National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

The Armenian Reporter | February 28, 2009


Washington briefing

by Emil Sanamyan

Obama proposes 2010

budget, as Congress

funds 2009

President Barack Obama made

his first budget proposal since taking

office, calling for an overall increase

in funding for the State Department

and other international

programs to $51.7 billion, or $4.5

billion more than the Fiscal Year

2009 spending estimate, the White

House announced on February 26.

Country-by-country breakdowns,

including that for Armenia, were

not available at press time. But the

overall increase may help reverse

the trend of recent years with U.S.

aid programs for post-Soviet states

declining from $452 million in 2007

to an estimated $346 million in


Meanwhile, on February 25, Congress

passed the Omnibus spending

bill for Fiscal Year 2009. According

to the Democratic Party

managers’ report accompanying

the legislation and made available

to the Armenian Reporter, the legislation

set aside $48 million in aid to

Armenia and $8 million to Nagorno-

Karabakh. There was also $3 million

in foreign military financing for Armenia

and Azerbaijan, each.

Overall, Armenia aid program remains

one of the largest in Europe

with only Kosovo ($120.9 million),

Ukraine ($71.5 million), Russia ($60

million), and Georgia ($52 million)

receiving more funding. Aid to

Azerbaijan was set at $18.5 million.

The legislation mirrored closely

the spending levels proposed by

the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee

last summer. (See this

page in the Armenian Reporter for

July 17, 2008.)

There is also substantial cut in

Millennium Challenge Corporation

programs, set at $875 million, down

from $1.35 billion requested by the

Bush administration.

HRW study cover.

Reports review

Armenia’s post-election


Allegations of misconduct by

Armenia’s law-enforcement agencies

during post-electoral collisions

last year should be thoroughly

investigated, the New

York-based Human Rights Watch

(HRW) urged as part of a detailed

study released on February 25.

The watchdog also called on the

United States and the European

Union to make their engagement

with Armenia contingent on such

an investigation.

The 64-page HRW report, “Democracy

on Rocky Ground: Armenia’s

Disputed 2008 Presidential

Election, Post-Election Violence,

and the One-Sided Pursuit of Accountability,”

is perhaps the most

comprehensive available account

of Armenia’s latest post-election


The study is based on interviews

with 80 witnesses, participants,

and victims of the March 1–2 clashes

in Yerevan, conducted in March

and April last year.

Also released on February 25 was

the State Department’s annual

study of human rights practices

worldwide. Its Armenia chapter, in

addition to compiling human rights

issues throughout 2008, retained a

controversial reference to the Armenian

republic of Nagorno-Karabakh

as a “region of Azerbaijan.”

There were community and

congressional complaints when

the reference was first introduced

into the report in 2006. State Department

officials claimed at the

time the reference did not signal a

change in U.S. policy. There was no

public reaction when the reference

was repeated last year.

Thomas de Waal. Armenian Reporter.

Expert recommends

change of rhetoric on


“Both internationally and locally,

the language used about the [Karabakh]

dispute needs to change for

progress to be made” in the peace

process, the leading Western expert

on the conflict Thomas de Waal

argued in a paper for the Conciliation

Resources, a British charity.

The 20-page paper titled, “The

Karabakh Trap: Dangers and dilemmas

of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict,”

released online on February

24, provides a review of the status

quo in the Armenian-Azerbaijani

standoff and outlines potential future


As immediate steps, Mr. de Waal

recommends “less use by international

officials of formulas about

‘territorial integrity’ and “self-determination’

which obscure more

than they reveal” about the conflict;

he also urges “an end to the

talk of war” by Azerbaijan and a

distinction between the rights of

Karabakh Armenians and Armenian-controlled

former Azerbaijanipopulated


“On both sides, [there is a need

for] mention of regret for the

shared tragedy of war, of the deep

common culture and of the necessity

and value of living together as

neighbours and partners in the future,”

the expert concludes.

Mr. de Waal is author of Black

Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan

through Peace and War, the only

thorough study of the conflict

available in English, released as a

book in 2003.

Polls note Muslim

suspicion of U.S.,

worldwide religiosity

Most Muslims oppose terrorist attacks

against civilians but are also

suspicious of the United States and

endorse the al Qaida objective of

removing American military bases

from the Middle East, according to

surveys conducted last year and released

on February 25.

The World Public Opinion poll

found that a significant number

of respondents in eight Muslim

countries studied support attacks

on U.S. military forces deployed in

the Middle East. While majorities

hold a negative view of Osama bin

Mediators fault Azerbaijan for threatening war

Laden and al Qaida, they also believe

that Islamist groups should be

allowed to participate in the political


In Turkey, 87 percent of respondents

believed the United States intends

to “weaken and divide” Muslims

and 77 percent thought the

U.S. naval presence in the Persian

Gulf was a “bad idea.” Turks were

split on attacks against U.S. forces

in Iraq, with 40 percent disapproving

and 39 percent approving of

such attacks.

In Azerbaijan, 67 percent of respondents

believed the U.S. goal

was to undermine Muslims and 66

percent called U.S. military presence

a “bad idea.” Nevertheless,

fully 76 percent of Azerbaijanis also

opposed attacks on U.S.-led forces

in Iraq. (Azerbaijan was the only

country included in the survey to

have had a contingent in Iraq until

last year.)

In a separate Gallup poll of

worldwide religiosity released on

February 9, Azerbaijan was determined

to be the least religious majority-Muslim

country in the world.

Only 21 percent of Azerbaijanis

surveyed responded affirmatively

when asked if religion was an important

part of their life.

By contrast, 75 percent of Georgians

and 70 percent of Armenians

said they were religious. In the

United States two-thirds of respondents

described themselves

as religious. Egypt, Bangladesh,

and Sri Lanka, topped the ranks of

the most religious countries worldwide.


President Obama and cabinet members discuss the administration’s budget

proposal on Jan. 24 at the White House. White House photo: Pete Souza.

n Continued from page

to the Minsk Group peace process,

and asked the co-chairs to intensify

their efforts to help the parties

bridge their remaining differences

with regard to the Basic Principles.

“In subsequent public statements,

both presidents underscored their

enduring commitment to the Minsk

Group’s mediation effort. Therefore,

the Minsk Group’s co-chairs will

visit the region before the end of

February to help the parties to accelerate

their efforts to finalize the

Basic Principles. The Minsk Group

co-chairs will not allow the peace

process to be subverted by legalistic

or historical discussions, though

they will remain sensitive to historical

concerns expressed by the parties

to the conflict, all of which must

be addressed in due course. The

co-chairs further believe the abovementioned

reports should have no

bearing on negotiations within the

Minsk Group in pursuit of a peaceful

and political settlement of the

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, to

which both presidents committed

themselves in their Moscow Declaration,”

the statement read.

On February 20 the Foreign Ministry

of Azerbaijan disseminated

the contents of two documents

that Agshin Mehdiyev, Azerbaijan’s

representative to the United

Nations had been sent to the United

Nations Secretary General. The

first document presents Azerbaijan’s

version of the Karabakh war. It

clearly states in the document that

Azerbaijan can “liberate by military

means” the territories under the

control of Armenian forces.

According to the Russian-language

daily Zerkalo published in

Baku, the second report says that

respecting the territorial integrity

of states is a founding norm of international

law and the principle

of self-determination cannot be

viewed as a right for separation.

And so, according to Azerbaijan,

Nagorno-Karabakh can exercise

self-determination only within the

bounds of Azerbaijan’s territorial


United Nations


Since 2004, Azerbaijan has continually

tried to place the settlement of

the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or

any component of the conflict on

the agenda of the United Nations

General Assembly and thereby win

political points – as General Assembly

resolutions are not compulsory.

On March 14, 2008 – while Armenia

was in a state of emergency

– Azerbaijan succeeded in its efforts

and the United Nations General

Assembly adopted a resolution “reaffirming

the territorial integrity of

Azerbaijan, demanding withdrawal

of all Armenian forces from all occupied

territories there.”

By a recorded vote of 39 in favor

to 7 against (Angola, Armenia,

France, India, Russian Federation,

United States, Vanuatu), with 100

abstentions (among them all other

EU states), “the Assembly also reaffirmed

the inalienable right of the

Azerbaijani population to return to

their homes, and reaffirmed that

no State should recognize as lawful

the situation resulting from the occupation

of Azerbaijan’s territories,

or render assistance in maintaining

that situation.”

Defining that resolution as “bogus,”

Vartan Oskanian, Armenia’s

foreign minister at the time, said,

“I hope that Azerbaijan understood

the message of the international

community. Following the example

of the co-chairs, the majority of the

member-states refused the unilateral


Azerbaijan is trying to discredit

Armenia in international bodies

with such resolutions. By taking the

Karabakh issue or any component

of that issue to the United Nations,

the authorities in Baku believe that

they can receive the ready support

of at least the Islamic countries

within that organization.

Earlier, on September 8, 2006,

Azerbaijan scored a point when

the UN General Assembly adopted

a resolution on ecological damage

from fires in the Karabakh conflict

zone. The wording of such resolutions

is more important for Azerbaijan

than their substance, because

as a rule Azerbaijan’s territorial

integrity and the issue of the territories

being occupied by Armenian

forces are restated in those resolutions.

And so, the resolution about

the fires was titled, “The situation in

the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,”

a formulation that satisfies the

claims of Azerbaijan.

Earlier still, in autumn 2004,

Azerbaijan accused Armenia at the

United Nations of illegal resettlement

in Nagorno-Karabakh and

its adjacent territories and for conducting

a policy of appropriation.

The effect was that in January–February

2005, the OSCE sent a factfinding

group to the territories.

That group stressed in its report

that Armenia was not conducting

a policy of settlement and appropriation.

In recent years Azerbaijan has

frequently recalled the four resolutions

that were adopted by the

United Nations Security Council on

the Karabakh issue in 1993. During

the Karabakh war, Azerbaijan

was the one that ignored the calls

of the intermediating states and

organizations and did not wish

to stop military activities, expecting

that by regrouping its military

forces it would reach its goal: seize

Karabakh and deport all of the Armenians

from there. Azerbaijan

ignored the demands of those four

resolutions, expecting to force a

political full stop to Armenia and

Nagorno-Karabakh through success

in the military field. f

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