Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Erdogan, Saakashvili at UN; More U.S. radar in Caucasus talk; Burns / Merry on Karabakh;

This was first published in the September 26, 2009 Armenian Reporter.

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

Foreign leaders arrive in New York for annual meetings

The presidents of Georgia, Iran, and Russia and the prime minister of Turkey were among dozens of foreign leaders in attendance at the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York this week. Armenia and Azerbaijan dispatched their foreign ministers.

In a talk at Princeton University on September 23, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to submit the Armenia-
Turkey protocols for ratification on October 10–11, “if we don’t see prejudice or some domestic political considerations at play.” (It is unclear whether the Turkish parliament normally meets on the weekend, with October 10 and 11 being Saturday and Sunday.)

Mr. Erdogan was also due to raise Armenian issues in a meeting with President Barack Obama at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh on September 25, six months after Mr. Obama publicly urged Turkey to come to terms with its past and to normalize relations with Armenia in an expeditious manner.

But before that meeting, Mr. Erdogan’s delegation reportedly scuffled with Mr. Obama’s security detail as their paths crossed at the Clinton Global Initiative offices in Manhattan, with the Turkish leader himself reportedly getting physically involved.

“A foreign delegation got confused and were trying to enter the president’s departure tent and didn’t understand the verbal instructions being given. They had to be physically restrained,” a spokesperson for the Secret Service told the Washington Times, whose correspondent witnessed the incident.

A frequent visitor to the United States in the past, Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili made his first public trip to New York since the August 2008 war over South Ossetia.

Mr. Saakashvili met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on September 21. Promised continued diplomatic support on South Ossetia and Abkhazia at that meeting, Mr. Saakashvili was also urged to remain patient with their de-facto annexation by Russia.

Separately, U.S. and Georgian officials were due to discuss potential resettlement of terrorism suspects released from the military prison in Guantanamo in Georgia, reported.

Pentagon wants anti-Iran radar in the Caucasus

A senior U.S. military official said that an American early-warning radar (referred to as X-Band radar) aimed at missiles potentially launched from Iran was “probably more likely to be in the Caucasus,” a region that is adjacent to Iran, rather than in European countries that are further away.

Vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright made the comment during a September 17 Pentagon press conference intended to explain the cancellation of U.S. plans for missile and radar deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Nikolay Makarov was quick to respond. He said that Russia would view a U.S. radar in the Caucasus “negatively” unless Russia and the United States were “to build it jointly.”

The United States first expressed interest in a Caucasus radar in March 2007, when the director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency at the time, Gen. Henry Obering, floated the idea of a “mobile antimissile radar” in the Caucasus to monitor Iran; a U.S. official soon after denied there were any deployment plans.

In June 2007, Russian leader Vladimir Putin suggested the United States could receive information gathered by a Russian early warning radar base in Azerbaijan and other Russian facilities there instead of unilaterally deploying new radars. The Bush administration took interest in the offer, but U.S. officials argued that data supplied by Russia could not be a substitute for a U.S.-run missile defense system.

The United States has placed X-Band radars around the world, including one in Israel last year, marking the first foreign military deployment in Israel since its independence.

Of the three Caucasus states, only Georgia publicly welcomed the potential U.S. radar deployment, reported on September 18.

The same day, Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister Araz Azimov said that U.S. officials did not raise the issue during his Washington visit last week, Azerbaijani media reported.

U.S. sees “clear outline” for Karabakh peace, “tangible results” in weeks

“We hope that the recent progress made in talks between Presidents Aliyev and Sargsian will lead to tangible results when they meet next month,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Bill Burns said in prepared remarks delivered on September 18 at an event co-sponsored by Georgetown University and the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington.

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and his Armenian counterpart Serge Sargsian are expected to attend the next Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit in Moldova on October 8-9.

The State Department’s most senior diplomat went on to note, “The outline of a possible settlement has been clear for some time, though as with all things, the devil lies in the details and further discussions will be needed to satisfy the concerns of both sides.”

Mr. Burns’ remarks appeared to be carefully calibrated and did not include any reference to U.S. recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Starting in August 2008, former U.S. negotiator for Karabakh Matt Bryza used language that emphasized Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity as the starting point of a settlement.

Writing earlier this year, a former official at the State and Defense Departments, Wayne Merry, also suggested, “the outlines of a settlement have been clear for fifteen years”; he at the same time offered a more concrete formula for resolution that would “reflect both the realities of war and the needs of peace.”

“These realities transcend the standard rhetoric of ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ as well as that of ‘national self-determination,’” Mr. Merry argued in his paper “Karabakh: Is war inevitable?”

“In a settlement, Armenia will get Karabakh and a land corridor to Armenia, while Azerbaijan gets back the lowland surrounding territories. This is not about justice, nor right and wrong, but is the inescapable and necessary formula for peace.”

“To be sure, there are a multitude of details (where the devil always lurks) and implementation problems (where the costs for outside powers will be substantial),” Mr. Merry concluded.

Former Senator counsels patience in U.S. relations with ex-USSR

The United States should be more respectful of other countries’ sensitivities, former Senator Chuck Hagel advised, particularly as political and economic power becomes more diffused around the world and the United States is less capable of accomplishing its goals singlehandedly.

Mr. Hagel spoke at a Georgetown University event sponsored by the Azerbaijani Embassy on September 18. The former Republican senator from Nebraska (1997–2009) was a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and a leading Senate voice on U.S. policy in the former Soviet areas.

The former senator counseled patience and “careful expectations” when dealing with former Soviet countries that have been “thrown into a new situation” in the last two decades.

He sidestepped more controversial issues such as Azerbaijan’s domestic politics and the Karabakh conflict, while also withholding the sort of praise for the sponsoring government that is frequently heard at such Washington events.

Mr. Hagel noted that the importance of the U.S. relationship with Azerbaijan, “a little country,” was first of all a function of it bordering on several larger countries such as Iran, Russia, and Turkey.

Earlier this year, Mr. Hagel was considered a candidate for a cabinet secretary post in the Obama administration. He is currently a professor at Georgetown and chairs the Atlantic Council of the United States, a group that promotes cooperation among NATO members and partners.

Azerbaijani official assails U.S. policies in “friendly talk”

A senior Azerbaijani official dismissed U.S. criticism of his government’s treatment of political opponents, restrictions on mass media and nongovernmental groups, and corruption, pointing to what he argued were similar restrictions or greater problems in the United States.

Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov also demanded that Washington do more to stimulate Azerbaijan’s motivation to cooperate with the United States.

In what he described as a “friendly talk,” Mr. Azimov recalled the scandal at the former Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the mistreatment of terrorism suspects at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo, and suggested that the United States had not fully investigated human-rights violations there. He further described U.S. military presence in Afghanistan as a “mess” and likened it to the ill-fated Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979–89.

Mr. Azimov also justified the recent ban on U.S.- and British-funded broadcasts in Azerbaijan, claiming that the United States “would not allow” such broadcasters to use its national frequencies. (In fact, a number of foreign-funded media are available on national frequencies in the United States.)

The Azerbaijani official went on to propose that he “could not measure corruption” and therefore could not judge whether there was more corruption in the United States or Azerbaijan.

Discussing the history of U.S.-Azerbaijan engagement, Mr. Azimov described the United States as “more clumsy than it could be.” He noted that not a single U.S. secretary of state had visited Azerbaijan since the “one-hour visit” by Jim Baker in 1992.

“The time which was necessary for the [Obama administration] to get prepared has elapsed,” he stressed. “We expect high[-level] visits, . . . we expect statements made publicly on U.S. strategy for the Caucasus,” as well as U.S.-Russia cooperation in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

Speaking on September 18 at the Georgetown University conference sponsored by the Azerbaijani Embassy, Mr. Azimov also took time to list what Azerbaijan believes are its contributions to the world civilization and the West.

Mr. Azimov arrived in Washington for the annual security dialogue meetings with U.S. officials. A deputy foreign minister managing Azerbaijan’s relations with the West, Mr. Azimov has worked in the same capacity under four different ministers since 1994.

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