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05YEREVAN1961 2005-11-04 13:41:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

GOAM HAS NO MANDATE TO RESOLVE N-K, ARMENIAN CIVIL

Tags:   PREL PGOV AJ AM RU 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 YEREVAN 001961 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SNEC, EUR/CACEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/17/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV AJ AM RU
SUBJECT: GOAM HAS NO MANDATE TO RESOLVE N-K, ARMENIAN CIVIL
SOCIETY TELLS A/S FRIED AND AMB. MANN

REF: YEREVAN 1842

Classified By: Amb. J.M. Evans for reasons 1.4 (b,d)

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SUMMARY:
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1. (C) During an October 18 breakfast with EUR A/S Fried and
Ambassadors Mann and Evans, representatives of Armenian civil
society were extremely skeptical about the implementation of
a Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) peace agreement. While there was
some divergence of opinion, the majority of the
representatives argued that any agreement on N-K would lack
public legitimacy because the GOAM is "illegitimate." The
group also expressed concern about corruption and censorship
in Armenia and said that democracy in the country is
deteriorating. A/S Fried emphasized the USG's strong support
for democratic reforms, but argued that dismissing a possible
solution on N-K achieved by the Kocharian government "does
not make sense."

Participants:

EUR Assistant Secretary Fried
Ambassador John Evans
Ambassador Steven Mann
EUR/SNEC Deputy Director Elizabeth Rood
Yerevan Pol/Econ notetaker

Avetik Ishkhanian, Helsinki Committee
Tigran Ter-Yesayan, International Union of Advocates
Artak Kirakossian, Civil Society Institute
Gagik Avakyan, Caucasus Forum NGO
Harutyun Hambardzumian, It's Your Choice NGO
Amalia Kostanian, Transparency International
Larisa Minasian, Open Society Institute

End Summary.



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CIVIL SOCIETY: ILLEGITIMATE GOAM HAS NO MANDATE TO RESOLVE
N-K


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



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





2. (C) Ambassador Mann began the October 18 meeting by asking
how prepared the Armenian public is for a post-conflict
society. He provided an overview of current N-K
negotiations, saying that "considerable progress" had been
made and that the negotiations are "headed in the right
direction." Mann told the group he had come to the point
where he believed a deal is possible, but that "the odds are
always against agreement." He said there is a "qualitative
difference between the spring of 2004 and fall of 2005."



3. (C) The Helsinki Committee's Avetik Ishkhanian said the
Armenian people are "tired of the conflict," but still care
about the N-K issue. He told Ambassador Mann "the Armenian
people would like to have the conflict resolved as soon as
possible so long as the resolution does not hurt their
dignity." He outlined two possible ways to implement a peace
agreement. First, if the government is a tyranny, it can
force the people to accept the agreement. Second, if the
government is a democracy with the full support of the
people, then the public will accept the peace agreement.
Armenia, Ishkhanian said, is neither a tyranny nor a
democracy. Therefore, any solution to the N-K conflict will
mean the "end of the government." He said when Armenians
talk about democratic development and free elections, they
are talking about steps that would lead towards the second,
democratic option, whereby the government would have a
mandate to solve the N-K issue.



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



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


NO SOLUTION UNTIL AFTER 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION


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



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





4. (C) International Union of Advocates Head Tigran
Ter-Yesayan agreed with Ishkhanian's assessment and said the
situation in N-K will not be solved until after the 2008
Presidential election. He described the GOAM as a "hybrid
government, while one person has the power, there are other
influences that he does not control." He explained that the
oligarchs who control the GOAM do not have the confidence of
the country and, therefore, the GOAM "cannot solve an issue
as important as N-K."



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



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


MANN EXPLAINS THE TIMELINE AND EMPHASIZES IMPLEMENTATION


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



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





5. (C) Ambassador Mann described the timeline for the
negotiations as "very tough." He said that if there is "no
serious progress in 2006 it won't happen until 2009, because
of the 2007 Parliamentary elections in Armenia and the 2008
Presidential elections in both countries." Citing the
co-chairs, he said "time is not on anyone's side." Mann
explained when he talks with Azeris he tells them "the longer
you wait, the more Armenia literally and figuratively digs
in." The Armenians develop infrastructure in N-K and
international attention will drift, as it has in Kashmir,
Mann said. Mann said he also argues that "stalemate breeds
radicalism." Ambassador Mann said Azeri President Aliyev is
a "fundamentally reasonable person. He can be tough in his
negotiating positions, but is still a reasonable person. If
there is no progress in the next ten to fifteen years, we do
not know what kind of leadership there will be in
Azerbaijan." He explained that in the coming year Azerbaijan
plans to double its defense budget and he expects this trend
to continue. While a military solution will not bring the
situation back to pre-1998, Mann said, these types of defense
budget increases "can cause a lot of trouble." He clarified,
"this is not going to be a situation where people sign a
paper and then all is perfect. Implementation is going to be
a critical issue."



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


FROM SELF DETERMINATION TO TERRITORIALITY


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





6. (C) Civil Society Institute's Artak Kirakossian said the
Armenian perspective on the conflict had changed,
particularly in terms of the "security zone" around N-K.
According to Kirakossian, previously Armenians viewed the N-K
conflict in terms of self-determination. Now, as a result of
the Azeri focus on territorial integrity, Armenians view the
conflict as a territorial issue. Kirakossian also said
Armenians were not accustomed to win/win solutions and NGOs
needed to help the public understand that idea. He said
money cannot impact the resolution of the conflict, "even
billions of dollars may not contribute to a solution because
this issue is an issue of dignity." He speculated that
financial support for the peace process might also increase
corruption.



7. (C) Mann said he covers three other conflicts, South
Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria, and when he goes to Baku
he is asked why he is a such a strong defender of territorial
integrity for Georgia and Moldova, but is willing to talk
about "giving Azeri land to Armenians." Mann summarized the
U.S. position as being support for territorial integrity,
while taking into account the wishes of the people of the
region.



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

-
THE GOAM USING N-K TO GAIN POLITICAL ADVANTAGE


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

-



8. (C) Larisa Minasian from the Open Society Institute (OSI)
cautioned that the N-K issue is "the most manipulated in the
public mind." She suggested that it would be useful to have
more "public discourse or discussion about what is at stake."
She recalled a speech given at an OSI conference in Key West
in 2000 where the question was "how to sell the peace to the
public." She noted "we are again at the same point," and
suggested that the international community needs to learn
what went wrong in 2000 so as to avoid repeating the same
mistakes.



9. (C) The Caucasus Forum's Gagik Avakyan said "if the
government, in 2006, gives back the occupied territories this
may guarantee them another term in office, but it will cause
mass violence in Armenia." (Note: The implication of his
remark was that the GOAM will make concessions to the
international community on N-K in exchange for assurances
that current authorities will remain in power. End Note.)



10. (C) At the close of the meeting Ambassador Mann said
without progress or an agreement on N-K "things will get
worse and you have to ask if you are prepared to fight
another war." He asked the participants if an agreement does
emerge, that they judge the agreement on its terms, not on
the basis of which government signed the agreement. A/S
Fried pointed out the inconsistency in the participants'
remarks, saying "it does not make sense to argue that a
possible solution lacks legitimacy if a non-democratic regime
supports it, and at the same time, argue that the conflict
prevents the establishment of a democratic regime."


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


A/S FRIED'S OVERVIEW REMARKS


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





11. (C) EUR Assistant Secretary Fried, Ambassador Evans and
Elizabeth Rood joined the meeting in progress. A/S Fried
said Secretary Rice asked him to come to Armenia because
"Washington has the sense that history is accelerating in
this part of the world, hopefully for the good, but not
necessarily." He said "reformist forces and democratic
forces are growing and strengthening, and so too, perhaps,
are anti-reformist forces." Fried continued, saying "maybe
too much is made of the so-called colored revolutions.
America does not believe in revolution, although we do
believe in democracy." Fried mentioned the Constitutional
Referendum and said he wanted to listen to the group's
opinions about where Armenia is headed and what he ought to
know before meeting with President Kocharian.



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


A MOVE TOWARDS REGIONALISM?


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





12. (C) The Caucasus Forum's Avakyan said "we cannot expect
any progress (on N-K) until 2008-2009 because that is when
Armenia will have a legitimate government." He described the
period between today and a possible resolution of the N-K
conflict in 2009 as a "lost period," and suggested that
during the intervening years, the parties should focus on
regional integration within the South Caucasus including
South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He said he believes the
conflicts in N-K, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia will be
resolved at the same time. He added he was glad to hear that
the U.S. does not believe in colored revolutions because he
has not seen big changes as a result of such revolutions.



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


CORRUPTION REMAINS A SERIOUS PROBLEM


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





13. (C) Amalia Kostanian from Transparency International (TI)
noted that the TI corruption perception index for 2005 was
scheduled to be launched later that day. She said that the
South Caucasus and CIS countries were ranked poorly, and
"even countries which had experienced colored revolutions
have not made visible progress." She questioned whether the
GOAM would be interested in peace if "conflicts are a good
excuse for suppressing freedom of speech and keeping the
state machinery non-transparent." Responding to Fried's
mentioning of the Constitutional Referendum, she said the
GOAM, under pressure from the international community, had to
make amendments to the constitution but, even if the
amendments lead to improved checks and balances within
government, the process was poor. She said that the
amendment process was "driven by the authorities not the
public." Given that the current local elections are
"absolutely corrupt," she doubted that the electoral system
could be improved before the Referendum vote on November 27.
She did not agree conditions for peace in N-K would be more
favorable in 2009. "Who can guarantee that in 2009 we will
have a more legitimate government?" she asked. She stated
"we do not see progress," and observed "the President in
Georgia came to power with an anti-corruption program but
also with nationalistic ideas and so there has been no
progress under that regime."



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

-
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY PLAYING FAVORITES?


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

-



14. (C) Kostanian said public opinion would be against any
solution in N-K because the public perception was that the
international community favors the "other side." She claimed
the public believes the international community is favoring
Azerbaijan because of its oil and gas reserves and Georgia
because of its poor relationship with Russia.



15. (C) At the close of the meeting, A/S Fried said he is
"glad that Armenia has historically good relations with
Russia." The Armenian example, according to A/S Fried shows
that good relations with the West and with Russia do not
necessarily conflict.



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


DEMOCRACY IS DETERIORATING


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





16. (C) Ter-Yesayan said that N-K is not the main problem;
the problem is "that a system of values is being ignored by
people trying to get power. We live in a centralized,
corrupt country where the judiciary, local government and the
media are all censored," he said. According to Ter-Yesayan,
this corruption endures because Armenia is a small country
and because powerful countries provide support for the
existing structure. He cited the support Russia and France
gave to Kocharian following the 2003 Presidential election as
an example. He said the public is tired and, "since the
events of 2004, also scared. If the population is 2.5
million and three to four thousand are detained, that is a
big proportion, particularly if another ten thousand are
being told you will be next."


17. (C) Larisa Minasian added that over the past four to five
years the quality of democracy in Armenia has "deteriorated,"
despite progress in "the written documents." She said the
GOAM is learning "how to make a pretense of reform and that
the international community, including the Council of Europe,
is indirectly a part of this process. The government is
manipulating and getting away with it, so they have come to
learn that you can cheat during the reform process."



18. (C) Ishkhanian said there was no possibility of
evolutionary development in Armenia. He mentioned a case
where a mayor killed someone and no one appeared to care
(reftel). He suggested that A/S Fried discuss freedom of
speech with Kocharian and encourage Kocharian to reopen the
local media station, A1-plus.



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


A/S FRIED: "DON'T KNOCK PRETENSE"


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





19. (C) Fried said he does not believe in revolution because
revolutions are an indication of failure. He continued,
"sometimes when there is a failure, like Georgia or Ukraine,
it can lead to democracy, but it can also move the other way.
We much prefer reform led by a government, even if it is not
fully democratic yet." He added, "I will say this for
colored revolutions, they have frightened every
non-democratic government in the region and they also seem to
have frightened Russia." Citing the example of President
Mubarak in Egypt, A/S Fried said "don't knock pretense. If
the government has to pretend, sometimes the pretense gets
out of control." He clarified that the U.S. does not believe
in revolution, we believe in democracy. A/S Fried said "we
do not believe in supporting dictators who promise
stability," and gave the example of the recent setback in
U.S. relations with Uzbekistan's President Karimov as
evidence of that position.



20. (C) In conclusion, A/S Fried said "if history is
accelerating that gives you an opportunity for change. My
sense, as an outsider, is that populations do not want to
live under corrupt regimes. This may mean that even if the
situation is deteriorating, the language may be turning in
your favor, giving you an opportunity to push a democratic
agenda." Ishkhanian thanked Fried for consulting civil
society and Fried replied "civil society is less irrelevant
than its members may think. Solidarity (in Poland) used to
be thought of as the people who had dinner at the
Ambassador's Residence."



21. (U) EUR/FO has cleared this message.
EVANS