Armenia’s Conundrum

Foreign Minister Nalbandian will have a captivating audience of world leaders at the UN General Assembly and must utilize that pulpit to reset the course for Armenia’s foreign policy to reflect the realities on the ground.


Hungary’s extradition of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan and Baku’s subsequent pardon and glorification of the axe murderer has raised serious questions of international law, diplomacy and a state’s ethical responsibility within the international community.

We have spoken at length about the international community’s tepid reaction to the incident, which mainly has been to express “concern” and warnings of the consequences of instability in the region. US, NATO and European leaders have pledged to press Azerbaijan about the matter and have gone out of their way to let Hungary off the hook.

Three weeks after this maelstrom erupted, there has been no tangible change in the matter, save for the European Parliament resolution, which condemned Azerbaijan for glorifying a convicted killer.

Official Yerevan’s reaction has also been reserved. After the extradition, Armenia suspended ties with Hungary and subsequently went on record about its disappointment with the international community’s lukewarm response to the matter.

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, during a press conference last week continued to use his tried and true line that the international community is in agreement with Armenia on the Safarov matter, which calls into question his complete comprehension of the events and the subsequent reactions.

The other elephant in the room is whether Yerevan could have stopped the entire extradition process and if so, why did it not.

The Armenian community of Hungary sounded the alarm about Safarov’s extradition two weeks prior to the incident, and reportedly a representative flew to Yerevan to address the issue with the Foreign Ministry and the Diaspora Ministry. The Hungarian-Armenian community asserts that they were given the runaround by secondary and tertiary officials at the ministries.

Nalbandian said that Yerevan pressed Budapest as early as mid-August regarding this matter, arguing that for years Armenia has warned the international community, but has adhered to calls by the West to not politicize the matter. This has resulted in a he-said-she-said scenario with no concrete answers three weeks after the fact.

Let’s take the fait-a-complis scenario and assume that Armenia was truly caught off guard by Budapest. The diplomacy doesn’t match the deception.

The Safarov incident, with all its international ramifications, provides Armenia with a golden opportunity to set a new course for its foreign policy and emerge from the Nalbandianist approach of playing the star-struck victim in dealing with the US and the international community. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s pardon of Safarov crystallizes the reality that Azerbaijan is not “partner for peace” but rather the instigator of post-Soviet unrest in the region—a country that has committed state-sponsored pogroms, instigated a war and has no regard for human decency.

The US Embassy in Armenia was among the first seven countries to be put on alert following last week’s anti-Muslim uprising in Benghazi and Cairo. When the State Department was pressed about its reasoning, the response was that Armenia and the others were the first to publicize the warnings, which allegedly were given to some 50 embassies around the world. We have yet to see an announcement from the US Embassy in Azerbaijan where not one but two anti-American protests have been held in the last week.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry was silent on the matter and has yet to protest or inquire about why Armenia was singled out. Are we taking the State Department’s shameful excuse at face value? Don’t the people of Armenia deserve a more plausible explanation as to why their country is one of the first to be placed on alert?

Nalbandian will be traveling to the US over the weekend. His first stop, which is strangely being billed as a “surprise visit” will be Los Angeles, where he will be addressing the World Affairs Council on Monday. He will then travel to New York to address the United National General Assembly.

Nalbandian will have a captivating audience of world leaders and must utilize that pulpit to reset the course for Armenia’s foreign policy to reflect the realities on the ground. For the past three and a half years, Armenia’s foreign policy agenda has not been set by Yerevan, but rather Washington, Moscow and elsewhere. The events of last year have proven that our nation’s foreign policy MUST BE DETERMINED in Yerevan and must reflect the national aspiration of the Armenian people.

Nalbandian should press the US, whose top diplomat Hillary Clinton pledged to ask “tough questions” from Baku when the latter attacked Armenia on the day of her visit to Yerevan in June. Nalbandian must call out NATO member-states for their passiveness toward Hungary, which set in motion the events of the past three weeks. And, finally, Nalbandian must, once and for all, end Baku’s insistence of focusing of the nebulous issue of “territorial integrity” in the talks and assert that Karabakh’s right to self-determination is of utmost importance to the fruition of our national liberation struggle.

This year’s UN General Assembly is a make or break moment for Armenia. Past experience makes us doubt Armenia’s willingness to assert itself in the community of nations. Let’s hope we are proven otherwise.

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  1. Alex said:

    My opinion on how west approaches the region of south caucuses. ‘It’s easier to twist an arm of state that has no oil, because the one with oil seems to slip when its twisted” Alex. International law is a scam, it’s pushed when special interest are there, when they are not, they are a tool to control the smaller nation.

  2. Chad Nagle said:

    It is truly bizarre that, 3 weeks after the Safarov incident, the outrage from the United States is inaudible. It is also strange that – seemingly – the government of the Republic of Armenia has remained so passive. This author says Armenia has behaved like a “star-struck victim.” Whatever the truth in Yerevan, if Washington is so sleazy and dishonest as to fail to condemn Azerbaijan out of fear of upsetting the oil and gas flow, then we have a serious problem on our hands. The Obama administration said it was “disappointed” after the pardon, and was awaiting an “explanation” from Baku. Is Washington satisfied with the explanation given by Azerbaijan? If so, the US is no longer governed by civilized people. If not, it is time for Azerbaijan to be ostracized and isolated from the community of civilized states. No two ways about it.

  3. Zareh said:

    Nalbandian is the worst possible person to head Armenia’s foreign ministry at a most crucial period of Armenia’s modern history. That a person is proven to be incompetent is one matter, the other is why is he still on the job? why is Armenia’s president not giving a public chiding on this minister as he did on the Prime Minister just days ago? or better yet replace him with someone who get get Armenia’s voice heard internationally?

  4. Berge Jololian said:

    I have zero faith in this PDB (Pillsbury Dough Boy) of a foreign minister. Watch him screw matters up.

  5. Arman said:

    It’s Armenia’s TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY that’s the issue- Stalin cut up Eastern Armenia in 3 pieces…Nakhichevan, Artsakh to “Azerbaijan” and Javakhk to Georgia. Therefore, with the reversal of these 3 territorial “gifts” to Georgia and “Azerbaijan” Armenia’s TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY is slowly being restored.

  6. Lydia said:

    Great article and great points for Mr. Nalbandian. If it was israel or turkey in the situation that Armenia is, every tv, radio and social network would scream all day long for weeks. Why, why, why we can’t make the same noise, even if Armenia and their present government can’t do it. All the articles I read were in Armenian publications and newsletters, not in main stream media. Why our political organizations (Even though I think ANCA is doing lot of the work of anything that is happening in diospora) can’t penetrate in to American media.

  7. GB said:

    The Tatar-Turks Dictator, Mr. oil man Alioff, with his stupid undiplomatic act, indirectly approved and signed the independence of Artsakh. There is no way, for uncivilized Tatar-Turks can be trusted again, and live side by side with Artsakhi Armenians!!

  8. Sevag said:

    Bravo Ara – wish you were our Foreign Minister, you make solid points and put our nation’s best interests first!

  9. Ray said:

    As a proud American I support and stand with Armenia!
    God bless our two Great and Free Nations!

  10. Pattyl said:

    Excellent article Ara. Everyone has opinions and thoughts. But to state your ideas with facts and follow up with specific asks and a plan of action is what we need.

  11. Mabuballah said:

    Where does Nalbandian’s funding come from? Who backs him? What about Sarkisian? Look carefully and I’ll bet you find a Western NGO (like ICG?); and behind it, Soros. Armenians: get foreign campaign monies out of your politics! To borrow a phrase of George Washington: you will be like sheep led to the slaughter until you do!

  12. George said:

    The Armenians should understand that the world is not a civilized place, and the west will allways betray the Armenians, that’s why the international community’s response to the matter was lukewarm, they only care about OIL, OIL, OIL, unless Azerbaijan is invaded and splited between Iran and Armenia this situation will not change, all that Armenia needs is the help of Russia.

  13. Bart said:

    Armenia must first fix its internal problems, e.g., pervasive corruption from the top echelons to the bottom, lack of social safety net, massive unemployment, and emigration resulting in brain drain, and only then it can be viewed by the international community as a credible stakeholder with clout.

  14. Norin Radd said:

    Lets cut to the chase, Edward Nalbandyan is a complete utter moron. This incident needs to be brought in front of the UN. A NATO excercise participant was hacked to death with an axe and NATO was the one that invited the victim, so NATO should also be held accountable for the pardon debacle as well as the killing. The response was weak then and this buffoon will again screw the Armenian nation in a critical time in our moment of assertion on the international stage.

  15. German_in_Yerevan said:

    How easy and convenient it is to put the blame on Mr. Nalbandyan and ignore the real elephant in the room.
    The latter is the party in power in Hungary – Fidesz and its leader Prime Minister Orban.

    With a super majority of more than two thirds of seats in parliament, the Fidesz party is accountable to no one.
    It has implemented a policy of self enrichment for the crooks at its helm.

    Viktor Orban has made no secret of his intention to close the chapter on his meteoric 25 year political career and not run in the next election.

    He is a liability to his party following the many debacles and corruption cases he is involved in.
    Highlights of his term in office include;

    — Bankruptcy of the national carrier Malev in January 2011

    — 2 year delay in opening the new terminal at Budapest airport and scrapping the plan for a metro link despite tens of millions of euros in planning and initial construction

    — illegal contract breaches that led to heavy fines and out of court settlements with foreign banks that the impoverished Hungarian tax payer is paying for.

    — A third year of negative growth and spiraling unemployment as well as a demographic disaster that is much worst than Armenia as Hungary’s population shrinks by 1.4% per year and one in three babies is born to the Roma gypsy minority, The Roma gypsies are projected to account for 20% of the population by 2035 (up from “only” 10% in 2011). This is believed to transform large parts of the countryside in Hungary to a state worst than 1990 in terms of poverty, lawlessness, corruption and drug addiction.

    Bottom line is that Orban, a few of his cronies and a couple of judges have simply outsmarted everyone and made a quick buck on the back of the Safarov “extradition”.

    More importantly, no one could care less or will do anything about it besides some hot air and rhetoric.
    The EU is a rotten impotent body that has enough problems of its own to worry about.
    Armenia never was, is not now and will certainly not be at the top of its agenda.

    So its back to reality and a perfect occasion to have a reality check.
    Azerbaijan is not democratic and Aliyev is a despot tyrant that thrives on such populist measures.
    His iron grip on power is here to stay. Fine. Now that reality has sunk in why not work with it, get a compromise deal done and give Armenia a new chance of life!