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Thread: A new vision for Armenia?

  1. #1
    Chaltikian Arsine
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    A new vision for Armenia?

    Eurasianet Organization
    June 24 2004

    A NEW VISION FOR ARMENIA?
    Cory Welt: 6/24/04
    A EurasiaNet Commentary

    As the United States and the European Union step up their engagement
    with the South Caucasus in the wake of Georgia's "Rose Revolution,"
    Armenia is taking steps not to be left behind.

    During a recent visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian
    outlined a bold vision for political reform, regional security, and
    cooperation with neighbors Azerbaijan and Turkey. [For background see
    the Eurasia Insight archive]. His June 14 speech at the Center for
    Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) provided a welcome change
    to the disheartening news that has come out of Armenia of late.

    The Armenian government's brutal crackdown against opposition
    protests this April, its attacks on journalists, the ransacking of
    opposition headquarters, and political arrests were a blatant
    contradiction of democratic standards. [For background see the
    Eurasia Insight archive]. Two subsequent court decisions provided
    further evidence of Armenia's ambiguous commitment to rule of law - a
    demonstrator who struck a police officer with a plastic bottle
    received an 18-month prison sentence, while gang members who
    intimidated and assaulted protestors and journalists at an April
    demonstration were fined less than $200.

    In his public address, Oskanian acknowledged the need for Armenia's
    political climate to improve and expressed a barely concealed hope
    that the US government's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), an
    initiative that will provide $1 billion in aid to 16 developing
    countries in 2004, would be a mechanism for doing so. Oskanian
    asserted that Armenia's inclusion in the program has made the country
    "more focused" on matters of governance, democracy, rule of law, and
    human rights. He conceded that progress in democracy building
    "require[s] further political will" on the part of the government and
    the opposition.

    Armenia's inclusion in the MCA had initially raised eyebrows. But
    Oskanian's remarks appeared to be more than mere PR pitches. The
    minister also laid out means for allowing Armenia's opposition to
    reconcile its differences with the government -- and for Yerevan to
    meet the criteria to maintain MCA funding.

    While chiding Armenia's political opposition for "its aggressive
    attitude" towards the authorities, Oskanian revealed a standing
    government offer to give opposition deputies - who hold some 20 percent
    of the National Assembly's 131 seats - veto rights on three issues:
    amendments to the election code, constitutional reform, and
    anti-corruption legislation. These veto rights, Oskanian declared,
    would "force" the majority to work with the opposition to make "the
    necessary changes that will benefit Armenia."

    Whether the government in Yerevan will seize the opportunity to
    implement this plan for political dialogue remains in doubt, however.

    At remarks before the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly
    (PACE) on June 24, Prime Minister Robert Kocharian rebuffed that
    body's earlier criticism of his government's heavy-handed crackdown
    on opposition protests in March and April of this year, saying that
    the Council of Europe is "not the best place" to settle arguments
    with political opponents. " Unlike Georgia, a neighbor whose November
    2003 "Rose Revolution" serves as a model for the Armenian opposition,
    Armenia, Kocharian argued, " is developing dynamically, its
    government is quite efficient and its democratic achievements are
    propped up by institutional structures, including police, which are
    able to maintain public order,"

    Such a stance promises to reinforce doubts in Washington about
    Armenia's entry into the MCA. Two of the key criteria for the MCA
    selection process are countries' commitment to political freedom and
    good governance.

    Commenting on Armenia's entry into the MCA, Carlos Pascual, the State
    Department's Coordinator for Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, has
    noted that the awarding of funding to Armenia would take into
    consideration the quality of the proposals submitted by the
    government as well as its record on defense of civil liberties. "The
    expectation, in order to be able to move forward with the program, is
    that there would be progress on these issues and not movement
    backwards," Pascua told a May 18 news conference in Yerevan.

    That message was further underlined by Paul Applegarth, the chief
    executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the body
    charged by Congress with administering MCA funds. During a visit to
    Armenia and Georgia earlier this month, Applegarth stated that the
    proposal review process would consider not only whether proposals
    would promote economic growth - the MCA's main objective - but also
    whether governments rely on an "inclusive" decision-making process to
    draw up their proposals and outline steps for improving the
    political, economic, and social indicators used to determine their
    eligibility for MCA funding.

    Opposition leaders have declared the "first stage" of their efforts
    to unseat the incumbent government finished after failing to
    galvanize large numbers of supporters. Returning to parliament with
    concessions akin to the ones Oskanian described would be a
    face-saving maneuver for Armenia's opposition, whose popularity has
    sagged since the failure of this spring's protests. [For background
    see the Eurasia Insight archive].

    It could also help Armenia stay on track for receiving MCA funds, a
    key mechanism for the United States to continue prodding the Armenian
    government to adopt valuable reform. While the opposition's failure
    to mount a serious challenge might give Armenian authorities
    confidence to further inhibit official respect for rule of law, the
    government's newfound security could, combined with the influence of
    Millennium Challenge conditionality, also encourage it to move in a
    positive direction.

    Other incentives exist as well. Armenia has recently modified its
    approach to national security, seeking to complement a longstanding
    alliance with Russia with military engagement with the North Atlantic
    Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States. Yet though such a
    dialogue could provide an opening for additional democratic reform,
    the U.S. and its NATO allies lack pressing strategic imperatives for
    providing what Oskanian termed "a better [security] shield for
    Armenia." To justify a more intensive engagement with Armenia, the US
    and NATO are more likely to look for advances in democracy building
    and rule of law than in military policy.

    Another stumbling block to the establishment of a healthy
    NATO-Armenia relationship is Armenia's lack of diplomatic relations
    with its NATO neighbor, Turkey. But, here, too, Oskanian suggested an
    opportunity for change. In his speech, Oskanian exhorted Turkey to
    "take the lead" in furthering Euro-Atlantic engagement with the South
    Caucasus by normalizing relations with Armenia and opening its
    lengthy border.

    Oskanian disputed claims that normalization would require Turkish
    concessions, specifically the recognition of the 1915 Armenian
    genocide and border adjustments. The foreign minister declared that
    while it is Armenia's "moral obligation" to raise the genocide issue,
    "recognition is not a precondition" for diplomatic relations. When
    asked about potential Armenian irredentist claims, Oskanian noted
    that all such issues could be adequately addressed in the protocols
    that accompany the establishment of diplomatic relations.

    Turkey, however, insists that Armenia make progress in resolving its
    conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabagh before any
    normalization of its relations with Yerevan occurs. [For background
    see the Eurasia Insight archive].

    On this, the long-standing bug-bear of Armenian foreign policy,
    Oskanian offered cautious cooperation at best. Oblique references
    were made to existing efforts with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar
    Mammadyarov, with whom Oskanian met in Prague on June 22, to devise a
    two-track conflict resolution plan that would simultaneously define
    Nagorno-Karabagh's political status and set out a clear timetable for
    Armenia to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories and for the
    resettlement of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons.

    Without specifying the exact political status Armenia seeks for
    Nagorno-Karabagh, Oskanian instead referred to the "principles"
    established in negotiations between Armenian President Robert
    Kocharian and the late Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev in Key
    West, Florida in 2001. Armenia insists these involve Azerbaijan's
    surrender of sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabagh in exchange for
    Armenia's withdrawal from most of the occupied territories and the
    establishment of a road link across Armenia connecting the
    Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan.
    Oskanian attributed Azerbaijani denials that any such principles had
    been established to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev's fragile hold
    on power.

    For Oskanian's vision to come to pass, however, a tremendous amount
    of effort from Armenia's friends, and, even, adversaries and
    political opponents, must be made. Most importantly, his vision of
    dialogue, development, and peace must be promoted, not only by the
    Foreign Ministry, but by the powers that rule Armenia today.


    Editor's Note: Cory Welt is a Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia
    Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.


  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
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    3
    There is still too much corruption in Armenia. It will take, at least, another 15 years to get the correuption out.

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