Emil Sanamyan's articles on Armenian-Americans, Armenia and its neighborhood.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More protocols discord, U.S. and Turkey on missiles

This was first published in the September 19, 2009 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan


Armenian-American groups split on Turkey protocols

The protocols on the establishments of bilateral relations and diplomatic relations that Armenia and Turkey are expected to sign on October 13 continue to be debated by Armenian-Americans.

The traditional political parties – the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaks), the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party, and the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (Ramkavars) – have opposed the initiative, while the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) and the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) have issued conditional endorsements.

In a September 9 letter addressed to President Barack Obama, leaders of the AAA and AGBU and the primates of the Eastern and Western Dioceses of the Armenian Church referred to the protocols and said they "look[ed] forward to a positive outcome" and the normalization of relations.

At the same time, they expressed concern with Turkey's efforts to link talks with Armenia to the Karabakh peace process and warned that "if this normalization process is used as a smokescreen for not reaffirming the Armenian Genocide and the U.S. record, it will be a blow to the rapprochement process."

Meanwhile, in Southern California, the protocols' opponents have organized a series of public protests and public meetings to denounce the deal as compromising Armenian interests. Much of the criticism has focused on the impact the protocols would have on efforts to win international condemnation of the Armenian Genocide and address its consequences.

In Washington, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) will organize two town hall-style meetings to discuss the protocols on September 24 and 26.

(For Turkish reaction to the protocols see http://www.reporter.am/go/article/2009-09-26-the-turkish-press-reacts-to-the-armenia-protocols.)

U.S. scraps European missile defense plan, launches fresh Iran diplomacy

The Obama administration decided to cancel the former president's plan to place missile interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic, officials were quoted as saying on September 17.

The Bush administration had said it wanted the new military installations to counter a potential missile threat from Iran. But the plan was strongly opposed by Russian leaders, who saw it as undermining their country's nuclear weapons deterrent.

The decision this week to scrap the plan was welcomed by Russia as well as several European officials. Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev called the decision a "responsible approach" and said he looked forward to dialogue with the United States during meetings at the United Nations next week.

Also next week, President Obama will become the first American president to chair a United Nations Security Council session. According to Politico newspaper, the United States will introduce a new resolution that would make the pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy contingent on countries' not being in violation of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Commentators see the initiative as aimed at building an international consensus against Iran's nuclear program.

The resolution would also include a pledge by nuclear-armed countries not to use nuclear weapons against countries that don't have such weapons.

Officials from the five permanent Security Council member states (which include Russia) plus Germany are due to hold talks with Iran on October 1.

Turkey seeks upgraded missile defense shield

The Turkish government is considering proposals on ways to improve its missile defense capabilities, including a potential $7.8 billion deal with U.S. companies, news media reported.

On September 11, the Obama administration notified Congress of the possible sale, involving Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, two of the largest U.S. weapons' manufacturers, which have also long lobbied for Turkish interests in the United States.

Reacting to the U.S. announcement, the Turkish Defense Ministry noted that as part of a request for proposals unveiled last April, Ankara was considering offers from the United States, Russia, and China for the purchase of missile defense systems, with no final decisions yet made.

According to Zaman, Turkey's defense budget amounted to $11 billion in 2008, but the country's weapons acquisition is believed to be covered from non-budget sources that are not fully disclosed. In recent years, Turkey has increasingly been buying weapons from non-U.S. sources.

If it goes through, the deal would become part of a U.S. effort to deter Iran by establishing what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described last July as a "defense umbrella" for America's Middle East allies.

Iran already has the capability to launch missiles at any part of Turkey's territory.

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