US diplomats: Polarized politics in Armenia, and the likely retention
in Azerbaijan of an autocrat whose legitimacy is declining, will
impede compromises to reach a peace settlement of the Karabakh

by Ashot Safaryan
Saturday, August 31, 17:36

Russia is pressuring its neighbors to join the Eurasian Economic
Community. the article by the American diplomats "Choices for the
South Caucasus", published in New York Times, says.

"Moscow worries, with reason, that the South Caucasus countries prefer
to align with the European Union. Even though Armenia is an observer
in the Eurasian group, it does not seem eager to join", - the article

It also tells about domestic political problems in Armenia, Azerbaijan
and Georgia. In particular: "Political strains and stasis impede
reforms in a country weakened by blocked borders, emigration and
oligarch ties with officialdom.

In Azerbaijan, the potential for political upheaval is increasing amid
massive corruption, grossly unequal distribution of wealth and

"All three countries are at decisive moments with the European Union.
The Eastern Partnership can help anchor their future in an expanded
European structure. This November in Vilnius, the European Union will
likely sign a free trade agreement and other accords with Armenia and
Georgia. Azerbaijan has a distance to travel but may sign a visa
agreement. The E.U. is right to offer more cooperation and political
support in return for more reforms.

The West must speak out on behalf of those denied freedom, especially
in Azerbaijan. With every flawed election that is allowed to pass,
every uncontested arrest of an opposition figure and every usurpation
of wealth, those who stand for freedom become more impatient with
Western dithering. A worrisome sign in Azerbaijan is rising
anti-American sentiment among youths and intellectuals.

Second, the European Union must take greater advantage of an historic
opportunity in the South Caucasus. The E.U.'s democratic standards and
wealth are appealing beacons. Closer E.U. ties will bring more freedom
of maneuver in dealing with powerful neighbors.

Third, Western support for the independence of South Caucasian
countries remains essential.

It is time for the South Caucasians to make up their minds about their
future. If they want closer cooperation with the West, they must
pursue reforms for transparent governance and wider economic
opportunity. As the countries grapple with their choices, the West
must keep faith with those advocating reforms and freedom", - the
article says.

From: A. Papazian