Commentary: Is Armenia Losing Its Diplomatic Edge?


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Several recent developments on the world political scene indicate Armenia’s diplomacy has suffered some serious losses, tipping the scale in favor of Turkey and Azerbaijan. A few members in the Armenian parliament have ascribed these setbacks to the Foreign Ministry’s rather passive posture, which in fact may constitute senseless self-flagellation, because those setbacks are mostly the functions of Armenia’s weak position in the global political arena. Had Armenia possessed oil and mineral resources like Azerbaijan, an Aliyev-style dynastic hold on power would be tolerated. Also, had Armenia been situated in a strategic land mass like Turkey, any occupation, like the Cyprus case, would only cause semantic discussions and verbal gymnastics, overlooking all the trespasses of international law and UN resolutions.

Armenia, having none of the above attributes, remains subject to all kinds of diplomatic abuses.

It would be very presumptuous to make any tangible recommendations to counter those diplomatic setbacks, but at least we would be on the right track, if we can at least diagnose the situation and have a clear view of the depth of our foreign policy failures.

It does not give us any advantage to subject the responsible parties to a tongue-lashing, like some of Armenia’s representatives are doing, every time Armenia’s enemies administer a diplomatic blow. Turkey has become a major player on the world scene and it has been using that status on every possible occasion to corner Armenia and to cause a diplomatic defeat. Turkey is one of the 15 UN Security Council members, and at one time also one of its rotating presidents.

In that capacity, Ankara has threatened Armenia with placing the Karabagh issue on the Security Council’s agenda, since the General Assembly resolutions are non-binding.

Turkey’s Security Council membership has also cautioned and intimidated the Obama administration, which is seeking tougher UN sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, where Turkey’s vote becomes significant. Whether Turkey eventually votes for or against those sanctions, or abstains, is a secondary question, since the White House has already made the down payment to Turkey by avoiding the use of the term genocide. Armenia’s interests could be short-sold, with relative impunity, by any major power.

Turkey’s representative also holds the position of the president at the Council of Europe and rather than adhering to the European positions, he has been acting like a Turk. Indeed Mr. Mevlut Chavushoglu’s recent visit to Armenia as president of the Council of Europe caused a diplomatic row when he refused to pay a visit to the Martyr’s Monument in Yerevan.

When asked why he failed to visit the monument, Chavushoglu gave an answer like a Turkish bazaar peddler, that his predecessors have also not visited the monument. When journalists refuted his lie, he resorted to his arrogance by stating that it was his personal decision not to show up at the monument.

This is only the symbolic aspect of the tremendous damage that he can cause in that European body.

Many people in Armenia believe that by joining the European Union, Turkey will behave like a European nation. Chavushoglu’s behavior can project a clear picture of what an eventual Turkish presence in Europe will mean for Armenia.

In these series of diplomatic setbacks, the slap from the European Parliament was not an insignificant one; this time by an Azerbaijani friend, the Bulgarian member of the European Parliament, Yevgeny Kirilov. This latter member of European Parliament was assigned to deliver report number 2216 on behalf of the European Parliament, which calls for “immediate withdrawal of the Armenian forces from the occupied Azeri territories.” An incensed Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian lashed out at the report during a joint press conference with the visiting Argentinean Foreign Minister Jorge Tayana stating, “The segment on the Karabagh conflict in the report does not correspond to Madrid Principles, nor the Aquila declaration, nor the Moscow Proclamation. The European Union made its position clear in the Athens declaration of December 2009, which fully corresponds to Armenia’s views.”

Many parliamentarians expressed also their opinions and a letter of protest was lodged by Hovig Abrahamian, speaker of Armenia’s parliament. Some members mentioned that the report is non-binding, others dismissed it as a document drafted only in the presence of 20 members of the European Union. But most dwell on Mr. Kirilov’s background as the beneficiary of Azeri lobbying groups, who also has fought against the passage of an Armenian Genocide resolution in the Bulgarian parliament. All these arguments do not diminish the significance of a historic document in the archives of the European Union, to be used today by the Azeri government and in the future by historians presenting Armenia under an unfavorable light.

Last but not least, another blow came from the Islamic conference held in Kazakhstan’s capital, Dushanbe. Indeed the foreign ministers of Islamic countries participating in the organization’s 37th conference, have passed a resolution labeling Armenia as an “aggressor” and have requested to solve the Karabagh conflict respecting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The resolution has even gone further, ignoring completely Azerbaijan’s barbaric destruction of Jugha Khachkars, and has blamed Armenia for desecrating Islamic monuments. In the end, the Islamic countries have pledged to extend economic support to Azerbaijan, perhaps because all the oil revenues of that “poor” country can hardly meet the needs of the Aliyev dynasty.

It is ironic that Kazakhstan could encourage, let alone condone, such a hostile document against Armenia, while it had pledged neutrality as the current president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Besides Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Syria and Iran are members of the Islamic conference and supposedly friends of Armenia. It would be interesting to check how have these countries voted during the said resolution.

A case in point is a recent incident in Lebanon, as well as the rest of the Arab world, where Turkey’s peace initiative and deepening economic ties have been stifling the respective Armenian communities. Recently an Armenian song, making a reference to the Genocide, was banned from the Lebanese public TV channel. We wonder what the Armenian members of the Lebanese parliament were doing when the gag-order was issued by the government.

All these developments reflect negatively on Armenia’s foreign policy and one wonders where Armenia’s friends are to lend their solidarity.

Another development right here in America, which has no bearing on Armenia’s foreign policy is Woodrow Wilson Institute’s decision to honor Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, aGenocide denier. This is an insult to President Wilson’s memory and legacy and at the same time presents a challenge to our lobbying groups in the US. David Boyajian’s in-depth article and justified anger must be enough for all Armenians to face this challenge and stop the insanity.

We are at a stage where Armenian’s political isolation and our insufficient resources in the diaspora are placing us in a siege as a nation.

Is there an outcome?