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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04YEREVAN462 2004-02-25 03:17:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

"POLITICAL MURDER" ROCKS THE ARMENIAN BODY POLITIC

Tags:   PGOV PREL AJ AM 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000462 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CACEN, EUR/SNEC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL AJ AM
SUBJECT: "POLITICAL MURDER" ROCKS THE ARMENIAN BODY POLITIC

REF: A) YEREVAN 444 B) BAKU 333

Classified By: Ambassador John Ordway for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) The GOAM, parliamentarians, and NGOs agree across
the board in calling the February 19 murder of Armenian
Lieutenant Gurgen Margarian by an Azerbaijani officer at NATO
Partnership for Peace (PfP) English training program in
Budapest a "political murder," and have been widely quoted in
the press (ref A). The GOAM has officially condemned the act
as an obvious consequence of the hostile environment towards
Armenia fostered by the Azerbaijani leadership. Both
pro-government and opposition parliamentarians have called on
NATO to review its decision to allow Azerbaijan to host the
PfP exercises Cooperative Best Effort 04. (Note: Some
political analysts have gone so far as to suggest that the
murder may have been ordered by the Azerbaijani leadership to
intimidate Armenia into not sending participants to the
upcoming exercises. End Note.) A prominent parliamentarian,
calling the murder "the second link in the chain," told us
privately that he anticipates strong anti-NATO fall-out and a
strengthening of anti-Azeri hard-liners' hands. End Summary.



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MFA LAMBASTES AZERI "ANTI-ARMENIAN HYSTERIA"


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2. (C) In a strongly-worded February 19 statement, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the GOAM's official
reaction to the killing of Lieutenant Margarian. The MFA
condemned the murder, and stated that "(the) crime is a
logical consequence of the anti-Armenian hysteria that has
been left unreined by the Azeri authorities over the years
and of the warmongering militarist propaganda of recent
months, which consistently infects all of Azeri society."
The Ministry of Defense echoed the charges of the MFA in a
statement, contending "this atrocious murder is the direct
consequence of Azerbaijan's policy aimed at kindling hatred
towards the Armenian people." In discussions February 23,
the MFA's NATO desk officer Muhrad Tashcian told us that the
initial MFA statement remained the official GOAM position and
that Armenia's Ambassador to NATO would be formally
presenting a complaint to the NATO Secretary-General in a
meeting February 23. He suggested that Armenia may request
that the NATO PfP exercise Cooperative Best Effort 04 (CBE
04) be moved from Azerbaijan.



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ANTI-NATO BACKLASH LIKELY


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3. (C) National Assembly (NA) Military Affairs Committee
Chairman Mher Shahgeldian told us that public (and
parliamentary) sentiment was already building toward a likely
anti-NATO backlash. Shahgeldian echoed other political
leaders and noted that the "political murder" was the second
link in a chain of recent disturbing events related to NATO:
first, he said, NATO did not protest strongly enough when
Azerbaijan prevented Armenian participation in the recent
planning conference for CBE 04, and now, should NATO not
issue a strongly worded statement condemning Margarian's
murder as "political," pressure would build to hamper
Armenian cooperation with an "anti-Armenian NATO."
Shahgeldian insisted that he will do what he can to continue
what he characterizes as "strong" current cooperation, but
urged the USG to acknowledge the murder as "clearly
political."



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MAINSTREAM NGOS NO LESS SHRILL


--------------------------





4. (C) The Fund Against Violation of the Law, an NGO headed
by new Human Rights Ombudsman Larisa Alaverdian, urged NATO
to re-evaluate Azerbaijan's place within the PfP framework as
the country's leadership has created an environment where
cooperation where cooperation is impossible. Styopa
Safaryan, a Political Analyst at the Armenian Center for
National And International Studies and recent International
Visitor participant, told us that it was impossible to rule
out the involvement of Azerbaijani authorities in the murder.
He said that the Azerbaijani government could not
politically afford to allow Armenians to participate in CBE
04, and perhaps ordered the killing to intimidate Armenia
into not participating. Safaryan contends that this view is
shared by many regional security analysts.



--------------------------


DASHNAK YOUTH STAGE SMALL DEMONSTRATION


--------------------------





5. (SBU) The youth group of the Dashnak Party organized a
small demonstration at the MFA in the afternoon of February


24. Approximately 70 youth carried banners calling on the
international community to respond to the act of "Azeri
aggression." They also placed funerary wreaths on the
sidewalk in front of the building. Officials in the MFA who
witnessed the protest told us that no banners contained
anti-NATO slogans.



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TEMPERATE COMMENTS HARD TO FIND


--------------------------





6. (C) Vazgen Manukian of the National Democratic Union told
us that there were not enough facts known to make a formal
conclusion about the case: the alleged murderer could be
"mentally-ill or seriously disturbed." He noted, however,
that he is one of only a handful of public figures counseling
restraint.



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COMMENT


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7. (C) Little attention is paid by either side to the
occasional cross-border sniper attacks that have resulted in
a number of other deaths in recent years. This event,
however, has galvanized public reaction and will make
engagement, let alone compromise, even more difficult than it
has been. It is undercutting the Armenian side's political
will to engage with Azerbaijan in the Minsk Group process,
focusing the attention of the public, and government, on an
unfortunate but unusual case that logically should have no
bearing on the negotiating process.
ORDWAY