2896) Opinions: Oskanian, Khachaturyan, Ghazinyan, Loğoğlu, Yinanç, Sassounian, Arnavoudian, Azadian

  1. Armeno-Turkish Relations: Pitfalls and Possibilities, Vartan Oskanian’s Speech at Fordham Law School
  2. Political Analyst Predicts End Of `Armenia-Turkey Honeymoon', Georg Khachaturyan
  3. Strategic Split: Fast Lane Geopolitics May Reduce Russia's Influence In The Region, Aris Ghazinyan
  4. Turkish-American Cooperation In Broader Eurasian Region (I & II) Faruk Loğoğlu
  5. From Halki International Seminar: Caucasus Quagmire, Barçın Yinanç
  6. Israel's New Ambassador to U.S. Calls Armenian Killings "Genocide", Harut Sassounian
  7. London Family's Armenian Experience, Eddie Arnavoudian
  8. A New Political Challenge For Armenians By Edmond Y. Azadian

Armeno-Turkish Relations: Pitfalls and Possibilities, Vartan Oskanian’s Speech at the Fordham Law School, New York, 18 June 2009
I want to thank you for this invitation to speak here today, about a topic that is at the center of Armenia’s foreign policy, Armenia’s international relations, Armenia’s relations with the Diaspora, and of course, also at the center of the Diaspora’s own agenda. That is Armenia-Turkey relations.

In my book “Speaking to be heard” where I have a long introduction about the foreign policy considerations that are reflected in my decade of speeches, one of the points I make is that with any natural change of administration anywhere, in any country, it is natural that there be both continuity and change in a country’s foreign policy.

In the case of Armenia’s policy regarding Turkey, since independence, it can be said that the policies of each succeeding administration have indeed been both the same, and different.

Armenia’s interests dictate that we have normal relations with our neighbors, all of them, including Turkey. And we have tried to achieve that these 17 years. But it is also true that each administration has done so differently, given the imperatives of the day and the philosophies of the individuals in charge.

In Armenian society, too, over time there has been some evolution in thinking about what we want from Armenia-Turkey relations, but again, by and large, the thinking has been consistent – we are ready for normal relations, despite deep and sometimes grave misgivings.

On the Turkish side, I think it’s fair to say that there are four layers of thought, four types of groupings, that we have had to and that we continue to have to reckon with.

The first, the most difficult to contend with, the deepest and most pervasive level is the contingent that feeds and nurtures the xenophobia, paranoia, racism and exclusion. That segment of society that has been raised in a vacuum, with no historical information about their past or ours, that level is at best ignorant of the causes and consequences of a lack of relations between us, or, worse, wants them to stay that way because of a cynical fear of a demonized Armenian neighbor. You and I still hear, too often, the frightening statements by such extremist elements in Turkish society, who, unfortunately, are not a minority, and whose actions are dangerous, especially for Armenians, friends of Armenians, and other minorities living in Turkey.

The second is the Kemalist elite – those who represent the deep state, the military, the old guard who are more interested in protecting Turkey’s honor and image than in confronting history, acknowledging geography, accepting responsibility and appreciating neighbors. The first two Turkish foreign ministers I dealt with were part of this elite. Today, you and I continue to hear ambassadors and other representatives of the Turkish Republic who have made it their mission to distort, deny and dismiss Armenians and Armenia.

Fortunately, there is a third and more promising segment with whom I’ve also dealt, and have come away from our meetings moved and hopeful. These are those members of Turkish society from the press, academia, cultural and other spheres who can best be described as personal and philosophical friends and allies of Hrant Dink, those who acknowledge a responsibility for our open wounds, and are ready to engage in a deep and meaningful dialogue. This is the segment we need to work with, to reciprocate if need to be; because if ever a change is to come in Turkish society, and create a bottom-up pressure on their government for some kind of recognition in the future, it will come from this group.

Finally, there is the fourth group – those in power in Turkey today – more westward looking, more democratic, more pragmatic in foreign policy, more cognizant of Turkey’s potential role in the region. When this government first was elected to office, they clearly articulated an intention to review their policies towards all neighbors, including Armenia. They aimed for zero problems with neighbors and a greater role in the swiftly changing geopolitical dynamic. In my first meeting with then foreign minister Gul, he clearly articulated a desire to distinguish Armenia-Turkey relations from Azerbaijan. But Azerbaijani pressure prevailed and Turkey’s policy did not change.

At that time, Turkey’s own interests were not what they are today. Accession talks with the EU had not yet begun; Turkey wanted an oil pipeline from Azerbaijan; the Armenian genocide resolution process around the world had not gathered steam; Turkey’s economy was not in crisis mode; and Georgia-Russia tensions were not consequential.

In the end, Turkey did not find the political will to make a move that would anger Azerbaijan. We continued to talk to Turkey’s leaders, however, but we did so quietly, confidentially, in order not to allow Turkey to benefit from the fact that it was talking. Turkey, as I’ve explained, did not have the intention or ability to implement the results that they themselves had said they needed.

But the world had changed greatly by 2008. And that, in part, can explain the public daring of the new Armenian administration, who conducted negotiations with Turkey in public, for all to see. My own brief optimism that perhaps there really was something to this high-profile dialogue can also be explained by how the new geopolitical deck of cards is being played.

The world is so different in fact that the necessity of opening the Turkish-Armenian border is something about which both Russia and the US agree. In fact, in the face of Russia-Georgia strains, Turkey can benefit from a new role in the Caucasus. That is why it proposed the Platform for Cooperation and Security in the Caucasus right after the Russia-Georgia war.

But Turkey let this opportunity go by. Just as it missed the chance in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia. Just as in 2004, with the beginning of EU accession talks. So, in 2009, too, although everyone — Russia, Europe, the US, and Turkey and Armenia wanted the border open, Turkey retreated, under pressure from Azerbaijan, saying that only progress in the Nagorno Karabakh settlement process can move the situation forward.

We are willing to open a border with an intransigent neighbor and that is a compromise. We have extended a hand to cooperate with a government that finances the denial of the genocidal actions of its predecessors and that is a compromise, a serious, grave, potentially consequential security compromise. But that is the extent of our compromise. We cannot allow that intransigent neighbor who has not used its clout to foster confidence and cooperation in the region, who has not been an honest broker in the Caucasus or in international organizations as far as Armenia is concerned, we cannot, we will not allow that neighbor to negotiate with third countries to push along a resolution on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. That is a security compromise we are not prepared to make. We want a negotiated lasting settlement for the people of Nagorno Karabakh, and we will make the concessions necessary to reach such a settlement, without conceding their security.

Such a settlement for any conflict at any time would depend on several factors: the global and regional interests of the major powers and their present interrelationships, the dominant trends in international relations as manifested in the agendas and decisions of international organizations (such as the UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the conflicting sides’ own present political and economic situations.

For Armenia and Karabakh, all four of these quickly changing factors are important. But the most pressing among the four parameters identified above is the pressure resulting from the U.S. push for improved relations between Turkey and Armenia. President Barack Obama stuck his neck out to try to promote these relations. He believed this compensated for his not using the term genocide on April 24. April 24 will come around again next year, however, so the pressure has not disappeared. Relations still need to be improved.

But the way in which Turkey has been exploiting the situation that’s been created as a result of Armenia’s good will, means we are going to have to work hard now to make certain that we indeed do not get blamed for this process not having reached the result that everyone wants. And the international community will proceed in one of two ways. Either the international community will understand that Turkey took Armenia, and the US, and Europe, for a ride and is responsible for what is now a more distrustful atmosphere and for a border that remains closed.

Or — and herein lies the danger and the challenge to all of us — the international community will increase pressure on Armenians in the Nagorno Karabakh resolution process because Turkey and Azerbaijan say that only with progress there can something positive be expected on the Armenia-Turkey front. In fact, they have already been saying everything’s ready, we’re ready so let’s pressure them to return some territories so that we can justify opening the border.

So we must put the pressure on in Washington and elsewhere to not allow Turkey to manipulate the situation. Turkey having already benefited will now try to create a situation to satisfy Azerbaijan in order to be able to open the border. The Armenia-Turkey process began with both sides promising that there are no pre-conditions. Now there is a condition and it’s related to a third country, so we must insist that Azerbaijan’s conditions not become a pre-condition in Armenia-Turkey relations, and that the border be opened based on whatever has been agreed bilaterally.

Political Analyst Predicts End Of `Armenia-Turkey Honeymoon' By Georg Khachaturyan
A period of thaw in Armenian-Turkish relations has ended and more chill is coming, according to a Yerevan-based political analyst who sees Ankara's growing concerns not to risk relations with regional ally Azerbaijan.

Sergey Shakaryants argued at a press conference Thursday that Armenian concessions in the dispute with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh are becoming a more important precondition for Ankara for establishing bilateral ties with Yerevan than the demand for an end to the worldwide Armenian push for the recognition of the Ottoman-era killings of more than 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.

Shakaryants, who spoke as an independent analyst, in the past had worked as an international affairs export for a number of think tanks in Armenia, including the Armenian Center for National and International Studies and the Kavkaz analytical center.

Shakaryants reminded the media about high hopes among Armenians both in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora that U.S. President Barack Obama would use the word genocide in an annual presidential address on April 24, Genocide Remembrance Day, and that Congress would launch a corresponding process and all state instances would pass a law condemning the Armenian Genocide. According to the analyst, Turkey's behavior after Obama's failure to honor his campaign promise and use the G-word proves it does not even expect such a step from the United States.

`We are ready to conduct negotiations with Turkey, but without any preconditions,' said the analyst. `The main precondition of Turkey is that the Armenian sides [Armenia and Karabakh] must admit their defeat and surrender in the Karabakh issue,' he said, pointing out that it is clear from the latest meeting of the president of Armenia with representatives of the Armenian Diaspora that Armenia will reject this condition set by Turkey.

And this implies that the Armenian-Turkish `honeymoon' is nearing completion, according to Shakaryants.

At the same time, the analyst believes that the Karabakh conflict is unlikely to be resolved in the near future as Azerbaijan today is not ready to make concessions, in particular in the issue of the referendum on Karabakh's status.

`It is pointless to expect a quick and effective settlement of the problem today,' said Shakaryants.

In the current situation, the Armenian side should take a hard-line and `demand a lot in order to get at least half, and namely what we have no right to give up,' he said.

Strategic Split: Fast Lane Geopolitics May Reduce Russia's Influence In The Region Analysis By Aris Ghazinyan
The agreement on creation of Collective Rapid Reaction Forces has been recently signed at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Moscow. The agreement was signed without the participation of Belarus and Uzbekistan member-countries. Official Minsk has already qualified the agreement as `illegal' and sent a note of protest to CSTO's secretariat.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev thinks that Uzbekistan's and Belarus's decision not to sign the agreement on the creation of Collective forces should not be dramatized. `We are ready for our partners who haven't signed that document yet to think it over and after having assessed the situation to eventually sign the document,' the president said.

One way or another, the outline of a potentially serious crack within that most important military-strategic organization is obvious. Some half a year ago nobody could have even predicted that such weighty players as Minsk and Tashkent would ignore not only the CSTO summit, but would openly speak out against the decision to create the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces.

CSTO block was founded during the period when the Soviet Union collapsed and was an attempt to preserve a single military-political space on the territory of the disintegrating state. In 1992 seven post-Soviet republics became members of CSTO - Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Armenia. In 1993 Georgia and Azerbaijan joined the block almost simultaneously, hoping to get Russia's support in inter-ethnic conflicts. However, in the period of `Eltsin Russia' Moscow was unable to solve serious political issues, and CSTO was more like an `internal buy-and-sell market for armaments', than a serious military-political factor. For this reason Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan left the block in 1999.

In 2006, Uzbekistan re-entered the organization, however, quite recently, news spread on negotiations between the USA and Uzbekistan about opening a new US military base on the territory of Uzbekistan which would carry out military operations in Afghanistan, to replace the Kirgiz Manas. (According to the statement by the Commander of the US military base in Kirgizstan Christopher Bens, the base will be closed by August 18 as required by the Kirgiz government.)

Hence, the agreement on creation of Collective Rapid Reaction Forces in CSTO structure has been signed only by Russia, Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia.

To some degree, it is Armenia's situation that seems most indefinite. All other CSTO member-countries signing the agreement have a direct land connection by Tajikistan-Kirgizstan-Kazakhstan-Russia line, but Armenia is isolated from that vector.

Moreover, as opposed to the Central Asian region, where Moscow's positions are sufficiently strong, despite Uzbekistan's demarche, in the South Caucasus CSTO's main rival organization NATO's positions look a bit more preferable. It holds strong positions in Georgia and Azerbaijan.

North-Atlantic Alliance member Turkey directly borders the region and is trying to influence the political process of each of the countries. There is little doubt that the activated relations between Armenia and Turkey is a Western project, aimed at `reorienting ' Yerevan towards the West. At the moment Russian military base 102 is located in Armenia (in Giumri), and the Armenian-Turkish border is guarded by three Russian frontier detachments together with Armenian forces. Will Yerevan be able to `survive' this complicated situation, especially with the view of the split inside CSTO?

`I do not think that Armenia will be looking towards NATO in the nearest future, despite bordering a NATO country - Turkey, and the recent slight warming in Armenia-Turkey relations,' says Leonid Gusev, senior scientific worker at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

`Besides that, the Armenian elite has major connections with Russia businesswise and in terms of different security structures. There is also a big Armenian community in Russia, members of which are both Russian and Armenian citizens who are making huge money transfers to their homeland. That is why, in terms of practicality it isn't in Armenia's interest to join NATO.'

He also said that at least for another several years Armenia would not seek NATO membership: `Especially that the Karabakh issue is not settled with Azerbaijan, which can become another obstacle on the way to NATO, even if all Armenian elite would want that.' It is significant, however, that the Russian expert does not exclude the possibility of such desire on the part of `all Armenian elite' .

Ankara, in its turn, has activated efforts in the international arena. As soon as Yerevan's readiness to sign the agreement on the collective forces on June 14 became known, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davudoghlu made a statement: `Turkey will submit the Karabakh issue for consideration to the United Nations Security Council in June. ' This statement has come as a big surprise to Yerevan, which has repeatedly been stating that the dialogue with Turkey is held only on the issues of bilateral relations between the countries. The Armenian authorities have not commented on that statement yet.

One should think the discussion of the Karabakh issue initiated by Turkey at the UN Security Council and especially the CSTO member-countries' position on this issue will seriously affect the perspectives of that military-strategic organization's influence in the South Caucasus.

Turkish-American Cooperation In The Broader Eurasian Region (I & II) Faruk Loğoğlu
Eurasia is now the premier competition ground for all major international actors vying for power, influence and resources. The importance and the meaning of the magnitudes of broader Eurasia, which for the purpose of this article refers to Asia, Europe plus the Middle East put together, need no elaboration. Most of the world’s population, wealth and energy resources are there.

Russia and China are contenders for super-power status. In addition to France, Germany and the United Kingdom, other states such as India, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey have joined the competition for spheres of influence. Issues of security, economy and energy beset the region. There are ongoing conflicts, so-called frozen conflicts and potential conflicts. Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in 1997, "Eurasia is the world's axial super continent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia." Clearly, the stakes are high, making future balances and power relationships in the region of critical importance for the overall stability and prosperity of the entire globe.

It is therefore important to explore the subject of whether and how Turkey and the United States can join their assets toward common ends in this vast region. This would also enable us to understand the meaning of U.S. President Barrack Obama’s concept of the "model partnership" he used in describing his country’s relationship with Turkey.

Let us first establish why Turkey and the U.S. are suitable partners. Their suitability, I propose, emanates from the foundational pillars of their relationship. One pillar is their bond of shared values and principles of society: namely democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and separation of religion and state. Turkey is still unique in espousing and nurturing these standards in its region and among Muslim countries. Undoubtedly, neither Turkey nor the U.S. has perfect scores in any of these domains, but they both commit to these ideals as the norms they want to attain. The similarity of their aspirations provides a functional capacity for them to join their resources for common ends. This allows them to similarly perceive, analyze and approach the challenges they face.

Another pillar of Turkish-American relations is somewhat uneven, but still stable and established. This is the general convergence of their interests, concerns and priorities. Their agendas invariably comprise mostly the same items, whether it is terrorism or energy, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Caucasus or the Balkans or the future of NATO, just to mention a few. This is not to say that they see eye to eye on any given issue, but their margin of agreement is mostly large enough for them to act together on most matters. They are allies in NATO and have a tested friendship.

In the past, these foundations have enabled Turkey and the U.S. to join hands. Their soldiers fought together in Korea in the early 1950s. They have contributed to stability and security operations over a vast geography extending from the Balkans to Indonesia, from Georgia to Somalia. Most recently, the joint declaration issued at the end of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s March visit to Turkey reaffirmed these strong bonds of alliance, solidarity and strategic partnership and their commitment to the principles of peace, democracy, freedom, and prosperity. The timing and substance of President Obama’s April visit to Turkey confirmed there are meeting points of values, interests and goals between the two nations. His "model partnership" reference emphasized the relationship’s distinctive character and potential.

As we test the validity of our proposition, I suggest that there are at least five broad areas for Turkish-American cooperation in the broader Eurasia region. These are: a) regional and transnational issues, b) security, c) sociopolitical issues, d) economy and e) energy.

Regional and transnational issues

The Euro-Atlantic community is still the leading entity that has the power and influence to shape the evolution of the broader Eurasian region. This is why it is critically important to strengthen the cohesion of the community and its institutions, and bolster its claim for moral and ethical leadership. As its two outermost poles, Turkey and the U.S. have a special responsibility, and the strategic depth, to help NATO pursue its transformation into the premier security provider of the 21st century. The two must also help the European Union evolve from its current standing as a Judeo-Christian club into a genuine union of civilizations. The first step required is to make Turkey an EU member. A related objective is the strengthening linkages of the rest of Eurasia with Euro-Atlantic institutions.

The Balkans is still unstable and prone to renewed violence. Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia are in need of continuing assistance and attention from the Euro-Atlantic community. Turkey has been a significant contributor to the United Nations, NATO and EU operations in the region. Turkey and the U.S. can help by maintaining their cooperation there.

Regarding Russia, Turkish-American collaboration can focus on the limitation and control of weapons of mass destruction as well as of conventional forces, given that their policies on the matter coincide. Turkey is also poised to become a stable, secure and viable hub for oil and natural gas transmission and distribution from Central Asia, the Caspian region and the Middle East to the rest of the world. A U.S. lead in this respect would help reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas and enforce the independence of the former Soviet satellites.

In the Caucasus, helping Georgia stabilize and restore its territorial integrity and the resolution of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia are issues on which Turkey and the U.S. have long collaborated. There is need for a better coordination and focusing of their ongoing efforts, whether bilaterally or in multilateral forums, to achieve the resolution of these thorny problems.

Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, have become the new fulcrum of international concern. President Obama has made these issues top priority. Turkey enjoys close relations with both and is highly active on the front. Turkey is organizing a new summit in November with the leaders of the two countries. Turkey and the U.S. already collaborate extensively in this regard and should continue to do so in the near future.

Turkey enjoys ties with Iran

Meanwhile, Iran’s activities in Iraq and the Gulf and its nuclear program continue to preoccupy both Turkey and the U.S. Turkey supports Obama’s proposed engagement of Iran and is also against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. However, Turkey enjoys substantial economic and social ties with its neighbor Iran. We also have a steady dialogue with the Iranians and contacts at the highest levels of leadership. After the recent elections there, we need a better-calibrated approach toward Iran to meet its concerns and to encourage it along the path of democracy. Turkey can assist such a process by guiding and counseling the U.S. as it engages with Iran.

Perhaps the most promising area for result-oriented Turkish-American cooperation is the Middle East. The Ottoman Turks ruled the region for a number of centuries. After recognizing its independence from the start, today Turkey has a robust relationship with Israel richly textured with political, economic, military and cultural components. We have close relationships with all the Arab states. This puts Turkey in the position of a trusted facilitator. This is why Turkey is significantly involved in the Palestinian-Israeli dimension and plays hosts to Israeli-Syrian peace talks.

The future of Iraq remains uncertain. That future depends largely on how much Turkey and the U.S. can remain on the same track. Despite some conflicting views in certain areas, both Turkey and the U.S. want to see a united, single Iraq. During and after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the U.S. will seek and need Turkish help and cooperation. Turkey must act within consistent policies toward the future of Iraq and concerning its relations with the different components of a united Iraq.

Among the transnational issues, I should mention the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Turkey and the U.S. are natural allies in this respect. They have both experienced the worst of terrorism and extremism. Their cooperation in combating them is of critical value. Turkey, with its secular democracy, is indeed a "model partner" for the U.S. as they try to address the sources of extremism in both the East and the West.

- Security Security is a highly prized and scarce commodity amid the contemporary setting of asymmetric threats, ethnic, sectarian and tribal conflicts, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, pandemics and natural disasters.

Turkish-American cooperation in this area should first aim at strengthening NATO. Consequently, success of the NATO mission in Afghanistan should be a priority as NATO’s future hinges on its outcome. The two allies should also strive to develop closer NATO links with countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Gulf along the lines of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative signed at the 2004 NATO Summit. That agreement aims to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering countries of the broader Middle East region practical bilateral security cooperation with NATO.

In this connection, we must not overlook Russian sensitivities. The Russian invasion of Georgia last August was in part a result of Tbilisi’s miscalculation that NATO would come to its aid against Russia. A promise of early NATO membership to the countries in the Caucasus is not likely to enhance stability and security there. The better alternative might be to encourage closer ties with the EU and for Turkey and the United States to encourage both sides in this direction. Turkey and the United States have already engaged in security and defense cooperation in certain countries of the region. The two NATO allies have provided training and equipment to the armed forces of Georgia. Turkey’s General Staff has military training programs in several other countries of the region. Here there is room for the expansion of Turkish-American cooperation.

At the same time, it will be necessary to work with Russia and China on the development of new security architecture for Eurasia. There are already security groupings clustered around Russia and China. The Euro-Atlantic community must develop security strategies for the future, taking into account all interested parties, including of course Russia and China.

- Sociopolitical issues

Under the rubric of sociopolitical issues, I dwell on democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and education, and on secularism. In the Middle East, the Caucasus and Asia, these values are still very scarce. However, progress, prosperity and more broadly, advances in civilization depend on them, particularly on the attainment of equality between man and woman and on the quality of education. The singularly important concept of relevance here is secularism. For the full exercise of all freedoms, including religious freedom, there has to be a thorough separation of the affairs of the state and the law from matters of religion. Secularism acts as the connective tissue of these end values we uphold so dearly.

Turkey and the United States, given their commitment to these values and principles, can join their respective experiences and wisdom in their promotion and in developing bilateral or trilateral programs in countries that are willing to host them. There is, of course, no set prescription for their effective diffusion. However, we can tell how critical and accurate such initiatives are from the reaction of the Taliban in Afghanistan to stop Afghan girls from going to school. The Taliban knows that knowledge and education are its enemies. The approach should be modest and incremental, but sustained. Change is always difficult but what is important is to make small starts in the right direction. The crucial dimension in this respect is the encouragement and support of civil society. President Obama in his Cairo address emphasized women’s rights, education, science and youth. Turkey and the United States have the assets and the capacity to engage in useful and effective schemes of cooperation in these areas.

- Economy

Turkey has extensive economic, commercial and investment relations in most of the broader Eurasian region. The newly independent states of Central Asia are especially ripe for further economic activity. Their economies will do much better if they connect with European and global markets. Turkey has now become a donor country on its own and has created a special agency that administers aid to many countries in the region. Economic development is a cushion providing security, prosperity and a sense of confidence and well-being to individuals. President Obama identified it as a major challenge. The surest way for nations to advance as peace-loving and politically stable partners is sustained economic and social development. Turkey and the United States can together undertake economic projects aiming at economic development, the reduction of political tensions through joint economic activity between adversaries and providing opportunities to women. I remember from my days as Turkey’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, how many American companies started their investments and operations there from their existing bases in Turkey. Turkey is thus a reliable and experienced partner for joint ventures with the United States and a convenient transfer point into Asia and the Middle East.

- Energy

Finally, energy is an area where Turkey and the United States have very concrete converging interests. For reliable access to oil and gas from the Middle East, the Caspian and Central Asia, Turkey, for political, strategic, economic and environmental reasons, is the ideal conduit. Turkey is turning into a major energy hub. There are now multiple gas and oil pipelines in Turkey, carrying Russian, Azerbaijani, Iranian and Iraqi oil and gas. There are new projects underway that will provide Europe with energy. Turkey can help diversify the energy market and reduce the temptation to use energy as a tool of power politics. It is important to reduce Russia’s dominance in this sphere. This is necessary not only for providing a margin of comfort for the European consumers, but also for bolstering the independence and the economy of the newly independent states.

The United States is the biggest energy consumer in the world and is increasingly dependent on foreign oil and gas.

In the context of rising competition for energy with the entry of rising economies like China and India into the market, energy is going to be a major determinant of international relations in the 21st century. This is why the United States helped the realization of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. This is why energy has always been an area of close cooperation and coordination between Turkey and the United States I believe this will continue well into the future.

- Conclusion

This then is what I think Turkey and the United States can do together in this vast geography. I know this is not an exhaustive list. I also know much of it will probably not materialize. My hope and expectation, however, is that Turkey and the United States, having the potential, will devise ways and means to enhance security, stability and prosperity in the broader Eurasian region. We will all be better off if the two succeed.

* Dr. Faruk Loğoğlu was Turkey's Ambassador to Washington D.C. between 2002 and 2006. www.hurriyet.com.tr

From The Halki International Seminar: Caucasus Quagmire, Barçın Yinanç
Had I started to write this article during the weekend, I would have started by saying that despite the relative calm in the Caucasus, the region’s future proved to be one of the most debated issues during the Halki International Seminar.

Just as I came back from three days of brainstorming this weekend with a group composed of journalists, academics, current and ex-bureaucrats from the Eurasia region, news came about the suicide bomb attack against Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the head of Russia's turbulent Ingushetia region, reminding us how relative calm can be easily disrupted.

This actually is the gist of the matter when it comes to frozen conflicts. The term "frozen" might be delusional since it might hide the fact that a frozen conflict might in a second melt down to a bloody war.

In this sense, the debate on the frozen conflicts in the Caucasus was an eye opener for me, since the discussions have provided not only information about the current situation but also a perspective on what to expect.

It goes without saying that Russia’s policy towards the region is shaped by its "sphere of influence" approach to security.

"For Russia, there are no frozen conflicts," a Russian scholar bluntly said. "These areas are simply instruments for Russia’s policy to exert influence. Hence, Moscow wants to keep the status quo to maintain its sphere of influence," he added.

The West is critical of Russian "sphere of influence" approach to security. But let’s face it Ñ the West is also responsible for Russia’s resistance to give up its old reflexes. The United States and the EU have never been sensitive enough to Moscow’s sense of encirclement. That’s why the war last summer between Georgia and Russia caught everyone by surprise.

The scholar implied that Russian intervention took place in order to stop NATO enlargement. In fact, it did bring about the expected result: a pause to the North Atlantic Alliance’s enlargement.

And no one contested the view that it will be almost impossible for Georgia to get back Abkhazia and South Ossetia, at least in the foreseeable future. As the Russian scholar rightly put it, Russia has created two new "Northern Cyprus," but without the consequences that the creation of Northern Cyprus has had on Turkey.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not dominating the Russian - European/American agenda, the way Cyprus problem does so to the Turkish - European agenda.

Yet, Russia needs a positive agenda with the West, argued the same scholar. Hence, it might take some steps towards the resolution of other frozen conflicts in the region, such as Trans Dniester and Nagorno Karabakh.

Many agreed that the easiest one to be solved is the problem in Tarns Dniester, since it's neither an ethnic nor a religious conflict. One should not forget that, no matter how the problem is solved, Russia will only be helpful with the condition that the result will not hamper its policy of keeping Moldova in its orbit.

The same is valid for Nagorno Karabakh. It is much more difficult to solve it, though. Since it is much more complicated and involves more stakeholders, such as Turkey. As an Azerbaijani participant rightly pointed out, a solution should provide a win-win situation for all the regional players. None should think that a solution would create an outcome that will be contrary to its interest. The Russian presence and influence in Armenia is well known, whereas Azerbaijan is trying to maintain an equidistant relationship with both Russia and the West. The resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh, which will be accompanied with the normalization of relations between Ankara and Yerevan, will inevitably end with Armenia and Azerbaijan coming out of the Russian orbit. Though some speculate that Russia wants a solution to Nagorno Karabakh in order to further isolate Georgia, the fear of loosing Armenia and Azerbaijan (and with it their gas) will outweigh its desire to see Georgia further isolated. Thus, Russia will remain one of the greatest challenges as far as the resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh problem is concerned.

One last note from the seminar: some participants were wondering what happened to Turkey’s initiative, the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation platform. I told them one should not be surprised of the fact that we no longer hear much about it. It was doomed to fail from the very beginning. It was not well thought out in advance. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his advisors came up with the idea and announced it without a healthy internal debate and tossed it to the bureaucrats so that they would fill it in with substance. It was just another product of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s ambition to prove it is a player.

The problem is, if it comes with empty plans like that, it will soon see its credibility in pieces.
Barçın Yinanç © Copyright 2008 Hürriyet

Israel's New Ambassador to the U.S. Calls Armenian Killings "Genocide", Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier
Israel's new Ambassador to the United States , Michael B. Oren, is a firm believer in the veracity of the Armenian Genocide, despite his government's denialist position on this issue.

Prior to his ambassadorial appointment, Oren repeatedly confirmed the facts of the Armenian Genocide in his writings. In the May 10, 2007 issue of the New York Review of Books, he wrote a highly positive review of Taner Akcam's book: "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility." The review was titled: "The Mass Murder They Still Deny." In his most recent book, "Power, Faith and Fantasy," Oren made dozens of references to Armenia and Armenians, including lengthy heart-wrenching descriptions of the mass killings before and during the Armenian Genocide. Here are some of the most striking quotations from his book:

"The buildup of Ottoman oppression and Armenian anger erupted finally in the spring of 1894, when Turkish troops set out to crush a local rebellion, but then went on to raze entire villages and slaughter all of their inhabitants =80¦. Some 200,000 Armenians died -- 20 percent of the population -- and a million homes were ransacked. 'Armenian holocaust,' cried a New York Times headline in September 1895, employing the word that would later become synonymous with genocide."

Oren then went on to establish that more than a century ago, similar to today's acrimonious political tug-of-war over the genocide recognition issue, the Armenian atrocities seriously affected U.S.-Turkish relations. He wrote: "Maintaining amicability with Turkey would prove complicated, however, because ties between the United States and the Porte [Sultan] had long been frayed. The perennial source of friction was the oppression of Armenian Christians. Though a band of modernizing Young Turks, many of them graduates of Roberts College, had achieved power in Istanbul in 1908 and promised equal rights for all of the empire's citizens, barely a year passed before the slaughter of Armenians resumed. Some thirty thousand of them were butchered by Turkish troops in south-central Anatolia."

In a section titled, "The most horrible crime in human history," Oren wrote: "The first reports, from December 1914, told of anti-Christian pogroms in Bitlis, in eastern Turkey , and the hanging of hundreds of Armenians in the streets of Erzerum. Armenian men between the ages of twenty and sixty were being conscripted into forced-labor battalions, building roads, and hauling supplies for the Turkish army. The following month, after their defeat by Russian forces in the Caucasus , Turkish troops salved their humiliation by pillaging Armenian towns and executing their Armenian laborers. In the early spring, Turkish soldiers laid siege to the Armenian city of Van in eastern Anatolia and began the first of innumerable mass deportations. The slaughter then raged westward to Istanbul, where, on April 24, security forces arrested and hanged some 250 Armenian leaders and torched Armenian neighborhoods. Interior Minister Talaat Pasha informed the Armenian Patriarch that 'there was no room for Christians in Turkey' and advised him and his parishioners 'to clear out of the country.'"

Oren then exposed Turkey 's attempts to falsify history by pointing out that: "Most contemporary observers agree that the massacres were scarcely connected to the war, but rather represented a systematically planned and executed program to eliminate an entire people. Indeed, foreshadowing the Nazi genocide of the Jews twenty-five years later, Turkish soldiers herded entire Armenian villages into freezing rivers, incinerated them in burning churches, or simply marched them into the deserts and abandoned them to die of thirst=80¦. By the end of summer, an estimated 800,000 Armenians had been killed and countless others forcibly converted to Islam."

After citing numerous eyewitness accounts of the mass killings, Oren concluded: "In all, as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a genocide that the Turkish government would never acknowledge, much less regret." While it is true that Michael Oren published this book before his assignment as Ambassador to Washington, his compelling position on the Armenian Genocide would hopefully make him refrain from following the footsteps of his predecessors who shamefully lobbied against the congressional resolution on this issue.

The appointment of a staunch supporter of the truth of the Armenian Genocide as Israel's Ambassador to Washington comes on the heels of a major rift between Turkey and Israel following the Gaza war earlier this year. On that occasion, there were major manifestations of anti-Semitic statements and acts throughout Turkey, including anti-Israeli remarks by Turkish Prime Minister Rejeb Erdogan. His insulting words to Israel's President Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland, antagonized Israelis and Jews worldwide. Even though Israel downplayed Erdogan's offensive words, they did a lasting damage to Israeli-Turkish relations.

The combination of an Israeli government that is less sympathetic of Turkey and the presence of an Israeli Ambassador in Washington who is a firm believer in the facts of the Armenian Genocide may facilitate the passage of the pending congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.

London Family's Armenian Experience, June 22, 2009, Eddie Arnavoudian, Uk
On 6 June we returned to London from an extraordinary two weeks in Armenia, the first in Yerevan and the second in the northern towns of Dilijan, Vanadzor, Alaverti, Ijevan and the hills and mountains of Lori and Tavush. It was a hugely rewarding but also eye opening experience; a fantastic adventure for us and our children but also a direct confrontation with some harsh truths about Armenia and its possible future. And beyond adventure and harsh confrontation a conviction that Armenia is a beautiful land with a people deserving of all the support we can give it.

All I offer here are some impressions acquired through observation and conversation.

As the plane touched down in Yerevan just after 6.00am there was loud applause from the largely Los Angeles Armenian passengers. Was it to congratulate the pilot on a safe landing or an expression of delight on arrival in a welcoming homeland? I don't know. But it was a good, cheering moment. Welcoming Armenia certainly was, and for me in a very moving way.

When I first arrived in Britain from Kenya my first experience was an ugly outburst of xenophobia and ignorance: `Why don't you go back to India?' cried out a group of malign airport workers for whom at that time all foreigners it appears were from India. On subsequent exits and returns I have been affronted by quizzical inquiries about my place of birth, my nationality and how I had come to possess a British passport.

At Yerevan's Zvartnotz Airport we were treated normally and this itself was a delight.

No one at the airport or anywhere in Armenia told us to go India or return to where we came from. Quite the contrary...We were welcomed and urged to stay and live at home. Everybody around us was a `yan' or a `ian'. It was a deeply satisfying feeling later followed by equally satisfying moments sitting in Yerevan's beautiful Republic Square and feeling, for the first time, at home.

But home is a land of extremes - geographically, socially, politically and economically.

Hugely, unbelievably hospitable, generous and gregarious people, but trapped into a hopeless social poverty. Hopeless in the sense that there appears at the moment no way out, no promise of economic recovery or development that will give the ordinary Armenian family and their children a stable and firm grounding in his and her own land, a grounding that will secure them against being driven out of their homes in search of their bread and butter.

An immediate economic focus is not a descent into vulgar `economic determinism'. A solid and stable economic foundation that can secure life's essential needs is the core of any individual, family, community or nation. In Armenia the family breadwinners are never secure in their job, they are poorly rewarded, frequently underemployed or unemployed and with little employment commensurate with qualification.

For the mass of the people there is no evidence of urgently needed improvement to their communities. A large part of Yerevan, and even more so of Vanadzor, Alaverti and Dilijan appears terribly run down and dilapidated. There has not been nor is there any promise of desperately needed renovation to the population's domestic apartment blocs. Public services and public transport are shaky to put it mildly.

A 27-year-old qualified surgeon works as a barman. A 46-year-old veterinary scientist works as a taxi driver. Pensions are miserable so men and women of 70 years and more who suffer poor health must continue to work 5 days a week in order to make ends meet. Families are broken up as their young, the future of the land, are forced into emigration in search of employment and sustenance for themselves and their families back in Armenia.

Sustaining life in Armenia is hard. It is not a pleasure and a joy as it should or could be.

Life in Armenia is not normal. It appears without internal, solid domestic foundation. It is dependent on relatives sending remittances from Russia and elsewhere, on Diaspora benevolence. There is an artificiality and fragility evident in screaming, unmediated contrasts between widespread dilapidation and small corners of the gaudiest glitter.

The only signs of 'progress', if this is what one will insist on calling it, refer to the lives and conditions of the 5% of the population that is extremely wealthy, because 95% of the rest is extremely poor. For this 5% new shopping malls and precincts housing Gucci, Gap, Addidas etc and etc are being built in the City Centre. In Yerevan's wealthier suburbs one will note the rich building luxury apartment blocs or private homes for themselves on a vast scale.

Expensive 4x4s park outside expensive restaurants catering for flashy men and women in dark glasses who are utterly indifferent to a bent old lady further down the street trying to sell a few cucumbers for a living. The urge for flash glamour also distorts the natural beauty of many a young man and woman in Yerevan aping the gaudiest western fashions.

Those who have power to generate fashion trends appear to have a demeaning distaste for the natural Armenian appearance. VivaCell is a new cell phone provider. Its owner is a hugely generous social benefactor. But in VivaCell's city centre offices just off Republic Square there are large cell phone advertisements of young people `sharing their experience', of `staying connected'. Not one is Armenian! All are European. I could be in London or in Moscow! I did find that distasteful.

More unpleasant and distasteful were signs of human trafficking evident in posters on Yerevan's metro warning against a modern form of slavery and giving out telephone numbers to be called by anyone who had information that could help a victim. Besides the barbarism of human trafficking associated with prostitution I was also told that domestic violence against women is painfully widespread.

It is hardly surprising that there is no faith in the existing political system. Many believe that politics serves only an unjust reality. There is little evidence of spirited popular opposition. Everywhere there appears to be sullen political passivity. If there is any striving or ambition it is to leave the country. Emigration that saps Armenian energy is strikingly in distant rural villages deserted by the young.

The poet Barouyr Sevak remains a huge star and his work is recited as a critique of the ills of the day. A taxi driver quoted a passage of Sevak's in a denunciation of a local political leader and a different passage was quoted during a bus journey that took us by the house of a billionaire of murky reputation.

Publishing seems brisk if you judge by titles. But print runs are small and sales even smaller. As for newspapers...they are hardly read. Not just because of the dire layout and design. We were told, again repeatedly, that it was not worth reading papers as they all lie in aid of their owners or that political grouping favoured by their owners.

Perhaps a remnant of older days or maybe a reflection of an enduring love of culture were book shelves graced with Armenian and European classics translated into Armenian. There was also however a hint of the decline in reading with vastly abridged versions of the Armenian classics on sale in city centre bookshops. Shirvanzade's 400 pages Chaos was reduced to a 125 page notebook!

All these impressions from observations and countless conversations in buses and taxis crazily overcrowded both with passengers and goods, as well as from those with whom we stayed on our journey through different parts of a beautiful land. In buses, minivans and taxis we never heard a single good word said about the ruling elite. We did however hear many favourable remembrances of the Soviet days, and many of these from men and women from younger generations.

Despite the harsh realities the wonderful people we met enabled us to have a fantastic adventure. We enjoyed a legendary hospitality, were served and overfed with the grandest foods. Children were cherished and looked after. Space was always made for all to fit into. There was a human mutuality not evident in Europe.

Raffi and Souren and of course Sarah and myself enjoyed riding horses through the deepest gorges along the narrowest paths just north of Ichevan that ended at caves opening up into the sheerest cliffs. It was terrifying but exhilarating. We went into the mountains east of Hraztan to see eagles, other birds, snakes and lizards. The children climbed down into Khor Virab's 40m deep dungeon. By the beautifully calm Barz Litch near Koshavank they made bows and arrows in a flowered meadow encircled by vast overlooking peaks. They leaped into Lake Sevan and played in local rivers. But they also loved the Madenataran and the National History Museum, the Mardiros Saryan Museum, Yerevan's fountains and its children's museums too.

More still was evident in a natural world of staggering beauty.

Awesome mountains, forests and rivers conceal fantastic architectural marvels. It is not for nothing that parts of northern Armenia are compared to Switzerland. From the rooftop of our host's apartment bloc we had a stunning view of Ararat. Ancient monasteries and universities such Geghart, Noravank, Sanahin, Goshavank, Haghbad and others and of course Garni - many also once centres of art, culture, music and book production - are testimony to human genius. Built into rocks in the remotest heights as protection against the ravage and plunder of foreign invasion, they testify also to a stubborn Armenian will to endure against all the odds.

Yet...even in these majestically inspiring heights one could not escape the harsh face of poverty. In Noraduz a cemetery of some 300 beautifully carved Khatchkars beautiful young children, no more than 9 or 10 years old competed against a woefully impoverished older man for the privilege of earning a tourist's dollar by telling the history of the cemetery. In the midday heat old men and women cross steep gorges to pick natural herbs that they sell to survive. One cannot romanticize this reality by speaking of a greater proximity between men and women and nature.

Odd as it may seem these mountain monuments make one conscious of the continuing reality of the Genocide in modern Armenian life. You see ancient churches, khatchkar cemeteries, ruined castles and cannot help also being aware that across the borders, in Turkish occupied lands there are countless more of such marvels that have or are being systematically destroyed after its population was expelled from the 1870s onwards up to the 1915 catastrophe.

Armenian borders that cross into hostile states are never far away from any point you happen to be in. This again is an unfailing reminder of how the Genocide has compressed Armenia into a tiny and barely sustainable geographical area. One feels acutely hemmed in, stifled. The other side of the border is western Armenia and almost everyone we spoke to in modern Armenia had grand parents or ancestors hailing from there. People from historical Armenia have been squeezed into a tiny plot of land. The aftereffects of the Genocide are a living issue, not just a historical one.

Yet remarkable at least in our limited experience was a total absence of animosity towards ordinary Azeri or Turkish people. Gevork told us of how he worked together with Azeri scientists studying the flora and fauna around Sevan and of friendships which became family friendships. Raffi explained how Armenians, Georgians and Azerbaijanis serving in Soviet armed forces would stand as a single unit against overweening Russian national chauvinism. Gagik told us that he now has to travel to Tbilisi to meet up with Azeris who were neighbours in Armenia. These Azeris miss Armenia and would love to return. We were told that inter-national animosities had been stirred up by the politicians. Is there here not a seed of hope for amicably resolving inter-national problems in Armenia and the Caucuses.

Armenia has great potential. But it is being squandered and wasted, a squandering and a wasting that is putting the state and the nation at risk. It does not have a great deal of natural resources or raw materials. But it does still have a population willing to work. There is vast agricultural potential, evident in any trip through the country, that has however been left to rack and ruin. In the centre of Yerevan there is a shoe factory fully equipped but with no resources to function it. In Alaverti the copper mine operates at a miniscule fraction of its capacity.

With properly organized state assistance agricultural, industrial and artisan production could go a long way to giving the land economic muscle. Such economic development does require state guidance. But in today's ideological climate small nations are not supposed to give state support to their economies. This is only the privilege of the USA and Europe! Does the existing Armenian elite have the muscle or the desire to defy ideology and look after the interests of the Armenian nation and people?

The Armenian elite does have muscle but not for nation building, only for personal gain. The forces that control Armenian life have no national, popular or democratic project, no strategic vision or ambition to strengthen the nation, the state and the people.

A beautiful and potentially prosperous land is being destroyed. Many a time we were told how vast sums of money that had been pumped in to the country had been pocketed by the corrupt. The absence of vision, project and strategy is terrifying. Testimony to the deep rot is the treatment of Armenian soldiers in the Armenian Army, the force that is supposed to defend the state and the nation. Many young Armenians do all in their power to avoid national service so bad are conditions there.

One only needs the faintest idea of the threat posed by a hostile Turkey and Azerbaijan to see how weak the Armenian state would be in the event of any assault.

In this context one has to take one's hat off to Armen Aivazyan and his colleagues at the Ararat Center for Strategic Research. You do not have to be in agreement with their entire thesis, but you will have to admit that of the public platforms available for investigation and debate about Armenia's future the Ararat Center offers the most reasoned and stimulating one.

--Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in Los Angeles

A New Political Challenge For Armenians By Edmond Y. Azadian, AZG Armenian Daily 26/06/2009
Political realism would instruct us that we should not expect a quick and easy resolution for the issue of Genocide recognition, yet we were shocked when our expectations hit a wall; President Obama avoided using the "G" word in his first Martyr's Day statement, although he came halfway around with his other statements made during his Ankara trip. This means that we will continue the campaign and hold the president accountable on his pledge. If we can conduct an effective campaign, we may expect him to deliver on his commitment perhaps before his term expires and he seeks Armenian votes for his second term. That will be a good opportunity to ask him to use the "G" word, while he is still in the Oval Office. At that time there will be no difference between candidate Obama and President Obama.

If 94 years of struggle has not consumed our resolve, we can still go a long way to have the Genocide recognized by the US government and other governments around the world.

While that remains our long-term goal, we have immediate political challenges to face. The State Department had made its assessment of the Caucasus region during the previous administration and that assessment, it seems, has been transmitted intact to the Obama administration. Certainly there are a host of foreign policy issues which have not been subjected to reviews - nor even they will never be. Although President Obama has shifted the US policy towards the Middle East and has made conciliatory gestures to the irate Muslim world - recklessly bombed and intimidated by the previous administration - the change does not cover the entire gamut of foreign policy issues.

The neocons of the Bush administration had learned one single adage from their guru, Bernard Lewis, that Muslims had conquered the world through the sword and one thing they respect most is power. That adage may have had some truth in it in the Middle Ages, but in the modern world it blew up in the administration's face, and that is why we are in the predicament in which the US finds itself. President Obama distinctively moved away from that cynical philosophy and hopefully that policy change would be rewarded with some peace dividends.

It seems that the State Department will continue the policy inherited from the previous administrations, which will be very handy for the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pay back on her earlier deals with Turkish lobbyists.

While the onus of the Genocide issue rests on the president, recent punitive acts directed toward Armenia are definitely connected at the Foggy Bottom.

It was not enough that the administration dramatically reduced annual aid to Armenia, while increasing Azerbaijan's share; now we see another slap on the face, which will directly affect the daily life of the Armenian people. Indeed the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has cut its programs in Armenia by about $67 million. The decision was made on June 10 at the meeting of the US government's MCC Board of Directors chaired by Hillary Clinton.

The MCC program started in Armenia in September 2006. During five years, $235 million was allocated for the implementation of the program in Armenia. The amount was allocated every quarter based on Armenia's application of democratic standards. It was scheduled to cover 750,000 farmers or 75 percent of the republic's rural population. Road construction and repair of irrigation systems are the main components of the program.

Natalia Leshchenko of the World Markets Research Center states that "the Armenian government will not see $67 million earmarked under the 2006 agreement, which overall pledged $235.5 million of assistance until 2011, of which $160 million is to be channeled into road construction and repairing, and this will certainly lead to a halt on projects currently underway." It looks like the decision is irreversible.

The same source cites the following as a reason for this tough action: "The US Department of State, which guides the MCC on democratic criteria, has raised concerns about the state of democracy in Armenia since the controversial February 2008 presidential election and warned the government of possible funds withdrawal should no improvement be made. The May 31 mayoral election in the capital Yerevan, which the opposition contested as flawed, was the last straw for the US agencies. The MCC withdrew infrastructure repair funding, stressing that the decision was irreversible and laying the blame squarely on the Armenian authorities."

Those who are familiar with the lamentable road conditions in the rural areas of Armenia will understand the full impact of this punishing act toward the people in the affected area. The blow is directed to the people rather than the government, which was blamed for failing on its democratic record.

This action is purely motivated by politics; it is selective application of democratic standards. Next-door-neighbor Azerbaijan recently held a referendum to change the constitution and make Ilham Aliyev president for life, in a way restoring the medieval Khanate system. And while doing that Aliyev has jailed journalists and killed opposition leaders. And for all these "democratic" actions, Azerbaijan was rewarded by an increase in US aid. Further, President Obama continued the Bush policy on Article 901 of Freedom Support Act, which banned the sale of military hardware to Azerbaijan. President Bush had usurped the Congress' voice in turning the implementation of the act into an executive privilege.

The State Department action has a broader political implication than simply the application of democratic standards in Armenia or in Azerbaijan. The Baku government, by its brazen actions, has already rendered the democratic excuse into a laughing stock. Indeed, here Armenia is a victim of superpower competition in the Caucasus. As Russia tightens the noose around Georgia, a client state of Washington, the US as been retaliating in kind by punishing Armenia, which, in turn is perceived as a client state of Moscow. Just a few days ago, Russia used its veto power at the Security Council, ending the mandate of the UN observers on the Georgia-Abkhazia border, declaring that Abkhazia is a sovereign country now.

Besides, the May 31 Yerevan Mayoral elections were contested only by the opposition, which is expected in any country, but they were approved by the European Union observers.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration consistently tried to destabilize Armenia. One only needs to listen to the US-funded Radio Free Europe to be convinced of that policy. It looks like the Obama administration has inherited that policy. And adding insult to injury, now comes this punishing action from the MCC, a blow to a helpless nation, which contravenes Mr. Obama's high-moral rhetoric.

In principle, the USAID should not have any strings attached. In particular, it should not be used as a political tool to wreak havoc on the domestic policy of the recipient country. Recently, the Bolivian government complained bitterly that USAID was supporting opposition groups in the country. It is ironic that opposition parties are the rich landowners in Bolivia, whose region is trying to secede from the rest of that poor country.

It is no coincidence that US Ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yovanovitch, is being dispatched to the US to do some explaining to the Armenian communities here.

Like all her predecessors, Ms. Yovanovitch has ingratiated herself in Armenia. However, she is coming to put a smiling face on a terrible act by her superiors. Therefore, our first line of challenge will be to ask her all the blistering questions, with all due respect. After completing her US tour, she should leave no doubt in her report to the State Department that the Armenian community is incensed regarding this uncalled for and unsustainable action and that the community will mobilize to respond in kind any time - and in any way it can.

The next confrontation is with the legislature; in addition to our lobbying groups, every Armenian should pester Congressmen and the Senators to make sure our voices are heard.

The US has a determining voice on the destiny of most countries, and certainly on Armenia. Armenia cannot discover oil or any other resources to make itself indispensable. How can it change its alliances, as long as Turkey is watching on the border. Therefore, Armenia's defense lines begin there, in this country. We need to take up the challenge to politicize the community and rise with our voice in defense of Armenia.


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