Can Armenia disrupt the Turkish-Azeri Alliance and Avoid Total Isolation?

Recent developmen’s in Armenia have not only isolated Armenia diplomatically, but have created disarray in Armenian foreign policy. This is partly due to blackmail by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and his cohorts, who in concert with western nations have immobilized Armenian Diplomacy, have emboldened Azeri leaders, and given Turkey an edge in the Genocide issue.

Armenia is suddenly in the unwinnable position of executing major changes imposed by various European bodies, the threat of suspension of foreign aid, and loss of its legitimate gains in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey and Azerbaijan are on a major counter-offensive. Azerbaijan has decided to enhance its world standing by promoting bilateral relations with as many countries as possible, sending its diplomatic corps on a propaganda mission, “Armenia’s occupation policy must be condemned at all levels” was the key task handed to Azeri Diplomats. Azerbaijan has also been actively passing resolutions propagating its stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution in the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and bankrolling anti Armenia efforts worldwide with its oil revenues. Unfortunately, Armenian leaders are too busy trying to extricate themselves from internal turmoil to effectively respond to or counteract against Turkish or Azeri initiatives.

Concurrently, Azeri declarations threatening war have increased dramatically. Cross-border aggression instances have multiplied. The incident in the Martagert region in March, the abduction of four civilians in April and subsequent refusal to return them, the killing of a soldier in Daoush, and the killing of two villagers in the Chinari Village: Rafig Soghoyan, 50 and Levon Petrosian, 21. There was no response to these criminal acts of aggression, neither militarily or diplomatically. The destruction of Armenian cemeteries in Nakhichevan is another outrage. Subsequent attempts to investigate by the European Union were blocked by Azerbaijan.

Armenian Diplomacy may have suffered two major setbacks that will hinder the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution for years to come. On March 14, Azerbaijan pushed through a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly reaffirming the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and calling for withdrawal of Armenian forces from “occupied territories.” Azerbaijan hailed it as a major victory. In reality only 39 Counties voted in favor, with the three major participants in the Minsk Group, The United States, Russia and France voting against it

In Strasburg the European Parliament passed a resolution that credited the lack of democracy in Azerbaijan to the occupation of parts of its land. The resolution quotes the United Nations resolution as its reference.

Paradoxically, the president of the European Parliament, Louis Maria De Puig warned Azerbaijan that serious measures may be imposed against Azerbaijan if steps are not taken to safeguard democratic principles prior to the presidential elections. The E.U. Parliament President expressed concern about the fate of arrested journalists and other human rights violations and stressed, “If Azerbaijan does not honor its commitmen’s to maintain democratic principles and human rights at European Parliament standards, serious steps will be taken.” A news report on MSNBC on July 15, reported that “Steven Payne, a major Bush fundraiser, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, veteran of oversees trips with President Bush and Vice President Cheney was actually paid by the actual dictator of Azerbaijan, to a arrange an actual meeting with President Bush in April of 2006.”

Sabina Freizer, head of the program of the International Crisis Group on Europe, stated that “EU member ‘s states recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, which does not mean, however, that they are against ensuring the right of Nagorno-Karabakh residents for definition of their future status. The member states do not have a single coordinated opinion on whether Nagorno-Karabakh should be part of Azerbaijan or should be an independent state.” It is clear that the European Community is much more understanding of Armenia’s woes and is willing to assist Armenia in overcoming them.

A meeting between the new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Azeri President Aliev ended with an ominous statement of support for Azerbaijan’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. “The two sides underlined the importance of a speedy resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of a state’s borders.” Moscow’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is of special significance for Baku and the shift may be rationalized by agreemen’s to be forged between Russia and Azerbaijan, involving Russian control over Azeri Oil being exported and its export route. The BBC characterized the declaration as generally contrary to Russian sympathies towards the Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts, and hence ascribed the shift of policy to gas revenues for Russia.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian may have inadvertently handed the Turks a chance to bury the Armenian Genocide Question for years to come, by accepting the creation of a commission to investigate the Armenian Genocide. The newly elected President went as far as to propose subsequently to discuss all issues that are in contention between the two countries. Clarifications to the effect that Armenia’s policy has not changed and that the President was referring to a different kind of commission that would analyze the facts of the Genocide are still being discussed in the Armenian media.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation has expressed concern to President Serzh Sarkisian regarding his acceptance of Turkey’s proposal to form a commission of Turkish and Armenian historians that would jointly study the mass killings of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian President made clarifications that the so called commission is not supposed to determine whether or not the genocide occurred. It would instead research “various details of the genocide and other disputes between the two countries.” Subsequently, following its first plenary session, the ARF Bureau firmly stated: “The Bureau is adamant that the fact of the Armenian genocide is not a subject of discussion, and no high-ranking official representing Armenia may have a different approach. Universal recognition of the genocide is vital for the existence, security and future of our people and statehood.” The ARF also expressed concern about President Sarkisian’s invitation to Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the football game between Armenia and Turkey in Yerevan.

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The sad and dangerous truth is that effectively what the Armenian President did was to undermine years of gains in the Genocide Issue. Further clarifications are needed as to the role and the purpose of a joint commission. It is going to be extremely difficult to convince foreign government representatives–including U.S Congressme— that Armenia and Turkey are not really discussing the Genocide issue in good faith. Turkey is on the offensive, and the denial war has a new lifeline and such gestures will only serve Turkish interests in keeping the Armenian Genocide issue dormant. On the positive side the Armenian President may have alleviated the pressure on Armenia by the US to normalize relations with Turkey. His proposals may also create a wedge between Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The sad and dangerous truth is that Armenia has foreign agents that are holding Armenia hostage, and are freely holding rallies while collaborating with foreign governmen’s, thus immobilizing the Armenian Government into submission. It is incomprehensible that Levon Ter-Petrosian who has instigated internal strife and agitation and continues to create civil unrest is not behind bars or deported from Armenia for conspiracy and sedition.

The sad and dangerous truth is that Azerbaijan is trying to gain on the diplomatic front. Those resolutions that were voted on may haunt us for years to come. They are an attempt by Azerbaijan to inscribe in stone the issue of “the sacrosanct territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.” The threats of war are producing an atmosphere of appeasement towards Azerbaijan, and a prelude to prepare the psychological groundwork to attack Nagorno-Karabakh militarily.

The sad and dangerous truth is that Armenia has an opposition group bent on fomenting internal strife. The Genocide issue continues to be a cornerstone of national security. Armenia lost the chance to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh in the wake of the Kosovo Independence declaration. Armenia was unable to block the passage of the two resolutions: Armenian officials have not been able to establish close bilateral ties with countries with common interests. Armenian officials either do not have the means or the will to counter an ever widening Turkish-Azeri diplomatic offensive. One can only hope that if the time comes, Armenia’s will unite and will be ready to defend the Homeland against all aggression.

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