Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fried tours region; Western aid to Georgia, Turkey wins UN bid

First published in October 25, 2008 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

Active U.S. diplomacy continues in Eurasia

The Navy's U.S.S. Barry arrived in Georgia's port of Poti as State Department's Dan Fried touched down in the country's capital of Tbilisi.

Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried was in Armenia (Oct. 17), Georgia (Oct.18-20), and Turkey (Oct. 21) to discuss regional conflicts and bilateral relations, local news media reported. United States regional diplomacy has been stepped up significantly since Russian-Georgian fighting in August.

In meetings with Armenian leaders, Mr. Fried reportedly focused on the Karabakh peace process (see this week's top story) and Armenia's recent talks with Turkey. Mr. Fried said that a "strong, sovereign, democratic Armenia is important not just to the U.S., but to the region as well."

(In a similarly worded message, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who was in Yerevan on October 21, said Russia wants "the Armenian people to live in a strong, flourishing and stable state.")

Mr. Fried arrived in Georgia simultaneously with the U.S. Navy's guided missile destroyer U.S.S. Barry, which made a "routine, friendly visit" to Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti from October 18 to 20. (Officials in Abkhazia, meanwhile, confirmed plans for a new Russian naval base at Ochamchir, just forty miles up the Black Sea coast from Poti.)

On his visit to Ankara, Mr. Fried was received with Ertu?rul Apakan, the Turkish Foreign Ministry's number-two, and at a subsequent meeting with media, the U.S. diplomat encouraged continued dialogue between Turkish and Armenian leaders.

According to the Turkish Daily News, Mr. Fried called Armenian President Serge Sargsian "courageous" for extending an invitation to his Turkish counterpart, and Turkish President Abdullah Gül "wise" for accepting the offer. "Sometimes taking risks is the highest realism," he said.

Mr. Fried also pledged continued U.S. intelligence help for Turkey's fight against Kurdish rebels, while urging more Turkish cooperation with Iraqi Kurdish leaders. Turkish forces have suffered numerous casualties in recent Kurdish attacks (see this page in the October 11 Armenian Reporter.)

Meanwhile, the top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, assured the three Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania ­- which have been NATO members since 2004 - that they could count on U.S. military help should they ever come under a military attack.

Days earlier, Admiral Mullen met with Russia's General Staff Chairman General Nikolay Makarov in Finland, for what was described as "fence-mending talks."

Abkhazia, South Ossetia status talks stall; more aid pledged to Georgia

European, Georgian, Russian, and U.S. officials met in Geneva on October 15 to start discussions, in the words of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on the "future status" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and quickly adjourned until November, and others reported.

The parties reportedly disagreed on the format of talks, with breakaway republics insisting they should participate in the talks on their future, and Georgia objecting.

The cease-fire agreement negotiated between Russia and Georgia continued to largely hold, although several Russian and Georgian personnel were reported killed in various incidents.

Georgia also demanded a Russian withdrawal from parts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia that Georgia held prior to the August war. That position was supported by Dan Fried of the U.S. State Department, although he conceded that that situation could not be resolved "very easily" or "very soon." Russian officials said areas in question are parts of breakaway republics and would not be turned over.

At a "donors' conference" in Brussels on October 22, the United States confirmed it would be allocating $1 billion in aid to Georgia. Last month, the U.S. Congress appropriated about one-third of that amount for Fiscal Year 2009.

In all, pledges of $4.55 billion in grants and loans over three years were made, with bulk of the funds coming from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as the European Union (about $1 billion in grants and loans) and Japan ($200 million).

Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based anticorruption organization, called for publication of the World Bank's needs assessment report on Georgia prepared in advance of the conference.

"Despite the centrality of the Joint Needs Assessment to the future of Georgia, its contents remain secret at the request of the Georgian government," TI Georgia said in a statement, adding that it was unclear how the money was intended to be spent.

151 countries vote Turkey into the UN Security Council

Turkey successfully concluded its five-year $50 million campaign for a two-year nonrenewable term on the United Nations Security Council, as it was voted in by 151 countries on October 17, Turkish and international news agencies reported.

There are a total of 192 countries with United Nations membership. Countries voted in secret, and because Turkey was competing against Austria (which also won a seat, with 132 votes) and Iceland (which did not, with 87 votes), few countries have made their votes public. But Turkey lobbied heavily around the world from Latin America to Africa to Pacific Island nations.

President Abdullah Gül described the vote as "a significant success that should be a source of joy to every citizen. The support given to Turkey is a reflection of the feelings of love and friendship that are felt for our nation and the trust the international community has in our state," the Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor (EDM) reported citing Turkish media on October 18.

Turkey's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Baki Ilkin reportedly broke down in tears of joy during a television interview following the vote.

Professor Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish government's leading foreign policy advisor, said the outcome as "neither chance, nor bribery," even though Turkey spent $20 million paying off the debts of smaller nations to the United Nations.

Media watchdog: peace is good for press freedom

"It is not economic prosperity but peace that guarantees press freedom," Paris-based Reporters without Borders argues in its annual report released on October 22.

The report notes post-election setbacks in media freedom in Armenia (now ranked 102nd in the world, on par with Turkey), war-related media censorship in Georgia (now ranked 120th), as well as general malaise in Russia (141), Azerbaijan (150), and Iran (166).

Iceland, Norway, and Luxembourg are ranked as having the most liberal media environments. For the full report:

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