No announcement yet.

British Envoy Questions Russian Military Presence In Armenia

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • British Envoy Questions Russian Military Presence In Armenia

    By Emil Danielyan, Armenia
    Radio Liberty, Czech Rep.
    Oct 6 2005

    A senior British diplomat publicly questioned on Thursday the need
    for continued Russian military presence in Armenia, suggesting
    that it would be particularly unjustified after a resolution of the
    Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

    "We understand that [Russian troops] are there with the agreement
    of the host country, so that problem does not arise," Brian Fall,
    Britain's "special representative" for the South Caucasus, said in
    a speech in Yerevan. "But the agreement of the host country may be
    largely determined by their perception of a military threat from
    Azerbaijan. If the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh were resolved,
    and frontiers at present closed were opened up to peaceful traffic,
    that perception of threat would rapidly diminish, and perhaps sooner
    or later disappear.

    "Would Armenia in those conditions want a substantial Russian military
    presence on its territory? And would Russia want to retain one in
    circumstances which could not plausibly be explained in terms of the
    conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh?"

    Armenia's successive governments have not cited the unresolved Karabakh
    conflict as the main reason for their close military ties with Russia
    or asked for Russian protection against Azerbaijan. They have said all
    along that the presence of the Russian military base primarily serves
    as a deterrent against a perceived threat from Turkey, Armenia's much
    more powerful neighbor.

    That perception is in turn derived from the 1915 genocide of Armenians
    in the Ottoman Empire and modern-day Turkey's refusal to recognize
    and apologize for it. A Karabakh settlement alone is unlikely to
    eliminate it.

    For its part, Moscow considers its troops, mainly deployed along
    the closed Armenian-Turkish border, to be essential for its efforts
    to maintain a strong influence in the South Caucasus. That also
    explains its reluctance to close two other Russian bases remaining
    in neighboring Georgia.

    Still, Fall claimed that the Russians themselves might feel after
    Karabakh peace that their military presence is useless. "Looking at the
    same picture through Russian eyes, we might find that, post-conflict,
    there was no very strong reason for keeping Russian troops in Armenia
    and plenty of other things that could be done with the human and
    financial resources that might become available for redeployment,"
    he said.

    The British envoy spoke at the start of a three-day seminar on security
    in the South Caucasus which was organized by the NATO Parliamentary
    Assembly, of which Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are members. It
    is attended by representatives of the Organization for Security and
    Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations.

    The Karabakh dispute was a major theme of the first day of
    discussions. It also reportedly topped the agenda of Fall's meeting
    later in the day with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. A brief
    statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two men "exchanged
    thoughts" on the subject, but gave no details.

    In his speech, Fall, whose country now holds the rotating presidency
    of the European Union, stressed that concerted efforts by Russia and
    the United States are a "necessary condition" for ending the Karabakh
    conflict. He complained that "cold warriors" in the two nations have
    hampered such cooperation.

    "It is true that there have been voices in Washington unduly dismissive
    of the need to build peace and security in the South Caucasus with
    rather than against or despite Russia," Fall said. "And that there
    have been voices in Moscow seemingly unable to distinguish the natural
    influence which geography and history, culture and commerce, will
    give to Russia among its next-door neighbors, from a neo-imperialist
    striving for a backyard fenced off against the outside world."