Foreign Policies In 2012: Developing Ties With Eu, Safarov Affair, M


POLITICS | 26.12.12 | 12:25

ArmeniaNow correspondent

2012 may go down in history as the year of the revision by the Armenian
government of its pro- Russian foreign policy and unprecedented
rapprochement with Europe. Another major event that predetermined
Armenia’s policies was the so-called Safarov Affair, which led
to Armenia’s severing diplomatic ties with Hungary and created a
new situation in the Karabakh settlement process. Even though the
Karabakh conflict and relations with Turkey have not been priorities
in the pre-election year of 2012, they still provided a background
for other foreign-policy trends amid attempts by Azerbaijan to change
the status quo.

In particular, in January then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hosted
in Sochi a meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan,
but the two South Caucasus leaders did not accept his proposals.

After this meeting, which was called the failure of Russian mediation
effort, new trends appeared in the settlement process. In particular,
the expert community began to discuss the possibility of “cooperation
without resolution”, say, the opening of communications with no
signed treaties about a final settlement of relations with Azerbaijan
and Turkey.

Such allusions were made also during the visit to the region, including
to Armenia, by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton .

Besides, Armenia called on mediators to stimulate the signing of a
document guaranteeing the non-resumption of hostilities in the region.

Armenia, in fact, asked for security guarantees from the United States.

The Karabakh settlement process screeched to a halt after Azerbaijan
“persuaded” Hungary to extradite Ramil Safarov, a murderer who hacked
a sleeping Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest eight years
ago. The extradition and glorification of Safarov in Azerbaijan
caused outrage and criticism from many countries and international
organizations . Armenia, meanwhile, suspended its diplomatic relations
with Hungary, accusing this Central European nation of making a deal
with Azerbaijan at the expense of justice.

The suspension of the negotiations led to the development of another
process – the international recognition of Karabakh . NKR has been
recognized by two small American states and the largest Australian
state of New South Wales.

Besides, Speaker of the Uruguayan Parliament visited the NKR . He
did not exclude the recognition of the NKR by Uruguay.

This led to the mediators trying to keep the parties to the conflict
away from action that could lead to renewed hostilities, including
the opening of an airport near Stepanakert , rather than trying to
bring them to an agreement.

At the end of the year, in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland, a meeting
of the OSCE Ministerial Council was held and there the co-chairs
of the OSCE Minsk Group stated that no principle of international
law has advantage over the others. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu sent the Karabakh settlement “to bed” for a year, saying
that 2013 is an election year in Armenia and Azerbaijan and nothing
new can be expected.

As for the Armenian-Turkish relations, there was a tense period again
at the beginning of the year after the French Senate approved a law
criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide , but after some time,
the Constitutional Council of France declared the law unconstitutional.

After that, there emerged an opinion in the world that now it is time
preparations were started for 2015, the centennial of the Ottoman-era
massacres of Armenians, when the United States can recognize the
Genocide and Armenia will present territorial claims to Turkey. That
Armenia is getting ready for 2015 was also reaffirmed by President
Serzh Sargsyan in his election program speech at the convention of
his Republican Party on December 15.

The foreign policy focus in 2012 was also on Syria where a sizable
ethnic Armenian community was caught in the middle of an internal

However, the main trend of the year was the growing competition between
the West and Russia for influence in Armenia . 2012 has showed that
Armenian authorities feel like developing closer relations with the
West, but are not going to spoil relations with Russia. Moreover,
a certain division of labor could be noticed – Armenia seems to
have entrusted its security to Russia, as a member of the Collective
Security Treaty Organization, but is seeking to integrate with the
European Union and develop closer ties with the United States in
terms of economy and democracy.

President Sargsyan visited Brussels where he addressed the European
Parliament and spoke before officials at the NATO headquarters.

Then Armenia was visited by EU President Herman Van Rompuy and the end
of the year also by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

They announced that in November 2013 Armenia will sign an association
agreement with the EU and an agreement on the establishment of a deep
and comprehensive free trade area.

At the same time, during the year Armenia also played host to high
officials from Moscow, including the chairmen of both chambers of
the State Duma and ministers who persistently invited Yerevan to a
yet vague, but actively promoted Eurasian Union. Armenia politely
refused to commit itself to this integration project advocated by
Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader has not visited
Armenia since his reelection in March 2012.

The struggle between Russia and the West shifted into the economic
domain, and now Armenia is seeing increased opportunities for loans
and other preferences.

By year’s end it also became clear that no one yet is giving money to
Armenia to build a new reactor for the Metsamor nuclear power plant .

Moreover, the issue of Russian Gazprom’s raising natural gas price for
Armenia was expected to be solved by the end of the year. Apparently,
this means that Russia has chosen a stick to carrot.