Saturday, October 11, 2008

Briefly: Krikorian run in Ohio; Negroponte in Baku and Azeris in DC; Turkey vs. Kurdistan; Russia vs. Georgia

First published in Oct. 11 2008 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

David Krikorian in tight race for Ohio congressional seat

Cincinnati-area businessperson David Krikorian is making the strongest nonparty bid for the House of Representatives this year nationwide, according to on October 9. Mr. Krikorian has been an activist for the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) in Ohio.

Various surveys have shown Mr. Krikorian polling between 10 and 20 percent in the state’s 2nd congressional district, putting him within reach of his opponents, incumbent Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt and her Democratic challenger Victoria Wulsin, who are believed to be tied at 35 to 40 percent.

The three came together on October 6 for a debate that focused on the economy and the recent bailout of major financial companies. Ms. Schmidt is a member of the congressional Turkey Caucus and opposes Armenian Genocide affirmation.

In the previous election cycle, she narrowly defeated Ms. Wulsin. The ANCA, which in 2006 endorsed Ms. Wulsin, is strongly backing Mr. Krikorian in this election.

U.S., Azerbaijan calibrating ties after Georgia war

Deputy Secretary John Negroponte, the State Department’s second most senior official, went to Azerbaijan on October 2 in an apparent effort to safeguard plans for Caspian natural gas to flow to Europe via Georgia and Turkey.

Following the Russian military success in Georgia, Azerbaijani officials have hinted they might agree to a Russian proposal to buy all of Azerbaijan’s natural gas at market prices. In response, U.S. official have sought to recommit Baku to westward projects by playing up U.S. support for Azerbaijan’s “territorial integrity,” or in other words its claims on Armenian Karabakh.

The U.S. government has made breaking Russia’s near-monopoly on natural gas exports to Europe one of its regional priorities. But since the United States is also opposed
to energy cooperation with Iran, which has the world’s second largest natural gas resources after Russia, it is counting on supplies of natural gas from Turkmenistan through a pipeline network that would skirt both Russia and Iran.

Mr. Negroponte hinted that the United States might give the upcoming reelection of President Ilham Aliyev its seal of approval even though all major opposition figures are boycotting it.

The U.S. official was noncommittal when questioned repeatedly whether the United States would provide military help to Azerbaijan if it were attacked by Russia, but promised that “the United States will continue our security cooperation and assist the reform of Azerbaijan’s defense establishment,” according to a State Department
transcript of his remarks.

Azerbaijani government seeks “diaspora” presence in Washington

Azerbaijani officials, Azerbaijanis resident in the United States, and others met on October 1–2 in Washington to discuss ways to establish a more effective “diaspora” presence in Washington that could counter the influence of the Armenian community.

For more than a decade, Azerbaijan has mainly relied on paid lobbyists to advance its agenda in the United States. In addition, several years ago Azerbaijan also established a State Committee for Work with Azerbaijanis Living Abroad (SCWALA) to supplement its lobbying via support for ethnic Azerbaijani individuals and entities.

In the United States over the past year, recent Azerbaijani immigrants created the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) that apparently seeks to replace the Azerbaijani Society of America, established by World War II–era émigrés in the 1950s as the main vehicle for Azerbaijani community lobbying.

Apparently wary of unwanted guests, SCWALA and USAN co-organized last week’s conference, titled “Diaspora and Energy Security in the Development of the U.S. Azerbaijan Strategic Allied Relations,” at an initially undisclosed location
in Washington.

According to a pre-conference announcement at, only pre-approved guests who could confirm their identity were to be permitted to attend.

Turkey stung by Kurdish rebel attacks

Kurdish rebel forces typically referred to as PKK launched another deadly attack on the Turkish army on October 3. As Istanbul-based Gareth Jenkins reported for the Jamestown Foundation citing Turkish media, as many as 350 Kurdish forces were involved in an attack near the border with Iraq; it lasted nearly 10 hours and left 17 Turkish soldiers dead and 23 wounded.

Turkey retaliated by sending its aircraft to bomb areas of Iraqi Kurdistan; it claims to have killed dozens of Kurds. On October 5 hundreds of thousands across Turkey turned out for soldiers’ funerals.

Since last year, the Turkish army has stepped up anti-PKK operations inside Iraq, but the organization’s attacks on the Turkish military both near the border with Iraq and in Turkey’s interior have continued.

On October 8 a smaller Kurdish force ambushed a bus carrying Turkish police inside the city of Diyarbakir, leaving the bus driver and five police officers dead and 16 others, including bystanders, wounded.

According to Mr. Jenkins, the latest attacks, the deadliest in years, have “severely damaged the prestige of the Turkish military,” which quickly requested additional powers to deal with the insurgency.

“Ever since it resumed its insurgency in June 2004,” he wrote on October 6, “the PKK has essentially been . . . using violence as part of a campaign of psychological and
emotional attrition in the hope of eventually convincing the Turkish authorities that the organization cannot be destroyed by military means and that the only solution is to enter into a political dialogue.”

For now, the Turkish military was forced to demolish the Aktutun outpost attacked on October 3 and four other forward bases as too vulnerable to Kurdish attack. And on October 8, the Turkish parliament also voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize military operations inside Iraqi Kurdistan.

European MPs: Georgia, Russia both guilty in Ossetia war

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on October 2 that called for an “independent international investigation into what happened” in and around South Ossetia last August, “since the facts surrounding the outbreak of war between Georgia and Russia are disputed.”

The resolution adopted by the Assembly suggests that both Georgia and Russia had violated international law, Council of Europe principles, and their commitment to settle conflicts by peaceful means.

The resolution says, “The Assembly is concerned about the human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by both sides in the context of the war.

“In particular, the use of indiscriminate force and weapons by both Georgian and Russian troops in civilian areas can be considered war crimes that need to be fully investigated,” the resolution said.

PACE also called on Russia to “withdraw” its recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, considering it a violation of international law and Council of Europe statutory principles.

Speaking during the debate on the resolution, PACE member Armen Rustamyan (ARF) said, according to a summarized translation, “he could not identify the culprit in this conflict” since Armenia has important relations with both countries.

Erol Aslan Cebeci, a Turkish member of parliament from the ruling party, expressed concern over violations of the “territorial integrity of Georgia” and said Russia’s military operation was a “clear violation of international law and extremely disproportionate.”

But he added that the “Georgian administration has been excessively aggressive in its dealing with South Ossetian affairs” and cautioned against “taking steps that could jeopardise the channels of dialogue” with either Georgia or Russia.

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