Has Armenia Changed?
By Zaur Shiriyev | 22 April 2010
The word “change” has recently become rather popular in political campaigns, starting of course with that of U.S. President Barack Obama, who perhaps led a sort of a political rebirth of the word. It’s a word used in the political context, as it can simply be understood, to make a break from the politics and policies of the past.
When two historical documents – the “Protocol on the establishment of diplomatic relations” and the “Protocol on the development of bilateral relations” between Turkey and Armenia on October 10, 2009 were signed, the world community assessed the event as the biggest “change” in the South Caucasus since 1994.
After signing protocols, Turkey hoped that the road map and protocols would soften the Armenian position and spur a Karabakh negotiation, which remain obstacle to peace in South Caucasus region. Instead, the road map and protocols played counter-productive role and emboldened Armenia to take an even more unconstructive position in the Karabakh talks.
Armenians have argued that the Karabakh conflict should be a separate issue and Ankara should not use it as a precondition for Turkish-Armenian rapprochement. But in reality, completing this process largely depends, directly and indirectly, on soonest and successful results of the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Frankly, Turkish-Armenian normalization process has stalled since last fall when the countries signed the protocols on normalization.
Today, the fact is that the nature of the world’s challenges is changing. But the old nationalism remains in Armenia – unfortunately. On Monday, Raffi Hovannisian, founder of the opposition Heritage Party and independent Armenia’s first foreign minister, has stated that “the democratic and competitive policy of modern Armenia must be built not only on the periodic visits of the diaspora but also on wonderful, colorful, romantic speeches”. He emphasized the dream of Armenian people to “change” in a way that it promotes old Armenian nationalism much more boldly.
On the other hand, clearly, Armenia is strongly within the Russian sphere of influence, both on economic and military fields. Though this seems to be adding more power to Armania, it could also be considered as a potential mark of Yerevan’s weakness. It is because the Kremlin is not focused on Armenia at the moment for Yerevan is so beholden to Moscow that Russia does not need to exert any effort to maintain its foothold in the country. The West has long tried to promote the reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia by helping Ankara to play a stabilizing role in the Caucasus and reducing the Kremlin’s influence on Armenia.
Therefore, we must ask; has Armenia changed and/or is it really geared towards a European perspective? It is unfortunate that the answer must be negative. Thus, Armenia has not really grasped the concept of change, even though they have been parading it for quite some time now. When the Armenian Government refers to change, they must refer to a break from the highlighting the so called “genocide issue”; stand constructive position in negotiation process of the Karabakh conflict, fulfill their responsibility of country’s progress in democratization and in the installation of the rule of law.