YEREVAN—The United States wants the Armenian government to take “decisive steps’ toward a resolution to the Karabakh conflict. This was the message delivered by the National Security Advisor John Bolton who also said that it would behoove Armenia to buy arms from the U.S. instead of Russia.
Bolton, who arrived in Armenia Wednesday evening, is on a regional tour that has thus far taken him to Moscow and Baku, where he held meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev.
Meeting with Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday, Bolton offered the United States’ support to the new government of Armenia and, while touting the upcoming snap parliamentary elections, he said that Pashinyan’s apparent victory in the polls would grant him the mandate needed to take the steps necessary to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Bolton also met with Armenia’s National Security advisor Armen Grigoryan, Acting Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and Acting Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.
“It is a fact that if the predictions come true he [Pashinyan] will have a very strong mandate, and that is the most opportune moment to take strong action in a number of different respects. And if, as I appreciated what I learned in the meetings here today, … the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh is the primary issue on the Armenian political agenda, there is no better time to try and take decisive action than right after that election,” Bolton said during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan after his meeting with Armenian officials.
“The US supports the new government’s efforts aimed at fighting corruption, ensuring transparency of the judicial system and improves the accountability of the government before people, which will lead to the reinforcement of the rule of law and regional stability,” added Bolton.
“I am happy to be in Armenia to underscore the importance of our bilateral relations and to address a broad range of issues concerning these relations and the region. I attatch great importance to key strategic and security issues of mutual interest, including the US policy in terms of Iran, Russia and Syria, as well as this opportunity to examine our common efforts on increasing regional stability. We support the ongoing democratic changes in Armenia, that outline a more prosperous, freer and more independent future,” said Bolton.
Bolton’s visit to Armenia and region was aimed at advancing the Trump administration’s policies in the region especially in light of the U.S. pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and the increased dependence of Armenia on Russia. The announcement by Bolton that the U.S. was willing to sell arms to Armenia in order to discourage arms purchases from Russia was unprecedented, with Bolton calling Russian arms sales to both Armenia and Azerbaijan as destabilizing the region.
Bolton offered his brand of security alternatives for Armenia by speaking about possible U.S. arms sales to Yerevan.
“As I said to the prime minister, if it’s a question of buying Russian military equipment versus buying U.S. military equipment, we’d prefer the latter,” Bolton said in an exclusive interview with Azatutyun.am. “We think our equipment is better than the Russians’ anyway.”
“We have restrictions Congress has imposed on the United States in terms of [weapons] sales to Azerbaijan and Armenia because of the conflict, but there are exceptions to that,” Bolton explained to Azatutyun.am, saying that increasing Armenia’s options would decrease its dependence on “one major power.