Armenia’s first president calls for new foreign policy

Earthtimes, UK
Feb 17 2008

Armenia’s first president calls for new foreign policy
Posted : Sun, 17 Feb 2008 19:23:07 GMT
Author : DPA

Yerevan, Armenia – Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrossian,
who is again campaigning for the executive, on Sunday called
radically new relations with neighbouring states the "firmest
safeguard for economic development" in the post-Soviet country. He
made the remarks during his first meeting with the press after a
decade out of politics Sunday and only days before elections on
Tuesday.

Landlocked Armenia, cradled high in the Caucasus Mountains, has been
forced to rely on a partnership with Russia and aid from Western
allies, facing blockades along two of its borders.

"We are blocked on all sides – the essential roads for Armenia out to
the world are through Azerbaijan and Turkey," Ter-Petrossian told
journalists on the last day of campaigning before Tuesday’s vote.

He stressed his foreign policy position had not changed from that he
advocated when he resigned over a severe backlash to his conciliatory
stand in peace talks over Azerbaijan’s ethnically- Armenian breakaway
region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ter-Petrossian apologized for leaving the power in the hands of
President Robert Kocharian and his favoured successor Prime Minister
Serzh Sarkisian, calling it "his gravest mistake" in a statement
typical of his campaign appearances.

At a rally in the capital Yerevan on Saturday, Ter-Petrossian drew a
crowd of about 25,000, but this number was easily topped Sunday at
Sarkisian’s final rally.

Sarkisian leads in polls with 50.7 per cent of the vote, just over
the 50-per-cent barrier needed to win in the first round of the
elections.

Analysts said Sunday that his lead could be challenged if more than
68 per cent of voters turn out for the vote, one of the most active
in the country’s since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Just minutes after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which is
thought to aggravate tensions in the Azeri breakaway region, Ter-
Petrossian reiterated, "My position is for the fastest possible
resolution to the Karabakh conflict."

"The only political resolution is based on compromise and mutual
concessions," he stressed.

The longstanding disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkey, over its
refusal to recognize the 1915 genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman
Empire, have long been basic moments in the post-Soviet’s state’s
foreign policy that are pro-scribed.

Ter-Petrossian on Sunday accused the Armenian authorities of being
"committed to the status-quo" and "lacking the political will" for a
settlement with Nagarno-Karabakh especially because Kocharin and
Sarkisian hail from the region.

Despite his comments, Ter-Petrossian refused to elaborate on future
relations with Turkey, an issue that has complicated Turkey’s
relationship with the West and bid for European Union accession.

The tense situation in the region has been seen to push Armenia
closer to relations with Russia.

Ter-Petrosian, who has spoken in favour of NATO accession talks and
positively of US plans to deploy missile defence systems opposed by
Russia, expressed concern over Russia’s growing stake in the country.

"Maybe from an outside perspective Kocharian’s policies could be
viewed as introducing a sovereign, vassal relationship with Russia,"
he said.

But the presidential hopeful emphasized that there were no
pro-Western or pro-Russian candidates in the race.

He did not deny rumours that he allegedly met with the Russian
presidential frontrunner Dmitry Medvedev in a recent trip to Moscow a
week before the vote.

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