AAA: Armenia This Week – 06/14/2004

June 14, 2004

A delegation led by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian is in Washington this
week for two days of high-level meetings with U.S. Administration officials
and members of Congress. On Monday, Oskanian met with the President’s
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley,
Secretary of State Colin Powell, Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth
Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense Mira Ricardel. The talks focused on
bilateral security cooperation and U.S. economic assistance, as well as the
ongoing Karabakh peace process and Armenia’s relations with Turkey. Meetings
with key members of the Senate and House of Representatives, including
leaders of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, are set for Tuesday.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading
Washington-based think tank, Oskanian outlined Armenia’s priorities in three
interconnected areas: internal political stability and democratic
development, sustained economic growth and settlement of regional conflicts.
He noted that Armenia’s selection as one of only sixteen countries worldwide
eligible for additional U.S. aid in the framework of the Millennium
Challenge Account reflects approval of Armenia’s economic and political
reforms. But Oskanian stressed that Armenia’s leaders recognized that more
progress is needed in these two areas.

Last week, the Armenian National Assembly gave preliminary approval to
sending a peacekeeping unit to Iraq. The Parliament voted to ratify
Armenia’s Status of Forces agreement with Kuwait, paving the way for a
deployment of a 30-truck transportation company, military engineers and
medics, via that country to support U.S.-led stabilization operations in
Iraq. Chief of the Armenian Armed Forces’ General Staff General Mikael
Harutiunian said two weeks ago that Armenia’s commitment to contribute to
the U.S.-led effort was unaffected by continued violence in Iraq. According
to U.S. and Armenian officials, the deployment is expected by September.

Also this Wednesday, the Senate will hold hearings on the nomination of John
Evans as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. Evans, a decorated veteran of
the foreign service with experience in Eastern Europe and Iran, is expected
to replace Ambassador John Ordway, who is completing his mission in Armenia
later this summer to become Ambassador to Kazakhstan. (Sources: Armenia This
Week 4-30; AAA Press Release 5-7; Federal News Service 6-7; RFE/RL Armenia
Report 6-8; R&I Report 6-14)

The Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan are discussing a new
approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict, both officials have confirmed.
Following high-level discussions in April and May, Vartan Oskanian and Elmar
Mamediarov are set to resume negotiations in the Czech Republic this
weekend. In an interview last Friday, Mamediarov said that talks are
focusing on developing a new plan that would include elements of the 1997
“step-by-step” proposal and “package” options discussed since then. Speaking
in Washington this Monday, Oskanian confirmed such discussions were

The 1997 plan called for Armenian withdrawal from areas adjacent to NKR in
exchange for lifting of the Azeri blockades and limited security guarantees,
with the status of Karabakh left to be determined in future talks.
Incorporation of elements of the “package” approach may imply an early Azeri
commitment to the mechanism that would determine Karabakh’s status.

Meanwhile, an almost daily barrage of militant rhetoric by Azeri officials
and media continues unabated. Last week President Ilham Aliyev again made,
by now, customary threats of a new war. The Azeri government said it
launched “criminal investigations” against the Presidents of Armenia and NKR
for their roles in defeating Azerbaijan’s military in the early 1990s. Azeri
peace activists who did not heed Aliyev’s call for an end to all
non-government contacts with ethnic Armenians were again harassed by
government-linked radicals.

More ominously, Azeri military units resumed provocations along the Line of
Contact last week leading to at least one person killed on each side – the
worst instance of a cease-fire violation since last winter. Both then and
now escalations precede preparatory events for NATO’s Cooperative Best
Effort exercises due in Baku this September. Azeri officials now claim that
they would not hinder Armenian participation in the preparatory event set
for June 21. But after similar claims in January, three Armenian officials
were denied visas and barred from boarding a Baku-bound plane.

Lack of good faith and Azerbaijan’s refusals to implement any
confidence-building measures are likely to undermine any progress in talks.
Recently, NKR President Arkady Ghoukasian urged international organizations
to focus on ending what has become known as the information “war” waged by
Azerbaijan before turning to settlement plans. (Sources: Armenia This Week
1-16, 5-21; Azad Azerbaycan 6-2; Noyan Tapan 6-5; Turan 6-10, 12; RFE/RL
6-11, 14; ANS 6-14; R&I Report 6-14)

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Armenian Assembly of America
Research and Information Office

June 14, 2004

BACKGROUND: President Robert Kocharian is not attending the June 28-29 NATO
Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. Instead, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian is
leading the Armenian delegation. This decision was prompted by continued
aggressive Turkish policies towards Armenia, and does not reflect any
Armenian concerns with NATO.

In the absence of any appreciable progress in relations between Armenia and
Turkey after years of talks, Armenia’s President decided not to attend the
NATO Summit in Turkey in order to call international attention to Turkey’s
continued hostility against Armenia.

– ARMENIA-NATO RELATIONS: In February 2004 Armenia deployed a peacekeeping
platoon to Kosovo, as part of the Greek contingent of the US-led
multinational brigade in KFOR. In Iraq, Armenia is set to deploy a
transportation company, as well as de-mining engineers and medical units. In
June 2003, Armenia hosted the NATO PfP Military Exercise “Co-operative Best
Effort 2003,” with participation of 19 states, including Turkey. Last March,
Armenia ratified the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement
(SOFA). At the same time, Armenia’s Minister of Defense announced that
Armenia would submit an official application to participate in NATO’s
Individual Partnership Action Plan, the most advanced type of engagement
short of actual membership. Armenia appointed a Military Representative to
NATO on May 1 and an Ambassador, whose sole portfolio will be NATO, will
assume office this summer. The annual meeting of the PfP Political-Military
Committee with Armenia took place at NATO HQ, in April 2004. The meeting,
which was held with all partners, covered Armenia’s participation in the
Planning and Review Process, and approved Armenia’s Partnership Goals for
2004, outlining Armenia’s tasks for the next two-year cycle. Although
neither invited, nor self-invited to join NATO, Armenia will continue to
strengthen its partnership with NATO. Senior U.S. and NATO officials have
repeatedly praised Armenia for strides it has made in the development of
closer relations with the alliance.

– TURKEY’S ARMENIA POLICY: Since Armenia regained its independence in 1991,
Turkey has steadfastly refused to establish diplomatic relations. For over
a decade Turkey has also maintained a land blockade against Armenia, defying
international treaties and U.S. law, as well as ignoring calls by the United
States and European Union to open its border. Turkey links normalization to
Armenian concessions on the Karabakh conflict. Turkey has also provided
military and diplomatic assistance uncritically championing Azerbaijan’s
views on the Karabakh conflict. By introducing the blockade against its
neighbor when it did, Turkey aimed to harm Armenia and assist Azerbaijan in
its war against Karabakh Armenians.

Armenia is not sanctioned by any international entity. In fact, both the
United States and the European Union (EU) have repeatedly called for its
lifting. President George W. Bush said that he looks forward to “Turkey
restoring economic, political, and cultural links with Armenia.” The
European Parliament has called for making normalization of Armenian-Turkish
relations a pre-condition for Turkey’s accession to the EU. Turkey is in
violation of the 1921 Treaty of Moscow and the Treaty of Kars, which
established the current Armenian-Turkish border. According to these
treaties, Turkey is bound to “uninterrupted communication between the two
countries” and “secure the free movement of persons and goods.”

– ARMENIA’S TURKEY POLICY: Despite Turkey’s confrontational policies and
actions, Armenia’s response has been consistent since independence – normal
relations with Turkey without preconditions. Armenia appreciates that its
most direct links to the west are via Turkey, that Turkey’s most direct
access to the southern rim of the former Soviet Union is via Armenia as well
and that an open border will dramatically enhance the economic development
of eastern Turkey and Armenia. Despite Turks’ claims to the contrary,
President Kocharian has stated that Armenia has no territorial claims
against Turkey.

– ARMENIAN-TURKISH TALKS: 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 governments pledged to seek moderation and engagement from Turkey in
its future relations with Armenia. Officials from the Ecevit government and
the new Turkish government elected in late 2002 and now led by Prime
Minister Tayyib Erdogan promised to re-think Turkish policies, strongly
hinting at a positive change. But more recently, they have again ruled the
lifting of preconditions as “out of the question.”