First published in April 12, 2008 Armenian Reporter.
by Emil Sanamyan
Think tank calls for international pressure on Armenia
The International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think tank issued a report criticizing as “inadequate” the international reaction to the Armenian government’s handling of the February 19 presidential elections and subsequent opposition protests that resulted in violent riots on March 1.
The report, “Armenia: Picking up the Pieces,” issued on April 8 suggested that unless the United States and European Union “exert pressure, Armenia is unlikely to make progress” on democratic reform and resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The pressure, the report recommended, should take the form of a potential suspension of foreign aid and a hold on closer cooperation.
The arguments in the report, which questions the legitimacy of Serge Sargsian’s presidency and appears to lay the blame for the post-election violence solely with the government, mirror closely the views of former president Levon Ter-Petrossian’s campaign – more than those expressed by international organizations and Western governments.
Incidentally, one of the ex-president’s closest aides involved in this year’s campaign, Levon Zourabian, was since 2004 the ICG analyst for Armenia, and helped develop its November 2004 report titled “Armenia: Internal Instability Ahead.”
Although Mr. Zourabian is still listed in that position on the think tank’s web site, ICG’s Tbilisi-based Caucasus Project Director Magdalena Frichova told the Armenian Reporter that Mr. Zourabian “left [the] Crisis Group back in January and had nothing to do with [the April 8] report.”
Ms. Frichova added that ICG is “acutely conscious of any conflict of interest, and [takes] all precautions against it.”
Mr. Zourabian had not responded to an e-mail query as of press time.
ICG is co-chaired by former senior British and U.S. officials Chris Patten and Thomas Pickering and led by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans. In a report issued on November 14, ICG warned increased risk of war in Karabakh by 2012.
To see the full report connect at http://www.crisisweb.org
Massachusetts Municipal Association pulls sponsorship of Anti-Defamation
League program Citing the Anti-Defamation League’s failure “to clarify and strengthen its earlier statements concerning recognition of the Armenian Genocide” during the league’s national board meeting last November, the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) voted on April 8 to withdraw its sponsorship of the league’s No Place for Hate (NPFH) program.
The action by MMA, which is an association of the state’s cities and towns, comes after 12 Massachusetts communities, starting with Watertown in August of last year, decided to suspend their cooperation with the Anti-Defamation League over its ambiguous position on Armenian Genocide affirmation.
Armenian-American running for Ohio congressional seat
David Krikorian, a Cincinnati-area businessperson and state chair for the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), has been qualified to run as an independent candidate this November to represent Ohio’s second congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, his campaign reported.
Mr. Krikorian will be running against incumbent GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt and her Democratic challenger Dr. Victoria Wulsin, who lost to Ms. Schmidt by a narrow margin in 2006. Ms. Schmidt is a member of the Turkish caucus and has opposed Genocide affirmation.
On the other hand, Dr. Wulsin had pledged to support the Armenian-American agenda and was, in the 2006 elections, backed by the ANCA.
In a comment to the Armenian Reporter, ANCA director Aram Hamparian praised Mr. Krikorian’s business and civic skills and said that the ANCA “join[s] with members of the Armenian community from the across the country in supporting him in every way we can.”
Azerbaijan, Turkey building congressional caucuses
Turkish and Azerbaijani lobbyists in Washington have been making steady progress in expanding their congressional influence over the past year. A highlight is the expansion of congressional caucuses dedicated to U.S. relations with the two countries.
Established in 2004, the Azerbaijan caucus has been actively recruiting members over the last year, increasing membership from 14 in April 2007 to 40 as of this week, according to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson, cited by Day.az on April 7.
According to the website of the Turkish Coalition of America there are currently 77 members in the congressional Turkey caucus, up from 71 reported by the caucus co-chair Rep. Robert Wexler (D.-Fla) at the end of 2006. Incidentally, many of the Turkey caucus members are also members of the Armenian caucus, which currently numbers 155 members.
Speaking on April 3 at the Rumi Forum, a recently established Turkish think tank in Washington, Mr. Wexler said that U.S.-Turkish relations have improved substantially over the past year. “The animosity that affected the relationship because of the Iraq War is no longer present,” he said.
When asked about the Armenian Genocide resolutions in the U.S. Congress, Mr. Wexler skirted the question, stressing the importance of continuing to build “a positive Turkish image in the U.S.”
Last month the Turkish government decided not to renew its contact with the lobby group of former House Speaker Bob Livingston (R.-La.), The Hill newspaper reported on March 31. The Livingston Group, which worked for Turkey for eight years, earned more than $12 million primarily for helping fight Armenian Genocide affirmation.
That task now falls on another big Washington firm, DLA Piper, which first picked up the contract with Turkey in May 2007. The firm is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R.-Tex.) and former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D.-Mo.)
Bush, Putin meet for final summit
The presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation met for their final summit near the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi on April 5–6 as President Vladimir Putin is set to conclude his term in office next month, news agencies reported. President George Bush also met with Mr. Putin’s successor, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev.
The two leaders sought to downplay bilateral differences issuing a “U.S.-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration” and exchanging compliments at a press conference.
While the declaration mentioned that the two countries will “work closely together on all the major global international issues that confront us,” it did not specifically refer among the priorities to either Karabakh or other post-Soviet conflicts, in which both the United States and Russia have played mediating roles.
Two days earlier both presidents attended the NATO summit in Romania, where Mr. Putin described U.S. calls for the alliance’s expansion into Ukraine and Georgia as a “direct threat” to Russia, RFE/RL reported. NATO postponed to December formal discussion of the two countries’ membership. (See this page in the April 5 Armenian Reporter.)
In Sochi, Mr. Putin also reiterated Russian opposition to the U.S. proposal, now backed by NATO, to station new radars and missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. administration says it will use them against a potential future missile threat from Iran.
But Russia argues that these installations can have multiple uses, including against its own forces, and would thus alter the strategic balance in Europe. Russia has offered to establish a joint missile-defense system, but the United States has been reluctant to allow Russia any major role in the system.
Since taking office in 2001, Mr. Bush has met Mr. Putin 28 times – more than any other foreign leader with the exception of former British prime minister Tony Blair.
- Alexa Millinger contributed to this week’s Briefing
Emil Sanamyan's articles on Armenian-Americans, Armenia and its neighborhood.