CLINTON'S ARMENIA VISIT AS PART OF STRUGGLE FOR SOUTH CAUCASUS
by Susann Petrosyan

Vestnik Kavkaza
June 8 2012
Russia

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Armenia within
the framework of her regional visit on June 4. She met Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and
other high-ranking officials. Some of the main topics were regional
security and democracy. Hillary Clinton met Armenian public officials
and attended the ceremony of awards for human rights activists.

Clinton emphasized positive achievements in strengthening of democratic
institutions, clarity, promotion of freedom of press, prevention of
corruption, protection of rights and freedoms.

She expressed satisfaction with the parliamentary elections in
Armenia. Clinton praised the steps for improvement of Armenian
economy. She said that President Obama values contacts with Serzh
Sargsyan.

Regarding settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Clinton
emphasized that the conflict cannot be resolved through use of force.

Concernin Armenian-Turkish relations, she stressed that the US assist
in ratification of Armenian-Turkish protocols without preconditions.

Clinton noted that Turkey has the initiative in relations with Armenia.

Some Armenian experts say that the state secretary's visit is notable,
because it is her second regional tour through South Caucasus in
the last two years. This demonstrates US interest in the region,
topical political affairs and security problems of the Caucasus,
including tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Alexander Markarov, Director of the Armenian branch of the CIS
Institute, believes that the visit shows high level of Armenian-US
relations and that South Caucasus, though not the number one priority
of Washington, is still an essential part of US interests.

About 10 days before the visit of Hillary Clinton, the State Department
published another report on human rights for 2011, containing some
critical remarks towards Armenia. The report says that Armenia,
and especially its television, still lacks political pluralism of
opinions and impartiality of broadcasting. Armenian authorities
decriminalized the article on slander, but the fines set are too
high and false journalists to use self-censorship. The process of
switch to digital television reduced pluralism in media. Courts are
still pressurized by the executive branch of power. Judges are often
forced to account guilt. Employers make mass violations of workers'
rights by avoiding signing of labour contracts. The State Department
mentions violation of the right for switch of power through elections.

Clinton gave a positive evaluation of elections. She called the
parliamentary polls on May 6 competitive and open.

One the one hand, the State Department criticizes the electoral
processes, but on the other, the department's chief gives a positive
rating. The US continue political support of Armenian authorities.

Levon Ter-Petrosyan, leader of the Armenian National Congress,
a coalition of opposition, said at a protest meeting that the
doubtful elections of May 6 affect such foreign political problems as
settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Armenian-Turkish
process. Former President of Armenia Ter-Petrosyan points out that
foreign forces, especially the West, would make use of the fact that
the president has the majority at the parliament.

The West is trying to use these issues for own geopolitical purposes,
to weaken and push away Russia. The US have strengthened its position
in the South Caucasus in the last 20 years. Stepan Safaryan, a member
of the Heritage Party, said: "Clinton's visit has emphasized again
that the US are very serious about westernization of the region. The
US and Russia are having a silent struggle in the region, including
Armenia, in the last years".

Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the main topic in this
aspect. Normalization of Armenian-Turkish ties would weaken Russia in
the region. Turkish authorities say that the Armenian-Turkish protocols
are not frozen and continue negotiations between the two states through
NGOs. The path the protocols signed in October 2009 have went through
gives major doubts over realization of the project in the near future.



From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress