program to Armenia and Kansas-Armenia state partnership in the last
two weeks.

Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Dr. Arman Kirakossian signed the Agreement
on the Protection and Preservation of Certain Cultural Properties following
a December 31, 2003 request from the Chairman of the U.S. Commission for the
Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, Warren L. Miller. The Commission
was established by Congress in 1985 and has since signed over a dozen
agreements with Central and Eastern European countries. In addition to
protection and preservation of sites of historical significance, such as
temples and cemeteries, as well as archival documents, the agreement calls
for provision of public access to same. The Commission is negotiating
similar agreements with Azerbaijan and Georgia, and is also expected to
begin negotiations with Turkey. These three countries hold cultural heritage
of special importance to the Armenian-American community.

Also last week, Major General Tod M. Bunting, the recently appointed
Adjutant General of the Kansas National Guard, made his first visit to
Armenia to explore areas of cooperation under the Pentagon’s National Guard
State Partnership Program. The program pairs Eastern European countries with
U.S. states’ national guards for civil-military training. While in Armenia,
Bunting met with Defense Ministry and other officials to discuss possible
cooperation in emergency management, health and peacekeeping operations.
Kansas’ Governor Kathleen Sibelius endorsed the partnership with Armenia in
a special proclamation earlier this year.

This week, a delegation of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
led by its Chief Executive Officer Paul V. Applegarth was in Armenia to
begin preliminary discussions about this new U.S. assistance program.
Armenia and 15 other countries were found eligible for $1 billion in
additional U.S. aid in Fiscal Year 2004. In the next two months, MCC’s
Armenia counter-part commission, which is led by the Prime Minister and
includes the ministers of Finance, Agriculture and Transport, as well as the
Chairman of the Water Management Committee, is expected to submit Armenia’s
request identifying priority areas. MCC will consider funding proposals
based on their proven impact on economic growth, civic involvement and
effective implementation. (Sources: ;
; ; Armenia This Week 5-7; Embassy of
Armenia in U.S. 5-25; Noyan Tapan 5-25, 28; RFE/RL Armenia Report 5-31; AAA
Yerevan Office 6-3)

Armenia’s Defense Ministry this week established the Dro National Strategic
Research Center tasked with providing policy advice and training on defense
and security issues to the Armenian government and serve as a liaison with
similar institutions abroad. Defense Minister Serge Sargsian designated his
advisor Col. Hayk Kotanjian to run the new Center. Sargsian and other
officials this week attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Center’s
new building. The initial construction costs are funded from Diaspora

Kotanjian is a veteran Defense Ministry official, who combines a background
in the Soviet military and academia with Western training. He had just
completed a year-long program for senior officers at the U.S. National
Defense University and had previously served as Armenia’s Defense Attaché in
Washington (1998-2001). In a recent interview, Kotanjian underscored the
importance of Armenia’s growing relations with NATO, which he described as
“the only effective military-political organization in the world today.”

A recent poll conducted by the Armenian Center for National and
International Studies (ACNIS) found that a strong majority of local experts
“think that Armenia should join NATO within 10-12 years.” Armenia,
constrained by persistent antagonism from NATO member Turkey, and resultant
alliance with Russia, has yet to make a political commitment on membership.

According to Tevan Poghosian, head of the Armenian Atlantic Association, a
local NGO working to educate the Armenian public about NATO, all three
Caucasus countries have still much to do to reach even the basic NATO
standards. “But I would be happy should Armenia undergo the necessary
reforms, whether or not we eventually join the Alliance,” Poghosian said.
(Sources: Azg 5-22; ACNIS 5-27; 5-28; Noyan Tapan 5-31; RFE/RL
Armenia Report 5-31)

Following the successful re-imposition of state authority in Ajaria, the
Georgian government is moving rapidly to reassert control over other
breakaway and uncontrolled areas, while also accelerating talks on the
withdrawal of Russian forces from the country. Should these goals be
achieved as successfully and peacefully as in Ajaria, they may have a
significant positive effect on Armenia’s economy, which heavily relies on
trade routes through Georgia.

Last month Georgia renewed settlement offers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
two Soviet-era autonomies that broke away from Georgian control following
bloody wars in the early 1990s. This week, Georgia sent additional security
forces to South Ossetia, while also taking steps to win over the local
population by distributing humanitarian aid and beginning TV broadcasts in
the Ossetian language.

This week Georgia sent additional forces to the Azeri-populated areas of
Kvemo Kartli province in an effort to clamp down on smuggling there.
Georgian officials also temporarily closed the country’s border with
Azerbaijan as part of the operation.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell this week resumed calls for withdrawal
of Russian bases from Batumi and the Armenian-populated Akhalkalaki. In the
latter case, Georgian officials are reportedly preparing U.S.-funded
assistance programs aiming to reduce the local economy’s reliance on the
military base. Russia has made a general commitment on withdrawal, but is
said to expect U.S. compensation for the move.

A leading regional analyst Elizabeth Fuller suggested this week that Georgia
and Russia are working on a deal that would lead to incorporation of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia into a federated Georgia, return of refugees and
reopening of communications. Should the effort be successful, it would lead
to reopening of the Abkhazia railroad which connects Armenia to Russia and
Europe, and provide Armenia’s economy with a major boost.

At the same time, any armed escalation in Ossetia may be fraught with
sabotage against a key gas pipeline that supplies both Georgia and Armenia,
and one of two major highways linking the Caucasus with Russia. (Sources:
; Armenia This Week 5-7; 5-19, 21; RFE/RL 5-27, 6-1,
3; U.S. State Dept 6-1; In the National Interest 6-2)

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