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Armenpress Interview with Ambassador Tatoul Markarian


July 18, 2005

Embassy of the Republic of Armenia

2225 R Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20008

Tel: 202-319-1976, x. 348; Fax: 202-319-2982

Email: armecon@speakeasy.net; Web: www.armeniaemb.org

Armepress News Agency Interview with Ambassador Tatoul Markarian on U.S.-Armenian relations

Q. How would you describe the current status of U.S.-Armenian relations?

A. Armenia enjoys excellent relations with the United States, which are deeply rooted in our shared values and principles. Our task is to further enhance the already high level of cooperation and partnership with the United States to the mutual benefit of our nations and in order to meet the challenges that the international community now faces.

Since the restoration of its independence in 1991, Armenia has had many achievements in building democratic institutions and civil society, a representative form of government, and a free-market economy. We appreciate greatly the enormous political, moral, and humanitarian support that the

United States has extended under the Freedom Support Act, and which helped Armenia to sustain an independent statehood and implement democratic, legal, and economic reforms.

The many institutionalized meetings and consultations between the Governments of our countries, such as U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force, U.S.-Armenia Strategic Dialog, Bilateral Defense Consultations, provide a framework for dialog on bilateral political, security, and economic cooperation. Bilateral visits play an important role, and this year we have already had a visit by the Foreign Minister, and the Prime Minister, the

Chairman of the Armenian National Assembly, and the Defense Minister will visit later this year. U.S.-Armenia Task Force and U.S.-Armenia strategic dialog meetings will be conducted in Washington later this year.

Q. What’s the level of economic cooperation between the two countries?

A. Since 1992, the level and scope of U.S. assistance programs have changed from providing humanitarian assistance to mostly focusing on economic development and democratic and legal reforms, reflecting the significant

progress made by Armenia in these areas.

Armenia’s economy is now more efficient, diversified, than those of its neighbors. According to Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation,

Armenia ranks higher in index of economic freedom than any other country in Eurasia and most of Eastern Europe.

Armenia’s inclusion as a potential recipient of the Millennium Challenge

Account funds is a testimony to Armenia’s ability to rule justly, promote economic freedom, and invest in people. The MCA funds and continued U.S.

assistance to Armenia will advance the objectives of poverty reduction and promotion of economic growth, thus helping to unleash the creative potential of the Armenian people. The appropriate Congressional subcommittees have

already voted to markup assistance to Armenia at the same level in 2006 as it was this year. Equally important was maintaining parity in Congressional allocation of military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Also, U.S.
continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Nagorno Karabakh.

The United States is among Armenia’s top five trading partners, and over the last 5 years, the exports of Armenian products to the United States have

grown significantly. Earlier in 2005, Armenia was granted the Permanent Normal Trade Relations regime by the United States. At the same time, the level of U.S. investments in Armenia is not high compared with the existing potential. Therefore, promotion of trade and investment will be an important priority.

Most U.S. investment to Armenia went into Armenia’s hospitality and IT industries, particularly software manufacturing. Most of Armenia’s software companies are geared towards the U.S. markets. Many hotels in Armenia are now operated by Armenian-American investors, and this has helped raise the standards and promote competition in this important industry. There are also numerous small- and medium-scale Armenian-American entrepreneurs who own

businesses in Armenia, or engage in export and import operations.

Nevertheless, the prevailing model for U.S. investment in Armenia has been foreign direct investments, or personal involvement of the entrepreneur or manager. During my meetings many express willingness to take advantage of the economic opportunities in Armenia, but the main limitation is that potential investors are unable, due to lack of time or career considerations, to move to Armenia to personally run their businesses.

Therefore, in order to attract more American investment to Armenia, there is a need for new mechanisms, vehicles such as venture capital funds, investment companies, etc.

Q. What’s the role of the Armenian-American community in our bilateral relations?

A. The Armenian-American community is at the forefront of our relations,

promoting bilateral trade and scientific cooperation, as well as cultural and interchurch contacts.

There are many distinguished Armenian-American individuals and organizations that have provided important support to Armenia and Artsakh and continue

contributing immensely to strengthening the Armenian statehood, as well as the development of the Armenian economy. Earlier this month, famous Armenian benefactor Kirk Kirkorian’s Lincy Foundation announced the new 60 million dollar program in Armenia.

Strengthening the Homeland-Diaspora ties remains a priority for the Armenian government, and many institutional and ad hoc measures have been implemented in recent years. I am convinced that we are only beginning to reveal the

synergies and realize this potential, and it is necessary to continue the policies of bringing the Homeland and Diaspora even closer. Already today, Armenia is home to all Armenians, and every Armenian can make a difference there.

Q. How do you see the U.S. role in normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations?

A. We appreciate the efforts by the United States government to promote regional cooperation in South Caucasus, as it will increase the prosperity and development in the entire region. The United States remains engaged with our neighbor Turkey by continuously urging that country to contribute positively to the development of South Caucasus by lifting the blockade on and normalizing its relations with Armenia.

Nevertheless, the continued denial by Turkey of not only the past but also the current realities, and, first of all, its refusal to establish normal relations with and its blockade of Armenia leaves with no choice but to pursue the resolution of all bilateral problems within the international

framework. In this context, in addition to European countries, the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States will make the message even stronger and more unanimous that Turkey has to face its history. It has the potential to contribute to stimulating the Turkish society to discuss this issue in a vigorous and democratic manner.

Q. Following the events in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, what is the

U.S. position on domestic political developments and elections in Armenia?

A. The United States has been a partner in the process of implementation of democratic and economic reforms in Armenia that are now firmly entrenched and irrevocable. Our U.S. counterparts are interested that democratic reforms in Armenia continue and be accomplished through political dialog.

As for elections, they present an important value, and in democratic transition they are not only the means but often the ends. Meanwhile, democracy cannot be advanced by conduct of elections alone. Elections, after all, are a reflection of existing state of affairs in socio-economic and

political structures of the society. In this context, essential preparatory work is carried out in Armenia for a sustained period of time to reform the political and economic system. At this stage this means addressing key issues, such as Constitutional reform, amending the Electoral Code, better self-government for Armenia’s local communities, etc.

The recently developing agreement on these issues between the ruling coalition and opposition in the parliament, in cooperation with the Council of Europe, can serve as an example of how political issues can be resolved by democratic means, such as dialog and parliamentary process. And this is the way that is most preferred and appreciated by our U.S. counterparts.

Q. How does U.S.-Armenian security cooperation develop in the context of the Global War on Terror?

A. Immediately in the wake of 9/11, Armenia has joined the international anti-terror coalition and offered the use of its airspace and other tangible assistance for the U.S.-led anti-terror operations. This also marked the

beginning of military cooperation between the U.S. and Armenia. It was made possible by the waiver of Section 907, while also addressing the concerns of Armenia regarding security in the region. The provision of U.S. military

assistance to Armenia helped the Armenian Armed Forces to establish peacekeeping capability and address interoperability issues. The Armenian soldiers and officers now serve alongside with their partners within NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, and in Kosovo, and Armenia’s contingent is serving in Iraq with many other nations of the coalition. Also important for our military cooperation is the State Partnership Program between the Kansas National Guard and the Armenian Armed Forces.

The first phase of our security cooperation is nearing completion, and we know better the mutual potential and expectations. Armenia’s Defense Minister will visit the United States later this year to discuss the current level and future prospects for our cooperation.

Q. The U.S. officials have recently made a number of public statements on the future status of Kosovo. How will the Kosovo status talks affect the NK peace settlement?

A. The future of Kosovo has indeed been a subject of very open and public discussions lately, with important statements by U.S. government officials.
No matter to what extent the Administration favors the principle of full

sovereignty of Kosovo, they find that the final status must be a result of negotiation process. We understand the international community is not ready to shoulder entire responsibility and suggest a universal solution to all those cases or to impose ready-made solutions to Kosovo or other cases.

However, the international community could have been more vigorous in supporting democracy and economic developments in these regions. The argument that economic isolation will make conflicting parties more malleable or eager to compromise is a wrong stereotype. On the contrary,

imposed isolation and economic scarcity can contribute to ethnocentrism and make a conflicting party less inclined to compromise. It is encouraging that the United States and European Union have already worked to promote democratic values and economic freedom in Kosovo, which will inevitably contribute to a durable and sustainable settlement in whatever final form it comes.

The people of Karabakh have already pursued the right choices on their own, exerting hard effort toward democratic consolidation and economic development. The recent parliamentary elections there showed the determination to adhere to democratic principles, and this deserves encouragement and appreciation of the international community.

The independence of Kosovo will, of course, have an impact on settlement of conflicts in other parts of the world. However, the concerns by some within the international community that recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty may set a precedent necessitating the same status everywhere are exaggerated since each case will be judged on its own merits. After all, there have been several examples of application of the right to self-determination, in one form or another, both by conflicting parties and by the international community to prevent or to settle existing conflicts. In the previous decade alone, this right has been exercised, irrespective of the outcome, in the cases of East Timor, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico, Quebec, Southern Sudan, Serbia and Montenegro, and elsewhere.

As far as Nagorno Karabakh is concerned, its distinction from other conflicts in Eurasia is readily acknowledged by the international community.
I am convinced, and it is widely shared, that any solution to the conflict will be based on the fact and the right of self-determination of the people of Nagorno Karabakh, which is the core and the final settlement must take it into account.

(Released by Armenpress on July 18, 2005)

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