AAA: Armenia This Week – 07/26/2004

Monday, July 26, 2004

U.S. Ambassador John Ordway, who is completing his three-year tour in
Armenia later this week, said he was encouraged by the “really strong
improvement in relations” between the United States and Armenia. Ordway, who
is due to assume the post of the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, will be
replaced by Ambassador John Evans, a decorated foreign service veteran with
experience in Eastern Europe and Iran.

In his farewell press conference last week, Ordway said there was “across
the board” progress in bilateral relations, noting particularly “remarkable
improvement” in the military and security relations, deeper cooperation via
the U.S.-Armenia Task Force and successes of U.S. assistance programs in

At the same time, Ordway said that last year’s elections and post-election
political confrontation were the “biggest disappointment.” While noting the
civil society’s development, Ordway said that everyone’s hopes were for more
rapid progress. The U.S. envoy further urged the Armenian opposition to end
its boycott and return to the parliament in order to “work together to
achieve solid aims for the country.”

Turning to Armenian-Turkish relations, Ordway said that since “Armenia has a
policy of being ready to improve relations and open the border without any
preconditions” the focus was “to have Turkey take more steps towards
improving the relationship.” Commenting on recent activation of the Karabakh
peace process, Ordway said that “while it is a little early to tell whether
[an agreement] would be possible” there is renewed hope for some progress.

Ordway dismissed frequent speculations that Armenia was somehow a
“pro-Russian country.” “To Armenia’s credit it has not pursued a sort of
single vector direction for its foreign policy,” Ordway said, pointing again
to the development of U.S.-Armenia relations and Armenia’s efforts to
integrate into the international trade system and with Europe.

Also last week, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh hosted a delegation of U.S. and
European non-government representatives led by Bruce Jackson, a former
Pentagon official and President of the U.S. Committee on NATO, a group that
has facilitated NATO expansion into Eastern Europe. Meeting with Presidents
Robert Kocharian and Arkady Ghoukasian, Jackson pledged to work for greater
U.S. and European involvement in the settlement of the Karabakh and other
post-Soviet conflicts. Ghoukasian urged an end to a militant rhetoric by
Azerbaijan as the first necessary step towards reconciliation. (Sources:
Arminfo 7-22, 23; Mediamax 7-22)

President Ilham Aliyev dismissed Azerbaijan’s long-time National Security
Minister Namik Abbasov last Friday, replacing him with a mid-level police
official. In charge of the Ministry for nearly a decade, 64-year-old Abbasov
had been a key sponsor of anti-Armenian and pro-war propaganda actions and
rhetoric. Abbasov’s agents also sought to shut down peace-building contacts
between Armenian and Azeri civic groups.

Most Azeri commentators linked Abbasov’s sacking to Ilham Aliyev’s effort to
create a new, more loyal ruling structure. They point to Abbasov’s unusually
cordial relations with the opposition and his initial reluctance to endorse
Ilham as a successor to his father, Heydar Aliyev. The Azeri daily Zerkalo
reported that Abbasov was in Europe last week and unaware of the President’s
decision. Five of Abbasov’s immediate predecessors were either exiled or
imprisoned following their dismissals.

A former Communist Party apparatchik and Heydar Aliyev’s protégé, Abbasov
rose through the ranks of the Soviet Azeri KGB to become its deputy director
by the late 1980s. During anti-Aliyev purges in Azerbaijan, Abbasov
relocated to Russia to head a provincial KGB office there. Upon returning to
Azerbaijan, Abbasov promoted Stalinist-style paranoia of foreign and
opposition “conspiracies,” and branded all Azeri POWs in the war over
Karabakh as “traitors.”

The new National Security Minister, 47-year-old Eldar Mahmudov, was only
recently reinstated as a department chief within the Ministry of Interior
and put in charge of narcotics trafficking. In 1999 Mahmudov was sacked as
Interior Ministry’s department chief in charge of economic crimes on the
insistence of Western companies working in Azerbaijan who claimed they were
harassed by Mahmudov’s department. Analysts at Azerbaijan’s leading news
agency Turan suggested that an appointment of a policeman to lead the Azeri
successor to the KGB showed that President Aliyev distrusted Abbasov and his
cadres. (Sources: AAA R&I; Armenia This Week 7-11-03, 1-30, 3-26, 6-25; 7-23; Turan 7-23; Zerkalo 7-24)

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