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Why Does Washington Undermine Serzh Sargsyan’s Position?


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Image To Force Him into Yielding to Unilateral Concessions on the Nagorno-Karabakh Issue

By Armen H. Grigoryan

The process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations remains the main issue of public interest these days.

Although only few days remain until the date when the protocols must be signed, in Armenia there is no public consensus about the contents of protocols. In fact, no steps towards reaching a consensus have been made – if one does not take into account the small-scale “public discussions” organized in order to provide “responsible” (i.e. pro-government) TV stations with footage for optimistic reports, and the formal discussions with Serzh Sargsyan’s participation in some of the diaspora communities. It is beyond any doubt that non-legitimate National Assembly that is used to rubber-stamping the decisions of the executive branch will ratify anything submitted to it. Normalization of relations with Turkey and opening of the border, as well as an opportunity to join any regional project in transport and communication spheres, is vitally important for Armenia. However, the most important question remains unanswered: What price will Armenia pay for normalizing relations while being governed by the illegitimate regime?

It is possible to make some assumptions if we pay attention to activities of third parties interested in normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. It is a common knowledge that the main sponsor of the Swiss-mediated negotiation process is the USA. The latter’s interest in normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations has been demonstrated in many ways. Quite significantly, the Americans have been working not only through political and economic channels: for instance, since a long time ago – years before “soccer diplomacy” began – the USA had started to fund a number of joint Armenian-Turkish projects, such as organization of conferences, joint publications, cultural and sports events, and so on. The activities were supported by funds allocated by the US Embassy in Armenia and by USAID (in the latter case, distribution of the funds was done mainly by means of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation). It is difficult to believe that the USA has abruptly changed its attitude towards the need for normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. Nonetheless, within recent few weeks the funds provided by the US government have been widely distributed to support programs administered by organizations that openly show their disapproval to the current process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations (it should be remembered that the process is officially supported by the USA). For instance, grants have been given to the Civilitas Foundation run by Armenia’s former minister of foreign affairs Vartan Oskanian, to the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, etc. This fact lets to suppose that the Americans apply a special tactics aimed to maximum weakening of Serzh Sargsyan’s position in Armenia: otherwise it does not make sense to support those who strongly oppose the US-backed Armenian-Turkish protocols. At the same time, it is obvious that Serzh Sargsyan’s position is not undermined in order to prepare a ground for his resignation because in such case ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols would become improbable.

So, what is the rationale for weakening Serzh Sargsyan if he must remain in office? The most reasonable answer is: Serzh Sargsyan should be as weak as possible to be forced into accepting unilateral concessions on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. This conclusion may be sustained by other evidence as well: During his most recent visit to Armenia, EU Special Envoy for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby spoke decisively about the need for serious progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process until the end of 2009. So, there is quite strong evidence in support of the widespread notion that Armenia, being ruled by an illegitimate regime, will be forced to make unilateral concessions.

Published in Zhamanak daily, issue 170, October 7, 2009


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