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04YEREVAN830 2004-04-07 09:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

REAFFIRMING TIES WITH ARMENIA: DEPUTY SECRETARY

Tags:   PGOV PREL PARM TU AJ AM OVIP RICHARD ARMITAGE 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 YEREVAN 000830 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL PARM TU AJ AM OVIP RICHARD ARMITAGE
SUBJECT: REAFFIRMING TIES WITH ARMENIA: DEPUTY SECRETARY
MEETS WITH OSKANIAN AND KOCHARIAN


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

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's visit
to Armenia galvanized U.S.-Armenia relations as he met with
Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian and President Kocharian in
back-to-back meetings March 26. The meeting with Oskanian
clearly set the agenda for the subsequent discussion with
Kocharian, and the two meetings covered the range of the
U.S.-Armenian agenda, touching briefly on Armenian domestic
issues before moving to the range of Armenia's relationships
with its neighbors Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Russia and
Iran. The Foreign Minister and President also discussed
Armenia's readiness to engage NATO and work on improving
U.S.-Armenian military cooperation with the Deputy Secretary,
including a new proposal (see paragraph 9). End Summary.



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STRIKINGLY WARM WELCOME


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2. (C) Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian himself greeted the
Deputy Secretary and his party at the airport, a distinction
usually reserved for heads of state. (Note: Oskanian had
changed his travel plans to suit the Deputy Secretary's
schedule; he was to have been in Minsk for new Russian
Foreign Minister Lavrov's first CIS Ministerial. End Note.)
President Kocharian chose to conduct most of his meeting in
English: an indication of his desire to create a welcoming
and cooperative atmosphere. The core of the U.S. side in the
meetings consisted of Deputy Secretary Armitage, EUR A/S
Jones, NSC Bryza and Charge. The Foreign Minister was joined
by Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Margarian, Head of the
Americas Desk Lilit Toutkhalian and other staff. The
President was joined by Oskanian, Minister of Defense Serzh
Sargsian as well as staff members.



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ANTICIPATING OPPOSITION ACTIVITY


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





3. (C) Oskanian previewed possible domestic difficulties,
noting that "We're going through a difficult period. Our
opposition got excited at the example of (the Rose Revolution
in) Georgia." He acknowledged that there will be some
opposition demonstrations, and continued, "There will be
tough times on both sides." Oskanian admitted that "our
(presidential) elections were flawed" and he referred to
international criticism as "to the point;" nonetheless, he
noted that, "unlike Georgia, no one really questioned the
outcome." In this context Oskanian raised the National
Democratic Institute's (NDI) role in Armenia, saying that he
thinks "they're doing a wonderful job." (Note: NDI's
activities in Armenia are focused on building political party
capacity. End Note.) He complained, however, that every
time the opposition meets with NDI, the opposition portrays
their meeting both to their own members and to the Armenian
public in general as "proof" that the U.S. backs their cause.
The Deputy Secretary made clear to Oskanian and later
Kocharian that "We're not in the business of picking winners
and losers."



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TROUBLED ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI RELATIONS


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





4. (C) Oskanian said that despite current heightened
difficulties in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations there was no
unusual tension along the line of conflict. Noting that the
planned Prague meeting of Foreign Ministers had just been
postponed, Oskanian said that he and Kocharian were already
looking forward to a possible Kocharian-Aliyev meeting in
Warsaw at the upcoming EU economic conference. Kocharian
subsequently commented that he can "discuss everything with
(Aliyev) but that doesn't mean that we can work together."
He added that he's not sure Aliyev is ready to "take any step
forward," owing to his domestic political situation or his
own inexperience -- or both. Kocharian also described what
he sees as a fundamental "ethnic incompatibility" between the
Armenians and the Azerbaijanis, referring repeatedly to what
he called a "cultural chasm" between Christianity and Islam.
Kocharian insisted, "I don't believe that European-style
democracy is suitable for Azerbaijan: the more money from
oil (they get), the less willing they will be to integrate
into European structures." Kocharian maintained that the
elder Aliyev understood these basic differences very well.
Kocharian even quoted Aliyev as saying that "We have to
separate from each other. Maybe someday we could be good
neighbors." Referring to what he called Haydar Aliyev's
sense of "historic responsibility" to solve the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Kocharian concluded that his
impression of "Ilham is that he doesn't have the internal
motivation to solve it."



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


RUSSIA: COMPLEMENTARITY THE KEY


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





5. (C) Good relations with Russia are crucial, but Oskanian
noted that Armenia is willing to also expand its cooperation
with NATO, and Kocharian pointed out that "We don't want to
gain from the contradiction with you and Russia. We want to
gain from the cooperation between you -- and we can."
Kocharian noted that the Russians could play a positive role
in Ajara and agreed that "we have to keep things stable in
Georgia." Kocharian went on to say that he believes
President Putin "understands (the need for a stable situation
in Georgia) very well and ... things have calmed down in
Ajara because of Putin." When the Deputy Secretary suggested
that Putin had been pleasantly surprised about Saakashvili,
Kocharian agreed, saying "Putin told me the same thing. It's
important to reach agreement (in Ajara) and then enforce the
agreement."


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GEORGIA: ESSENTIAL LIFE-LINE


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





6. (C) Oskanian pointed out how crucial stability in Georgia
is for Armenia. (Note: The vast majority of energy and
other essential goods that Armenia imports transit through
Georgia. End Note.) Kocharian added that the GOAM had kept
in contact with Georgia throughout the crisis in Ajara,
although they hadn't "advertised" it, and cited military,
presidential and diplomatic contacts at all levels. He also
noted that Minister of Defense Sargsian will be in Tbilisi
April 1 to consult with his colleagues there. Both Oskanian
and Kocharian noted that Armenia and Georgia share
fundamental values such as Christianity which further
strengthened their relationship.



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


TURKEY: AZERBAIJANI TOOL


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





7. (C) Citing GOAM disappointment with the lack of progress
in the relationship with Turkey, Oskanian noted that
Kocharian would not be attending the upcoming Istanbul Summit
in Turkey. The most recent two of his three meetings with
Turkish FM Gul had not gone well, Oskanian said. It appeared
to him that Turkey had hardened its position that its border
with Armenia would remain closed until the N-K conflict had
been resolved. Kocharian went further, lambasting the
Turkish government for letting itself be used as a "tool" for
Azerbaijan. He added that Turkey was incapable of
"pragmatism" when it came to Armenia and that Turkey was "too
emotional" to work together with Armenia to improve
relations. Kocharian concluded that "We are ready to discuss
relations, to negotiate everything without preconditions:
this is not easy for an Armenian president!"



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


IRAN: GAS PIPELINE ON EVERYONE'S MIND


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





8. (C) Oskanian assured the Deputy Secretary that an
effective export control regime is firmly in place vis-a-vis
Iran, and emphasized that the "gas pipeline is becoming a
reality." Oskanian further outlined a scenario in which the
paperwork for the Iran-Armenian Pipeline would be completed
early this year, construction would begin in 2004, and gas
would flow in 2006. Kocharian agreed with Oskanian that the
pipeline is just around the corner, noting that the "most
efficient cooperation (Armenia has) with Iran is in the field
of energy," specifically on the pipeline. Kocharian noted,
however, that Armenia still needed to look for funding for
its portion of the pipeline. Options include asking the EU
for the money, funding the project out of the state budget,
or negotiating with Russian energy giant Gazprom for
possible financing. (Note: Embassy doubts that any of these
options is viable at this time. End Note.) Kocharian also
mentioned that Iran is ready to loan Armenia the necessary
funding, but wryly acknowledged that Armenia had never
"received a cent from Iran" in the past.



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



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MILITARY COOPERATION WITH THE U.S. AND NATO TO INCREASE


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



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9. (C) Noting that Armenia's special relationship with Russia
does not preclude increased cooperation with NATO (see
above), Oskanian highlighted Armenia's readiness to move to
an IPAP with NATO, its intention to upgrade its
representation to NATO, and its willingness to undertake a
defense assessment. Oskanian repeated GOAM concern about the
lack of FMF parity with Azerbaijan in the proposed USG
assistance budget and asked, "What can we do for projects to
get the FMF amounts to parity?" Oskanian then suggested
establishing a program to train and equip a company-sized
peacekeeping force (to be deployed under UN Chapter 6). The
Deputy Secretary promised to bring this new proposal to
Washington for consideration. Kocharian also underscored his
desire for increased military cooperation, saying that the
only limitations would be that the U.S. could not use those
bases where Russians were currently stationed. Kocharian
emphasized that, "Our relationship with Russia is very good
but it's not a relationship where they can dictate things to
us."



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COMMENT


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




10. (C) Both Kocharian and Oskanian clearly appreciated the
Deputy Secretary's commitment to pay more attention to our
relationships in the region and to Armenia in particular.
The warmth and candor which characterized the meetings
suggest that Armenia is eager to deepen its relationship with
the USG. The GOAM will be watching closely to see if U.S.
attention flags, and will remain strongly aware that, as
Kocharian noted, "the U.S. is far away, but it is everywhere."
ORDWAY