RFE/RL Armenian Report – 09/23/2020

                        Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Armenia Hires Lobbying Firm For ‘Strategic’ Talks With U.S.

        • Sargis Harutyunyan

U.S. -- Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole salutes before the flag-draped coffin of 
former U.S. President George H. W. Bush at the U.S. Capitol rotunda in 
Washington, December 4, 2018

The Armenian government confirmed on Wednesday that it has hired a 
Washington-based lobbying firm ahead of fresh negotiations with U.S. officials 
which it hopes will boost U.S.-Armenian relations.

Lobbying records in Washington revealed last week a one-month contract between 
the government and the Alston & Bird law firm worth $10,000. It was signed on 
September 15 by Armenian Ambassador to the United States Varuzhan Nersesyan and 
Bob Dole, a former pro-Armenian U.S. senator who now works as a special counsel 
at Alston & Bird.

“We will assist the Republic of Armenia in its efforts to build on the strategic 
partnership with the United States in advance of planned diplomatic talks in 
October of 2020,” the 97-year-old Dole said in a letter to Nersesyan.

“During the course of this engagement, Alston & Bird will monitor current events 
relevant to US-Armenia relations and provide strategic counsel with respect to 
improvement of that relationship,” he wrote. “These services may include 
outreach to United States Government officials as well as Members of Congress 
and their staffs.”

The lobbying firm will help Yerevan prepare for the final round of the 
U.S.-Armenia Strategic Dialogue which will take place in Washington next month. 
The Armenian delegation is expected to be headed by Foreign Minister Zohrab 
Mnatsakanian.

“The format and level of the final meeting is still being discussed,” said 
Armella Shakarian, head of the U.S. and Canada desk at the Armenian Foreign 
Ministry. It should be ascertained over the next week, she said.


Armenia - Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian (R) and U.S. Deputy Assistant 
Secretary of State George Kent are about to sign an agreement after the first 
session of the U.S.-Armenia Strategic Dialouge in Yerevan, May 7, 2019.

The first session of the “strategic dialogue” was held in Yerevan in May 2019. 
Senior U.S. and Armenian officials discussed a wide range of issues and pledged 
to strive for closer bilateral ties. The two sides held two more sessions via a 
video link earlier this month.

Shakarian said that the dialogue has widened the scope of issues on the agenda 
of U.S.-Armenian cooperation. “We expect the implementation of more far-reaching 
projects and the development of economic ties with the United States,” she told 
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

The official added that defense and security issues are also on the agenda of 
the dialogue. “We are discussing ways of deepening relations in these areas,” 
she said.

U.S. officials promised greater financial assistance to Armenia following the 
May 2019 talks. Washington increased that assistance by 40 percent, to over $60 
million, last year to support the implementation of the Armenian government’s 
ambitious reform agenda.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the government’s declared efforts to 
root out corruption, strengthen the rule of law and improve the domestic 
business environment when he congratulated Armenia on its Independence Day on 
Monday.



Armenian Opposition To Demand Snap Elections

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia -- Ishkhan Saghatelian, a leader of the opposition Armenian 
Revolutionary Federation, at a news conference in Yerevan, April 30, 2019.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and two other opposition 
parties will demand the holding of fresh general elections at their first joint 
rally scheduled for October 8, a Dashnaktsutyun leader said on Wednesday.

Dashnaktsutyun, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and Hayrenik Party announced 
their decision to rally supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Tuesday. In a 
joint statement, they denounced Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his cabinet 
and cited “the need for the formation of a new kind of national government.”

“The main demand is pre-term parliamentary elections and that requires the prime 
minister’s resignation,” Dashnaktsutyun’s Ishkhan Saghatelian told RFE/RL’s 
Armenian Service. “Other details will be voiced at the rally.”

Just hours after the three parties made the announcement, it emerged that a 
court in Yerevan scheduled for Wednesday a hearing on the pre-trial arrest of 
the BHK’s indicted leader Gagik Tsarukian sought by prosecutors. Tsarukian and 
his lawyers did not show up for the hearing, leading the court to postpone it 
until Friday.

Alen Simonian, a senior lawmaker from the ruling My Step bloc, claimed that the 
planned rally is aimed at helping Tsarukian avoid arrest on vote buying charges 
strongly denied by him.

Saghatelian categorically denied such a connection. “We are saying the opposite: 
that these authorities keep trying to silence their political opponents through 
criminal cases and persecution,” he said.

The Dashnaktsutyun leader insisted that the rally will take place as planned 
even if Tsarukian is arrested. “We hope that the authorities will not opt for 
that,” he said.

The three parties agreed in June to work together in challenging the government 
shortly after Tsarukian was stripped of his parliamentary immunity from 
prosecution and charged with bribing voters ahead of 2017 parliamentary 
elections. The BHK leader, who is one of Armenia’s richest men, rejects the 
accusations as politically motivated.

With 8.3 percent of the vote, Tsarukian’s party came in a distant second in the 
last general elections held in December 2018 and widely recognized as 
democratic. Dashnaktsutyun got only 3.9 percent, failing to win any parliament 
seats.

Dashnaktsutyun and the BHK had for years been represented in former President 
Serzh Sarkisian’s government toppled during the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” They 
joined Pashinian’s first cabinet formed in May 2018 but were ousted from it five 
months later when the prime minister accused them of secretly collaborating with 
the former ruling Republican Party.

The third opposition party, Hayrenik, was set up early this year by Artur 
Vanetsian, the former head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS). 
Vanetsian fell out with Pashinian and resigned as NSS director in September 2019.



China Opens New Embassy Complex In Armenia


Armenia -- Chinese Ambassador Tian Erlong (R) shows Armenian President Armen 
Sarkissian around China's newly built embassy complex in Yerevan, September 23, 
2020.

President Armen Sarkissian visited China’s new and sprawling embassy complex in 
Armenia on Wednesday, saying that its construction highlights Beijing’s desire 
to deepen Chinese-Armenian relations.

Work on the Chinese Embassy’s new building and adjacent facilities in Yerevan 
began three years ago. Officials said at the time that it will be China’s second 
largest diplomatic mission in the former Soviet Union.

“You are the first and most honorable guest of our new embassy,” Chinese 
Ambassador Tian Erlong told Sarkissian before showing him around the 
40,000-square-meter compound.

Sarkissian toured the compound ahead of China’s National Day that will be marked 
on October 1. He congratulated Tian and other Yerevan-based Chinese diplomats on 
the upcoming holiday.

“I think China can be proud of such presence,” the president told the envoy at 
an ensuing meeting. “We regard this [new embassy complex] as China’s bid to 
deepen Chinese-Armenian relations and elevate them to a higher level.”


Armenia -- Armenian President Armen Sarkissian (R) visits China's newly built 
embassy complex in Yerevan, .

“Despite their different size, Armenia and China have many similarities: they 
both are global nations in a certain sense,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping praised bilateral ties when he congratulated 
Sarkissian on the 29th anniversary of Armenia’s declaration of independence on 
Monday. He said Beijing and Yerevan support each other in the international 
arena on “issues which are vital for the interests of the two countries.”

“I attach great importance to the development of the Chinese-Armenia relations 
and I am ready to make, together with you, joint efforts to elevate our 
multifaceted cooperation to a new level,” Xi wrote in a congratulatory message.

Xi reaffirmed China’s desire to deepen political, economic and cultural ties 
with Armenia when he met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in Beijing in May 
2019. “Constructive and productive relations with China are very important for 
us,” Pashinian said, for his part.


China -- Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian in Beijing, May 14, 2019.

In August 2018, Pashinian attended the inauguration of a new school in Yerevan 
built by the Chinese government. He said that having many Chinese speakers is an 
“economic necessity” for Armenia.

China is Armenia’s second largest trading partner after Russia. According to 
official Armenian statistics, Chinese-Armenian trade totaled $405 million in the 
first half of this year.

Sarkissian called on Wednesday for closer commercial ties between Armenian and 
Chinese high-tech companies. “I would be very happy to make my modest 
contribution to the development of Chinese-Armenian economic relations in the 
area of high technology,” he said.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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