Resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: An Armenian Perspective

By Gregory Aftandilian, Academic Board Member, Policy Forum Armenia

Ever since the President Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton’s visit to the Caucasus in October 2018, the issue of Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh (or Artsakh in Armenian) has again taken a front stage. Speaking at a news conference on October 25 in Yerevan, Mr. Bolton suggested that if Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan received an electoral mandate in December 2018 he would be in a better position to strike a deal on Nagorno-Karabakh, and that resolving Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan was the best way for Yerevan to free itself of “excessive outside influence.”

While clearly referring to Armenia’s dependence on Russia, Bolton’s statement left some ambiguity on the kind of resolution he had in mind and, taken together with the statement of the outgoing US Ambassador Richard Mills (about the need to surrender territories), were met with apprehension by both supporters and critics of the current administration in Yerevan.

Things have taken another turn when the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (consisting of France, Russia, and the US) stressed “the necessity of taking concrete measures to prepare the populations for peace,” following the meeting they hosted between Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov and Acting Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan on January 16, 2019 in Paris.

This week, on January 22, a 1.5-hour long informal meeting took place on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the sides apparently discussed “the conflict settlement negotiations.” Not much detail has been disclosed about this meeting, with social media commentators in Armenia mostly expressing bewilderment about the lack of transparency from official Yerevan on such a key issue.

Given the importance of this issue for Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora, this article takes stock of the official position of Armenia to date and lays out a strategy that is likely to lead to a lasting peace between the two neighbors and the region overall.

Yerevan’s Official Position

The new administration in Yerevan that came to power following the “Velvet Revolution” in April-May 2018 and which won the December 2018 parliamentary elections has expressed its views on the matter with some regularity. The leader of the revolution, a 42-year old former newspaper editor and MP Nikol Pashinyan made it clear that no concessions are in the offing. There are several reasons underpinning this view and I will mention a few here.

First, as a shrewd politician, Pashinyan knows too well he cannot go against the will of the people that propelled him to power 6 months ago. There is little, if any, public support for territorial concessions on Artsakh in Armenia, certainly not now, when few see any tangible economic result coming out of a peace deal with Azerbaijan. The mass popular backlash against the Serge Sargsyan regime following its handling of “the 4-day war” in April 2016, a large-scale attack by Azerbaijan army along the border of Artsakh, is a testament to that sentiment.

Furthermore, Pashinyan has criticized the Sargsyan regime’s non-transparent handling of the issue, alleging that corruption took place behind the negotiations. He stated that the resolution of Artsakh issue is “a prerogative of people of Armenia, Artsakh, and Diaspora, since it is a pan-Armenian issue” and that “he does not intend to solve it himself.”

Second, war appears to be inevitable, and making concessions now will not prevent conflict and might even encourage it as a sign of weakness. Armenian concessions in the form of return of territories outside of Artsakh’s Soviet-drawn borders (which will undoubtedly weaken Armenia’s defense positions) are unlikely to contain the Azeri appetite to regain Artsakh in its entirety, making whatever peace deal a temporary measure. Emboldened by weaker defenses in Artsakh and shaken morale in Armenia (both as a result of concessions), Azerbaijan will likely attack again once it feels it has the capacity to retake Artsakh by force. Such a standoff, which is unlikely to result in a clear military victory by either side, will justify constant Russian involvement to play off both sides.

Third, Azerbaijan is neither stable nor a democratic country and is ruled by an autocratic leader with an uncertain future. Making a deal with its leadership now will be temporary and difficult to enforce in the future (in case of a major political power shift in the country) and therefore should not be relied on by the Armenian side.

This said, should Pashinyan (perhaps under pressure from Russia and/or other OSCE Minsk Co-Chairs) decide to make irreversible concessions in negotiations, he will be facing a fierce opposition on the ground, including from much of his own supporters.

Among the political parties, the most vocal in its opposition to possible territorial concessions on Artsakh will be the newly created Sasna Tsrer party (or “Daredevils of Sassoon”, a name taken from a medieval Armenian epic poem that championed the idea of independence from the 8th to 10th centuries). Some members of the party took up arms against the corrupt regime of Serge Sargsyan in July 2016 and by doing so thwarted a pre-agreed handover of territories under Armenian control to Azerbaijan following the 4-day war in April 2016.

With its Armenian nationalist orientation and strong support base among the Artsakh war generation from the 1990s, the pro-Western middle class, and Armenia’s regions, Sasna Tsrer see any move to surrender territory in Artsakh (including surrounding districts) as a non-starter. Although they did not garner enough votes to enter the parliament during the December 2018 elections, they are in a position to wage an effective popular campaign against any overly concessionary moves by the current administration.

The Current and Historic Context

The Azerbaijani claims on Artsakh have serious weaknesses. Azerbaijan has declared itself a successor of the 1918-20 republic, which did not have full control over Artsakh, nor the Nakhichevan enclave. Moreover, the USSR’s Constitution allowed the autonomous oblasts to seek higher status (including independence), which Nagorno-Karabakh invoked in 1988.

Anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait, Baku, and Kirovabad at the start of the conflict in 1988-1989 and fomented by the Azerbaijani leadership led to a consolidation of sentiment in Armenia and among Armenians worldwide, and this sentiment eventually contributed to the Azeri defeat after many Armenian sacrifices. That is the reality of the conflict that is still strongly engrained in the Armenian psyche, clearly not helped by Turkey’s (Armenia’s historic enemy and perpetrator of the Genocide of 1915-18) military assistance to Azerbaijan throughout the conflict and beyond.

Armenian forces had been on the offensive weeks prior to the Bishkek Treaty of 1994 but stopped their advance under pressure from the mediators in the hope that this would create good will and establish the preconditions for a lasting peace. Unfortunately, there appears to be collective amnesia in Baku and among the current mediators about this period.

Even within its current de facto borders (i.e., without the territories under Armenian control), Azerbaijan is structurally unstable and faces both internal as well as external threats. It holds itself together only with the help of outside assistance, where oil plays a key role.[1] Once oil runs out, securing Azerbaijan within its current de facto borders will be challenging at best, given the existence of the centrifugal forces, such as its three large non-Azeri ethnic minorities.

Azerbaijan presently maintains an aggressive foreign policy stance aimed at modernizing its army and undermining Armenia’s reputation and position abroad. Large-scale arms purchases from Russia and Israel are just some manifestations of Azerbaijan’s strategy to that end. This is done in parallel with constant attempts to penetrate the line of contact (causing Armenian casualties), the most outrageous of which was in April 2016, which led to minor territorial losses for Arstakh at a cost of significant personnel loses for the invading Azeri army.

Going forward

Time is on Armenia’s side. It is only a matter of time for the ongoing political reforms in Armenia to bring about an economic transformation, helping Armenia regain its economic potential, create even stronger and meaningful ties with its worldwide influential diaspora, and build an even stronger army, dashing Baku’s hopes of taking Artsakh by force. Waiting for Armenia to “come crawling” is, therefore, not a smart strategy for the Azeri leadership to follow.

Azerbaijan’s international leverage will most likely decline in step with its hydrocarbon production.  There will be a tipping point when its foreign partners will no longer find it beneficial to honor their side of the deal (of providing implicit guarantees for Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and internal stability). Azerbaijan’s main regional partner, Turkey, is facing economic and international problems that might reduce Azerbaijan’s ambitions.

The Aliyev administration thus is unlikely to be able to return Artsakh to its former status by force.  Any attempts to regain territory militarily is likely to be followed by Armenian offensives, likely to result in even bigger losses for Azerbaijan. Armenians around the world, emboldened by changes taking place in the country will likely oppose any territorial concessions.

However, there is a solution that involves working around the status quo and building stronger economic and security ties. In pursuit of its own interests, Armenia could help secure Azerbaijan from disintegrating further. Providing Azerbaijan with insurance against internal and external threats should make the country’s leadership more amenable to a deal that involves Armenia retaining control over Artsakh in its current form, perhaps with minor territorial adjustments. To help the Azeri leadership save face at home, the solution could involve allowing the return of some Azeri refugees to their former homes and implementation of other confidence-building measures, to include the engagement of the international community.

The Aliyev administration will therefore be well advised not to waste money funding its next war effort or geopolitical capital to befriend Russia, as these will weaken its economy and lead to further dependence on Russia, with little, if any, tangible results. Instead, Baku has a lot more to gain by signing a peace treaty with Armenia with its current status of Artsakh, which will be the first step toward creating a Transcaucasian economic market to include all three countries of the Caucasus, garnering their comparative advantages and greatly benefitting their own people.

[1]The US Ambassador Richard Morningstar: ”Who Will Stand Up For Azerbaijan’s Independence?‘” Azadliq English Edition, May 19, 2014.

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«Թավշյա Հեղափոխության» Մոտակա Անելիքների Մասին

Հայկական թավշյա հեղափոխությունն արդեն իրողություն է։ Երիտասարդների անհնազանդության ալիքը արագորեն տարածվեց հանրության լայն շրջանակների մեջ եւ փոխեց իրավիճակը։ Նիկոլ Փաշինյանի ճկուն մարտավարության եւ արագ կողմնորոշվելու արդյունքում անհնազանդությունն ընդունեց համընդհանուր մերժման տեսք, վերածվելով տոտալ խաղաղ ապստամբության։ Ամենակրիտիկական պահին բանակն ըստ էության հրաժավեց պաշտպանել ռեժիմը: Խաղաղապահ գնդի մի քանի տասնյակ զինվորականներ դուրս եկան զորամասից եւ միացան ժողովրդին, ինչն էլ որոշեց հեղափոխության անարյուն եւ անցնցում ավարտը։

Մինչ աշխարհը զարմանում է Հայաստանում կատարվածով, իսկ հայ ժողովուրդը ցնծում է տոնելով երկար սպասված ազատագրումը, բազմաթիվ մարդիկ հարց են տալիս՝ – իսկ ի՞նչ անել հիմա։ Պատասխանը պարզ է՝ անհրաժեշտ է կառուցել ինքնիշխան, ժողովրդավար պետություն։

Շարժման ղեկավարների կողմից հարթակից հնչեցվել է օրակարգը՝

  • Հեռացնել Սերժ Սարգսյանին եւ ՀՀԿ-ին,
  • Ստեղծել ժամանակավոր կառավարություն,
  • Կատարել փոփոխություններ ընտրական օրենսգրքում,
  • Ընդունել կուսակցությունների մասին օրենք,
  • Պետական կառավարման համակարգը ազատել կապիտալի թելադրանքից եւ ընդունել տնտեսական փոխհատուցման ու համաներման մասին օրենք։

Մեր կարծիքով չեն բարձրացվել մի քանի կարեւոր հարցեր, որոնց թվում են՝

  • Սուպերվարչապետության ինստիտուտի վերացում,
  • Ուղիղ ժողովրդավարության տարրերի մտցնում, այդ թվում տեղական հանրաքվեների եւ պատգամավորների ու այլ կառավարիչների հետկանչման մեխանիզմների ստեղծում,
  • Գաղտնազերծման (լյուստրացիայի) մասին օրենք,
  • Հայաստանի Հանրապետության ինքնիշխանության մակարդակի բարձրացում,
  • Նախկին իշխանությունների կողմից գաղացված/հափշտակված գումարների վերադարձման մարտավարություն,
  • Եւ վերջապես այս ամենի ամրագրում նոր սահմանադրության ընդունմամբ։

Անհրաժեշտ է հասկանալ, որ թավշյա հեղափոխությունը հնարավոր դարձավ ՀՀ-ում և Սփյուռքում բազմաթիվ քաղաքացիների և խմբերի տարիներ տեւած պայքարի, համառության, կամքի, զրկանքների եւ մաքառումների, այն է՝ պայքարի շարունակականության շնորհիվ ։ Նրանց թվում առանձնահատուկ կարեւոր տեղ են զբաղեցնում այս պահին անազատության մեջ գտնվող մի քանի տասնյակ քաղբանտարկյալները՝ Շանթ Հարությունյանն ու իր խումբը, Ժիրայր Սեֆիլյանը, Կարո Եղնուկյանը, Գեւորգ Սաֆարյանը եւ «Սասնա Ծռերը»։

Հեղափոխության թավշյա ավարտը մեծապես պայմանավորված էր նաեւ այն հարվածներով եւ ցնցումներով, որ ռեժիմին հասցրել էին նշված մարդիկ նախորդ տարիների ընթացքում՝ մի կողմից թուլացնելով ռեժիմը, մյուս կողմից հանրության մեջ արմատավորելով փոփոխությունների անհրաժեշտությունը, կամային պայքարի օրինակը եւ գաղափարական հասունությունը։

Թավշյա հեղափոխությունն արդեն հայտարարել է Հայաստանում սիրո եւ համերաշխության մթնոլորտ ստեղծելու իր նպատակի մասին։ Հայտարարվել է ինքնադատաստանի, «վենդետաների» անթույլատրելիությունը։ Միաժամանակ հայտարարվել է օրենքի գերիշխանության հաստատման առաջնահերթությունը, որը մեր կարծիքով ներառում է նախկինում ծանր հանցանքներ կատարած անձանց ու խմբերի գործունեությանը լիարժեք քաղաքական ու իրավական գնահատական տալը եւ արդար փոխհատուցումը։

Մենք ողջունում ենք թավշյա հեղափոխությունը, նրանում ակտիվ ղեկավար մասնակցություն ունեցած երիտասարդ քաղաքական գործիչներին եւ անձամբ Նիկոլ Փաշինյանին։ Միաժամանակ հույս ենք հայտնում, որ ժամանակավոր կառավարություն ձեւավորելիս եւ օրակարգն իրականացնելիս, այժմ բանտարկված քաղաքական գործիչների հետ կլինի լայն եւ ընդգրկուն կոնսոլիդացիա, ամբողջությամբ կօգտագործվեն նրանց մասնագիտական որակները, կամային հատկանիշները եւ հանրության շրջանում ունեցած հարգանքն ու հեղինակությունը։

Սա շատ կարեւոր է երկու պատճառով։

Առաջինը, հզոր անհատականություններից կազմված ժամանակավոր կառավարությունը մեծապես ավելի արդյունավետ կիրագործի օրակարգում ամրագրված ռեֆորմները եւ կդիմագրավի ներքին ու արտաքին մարտահրավերներին։

Երկրորդը, Հայաստանում հիմք կդրվի ազատ, մրցակցային քաղաքական դիսկուրսի մշակույթին, երբ միմյանցից տարբեր քաղաքական հայացքներ ունեցող, նախկինում միմյանց հետ որոշակի տարաձայնություններ ունեցած գործիչները ամեն ինչ կդնեն մի կողմ եւ կլծվեն Նոր Հայաստանի կառուցման գործին։ Սա նաեւ մեծապես կօգնի պահպանել եւ ինստիտուցիոնալ տեսք հաղորդել ներկայիս համաժողովրդական միասնությանն ու կոնսոլիդացիային։

Ուրեմն, այս երկար, դժվար ու երջանիկ ճանապարհի առաջին քայլն անելու համար հորդորում ենք հեղափոխությանը որպես առաջնահերթություն հասնել բոլոր քաղաքական բանտարկյալների ապօրինի անազատության վերացմանը եւ նրանց հետ քաղաքական խորհրդակցությունների սկսմանը։

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Velvet Revolution: Week of Great Expectations (April 30-May 4)

On May 1, following almost nine hours of parliamentary hearing to consider the nomination of the leader of the opposition, MP Nikol Pashinyan, as Prime Minster, the Armenia’s parliament voted down his candidacy with a 45-56 vote. Yelq Alliance, Tsarukyan Alliance/Prosperous Armenia, and ARF (with one exception) factions voted for, while the ruling Republican party (with one exception and one absent) voting against him. Tens of thousands of citizens in Republic Square and elsewhere around Armenia and in the world were following the parliamentary debate.

The result of the vote on May 1 was an upset, but not an unexpected one. The Republicans wanted to show that they still had enough cohesion and majority in the parliament to make sure Pashinyan would not have an easy road toward the Premiership.

On May 2, Pashinyan’s supporters flooded the streets of Yerevan to ratchet up the popular pressure on the Republican MPs, including by protesting in front of Republican MP’s houses in an effort to pressure them to change their minds. Later that day, bowing to an immense popular pressure, the Republicans announced that they will not put forth their own candidate during the next vote to take place on May 8 and will instead support one proposed by at least one third of MPs, effectively signaling support of Pashinyan. By now, he has been re-nominated by his own Yelq Alliance as well as Tsarukyan Alliance and ARF factions.

With the chances of a favorable vote on May 8 appear to be good for the people’s candidate, risks remain especially those related to post-election functioning of the government. First off, a key issue to be kept in mind is a very important yet not prominently visible role played by Gagik Tsarukyan. Oligarch-turned-politician who now controls the second largest faction in the parliament, Tsarukyan’s political career started under Robert Kocharyan and proceeded under Serge Sargsyan, with an exception of a short period where he dramatically fell out of favor with Sargsyan, only to be “rehabilitated” within couple of months.

With 31 seats in the 105-member parliament, Tsarukyan de facto became a king maker. Without him and his parliamentary weight, it would have been impossible for Pashinyan to move his opposition movement from the street into the parliamentary domain, a path largely paved by the 2015 vintage Constitution. This of course raises the question as to what does Tsarukyan get out of this realignment? Until the next parliamentary elections—which could be in as soon as two months (if Pashinyan forms a government with an agenda, which is voted down) or in a year—Pashinyan will be heavily dependent on Tsarukyan and possibly those Republicans who are expected to vote for him on May 8 to push forward his reform (predominantly electoral but also socioeconomic) agenda.

Second, the modality of the formation of the executive team can be critical for the reform effort. In a fractured parliament, Pashinyan has only two options: (1) ignore the composition of the parliament and form a government composed of reform minded individuals and technocrats, or (2) form a government taking into account various parliamentary factions. In both these cases however, there is a risk that the Republicans with the control of the parliament will either slow down the parliamentary proceedings until enough time has passed to cast a vote of no confidence against Pashinyan or force him to make concessions and through political horse-trading dilute and even hijack any attempts of reform.

A genuine reform effort will require genuine reformers. Recycling of former officials into the composition of the new government should be rejected by Pashinyan and his team. These bureaucrats—mostly conformists with mediocre technical skills—have been retained by the old regime for reasons unrelated to integrity, professional credibility, and vision. They were placed there to serve the regime with loyalty against the best interests of Armenia and its citizens. These individuals have been part of the problem (often for several years) and therefore cannot be part of the solution now. There is plenty of professional talent with integrity and technical skills among those in the nation, who have not bowed to the criminal regime and should be given an opportunity to serve their nation. Policy Forum Armenia—which has a wide network of established Armenian professionals in economics, international relations, and government affairs—stands ready to assist the new leadership in identifying those individuals.

Finally, Armenia’s foreign policy orientation under the new leadership remains the elephant in the room. Pashinyan’s declared “Armenia-centric” approach may contradict his assurances given to the Kremlin about no change in arrangements with Russia. If the status quo with Russia is kept, it cannot possibly be called “Armenia-centric” (domestic reforms alone are not sufficient for the orientation to be called as such). The latter would require at least some Westward movement to balance Armenia’s interests regionally and globally. For this, Pashinyan can use a truly Western-oriented political force to join the team to spearhead the (ever small but necessary) policy tilt. The Founding Parliament and affiliates—loosely coordinated by Jirayr Sefilian and his fellow political prisoners—can provide the necessary support and act as a buffer (if not a scarecrow) for any pressure from Russia to keep the status quo. Sefilian’s untarnished record and standing among both civilians and military (including veterans) will be an asset for the new team and should not be discounted. This will be a true test of Pashiniyn’s ability to make a serious appointment (in this case of Minister of Defense), as eluded to in an influential opinion piece by the Washington Post.

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Armenia’s Velvet Resolution: Some Reflections on Developments of the Week (April 23-27)

By Eduard Abrahamyan, Fellow

On Monday, April 23, 2018, while most leaders of the mass protest movement were in detention, Prime Minister Serge Sargsyan resigned under an increasing pressure of almost two hundred thousand protesters across Armenia, a move that inspired enthusiasm and celebration for the overwhelming majority in Armenian citizens. He kept that position for less than a week.

The first deputy PM Karen Karapetyan, a former Gazprom executive and Yerevan mayor, stepped in as the acting PM. Sargsyan’s resignation left him—at least implicitly—with the responsibility to negotiate power transition with Pashinyan. He agreed to discuss the conditions of the transition with Nikol Pashinyan—the young and energetic MP and leader of the mass protest movement that brought Sargsyan down—on Wednesday, April 25.[1]

By that time, the pressure may have been off the ruling regime, with Pashinyan letting the steam off somewhat after the Monday victory. Amid mass euphoria and congratulations, he thanked the protesters and urged them to take a pause to commemorate Genocide Remembrance Day. There were no protests on Tuesday.

However, Karapetyan wasted no time and was more strategic in his actions aimed at consolidating his camp. He met the chiefs of police, National Security, and armed forces as well as oligarchs and criminal elements to get them to pledge allegiances to him.

Furthermore, following Pashinyan’s rejection of the possibility of Karapetyan’s nomination as PM (during the press conference with international media), Kerapetyan refused to meet with him, citing additional demands unilaterally put forth by Pashinyan. Instead, Karapetyan called upon Pashinyan to tempter his demands and accept early parliamentary elections to be organized by the ruling regime (controlled by the Republican party).[2]

Karapetyan appears to be taking his orders from Moscow and is supported by a Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetyan (the two are not related), who was named on the US Department of the Treasury’s “Kremlin list.” In addition, he has the support of Russian-Armenian philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan and his team of pro-Russian technocrats, who have business interests in Armenia and may harbor political aspirations of their own.

For a moment, the outcome of the process started to look like a coup d’état with a twist: forcing the regime’s head out while trying to keep the rest of the corrupt system intact. Despite the loss of their leader and some visible evidence of anxiety and fear among top Republicans, the party promptly consolidated around Karen Karapetyan. This, however, does not look good for Armenia. Most observers agree that his continuous presence in power would mean no hope for a real change.

On the outside, while the US and Europe were trying to figure out what was really happening in Armenia, Russian official media came out with a (surprise) coordinated position: various Russian officials (e.g., Kasachev, Zakharova, Peskov, Zatulin, Lebedev, etc.) expressed rather balanced views, along the lines of “it’s Armenia’s internal affairs”, “People use their right to protest”, calling upon people of Armenia to “avoid any radicalization.”

This (unexpected initial) posture of Moscow was underpinned by views expressed by Russian experts (e.g., Markedonov, Karaganov, etc.), who suggested that the consequences of Velvet Revolution in Armenia “meet Russia’s long-term interests.” However, this has changed dramatically on Thursday, April 26, when media coverage became vehemently anti-opposition (see below).

Seeking not to annoy Moscow, during the press-conference Pashinyan reassured that his victory does not necessary imply reduced Russian influence in Armenia. This strategy may have succeeded, at least temporarily. On Wednesday, with the resumption of mass protests[3] (this time against Karapetyan and the ruling elite), the two pillars of Russia’s influence in Armenia—oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan’s Prosperous Armenia (with 40 sits in parliament) and Arthur Bagdasaryan’s Orinats Yerkir parties—endorsed mass protests and called their supporters to join the rallies.[4]

In addition, the ruling coalition partner, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF; loyal to Kocharyan and Russia) left the coalition under massive pressure from its grassroots on Thursday.

Therefore, it should not be ruled out that some representatives of Prosperous Armenia may vote for Pashinyan during the May 1 session of the Parliament and be given an opportunity to take part in the provisional government to be formed by him. If so, this may de facto alter one of the main narratives of the opposition movement, which is fight against the oligarchic control of the economy. However, Pashinyan has stated repeatedly that no political horse-trading will be done during the power transition.

In the meantime, the situation has changed dramatically on Thursday, April 26. Karapetyan’s phone call with (Russia’s President Vladimir) Putin and subsequent official statements may have signaled a change in Moscow’s position, indicating uneasiness with ongoing stalemate and pushing for a solution “given the reality in the parliament.” This took place on the backdrop of a visit to Moscow by a senior delegation from the regime. In addition, official Russian media outlets and Russia’s soft power network in Armenia ratcheted up their criticism of Pashinyan and his team. This has been interpreted by some as Russia’s implicit attempt to throw its weight behind Karapetyan.

Be that as it may, one thing is clear: Russia needs to play a more nuanced role in Armenia to avoid a second Ukraine. With Pashinyan’s likely take-over in the coming weeks, it is clear that steps toward independence for Armenia from Russia will be taken. However, at least initially this is unlikely to affect Russia’s core military-political interests (i.e., the military base, Armenia’s membership in Eurasian Union, and CSTO) in Armenia.

In the medium term, however, Pashinyan’s Armenia-centric position (as opposed to pro-Russian or pro-Western) is likely to remain the main pillar of his policy, and rightfully so, as this is what his support base demands in no uncertain terms.

[1] Sides agreed not to hold negotiations on Tuesday, April 24, the Genocide Remembrance Day.

[2] Everyone who has monitored Armenia’s elections since 1996 know that they are notoriously fraudulent and do not represent the choice of the electorate.

[3] The resumption was due to a unilateral cancelation of negotiations by Karapetyan.

[4] Tsarukyan and Baghdasaryan are known to follow the line of (former president) Kocharyan’s, who is openly pro-Russian.

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Armenia’s Velvet Revolution: How should the Diaspora respond?

On April 17, 2018, Serge Sargsyan—who occupied the position of Armenia’s President for two terms since 2008—was chosen by Armenia’s parliament to be the new Prime Minister with enhanced executive powers. This was made possible by the Constitution of 2015, which—together with the parliamentary elections of April 2017—ushered in the ruling Republican party and sealed the deal for Sargsyan to become the PM essentially without term limits.

The legitimacy of the constitutional “reform” has been in doubt since the beginning. Like the 2008 election that first brought Sargsyan to power, the December 2015 constitutional referendum was widely criticized as fraudulent (see PFA’s 2016 report). And even though Sargsyan insisted he had no intention of seeking the new prime minister position, the opposition knew that this was a lie and predicted the events of the past week with pinpoint accuracy.

Main traditional Diaspora organizations were largely complicit with the regime and worked against the best interests of Armenia and its citizens. The position of the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun is particularly noteworthy. This group, which endorsed Sargsyan’s candidacy for the PM office, remained in coalition with the ruling Republican party for years. They held three ministerial portfolios and some lesser positions (including regional gubernatorial) and have amply contributed to the corruption and mismanagement in the country. Finally, they pushed heavily for the new Constitution that ended up propelling Sargsyan to his current position. Despite their nationalist rhetoric, they endorsed the (Russian foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov’s plan to Artsakh resolution, involving handover of a big chunk of liberated territories to Azerbaijan in exchange for peace.

In return, the ARF has—implicitly or explicitly—committed itself to keeping the Diaspora in check and suppressing dissent literally and figuratively. Having a loyal and very loud grassroots presence meant to help. The complicity of other groups and their collaboration with the regime has been somewhat less explicit but equally damaging for the welfare of Armenian citizens. One of them recently demonstrated fascinating displays of support by congratulating Sargsyan on the occasion of his appointment, at a time when Armenia is witnessing an unprecedented wave of civil protests that is very likely to bring down the current regime.

The low popularity of traditional Diaspora organizations is reflected, among other things, in the following comparison of Facebook page traffic statistics:

While having a relatively small audience (“Total Page Likes” at 22.9 thousand, at par with that of the Armenian Assembly), Policy Forum Armenia’s Armenia-centric messages attracted the attention of social media users and generated nearly 15 times the number of “engagements” received by ANCA, which has 4 times more followers (at 82.3 thousand) than PFA. Their audiences have not grown during the same week (all three groups—ANCA, AGBU, and AAA—have registered no growth from last week, while PFA’s followers grew by 1.4 percent during the same period), another indication of low popularity among Facebook users and perceived connection of those organizations with the regime in Yerevan.

So, how should the Diaspora respond to the latest developments and beyond?

First, diaspora Armenians should be wary of justifications of Sargsyan’s cynical power grab that claim continuity is good for the country “in times of war.” Any student of introductory political science knows that the “rally ‘round the flag effect” produced by war can be easily manipulated by unpopular regimes, and that they exploit this effect whenever they can. The reality is that Armenia has been at war for its entire post-Soviet existence. Having Sargsyan in power for the last decade has done nothing to change that, and in fact, given the casualties and territorial losses as a result of the four-day war in 2016, it can be argued that his regime has not served Armenia’s defenses well.

Azerbaijan remains Armenia’s enemy in this protracted war, and Armenians are always quick to criticize the dictatorial Aliyev regime, its sham elections, and the governance style. So, why would they want Armenia’s political system to more closely resemble that of Azerbaijan? Not only would that be a profound national embarrassment, but it would seem to defeat the purpose of having liberated Armenian territories and its population from one dictatorship, only to subject them to another. In other words, Armenians should not resign themselves to autocratic rule, simply because the autocrat is Armenian.

Second, a major internal soul-searching is warranted before the leaders of the “traditional” Diaspora organizations are allowed to continue to play any role in public life in Armenia and Diaspora in the future. Their corrupt dealings of those leaders with the regime in Yerevan should be exposed and all perpetrators brought to light. All credible evidence of their affiliation with Russian intelligence agencies should be investigated and collaborators brought to justice in their respective jurisdictions.

With specific regard to the ARF, a transparent accounting of its record and role in Armenia’s politics is urgently needed. Along with other diaspora institutions, ARF was a factor in preserving Armenian culture and communities around the globe during the Cold War. In the early days of Armenia’s independence, President Levon Ter-Petrossian’s hostility toward the ARF’s involvement in Armenian politics suggested it was an oppositional force that—for better or worse—could check the power of the ruling regime. Those days are long gone. The ARF in Armenia has been brought to heel by Kocharyan and Sargsyan, and the party now sees its interests as almost entirely aligned with that of the latter and against the interests of Armenia. Diaspora supporters of the ARF who feel loyal to the “Armenian cause” need to ask themselves whether this cause is truly being served by their Armenia-based party leadership. Short of a massive shake up within the party that results in a replacement of the current leaders by a young and Armenia-centric team, the party’s activities should be suspended in Armenia.

Third, the Diaspora’s approach to engagement requires rethinking. The model of Diaspora as the “milk cow” for the regime that is being kept out of Armenia’s politics should be reconsidered. Milk cows have only one way to exercise influence, and that is by adjusting the flow of milk.[1] Diaspora Armenians shore up the ruling regime every time they donate to the state-run Hayastan All-Armenian Fund; every time they participate in state-run programs, such as the Ministry of Diaspora’s “Ari Tun” youth heritage tourism program; every time they attend government functions, meet with government ministers, and have their photos taken with members of the regime; every time they pay the government for nominal Armenian citizenship and passports; and every time they support diaspora lobby groups that demand Genocide recognition, but refuse to criticize Armenia’s domestic politics that undermine all our causes.

(Famous US rock band) System of a Down’s lead singer Serj Tankian, who took part in April 2017 parliamentary elections as an observer, issued the following statement on his Facebook page two days ago:

“Something incredible is happening in Armenia, finally. Civil disobedience is growing and taking the form of labor and student strikes against an unjust, corrupt ruling elite. This week is the first week of a new Armenia for whatever happens, the apathy has been dissolved. Serge Sarkissian (old Pres-new PM) has himself admitted that likely 60% of the population dislike and disagree with him. Yet he persists with his patronizing attitude and rule. Serge, no disrespect meant, but you are not our father and we are not your children. You have served the people of Armenia and are no longer a viable, respected leader whether you stay or go rendering your rule ineffective and at this point dangerous. They say it’s not over till the fat lady sings. That lady is Mother Armenia singing her ass off in the streets right now.”

Would this signal a change in position of Diaspora, at least its independent, non-institutional part? This indeed is the million-dollar question.

There are better ways for diasporans to be engaged with Armenia. Countless grassroots organizations working for social change that desperately need diaspora assistance, including independent media sources and think tanks that deserve increased readership, non-state-run heritage tour programs that encourage deeper immersion and engagement, genuine opposition leaders to pose for photos with, and genuine opposition movements to proudly (and loudly) support.

Armenia is not the ruling regime, Armenia is the Armenian people. When the two are in conflict, it is crystal clear which side the diaspora must be on.

Image: Photolure.

[1] Borrowing from political scientist Kristin Cavoukian.

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From Pedophilia to Election Fraud and Political Prisoners: Could Ignoring These Horrible Things Really Advance US Interests?

US interests and Political Prisoners

A recent article by New York Times based on an investigative report about child sexual abuse by the Afghan security forces shook even the most ardent supporters of the US action in that volatile country. According to that report, systemic sexual abuse of young boys by top military commanders was allowed to go free by the US army, despite available evidence and presence of laws preventing US funding for offending units. Ironically, the Taliban all but eradicated this practice during its rule.

This incident reveals one very dark side associated with the way some officials—military and foreign service—seek to advance what they may perceive as US interests in a country or a region they are involved in. While indeed difficult to quantify and often not clearly spelled out by political leaders, it is safe to say that US long-term interests in any country and at any time cannot possibly be advanced (and may in fact be endangered) by cover-ups and subsequent revelations of such nature. What is bad for the Taliban cannot be acceptable for the United States, which—apart from maintaining a higher moral ground—needs to win the hearts and minds of people of Afghanistan to succeed in that country.

Armenia is another country where US diplomats have over the years chosen to look the other way in the face of credible evidence of abuse of an entire population. The abuse in question is the massive election fraud and systemic corruption that enabled a criminal Russian puppet regime to rule Armenia for many years and enrich its top members to unprecedented levels. The head of the regime, Serge Sargsyan, will soon be allowed to govern without term limits, following a fraudulent Constitutional Referendum of 2015, which he manipulated under the watchful eye of Western observers. Diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks and our conversations with US diplomats over the years show how well the US embassy staff in Armenia knew about the corrupt nature of the Armenian regime. Yet, they limit their action to inconsequential rhetoric and often chose to look the other way.

More recently, the issue of political prisoners in Armenia came to the forefront of public discussion, among them a US citizen and seasoned political activist, businessman, and lawyer, Garo Yegnukian. The video footage of Mr. Yegnukian being taken out of a hospital ER in handcuffs by several special police a few weeks ago was beyond shocking.  Garo, a father of five, was active in the late-80 movement that advocated for Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union. Up until his detention in July 2016, he has remained a vocal supporter of civil reform, ecological awareness, and democratic ideals in his ancestral Armenia. Over 18 months have passed since his detention on charges that challenge his right for free speech and assembly during July 2016 standoff in the capital of Yerevan. All this time he has been denied bail and subjected to moral and psychological pressures. His health condition has worsened to the point where he was taken directly out of the court room to the ER.

In the wake of the high-profile death of activist Arthur Sargsyan in prison in March 2017, there is little doubt that the oligarchic regime in Armenia wishes to make an example of Garo—even up to the point of causing his death—to frighten and subdue other Diaspora Armenians who would dare challenge its corrupt practices and pro-Russian foreign policy orientation. Other prominent political prisoners, such as Jirayr Sefilian, Andreas Ghukasyan, and Gevorg Safaryan, have been held in pre-trial detention for even longer periods without normal due process or possibility of bail.  While “awaiting a trial date” they are subjected to constant moral and physical abuse designed to break their spirits and force them to give up hope for a more just, democratic, and secure Armenia.

To our disappointment, although the life of a US citizen is in danger, the State Department has proven itself utterly oblivious to the patent violations of Armenian and international laws in Garo’s case.  Despite repeated appeals by Garo’s lawyers, as well as petitions from friends of Garo and letters from Policy Forum Armenia, the State Department and the Embassy in Armenia have chosen to turn a blind eye to facts and have instead taken the word of corrupt apparatchiks in the Armenian government that “Garo is being treated well” during his 18-months long pre-trial detention. One wonders what level of human rights abuses must be recorded before the US State Department deigns to take action to protect a US citizen.

Within this reality on the ground, the words of Ralf Fücks, President of Germany Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Foundation, about the West’s moral leadership and value-based foreign policy most likely fell on deaf ears. He argues that “[a]uthoritarian regimes are not simply transient phenomena on the way towards democracy. They constitute a form of government in and of itself, and they are unapologetic about it. This also means that we cannot pretend they will disappear tomorrow.” He then goes on to suggest that “[w]e need to openly criticize rigged elections, arbitrary rule and grave human rights violations. … Political and economic sanctions designed to inflict costs for grave violations of international law are foreign policy tools of last resort.”

Political maneuvering and horse-trading with a client regime of Russia should not be done at the expense of fundamental freedoms and human rights of citizens of any country, but especially of US citizens. The only result of the current policy of turning a blind eye can be a further deterioration of governance and human rights in Armenia, ultimately undermining the credibility of the US and weakening its position in the country and indeed the region. Armenia can only prosper and be a strong partner for the US if human rights are respected and government works for all instead of a select few. It is therefore imperative for those who care about interests of the US in the region to impress upon Serge Sargsyan and his administration that systematic repressions of political activists and dissidents in Armenia cannot be tolerated and that the empty rhetoric about political reform will no longer be acceptable.

Photo/art: The New York Times.

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Decolonization (Armexit) or the Beginning of the Life Road

decolonization

by Varuzhan Avetisyan

Foreword

To create a sovereign national state we must first liberate our country from the Russian colonialism. That is why the biggest imperative for the Armenian nation should be decolonization. The idea of ​​decolonization should become a tool and guiding principle that unites the Armenian political elite. Below is Varuzhan Avetisyan’s article, which expresses our views on decolonization. This article will be followed by a series of others on the main steps for achieving decolonization.

Jirayr Sefilyan

Decolonization (Armexit) or the Beginning of the Life Road

Follow-up Address to Armenian Youth

Part 1

A nation’s quest for existence can materialize if it is accompanied by a credible pursuit of freedom and dignity. The main condition and means for providing free and dignified existence is a national state. Nations subjected to a foreign rule—the colonized nations—face a genocide in the long term. The forms, methods, volumes, and rates of genocide could vary, but the results are largely similar.

The national state has two main qualitative characteristics: its mission and legal status. The state, as a system, is a tool for the mission’s implementation. The state is known to have a legal status if it has a territory, a stable population, an ability to engage in external relations, and own (not foreign) government, a system of public administration. These two features must be present simultaneously: legal status is a necessary but insufficient condition for the existence of a national state.

While the legal status is generally observable, the mission can only be inferred. Universally, the mission of Armenians’ (or as Kostan Zaryan brilliantly coined “of the shepherds’ nation or people of Ararat”) is to spread the “wisdom of life” and be a bridge-mediator between civilizations and regions.

After losing its legal status the state simultaneously loses its mission, but after losing the mission the legal status may exist for a while longer. It will be lost eventually, but this process can last for centuries, as it happened in the case of Armenia.

Nearly 200 years ago, the Armenian elite tied the country’s political future with Russia. Regardless of the prevailing motives of the time, this choice was of a smaller evil, expected to help avoid the encroachments typical to Turkic domination that was not characteristic of the Russian rule. In other words, a choice was made in favor of a genocide committed in more gentle forms and methods and to a lesser degree and at a slower pace.

However, this appearance is deceiving. The Russian Empire has to date been carrying out a “red genocide” with the help of the Caucasian Tatars. In essence, the situation has not changed much. We still do not have a national state and a free and dignified life. We are in a survival mode, gradually being subjected to genocide in various ways, methods, degree, and pace. To be fair, in our history there were periods of partial uplift and prosperity, providing energy and stimulus for a possible life, but they did not change that process.

We find this approach questionable, because the brutal and bloody Turkic rule gave birth to self-preservation and resistance instincts, while the Russian dominance—veiled under the “Christian Brotherhood” and seen as the smaller evil—undermined the self-preserving instinct and instead led to apathy and “bleeding to death.” Moreover, a considerable part of Armenians, who have been under Russian domination, often  have lost their identity and have shown ultimate commitment to Russia, sometimes even with a pathos. The policy of cultural assimilation typical for the Russian Empire (doubtless an interesting topic deserving a separate examination) has greatly contributed to it.

After much of Eastern Armenia was absorbed by Russia, the perception of the smaller evil was largely disassociated from the Armenia-Persia relations and clearly and unambiguously became part of the choice between Russia and Turkey.

The Russia vs. Turkey dilemma is a foreign policy choice that causes strategic (and in its extreme manifestations existential) challenges for Armenia and Armenians, and is based on a choice between a mild Russian yoke instead of a national state that would help get rid of the Turkish yoke. Among considerable part of Armenians, it has created a mentality, which accepts the Russian colonialism and the Russian-Turkish bargains, carried out at our expense, as a destiny that deprives the Armenian side of the opportunity to live a free and dignified life and fulfill its mission. It essentially helps the Russian and Turkish sides ensure their interests at the expense of Armenians and Armenia by excluding the Armenian factor and form a regional architecture favorable for them.

The establishment of the 1st Republic of Armenia in 1918 provided an opportunity to get out of the format of Russia vs. Turkey dilemma and to create a national state. However, due to the Armenian Genocide, the unfavorable geopolitical situation, and other objective reasons, the newly born Republic was not able to withstand the Russian-Turkish aggression. The Russian-Turkish alliance seized and divided the state that existed for two and a half years and in 1921 created a regional architecture that excluded the Armenian factor by the Treaty of Moscow (of March 16) and the Treaty of Kars (of October 13). This was also guaranteed by the alienation of Artsakh and Nakhijevan from Armenia as well as by depriving the Republic of Armenia of sovereignty and turning it into an administrative-territorial unit of Russia.

As a result of all this, we returned to the format of the unfavorable Russia vs. Turkey dilemma. Armenia emerged in a colonial system, the basis of which was the regional architecture formed by the Russian-Turkish agreements, and the lever was Armenia’s dependence on Russia, with the tool of implementation being the Russia’s administrative control over Armenia.

The last opportunity to break away from the Russia vs. Turkey dilemma, to free from the colonial system (Armexit) and create a national state emerged due to the Artsakh liberation struggle (of 1988) and the demise of the USSR (in December 1991).

The liberation of a considerable part of the territory of Artsakh partially broke the regional architecture created by the Russian-Turkish alliance, that is, the basis of the colonial system keeping us under control. It also provided a chance for taking control of Nakhichevan and building a national Armenian state free of Russian colonialism in the Kura-Arax natural range and through it overcoming the Russia vs. Turkey dilemma and starting the process of regaining our national mission and reclaiming our homeland.

However, during the demise of the Russian Empire (which existed in the form of the USSR for 70 odd years), reproductive mechanisms were put forth, which soon turned into a plan of reviving the Empire in a new form that aimed to recolonize the former USSR republics.

In the case of Armenia and Armenians, with a plan to overcome our national resistance, the Russian Empire used its agent network (both political and intelligence) in Armenia’s governing system to maintain its colonial rule and through it:

  1. Diverted the liberation struggle of Artsakh from its original objective of unification with Armenia. Through Artsakh’s independence and separation from Armenia, it undermined the challenge that the unification could have posed for the regional architecture and thus the possibility of Armenia to challenge the colonial system and become a regional factor. Finally, it created pre-requisites for using Artsakh as a bargaining chip in its efforts to retake Transcaucasia;
  2. Forced Armenia to enter supranational alliances (g., CIS, CSTO, and EAEU) created around Russian axis, significantly limiting the possibilities of Armenia’s international and regional integration and development of partnership potential, turning Armenia into Russia’s satellite-state. It formulated a bilateral treaty-based legal system deepening Armenia’s dependence on Russia;
  3. Established strategic control over Armenia’s security, defense, and economic sectors as well as external relations and public administration;
  4. In 1988-94 and subsequently, neutralized the political, public, and military figures, who had the potential to build a national state;
  5. Completed the formation of an inferior political-managerial class and its core colonial administration in Armenia (including Artsakh) with strong allegiances to Russia, slave mentality, materialistic aspirations, and a weak will;
  6. In an act of criminal collusion, it actively supported the colonial administration in its move to:

(a) completely capture the state and transform it into an instrument of reproducing the Russian colonial power and its subservient administration;

(b) create a situation forcing mass exodus of Armenians from homeland;

(c) create disproportionately large (in comparison with the country’s population) Janissary police force and guarantee its use with impunity.

Due to these and other actions, Russia also succeeded in maintaining the lever of colonial system, that is, the dependence of Armenia on Russia and will ensure the reproduction of the colonial administration leading to the loss of statehood, genocide, and the final loss of our homeland.

The systemic crisis caused by these actions seriously weakens the national immunity and creates conditions and prerequisites for Abkhazization of Armenia and its final absorption. If that happens, we will be deprived of the prospect of creating a national state and of re-empowering our homeland, implementing our mission, and consequently of the possibility of having a free and dignified life, which will irreversibly lead to assimilation and loss of identity.

To save ourselves of this “dying breed” status and gain a free and dignified national status, first of all, we need to start the decolonization process, that is, liberate ourselves from the Russian colonialism built upon the Russia vs. Turkey dilemma, demolish the colonial system, and cut the umbilical cord with which Russia controls Armenia.

Part 2

To start the decolonization—the Armexit process—we first need to create an Armenian factor, which may be possible only if the colonial administration is removed and replaced by a national government (that is, a national system of public administration).

In our case, the colonial administration can be removed only through a popular uprising, while the national government can be formed in a phased approach involving the following stages: (i) formation of the government of people’s trust, (ii) establishment of the system of transitional government, and (iii) setting up a system of public administration formed on the basis of a new Constitution.

The national government should undertake a review of the regional architecture and eliminate the lever of the colonial system, which would require the following:

  1. Reject the criminal and destructive approaches whereby: (i) the Armenian statehood is viewed as a product of the Russian-Turkish alliance and aggression and a heir to the Soviet Armenia and (ii) Artsakh is separate from the Armenia proper; Instead pursue a strategy of: (i) regarding Armenia as a successor of the 1st Republic, (ii) reclaiming other inalienable rights of all Armenians and the homeland, and (iii) establishing a New Republic on the official territory of the current day Republic of Armenia (RA) and the constitutional territory of Artsakh as the “Republic of Armenia” through the will expressed (in a referendum) by the residents of Armenia and Artsakh.
  2. Launch a legal and political process of reclaiming other inalienable rights of Armenians and Armenia, based on the principles of international law and on the existing international treaties, including:

(a) annulling all international treaties and agreements that reject and/or limit those rights of Armenians and Armenia, as well as other legal acts and actions (including the Moscow Treaty of March 16, 1921; the Kars Treaty of October 13, 1921; and the Treaty on the Formation of the USSR of December 30, 1922), which are not in compliance with the international law.

(b) proposing giving the New Republic of Armenia legal rights over the territories of Nakhichevan and those on the right bank of Kura River.

Only such arguably radical steps—adequate in response to those committed against us by the Russian-Turkish colonial alliance 100 years ago—could change the situation and initiate changes in regional architecture, capable of undermining the basis of the colonial system and eliminating the lever of the colonial control, thus starting the process of forming the decolonized independent Armenian factor. If we do not have the appropriate will and determination to do so, we are doomed to remain in the Russian colonial spiderweb and bleed to death.

However, if we understand and utilize the opportunities arising from the ongoing geopolitical developments in the region and the inevitability of border changes, we will be able to start the process of reclaiming our homeland and regaining our national mission.

At the same time, these steps by themselves are not enough to achieve decolonization: they are the necessary conditions for decolonization. Therefore, apart from these, the decolonization requires a comprehensive set of actions as follows (listed in order of importance, where simultaneous implementation of some actions is possible):[1]

  1. Withdraw the Russian border troops and hand over the control of the RA state border to the RA Border Guards;
  2. Annul the contracts on joint air defense system and joint armed forces with Russia;
  3. Exit all supranational and multilateral alliances established around the axis of Russia (e.g., Collective Security Treaty organization, Eurasian Economic Union, Commonwealth of Independent States, etc.);
  4. Carry out de-communization and de-Sovietization programs;
  5. Perform a lustration of political, economic, and intelligence networks and ensure the accountability for the usurpation of power (by the colonial administration and accomplices) and restore the violated political, civil, economic, and social rights of the state and citizens;
  6. Withdraw the Russian military base from the RA territory;
  7. Reestablish national control over strategic infrastructure and facilities transferred to the ownership or management of the Russian side through nationalization or other means.

SUMMARY

The main cause of the continuing deterioration of our national identity and statehood is the colonization of political consciousness of Armenians in the context of Russian-Turkish conspiratorial dilemma. It justifies the “smaller evil” mentality and the choice of the Russian bayonet over the Turkish yataghan. This in turn makes the Russian yoke tolerable, acceptable, and eventually beloved by some.

Such a choice is usually made by a nation, whose political consciousness and elite have—to a certain degree—lost the qualities necessary for the preservation of national identity (i.e., dignity, pursuit of freedom, strategic mind and will, desire for autonomy, etc.). As a result, such a choice does not stop the disastrous course of action: it loses the core of its mind, will, and power. As a system, it loses its function, disintegrates and falls into a dependence from the colonial power and begins to serve the latter’s regional and geopolitical objectives. Such nations turn into shrinking ethnic-religious communities, with their elites becoming a resource for the colonialists at the expense of their national interests.

Such a choice is a path to self-destruction via the “white genocide.” The fact that (i) elements defining and sustaining a nation’s identify (i.e., mission, culture, public administration, elite, defensive capability, etc.) are subordinated to, and/or are identified with, the colonizer’s respective characteristics and (ii) the nation’s prominent individuals form a “pantheon” of cult idols (e.g., the Madatovs, Loris Melikovs, Isakovs, Baghramyans of the world, among the 40 thousand or so other prominent Armenians in Russia) ensuring the colonial spiritual and political slavery, facilitate and accelerate the absorption of national resources in the colonial system. A nation under such conditions may lose its global scale/dimension and be confined to the territory under the absorbing colonial power.

The path out of the Russia vs. Turkey dilemma and the Russian colonial, genocidal spiderweb toward a free and dignified life is the spiritual, mental, political, and economic decolonization at the national and personal levels; our way out of the deepest sleep and detention—the Armexit—which can lead us to a full and equal membership of the world community and humanity.

The ones on the forefront of the battle for decolonization and a free and dignified life is our progressive, bright, and vibrant youth, the holder of the keys to the future. This is why this call and all our hopes in general are addressed to you, the Armenian youth, the ones who will free us of our chains and help build tomorrow. Do not listen to the older generation that has seen mental slavery! Instead take the responsibility for the future into your own hands and lead us through the road of life to Ararat mission!

[1] For more detailed information on these steps—their justification and implementation—you may refer to these statements: (i) Formulating the Goals of the Struggle, (ii) Jirayr Sefilyan’s and Sasna Tsrer’s Address on the Anniversaries of Battles of May and the Restoration of Independent Statehood, (iii) The Turbulent World Order, Armexit, and the Promising Prospects of a US-Armenia Strategic Alliance, (iv) Sasna Tsrer’s and Friends’ Address from prison and underground on the anniversary of the “Sasna Tsrer” Rebellion, (v) Eradicate Turk-Bolshevizm and Establish Kura-Arax Republic, (vi) The danger is the Line of Victory. Varuzhan Avetisyan’s New Article, and (vii) Joint Statement of Jirayr Sefilyan, Garegin Chugaszyan, Varujan Avetisyan and Garo Yeghnukyan: Perspective of Armenian-Iranian relations.

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Can the Armenian Diaspora Bring a “New Management Culture” to Armenia?

by Kristin Cavoukian, Senior Fellow

This February, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan invited the Armenian diaspora to be part of the country’s future by contributing to government-led reform efforts. He implored recognized educators and scientists to “bring in a new management culture.” While it is heartening to hear Armenia’s politicians admit they do not have all the answers themselves, this message was troublesome in a number of ways, many of them typical of the appeals to the diaspora made by Armenian authorities since the country’s independence. Moreover, it came on the eve of Armenia’s first election since the country’s presidential system was replaced with a parliamentary one. The motives of Armenia’s ruling elites, and the irregularities observed during the referendum, have been discussed at length, and do not need rehashing here. But Karapetyan’s message, at the height of election season, presented an opportunity to discuss the role the diaspora is being asked to play in Armenia’s development and reform, and by extension, its politics.

The first point to address is Karapetyan’s insistence that the diaspora’s “sense of pride and dignity depends on [the] Homeland’s prosperity.” While diasporans do feel pride – and shame – based on conditions in the Republic of Armenia, diasporic identities are complex and multi-layered, and cannot be reduced simply to mirrors reflecting developments in the homeland. As regards that portion of diaspora pride and that does stem from the homeland, economic prosperity is neither its only, nor its most important source. Diaspora Armenians also want an Armenian society that is open and inclusive, and a state that is just, fair, and democratic.

The second point is that, while Karapetyan concedes that Armenia needs to become more open and tolerant of “other value systems”, the fact that he couples this with “keeping to our traditional values” calls into question the degree of openness he intends. Armenian officials have often positioned themselves as the protectors of so-called traditional values, but while Armenians abroad have adapted to and adopted aspects of their various host country cultures, over their long period under Soviet rule, Armenians in today’s Republic of Armenia similarly adopted many aspects of Soviet and Russian culture. As a nation, we must move beyond the idea that there are any pure, dyed-in-the-wool Armenians anywhere in the world, or that anyone has a monopoly on Armenian traditions and values. Moreover, the discussion of traditional values often justifies discrimination and violence against women and LGBTQ Armenians in the name of the “traditional Armenian family.” This deplorable behavior can unfortunately be found to varying degrees all over the world. In Armenia, the fact that pro-“traditional values” forces have closely aligned themselves with like-minded people in Russia makes this clear. Sexism and anti-gay prejudice are not uniquely Armenian values, and can be legitimately opposed within every society they plague.

All too often, Armenian officials invoke these familial and traditional-values tropes to assert their position as the central node in the global Armenian nation. The centrality of the Armenian state would need less vociferous defending were it not for its rampant corruption and increasing authoritarianism, which serve as a consistent source of embarrassment for large swaths of the Armenian diaspora. Successive Armenian elections have been increasingly less free and less fair, and governments have become less and less accountable to the public. Diasporans should be wary of calls to lend legitimacy to the illegitimate and the corrupt in support of a “strong” and “united” Armenia, and should instead support legitimately elected governments that act in the public interest. To do so is not to thrust foreign values on Armenians, but merely to insist that Armenian officials follow their own laws, obey their own constitution, and live up to their own professed values. When the Armenian government is at odds with its people, diaspora involvement should take the side of the Armenian citizenry, in recognition that “the nation” is in fact the people, and not the government of the day.

If there is one bright note in Karapetyan’s appeal, it is the refreshing absence of an overt plea for the diaspora to “help Armenia” by way of charity, philanthropy, or investment. The diaspora has engaged in a lot of this “help” over the years, with mixed results. Armenia is no longer the fledgling state of the 1990s, struggling to keep the water running and the lights on. Instead, it is a country of extreme inequality, where extraordinarily wealthy people (many of them government officials) possess the wherewithal to address the majority of Armenia’s development shortcomings themselves. Scholars who study diasporas around the world have noted that, once an independent state has been established, it is typical for diaspora funds to gradually shift away from assistance to the government, and toward support for civil society.[1] Yet 25 years on, the Armenian diaspora’s aid has somehow remained stuck in “life support” mode. Instead of continuing to support the government’s development priorities through state-led vehicles such as the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, diasporans looking to contribute financially to the betterment of Armenia would do better to redirect their money toward NGOs and other local groups fighting for social change, from think tanks, to women’s groups, to environmental organizations, to alternative media sources free of government influence. And of course, diasporans should prioritize the passport over the pocketbook and connect with Armenia in person – not because doing so is the key to safeguarding their endangered Armenianness (as the Minister of Diaspora has often suggested), but because doing so enriches the lives of both resident and visitor.

Karapetyan is correct to see the diverse experience, knowledge, and skills of the diaspora as a potential resource (he compares this to the oil and gas of Armenia’s neighbours), as cliché as this claim has become. But neither Armenia’s authorities, nor the diaspora, should discount the expertise and ideas of Armenian citizens (and repatriated diasporans) working in opposition or civil society organizations, whose familiarity with conditions in Armenia far exceed those of Armenians abroad. Diasporans called upon to lend their talents to the government should seek out like-minded scholars, activists, and experts living in Armenia, and draw the government’s attention to their ideas and experience. In other words, the government’s responsiveness to the diaspora should not come at the expense of, or be a replacement for, responsiveness to its own citizenry.

Finally, ensuring the integrity of Armenia’s elections should be a vital concern for Armenians everywhere. Too many of the country’s post-Soviet neighbours have slid away from nascent democracy and become “competitive authoritarian” regimes[2] holding sham elections, and independence means little if Armenian citizens are not free to choose their own government. We are now all too aware that battles not fought legitimately at the ballot box will be fought in the streets, and that citizens whose votes are not counted will vote with their feet.  It was encouraging to see prominent members of the Armenian diaspora, such as Arsinee Khanjian and Serj Tankian, promoting diaspora election observation, and serving as observers themselves during Armenia’s April 2, 2017 parliamentary election. However, as with many aspects of diaspora-state relations, short-term action is no substitute for long-term engagement. In this case, international observers expressed alarm at vote-buying, intimidation of voters, and pressure on public servants to vote for certain parties, not to mention unequal media coverage of opposition parties. Since these types of violations are not necessarily observable at the polls on election day, there is a danger that diaspora observers could inadvertently lend credibility to fraudulent results by suggesting, on the basis of their own short-term observations, that fraud did not take place.

Building an Armenia in which we can take pride begins with ensuring its government is one whose legitimacy we can all respect. A “new management culture” ultimately begins with new management. Armenia deserves genuinely free and fair elections so that its own citizens can determine who that management will be. An engaged and committed diaspora can help, but only if they keep their wits about them, and are in it for the long haul.

 

[1] Shain, Yossi and Martin Sherman, 2001. “Diasporic Transnational Financial Flows and Their Impact on National Identity.” Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict 7, 4: 20-21.

[2] Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan A. Way, 2002. “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism.” Journal of Democracy 13, 2 (April). 51-65.

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The Turbulent World Order, Armexit, and the Promising Prospects of a US-Armenia Strategic Alliance

4

An open letter published on the anniversary of July 31, 2016, when Sasna Tsrer temporarily laid down their arms to continue the rebellion.

The turbulent world order, which emerged after the Cold War, has created a promising prospects for: (1) the liberation of Armenia from Russian colonial rule (Armexit), which was founded upon the regional architecture shaped by the Russian-Turkish treaties of 1921, and (2) a US-Armenia strategic alliance, an alliance that can resolve strategic problems of both parties and ensure the pursuit of their national interests in a very important inter-regional and inter-civilizational knot that encompasses Armenia.

The logic of this post-Cold War world order is becoming more and more prominent also in the foreign policy doctrine of the number one world player, the United States. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US foreign policy will hereinafter rely on the “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” principle, which presupposes fewer rules and more pragmatism (“Last conversation with Zbigniew Brzezinski”, “Aravot” No. 104/5444, June 6, 2017).

Specifically, this principle envisages:

  • Rejecting the normative/rule-based approach to trans-democracy; and
  • Ensuring broader US global presence via proxies, by giving its allies an opportunity to carry out active US foreign policy tasks.

In the meantime, the US is toughening its policy toward Russia, which will keep Russia preoccupied with its domestic problems, unable to pursue its Eurasian integration plans and colonial, revisionist aspirations towards its neighboring states. Such a significant revision of US foreign policy creates enormous opportunities for establishing US-Armenia partnership aimed at utilizing its massive potential. If they can adequately balance the normative and pragmatic considerations in bilateral relations in favor of effectiveness, both the US and Armenia will gain new and very serious leverage for pursuing their strategic interests.

Armenia can become a valuable ally for the USA due to the following factors:

First, by helping deprive Russia from its North-South geopolitical axis. As a result, Russia will no longer be able to combine the North-South axis with its main West-East axis and to act as a self-sufficient geopolitical complex in all parts of the Eurasian region. Today, Russia has that North-South axis, which allows Russia to be a global player through its military component, having Armenia as its unique colony-garrison. By cutting off its ties with Russia, getting rid of the Russian presence, and becoming a US ally, Armenia will effectively neutralize that axis. By losing Armenia and its foothold on the North-South axis, Russia will be forced to limit its ambitions towards the greater Middle East. Simultaneously, as a result of being deprived of the ability to be an independent global player, Russia will have to also limit its ambitions along its West-East axis, and to embrace the prospect of being integrated into a civilized world.

Second, by ensuring integration of Iran with the West and act as a corridor between Persian Gulf and Black Sea. Armenia is a bridge between West and East not only geographically, but also by its centuries-old culture and experience in that role, a role typical for Armenia and for Armenians. The Armenian Diaspora and younger generation are essential factors that vastly improve Armenia’s chances on this dimension.

However, Armenia can only deliver on these two issues, if it becomes an independent state with relevant territorial, communicational, human, and material resources. In reality, Armenia is occupied by a colonial power on the basis of architecture formed by 1921 Russian-Turkish treaties (which were in direct violation of international law), with the declared rationale being that Armenia needs Russia. The tools for this control are Armenia’s colonial administration and pro-Russian political elite. Interestingly, not only Armenia’s ruling elite is pro-Russian, but so is the overwhelming majority of the country’s opposition.

These are important obstacles: there can be no US-Armenia strategic alliance without eliminating them. These reasons also rule out political transformation in Armenia through Ukrainian or Georgian scenario. In such a situation, the US’s tailored approach and support for establishing Armenia as an independent state is crucial. All of the components of the system colonizing Armenia should be reexamined. None of these components should be part of tomorrow’s Armenia that will come to substitute what we have today.

To succeed in Armexit, become a member of the family of civilized nations, and perform its mission of a bridge-mediator, Armenia must undergo the following changes:

  • Substantially renew its political elite and create a national government to replace the colonial administration;
  • Free itself of dependency on Russia and its presence (including forfeiting membership from the CIS, CSTO, EEU and closing the Russian military bases from its territory);
  • Acquire the necessary regional and communicational capabilities necessary for a sovereign state by adjoining Artsakh and Nakhijevan; and
  • Ally itself with the US and the West and regain its traditional role as a bridge-mediator for Iran and the region.

Such developments will also limit the joint Russian-Turkish leverage over Armenia, something that will significantly increase the possibility of moving the Armenian-Turkish relations from the deadlock.

Naturally, the need to revisit region’s architecture, take into account the Iranian factor, and ensure the integrative mission of Armenia in general would require that the US-Armenia and West-Armenia relations be built on pragmatism and not have their hands tied by normative considerations. Specifically, pragmatism suggests that to be effective, Armenia should refrain from becoming a NATO country and instead should adopt unique military-political relations, which are just as meaningful content-wise but are free of NATO-imposed limitations and restrictions.

Prior to this, the embryo of tomorrow’s US ally Armenia needs to be created in today’s Armenia. This cannot be done by the US efforts to put the pro-Russian administration and elite of today’s Armenia on the right track. That embryo can be created by adequately supporting national forces and civic/political activists, who represent the people of Armenia and their interests. The support should be sufficient for self-organization, establishing the people’s power and a national government. The remainder of the issues can be solved through joint efforts.

It should also be noted, that the embryo will be viable if it is shaped outside of the current colonial system and is guided by law (which among other things gives people the right for rebellion) and constitutionalism. It cannot survive if it is conceived in an environment governed by today’s system of rules, including “the parliamentary format” that has become the tool of the ruling regime.

The 2016 April war and Sasna Tsrer rebellion resulted in a revolutionary turnaround in the public consciousness of Armenia. The people in Armenia are ready to get rid of Russian colonialism and to ally themselves with the US and the West, to take over its traditional place as a full-fledged member of the civilized community. It is now voluntarily opening itself to the world and hope to build effective and mutually beneficial alliances.

 

Signed/

Jirayr Sefilian, Coordinator of the Founding Parliament Secretariat (in detention)

Garegin Chugaszyan, President of the Founding Parliament (in hiding)

Varuzhan Avetisyan, Member of Sasna Tsrer’s Coordinating Committee, Spokesperson (in detention)

Garo Yeghnukian, Member of the Founding Parliament (in detention)

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The Armenians and Claims for Reparations: Their Sovereignty Challenged?

by Raffi Philippe Kalfayan

Reprinted with author’s permission from http://repairfuture.net.

The issue of reparations for the Genocide of Armenians may appear quite out of phase with the current state of Armenian-Turkish relations, as well as with the respective emergencies in both countries regarding infringements on civil rights and liberties and security threats. However, although these relations suffer from the weight of history and the understandable distrust that has set in, repairing past damages is a possible option to build foundations for a new era. Setting aside the specific situation of each country, this article examines where the case for reparations stands, which solutions are contemplated, and what the current policy of the Armenian State is on the question of the Genocide and its consequences. Philippe Raffi Kalfayan points to some persistent factors in the way Armenians have been handling their destiny so far, showing their impact on the treatment of genocide reparations or regarding territorial claims.

I- The Armenian State as an indispensable player

There have been enough research studies and conferences discussing this issue to enable us today to outline a possible strategy of actions in order to obtain reparations for the genocide of Armenians, both materially and morally.

Individual compensation for loss of property, whether belonging to private persons (family) or legal entities (company, religious institution) may be claimed in front of Turkish courts by those holding titles or deeds or by class action, as in the United States, in view of reaching settlements. Those actions are private initiatives but they do not address the damages of the collective crime. Practice also shows that with the passing of time, the nature of individual claims in terms of property tends to “collectivize”—i.e. to merge into collective claims, and this for several reasons: because proof of assets becomes harder to gather, the kinship and interests of beneficiaries less obvious to ascertain, and the procedural obstacles such as the statutory limitation period and jurisdictional competence harder to overcome.

Collective reparation, on the other hand, aims at the very essence of justice for a mass crime. It touches on national (meaning pan-Armenian) and strategic interests (economic compensations, borders, safeguards against repetition), and calls on international law (truth, remedy, restitution, compensation and satisfaction) because the whole community of nations is concerned with fighting impunity and preventing the most heinous crimes against humanity and peace.

At present, there is no judicial forum for litigations that would enable descendants of victims to assert their rights to reparations, particularly because Turkey’s consent is required. There are many objectivelegal reasons for this, which would take too long to explain here. However, a series of actions could be undertaken which would pave the way towards reaching a legal decision stating the responsibility of Turkey for past violations and thus the liability of its government to indemnify. There would be two distinct mechanisms used in these stages of the process: the first would be an interstate mechanism (a claim for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice) which would require the intervention of the Armenian State at the United Nations to obtain a favorable vote by the General Assembly or Security Council. As for the implementation of claims, the favored second mechanism would proceed from the founding of a Claims Commission, a negotiated administrative process. It would naturally be dependent on Turkey’s consent to enforce the decisions made.

Any process of collective reparation will depend in fine on Armenian-Turkish bilateral relations for three main reasons:

1. Turkey will prefer a global agreement with the Armenian side, settling all individual or collective claims once and for all;

2. The resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh question, although separate from the genocide question and Turkey, is imposed as a precondition to any relationship with Armenia.

3. Third parties consider that the genocide question touches on relations between the two countries. Indeed, the European Court of Human Rights has found in the Perinçek v. Switzerland case (Lower Court, 17 December 2013) that the matter in litigation was “an issue pertaining to relations between two States, namely Turkey and Armenia, the people of the latter country having been the victims of massacres and deportations.”

As for territorial claims, which are often raised by Armenians but are also a goal for some political parties, it should be recalled that they are in no way connected to the issue of reparations for the genocide of Armenians, and this for two main reasons:

1. Ottoman Armenians did not have any land autonomy or independence within the Ottoman Empire (from the 14th century up to the genocide);

2. States have exclusive authority over such claims and any territorial dispute must be settled by peaceful means only, the recourse to coercion being prohibited by the United Nations Charter.

The retrospective study of bilateral or multilateral treaties that directly concerned Armenians, with or without their participation, from the 18th to the 21st century underlines several facts:

1. Russia became the imposed or consenting tutor for the protection of Orthodox Christians (the “Eastern Question”), then of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (first reference to them is found in the 1878’s San Stefano and Berlin Treaties);

2. The power struggle between Great Britain and Russia in the region determined the fate of the Armenians, according to the military or ideological alliances of the Ottoman Empire, then of the Kemalist Republic;

3. The only treaty elaborating the creation of an Armenian State, i.e. Sèvres (1920) and its fate  illustrate that political game;

4. It is a Russian-Turkish Treaty which defined the borders of the Caucasian States (Moscow, 1921), confirmed by the latter states in the Treaty of Kars signed on 21 October 1921. The issue of the sovereignty of those Bolshevik Transcaucasian republics in Kars is debatable.

In conclusion, the examination of the legal-political solutions at hand, the demands that Turkey might voice and the possible discussion of territorial claims clearly make Armenia’s involvement indispensable, but they also raise the issue of the real sovereignty of Armenia as a state.

II- The Republic of Armenia’s current policy for the recognition of the genocide: a dead end for reparations.

So far, Armenia’s policy has limited itself to the famous pan-armenian declaration of 29 January 2015focused on supporting the process of political recognition of the Armenian genocide though out the world. The Armenian Foreign Affairs have also engaged in a  “prestige diplomacy” to show that Armenia is at the forefront of the fight to prevent genocides—a commendable policy but quite removed from the concrete actions needed to seek justice for the past crimes.

On that particular subject—i.e. defining a strategy or launching specific actions—the Armenian State remains in an observer’s position and the organization created specially to study these topics under the aegis of the Armenian constitutional Court is meant to centralize studies, analyses and initiatives on the subject, but not to take action.

It should also be noted that the Armenian State has been daunted by several litigations which faced  with disappointing outcomes, such as the Perinçek v. Switzerland  case and the Chiragov v. Armenia, both held before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

Armenia’s lack of executives and of financial means, its refusal to use the skills in the Diaspora, and its blatant dependence on Russia generate a sort of inertia. Hence arises a risk on the legal and political planes, because, on the one hand, the time for legal action is not eternal and, on the other, ground is lost to the adversary.

This attitude entails three damaging consequences:

First, it has a direct influence on the mainstream secular or religious Armenian organizations in the Diaspora, who are traditionally legitimist. The “Dashnaksutyun (or Armenian Revolutionary Federation), the political party spearheading the Armenian cause and making the strongest claims, has coalesced with the government and thus reduced its freedom of initiative.

Secondly, the resulting stagnancy is the worst possible scenario for the question of reparations but also for the recognition of the genocide of Armenians. (For instance, on 30 May 2017 in Baku, President Erdogan’s first adviser could state that Armenians never stopped clamoring for recognition of the genocide but refused any investigation on the facts.) The Republic of Armenia and the Diaspora both operate on a reactive rather than proactive mode, involve themselves in useless actions and expose themselves to diplomatic and judicial attacks from Turkey and its allies. As recent proof of that, on another legal-political case which the Republic of Armenia is faced with, Azerbaijan has called on the Security Council and the UN General Assembly to rule on the illegality of the Armenian occupation and of the activities of third parties in Nagorno-Karabakh, citing a “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with Respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan.”  (Report submitted on 10 April 2017).

Thirdly, the passing of time and legal inaction may block any possible recourse for Armenian claims or reduce them to purely symbolic measures. The older the violation of international law, the harder it will be to identify the specific damages and the more symbolic, collective and memorial the reparations will be. Territorial claims would be even more problematic: constant jurisprudence from international jurisdictions state that in the absence of earlier claims repeated through time, it is assumed that the appellant has accepted the situation as it is. We can only observe that no such territorial claim has been expressed, either by the Soviet Republic of Armenia or by the current Republic against Turkey. However the attitude of the parties is essential to establish the grounding for claims and the passivity of a party is considered as tantamount to giving up its entitlement or claims.

Conclusion

The questions of reparations for the genocide of Armenians or the separate issue of the territorial claims of Armenia on Turkey are naturally and undoubtedly connected to Armenian-Turkish relations.

If some initiatives in the field of reparations coming from the Diaspora in the name and interests of descendants of victims are possible and commendable, they will only be marginal to the central issue of material and moral reparation for the genocide. And that issue cannot do without the involvement of the Armenian State within a global agreement to be found between Turkey and Armenians.

The chronology and contents of the treaties concerning Armenian populations in the Ottoman Empire, as well as the bilateral or multilateral treaties signed between Turkey and Armenia, but also the circumstances and geopolitical stakes of the international treaties of Sèvres and Lausanne illustrate to what extent Armenians and Armenia have been pawns, whether willingly or submissively, of a war of influence between great powers.

The sovereignty of Armenia does seem to be at the heart of issues concerning Armenian-Turkish relations, and consequently of the question of reparations as well. The new “cold war” waged by the United States and Europe against Russia and the constant threatening of Iran by the West and Israel even further complicate the reading of Armenia’s fate, “protected” as it is by Russia and friendly tied with Iran.

All these power games now crystallize around the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Armenian-Turkish protocols signed in Zurich in 2009 aimed covertly to resolve that problem, and they failed for that reason. The legal-diplomatic action launched against Armenia by the Azerbaijani government cannot be just an isolated initiative: it is a new way of putting pressure on Armenia. The Republic of Armenia is caught in a vise between its wish to restore its relationship with Turkey and its vital interest to protect the Nagorno-Karabakh, however without giving itself the means to regain sovereign control of its destiny.

All efforts must focus on bolstering Armenia’s sovereignty and rebuilding trust. Without disavowing the strategic alliances of today, a sovereign policy on the part of Armenia would be reassuring for Turkey and encourage it to pursue a dialogue towards a global and strategic bilateral agreement which would include the writing of a common narrative and reparation for damages caused in the past. Conversely, Turkey would be well-inspired to show its political sincerity by implementing provisional measures without delay, such as: suspend its official denial policy, put an end to its hate and discrimination speech and open an investigation into the past events, inviting in representatives of the civil or political society including members of the Armenian minority.

Raffi Philippe Kalfayan is a prominent French-Armenian lawyer, a former Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights, and the coordinator of the Action Group for International Reparation for the Armenian Genocide. This presentation was part of the colloquium “Which Future for the Armenian-Turkish Dialogue? Balancing memorial issues and international relations” that took place in Yerevan on 17 February 2017. The colloquium was organized by Yerkir Europe in partnership with the French Embassy in Armenia, the French University in Armenia (UFAR) and the Fonds d’Alembert project of the Institut Français.

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