Armenian Assembly of America
1140 19th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-393-3434
Fax: 202-638-4904
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.armenianassembly.org


MEDIA ALERT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2006
CONTACT: Karoon Panosyan
Email: [email protected]

RE: Ambassador Fried's Remarks at the Armenian Assembly of America National Conference

Washington, DC - In a special address to participants of the Armenian
Assembly's National Conference on March 27, Ambassador Daniel Fried,
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs spoke
about the great strides in U.S.-Armenia relations and the importance
of a five-year $235 million compact between Armenia and the Millennium
Challenge Corporation.

The National Conference and Banquet is a three-day advocacy push
co-hosted by the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian General
Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Eastern and Western Diocese of the
Armenian Church.

Below are Ambassador Fried's remarks as posted on the U.S. Department
of State web site:

The transcript can also be accessed at the following link:
http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/63791.htm

Remarks at the Armenian Assembly of America National Conference

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian
Affairs Mayflower Hotel Washington, DC March 27, 2006

Ambassador Fried: Thank you for that kind introduction.

I have the disadvantage of having to follow my friend Vartan [Oskanian,
the foreign minister]. That is a real disadvantage because he's
very very good. A good interlocutor, a good friend. Most of the
time we agree. When he disagrees, I am reminded by just how good he
is. [Laughter].

It's a pleasure to be here at the national conference, and I was
happy to accept the invitation from the Assembly and the Armenian
General Benevolent Union and the Eastern and Western Diocese of the
Armenian Church, one of the great ancient churches of Christendom,
to speak to you today. And I understand that this conference is held
in partnership with at least 15 other Armenian-American organizations
and others are in attendance. But let me say in particular that I
value my years of cooperation with the Assembly, and I appreciate
its leadership's professionalism and their [inaudible] commitment as
Americans to work with us to support democratic and prosperous Armenia.

Now it's true that we don't agree on all issues and the Assembly can
be just as frank, which is a diplomatic word -- [Laughter] -- just as
frank as they have to be in expressing that. But as Americans it's not
only your right, it's your duty to speak out to your government when
you agree and when you disagree. That's never gotten in the way of
our partnership. I appreciate the candid advice from the Assembly and
from the American Armenian community, and I look forward to hearing
more of it. It's good to hear straight out what's on your minds,
what you like about what we're doing, what you don't like about what
we're doing. That's the way a real partnership is made.

I've just come back from a visit to Yerevan, and I have to say that
it is beautiful to see a city with Mount Ararat floating in the
distance, the mountains, the snow, and spring just beginning to come
to Yerevan. [Applause].

As Americans, you should be proud that our new embassy compound
is up and running. It's a physical embodiment of our commitment
to Armenia. It shows that we have put in the money to reflect our
political will to see that Armenia prospers in the 21st Century as
a free country, secure and democratic. [Applause].

While I was in Yerevan I had the privilege of meeting with President
Kocharian, with Vartan Foreign Minister Oskanian, with the Defense
Minister Sargsian, and with political leaders, including leaders
of the opposition. That's what we do when we go abroad in the State
Department. We meet with everyone. And we had serious talks. We talked
about regional security, which as you know means Nagorno-Karabakh,
relations with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. We talked about
strengthening the economy and promoting democratic reform. And I want
to say a few words about those issues today and talk about key topics
that I think are of interest to you.

President Bush's new National Security Strategy says that it is the
policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements
and institutions in every nation and culture. Your efforts here and
your efforts in Armenia, to help Armenia democratize and prosper
economically, matched with U.S. efforts and hopes for the country,
and I thank you for them.

I also thank you because in areas of business transparency the
Armenian-American community is leading by example. I thank you for
that as well.

Now this is a good day in U.S.-Armenian relations. Today the United
States and Armenia will sign its Millennium Challenge Cooperation
Compact. That is a new assistance agreement for $235 million, and that
is new money for Armenia. It is a testament to Armenia's progress
and its commitment to do more on good governance, economic freedom,
and investment in its people.

Much remains to be done and no community is more aware of the
challenges, as well as the progress, as the Armenian-American
community.

The challenge to sustain Armenia's status as an MCC recipient is
allowing voters to independently and freely choose their leaders
through elections that meet international democratic standards. We're
looking at the parliamentary and presidential elections next year and
in 2008 as key tests. We hope that Armenia is moving in that direction.

We are building and taking at face value assurances from the
government, and with our own election strategy geared to work with
both the government and the Armenian civil society to try and achieve
this goal. We must achieve this goal to sustain our relations.

We believe that Armenia has the potential to be a leader in the
region by showing progress on democratic reforms to keep pace with
its economic expansion.

Let me turn to an issue that is much on our minds at the State
Department and perhaps on yours, which is Nagorno-Karabakh. A solution
to Nagorno-Karabakh remains a key focus. Obviously, and I don't need to
tell you this, a resolution would open the door to large investment,
deeper integration with the global economy, peace will bring greater
prosperity.

Now we were hopeful last month that the meeting at Rambouillet between
the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan would move us decisively
forward. We were disappointed that it didn't happen, but we did not
give up, we did not turn away.

Before I went to Yerevan, I went to Baku and met with President
Aliyev. I was sufficiently encouraged by what he said that I went
to Yerevan for further discussions, and based on the help and sound
thinking of the Armenian side, there is a possibility for progress
in 2006. Now this is not easy. Neither side can or will achieve its
maximum aims. Peace will require solutions that meet both sides'
concerns as much as possible. And both Armenia and Azerbaijan must
prepare for a good settlement, and the best can be the enemy of
the good.

The United States is not going to impose a settlement. We're not
going to force Armenia or Azerbaijan to take anything. We don't have
that power, and it is not our intention to try to exercise it. But
it is our intention to support a solution if both governments arrive
at it, and if there is a solution we are going to get behind it. If
the government of Armenia agrees to it, we will support them, and I
hope you do as well.

Now we hope, but also anticipate, that a solution on Nagorno-Karabakh
will result in an open border with Turkey, which is a consistent goal
on our agenda with Ankara. From Yerevan, I went to Ankara and I made
this point with the Turkish government that we want the border open,
and we want it open as soon as possible. [Applause].

This has not been easy for Armenia, but even with closed borders to
the east and west, Armenia has a northern border that is open to it
through Georgia, and Armenia's economic growth is strong. Almost
14 percent last year, which is the fourth straight year of double
digit growth. Construction is up 34 percent, and you can see it when
you're in Yerevan. We know that your community is helping fuel this
construction boom.

Agriculture is growing, 11 percent last year. Industrial production
is growing, and inflation remains low.

The Armenian government has increased its ability to collect
taxes. That and corporate taxes which increases government revenues
which helps provide better services and the infrastructure for yet
more growth in a virtuous cycle. We're seeing an increase in Armenian
government expenditure, on education, science, and health. This
investment in citizens will help bring a good future for Armenia.

The U.S.-Armenian relationship is continuing to deepen and our
economic support is continuing. Since independence, the United States
has contributed more than $1.5 billion of assistance. That's quite
a bit of money for a country the size of Armenia. And many in the
Armenian-American community have also made substantial financial
contributions to, and investments in, Armenia as well.

Our assistance program, well much of it, is aimed at promoting economic
reform to help create the conditions for Armenians to continue their
economic growth in the best possible way.

There's more work to do. Tax collection is up, but you know better
than I do how much of the economy remains underground. Corruption is a
serious problem. Corruption is a tax on the poor and a tax on honest
entrepreneurs. That is a drag. An economy saddled with corruption is
moving forward with lead weights tied to each leg.

We want to see greater economic integration between Armenia and
Georgia and Armenia and all the states of the Caucasus. We push
this regularly, and I did so when I was in Baku. We would like
to see greater integration. Now it is difficult in advance of a
Nagorno-Karabakh solution, but we keep raising it, and we will keep
raising it. It's good not only for Armenia; it would be good for
Turkey and Azerbaijan as well.

Let me talk about regional security and military assistance. We
do support Armenia's efforts to strengthen its relations with the
Euro-Atlantic community. Armenia has a policy of complementarity,
which means roughly balance in its relations with the West and the
Russians. This is not a problem for us. We don't want to force Armenia
to choose between its historic friends and its Western identity, but
we do want our relations to grow. We do want our relations to grow,
and we don't want barriers put in the way.

Our relations in the security field have grown. We value and appreciate
Armenia's troop contributions in Iraq. There are 46 non-combatant
soldiers serving there now. There are 34 Armenian peacekeepers in
Kosovo. And we hope that Armenia will continue to do its part through
NATO's Partnership for Peace to contribute to other operations in
the future.

Armenia has increased its cooperation with NATO. The government
is reforming its military in cooperation with the U.S. to make it
more interoperable with NATO. Armenia is pursuing what NATO calls
an individual partnership action plan with NATO. This is basically a
chapeau that lets the Armenian military slowly but as fast as Armenia
wants, grow closer to NATO so we can work together.

Frankly, I want to express my appreciation for the Assembly's
encouragement last year to Armenia to complete its defense
assessment. That cleared the way for deeper security cooperation
between our two countries.

Now I know that some in your community, in the Armenian-American
community, are concerned about U.S.-Azerbaijani military relations,
so let me address this straight up. The fact is Azerbaijan has
made contributions to the War on Terror and these contributions --
overflight rights, access to Azerbaijani bases, information sharing,
law enforcement cooperation -- are useful. Now Azerbaijan faces
security threats not from Armenia, and when I was in Baku I repeated
that Azerbaijan's security problem really doesn't come from Armenia,
it comes from other countries. It's got a rough neighbor to the south,
Iran. And it's on the Caspian Sea with a lot of oil and gas. Our
security cooperation with and assistance to Azerbaijan is meant
to improve Azerbaijan's posture against those threats, not against
Armenia. I repeat. Not against Armenia.

President Bush has noted that to succeed in our own efforts, we need
the support of our efforts to fight terrorism, we need the support and
actions of friends and allies. We must join with others to deny the
terrorists what they seek, which is safe haven, financial support,
and the support and protection certain nation states historically
have given them. So we do need to work with all the countries of the
region on a counter-terrorist agenda.

But our assistance to Azerbaijan does not undermine our support for
Armenian security, and it is not designed and will not be used for
offensive purposes against Armenia. So we design our programs with
Azerbaijan very carefully. Counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism,
programs to counter trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

Now let me mention a couple of words about energy security. In
January of this year, disruptions of electricity and gas to Georgia
affected Armenia, as well. After this episode, we're looking at ways to
bolster energy security in the region and strengthen Armenia's energy
independence. The key to doing this is to support market forces, to
diversify energy supplies, and avoid monopolistic restrictions. We've
been discussing this in NATO, we've been discussing this in the
European Union and with key countries in the region. We will continue
to look at ways in which the United States can support energy security
for all the countries of the south Caucasus.

We are concerned by increased energy ties with Iran, and so we're
looking at alternatives. We've talked to the Georgians about them.

Now let me conclude with discussion of a tough issue for all of
us. April 24th is less than a month away. I'm not going to duck
this issue.

The U.S. position on events of 1915 has not changed. We believe that a
productive dialogue is the best way to establish a shared understanding
of history that honors the victims of these horrific events, murders
on a mass scale, killings without justification, deportations. Over
1.5 million people lost their lives, innocent victims. But we want to
foster reconciliation and peace based on an understanding of history,
not a denial of it. We believe that the tragedy of 1915, the killings,
is of enormous human significance and its historical assessment should
be determined not on the basis of politics, but introspection among
civic leaders and scholars. This process has begun in Turkey where
it needs to take place.

Now I know from experience and consultations with the Assembly and
other groups that the Armenian American community has a different view,
and I expect that you will express that view, and that is not for us --
I would be surprised if you didn't, and I welcome the dialogue we've
established. [Applause].

Voice: Horse manure.

Voices: Be quiet. Sit down.

Ambassador Fried: I will value even frank comments, but --
[Laughter]. Hopefully a dialogue can be serious.

Sitting here with us is my old friend John Evans, our Ambassador
in Yerevan. He is the Ambassador, remains the Ambassador, has --
[Applause and cheers].

Like all of us, we all serve at the pleasure of the
President. Ambassador Evans came from Yerevan for the signing of
the Millennium Challenge Account Compact this afternoon, and will
be in the meeting this afternoon between Secretary Rice and Foreign
Minister Oskanian. There has been a great deal of speculation. I
don't discuss personnel issues, but since my friend is sitting here,
I thought I would recognize Ambassador John Evans. [Applause].

Now I gather there will be some time to take questions. I wouldn't
be surprised by a frank exchange. [Laughter]. That doesn't bother me.

I appreciate the chance to meet with you and have a discussion of
all issues, whether we agree or disagree. America is a free country,
and I'm here to listen and to answer your questions the best I can.

Thank you for your attention. I'm glad to see that people were paying
attention. [Laughter]. [Applause].

Moderator: Thank you, Ambassador Fried. You said in Armenia and the
capital of Turkey that Armenians and Turks need to have courage on
the issue. The United States has to have courage on the issue of the
Armenian genocide. [Applause]. And that ambiguity out there in terms
of denial, curriculum that is trying to be inserted in classrooms
around this country, our government needs to be very clear about
their role and mission on this issue.

Your first question: As the U.S. and EU applies increasing pressure
on Iran with the prospects of confrontation grows, will the
U.S. take concrete steps to ensure Armenia's security and economic
stability? Will the U.S. guarantee that the border with Turkey will
be open before there is conflict with Iran or potential conflict with
Iran that would risk a border closing?

Ambassador Fried: That's a fair question, but I don't have to yet
accept the premise that we are headed for a military confrontation with
Iran because we are now focused on achieving a diplomatic solution
to the problem of Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. We are not going
through the motions, we are serious about this. We do not believe
that Iran is North Korea. We do not believe that Iran thrives on
isolation. Iranian society does not want to be shunned by the world
and its leaders to not reflect the consensus in that society, as far as
we can tell. So I believe that our diplomatic efforts can bear fruit.

However, to be responsive to the question, we will continue to have a
serious discussion with Armenia as our thinking develops. And as John
Evans can tell you, this issue came up in our discussions a week and
a half ago in Yerevon. We will continue to work with Armenia to make
sure that its security is part of our thinking and integrated into our
thinking. Can I guarantee that the border with Turkey will be open? I
can't guarantee that, and to say that I could would not be honest. But
I can say that we take Armenia's security seriously. Armenia didn't
choose its neighborhood, but there you are. [Laughter].

We will continue to work to see to it that Armenia is not vulnerable,
particularly on energy issues. And I did have explicit discussions in
Ankara about a future in which Armenia, in which gas and oil flowed
freely through Armenia from the Caspian without political hindrance,
so we are beginning this dialogue.

Moderator: I'm sure you imagine I'm getting a few questions on
Armenian genocide.

Ambassador Fried: I imagine. [Laughter].

Moderator: Why are third parties permitted to dictate America's
foreign policy vis-a-vis Armenia and Cyprus?

Ambassador Fried: Third parties are not permitted to dictate our
foreign policy, nor do they dictate our foreign policy. We have a
policy which many of you disagree with. I understand. But we have a
policy of seeking to encourage Turkey to reflect more seriously about
subjects which have been taboo for generations in that country. I
said earlier that process has begun in Turkey. You recall that the
famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk spoke clearly about this. He is
not the only Turk speaking out. As I said, this process has begun
as Turkish society modernizes, and as it modernizes, as democracy
in Turkey deepens, Turkey will have to go through what many other
countries such as the United States have had to go through in our
own history, which is looking back at the darker spots in our past.

With respect to the United States, those darker spots include things
like slavery and racial discrimination, treatment of American Indians,
and in my opinion, internment of American citizens of Japanese origin
in camps in World War II. Those are painful subjects. Just as dealing
with the history of the mass killings of Armenians is painful for
Turkey. And by the way, I say this to my Turkish friends using the
same words. We keep one set of books.

Now that process has begun in Turkey. It is certainly not going fast
enough to satisfy you. It is not going fast enough to satisfy us. But
this process has begun and it will, I hope, bring greater understanding
to Turks of their own history.

We will continue to have a dialogue about this as April 24th
approaches. I will not attempt to anticipate what the President will
say. I do believe he will issue a statement on April 24th, in fact
I can't believe there won't be one. And I expect, as we have in the
past, to consult with the Armenian Assembly about this and to have
a frank set of discussions before and after.

Moderator: How will the U.S. deal with Azerbaijan regarding,
or how will it take to task, regarding the issue of the Armenian
historical landmarks of the Cemetery of Djulfa that was destroyed by
the Azerbaijanis?

Ambassador Fried: When I go to Baku and when U.S. officials go
to Baku, we always raise issues of living -- Not just issues of
Nagorno-Karabakh, but issues of long-term peace in the south
provinces. Now I would be happy to raise issues of Armenian
historical sites in Azerbaijan. These historical sites, regardless
of differences over Nagorno-Karabakh, need to be respected and need
to be protected. This is a universal policy of the United States,
and I look forward to hearing from you about some of these sites so
that we can raise it with the Azerbaijani government. [Applause].

Moderator: How does the U.S. policy of promoting freedom
and democracy fit into your policy towards resolution of the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Especially considering the democratic will
of Nagorno-Karabakh to remain free?

Ambassador Fried: I don't want to get into the details of the
shape of settlements under discussion. There is nothing worse than
negotiating in public. But the philosophic premise behind the question
is a good one and a fair one. That is how much weight do you give
self-determination, which is clearly a factor at stake here? How
much weight do you give issues of territorial integrity? And how much
weight do you give to well, facts on the ground? All right? Now that
is a difficult issue.

In my view, it is probably a mistake to try to apply rigid precedents
to all similar issues. Nagorno-Karabakh is not the same as Kosovo,
which is not the same as Abkhazia, which is not the same as
Chechnya. These issues are individual, and they need to be handled
individually. We are well aware that the will of the people of
Nagorno-Karabakh has to be respected. [Applause]. We are also aware
that there are issues of territorial integrity and the challenge
that we all face that Foreign Minister Oskanian and Foreign Minister
Mammadyarov and those involved in trying to help an agreement, have
to deal with all of these issues. And I am convinced that there can
be solutions at hand.

I don't know when they will come about, but I think that 2006 is a
good window for them, and I don't think that the people of Armenia,
Nagorno-Karabakh, or Azerbaijan deserve to live forever in a state
of uncertainty.

Moderator: Why does real politik trump the moral position in
recognizing the genocide, more in the U.S. than in France? If the
U.S. wants to foster reconciliation and peace in the region it's true
that introspection needs to be fostered within Turkey. With Turkey's
export of denialist tactics can peace and truth really be achieved? And
specifically if you could comment on a federal lawsuit in Massachusetts
currently that denialist material be put into the genocide curriculum.

Ambassador Fried: I can't comment about the lawsuit. The United States
government has never denied the events of 1915. We do not support,
what was the phrase, export of denialist literature or positions. We
do support efforts by Turkey to deal with its history more seriously.

As I said, this process has begun. It has not ended. Efforts such
as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were serious, and these
were efforts in which Turkish, as well as Armenian scholars, were
involved. It produced a serious look at those issues which we have
recognized officially.

This is not an easy issue. It is not an easy issue for the United
States government, and we are not at the end of the road on this
issue. We will continue to urge our Turkish friends to face difficult
issues of their past seriously, and we will urge Armenia to help the
Turks make this possible without ever sacrificing historical truth
or your position.

Now that is not an entirely satisfactory position for your community,
but again, I value the advice and input and even the criticism from
the Armenian American community and it [inaudible].

Moderator: Is there any truth to reports in the Atlantic Monthly that
the U.S. is upgrading the Baku air bases for potential airstrikes
on Iran?

Ambassador Fried: No. [Laughter].

Moderator: What is your position on recent reports that Ambassador
Evans is being recalled because of his statements last year on the
Armenian genocide issue?

Ambassador Fried: We all serve at the pleasure of the President. I
won't discuss personnel issues. Ambassador Evans, as I said, is
a friend of more than 20 years standing. He's our Ambassador. He's
right here. He will be in the meetings today at the State Department,
as I said. [Applause].

Moderator: Thank you, Ambassador Fried, for this very frank
discussion, as always, and we thank you all for your attention and
for participating. Thank you very much. [Applause].

NR#2006-029

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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress