Armenia’s Global Outreach
By Edmond Y. Azadian
War, earthquake and the collapse of the Soviet Union have taken heavy tolls on Armenia and the country, with all its intellectual resources, has not been able to recover fully within the last quarter century, because its neighbors have blockaded its borders and left the fear of hostilities simmering all the time.
Such strategies used by Azerbaijan and Turkey intend to destroy Armenia either through violence or through attrition.
And our only Christian neighbor, Georgia, has cooperated with Armenia’s foes, helping them to choke the country out of existence. Tbilisi has cooperated and continues to cooperate with Turkey and Azerbaijan in building energy and road systems in the region, bypassing Armenia.
As if the implementation of that unfriendly policy was not enough, Georgia’s new president, Salome Zourabichvili, allowed herself to behave in an ungracious and rude manner during her first official visit to Armenia. She criticized the Artsakh legislature for cooperating with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both breakaway regions of Georgia, and she characterized the self-defense activities of the Armenian community of Abkhazia, during 2008 as “a massacre of Georgians” in that enclave.
Despite her arrogance, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan showed tremendously courteous manners with the prime minister of that country, Mamuka Bakhtadze, when he met with him unofficially on the mountainous border of the two countries.
The current government of Armenia is looking beyond the region for international relations to break the chokehold of its neighbors. Contrary to apprehensions that the youthful government established after the Velvet Revolution may falter as a result of its inexperience, the leaders are proving in all their endeavors that they have a good handle on the situation.
First and foremost, the uneasy balance between Russia and the US has been weathered with reasonable success; Moscow’s jealous behavior with regard to Armenia’s relations with the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) policies has been addressed tactfully, if not to the Kremlin’s full satisfaction. Also, John Bolton’s bold warnings have not scared Armenia’s leadership, which are continuing constructive relations with Iran and Syria. Pashinyan’s visit in February to Iran was a high mark of Armenia’s foreign relations; that is being continued through relief efforts which are contributing to Iran’s flood-hit areas. Iran has emerged as a proponent of including Armenia in the north-south regional corridor for developments in the Caucasus. Despite Iran’s benign and neutral policy with regard to Armenian-Azeri relations, Tehran has more to gain with the territorial integrity of Artsakh than one would surmise. Also, its fundamental territorial and policy differences with Baku are deeper than they appear.
Armenia also defied US warnings and sent a humanitarian mission to Syria, with Prime Minister Pashinyan stating that Armenia was returning a moral and historic debt which the Syrian people had shown to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Azerbaijan and Turkey are extending their policies around the globe to generate political clout and economic development. Baku has been caught red-handed bribing Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban as well as members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Turkey, besides its military bases in Qatar and Djibouti, is actively developing its economic projects in Russia, Ukraine, the Balkans, and the African subcontinent, all the way to South America, where it is defending Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, in solidarity with Russia.
Turkey is not only reaping economic dividends, it also is fighting the genocide issue in any country where a legislature takes a positive step toward recognition. Therefore, the challenge is great for Armenia, which is taking measures to not only counter Ankara’s and Baku’s reach, but also to develop its own economy and help expand its policies.
President Armen Sarkissian was recently in Jordan, not only visiting historic sites, but also promoting friendship with that country. Earlier, Armenia’s Minister of Defense David Tonoyan was in New York for a United Nations meeting, where he issued his policy statement regarding the “new war-new territories.” On March 28, the summit between Pashinyan and Aliyev was supposed to become a peace initiative but since that meeting, the bellicose tone of the rhetoric has intensified. This time around, however, it is the Armenian side that is being more aggressive in its demands, with Azerbaijan striking a more subdued, defensive tone.
Legitimacy is an intangible asset. Georgia and Armenia experienced popular revolutions and the ensuing governments enjoy overwhelming mandates to deal with the outside world. Azerbaijan is the only country which stands as an eyesore with its authoritarian rule in the Caucasus.
In addition, Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan is in Ethiopia to revive historic relations which Armenians have developed over centuries. On April 8, the president of Armenia’s National Assembly Ararat Mirzoyan was in Qatar to address the 140th General Assembly of the Interparliamentary Union, where he extolled Armenia’s huge intellectual potential. He also made an indirect reference to Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan, stating, “Peace does not mean the total absence of violence in all forms and the unfolding of conflict in a constructive way. …. History shows that hate speech can escalate to hate crimes and genocide.”
Incidentally, Armenia is working with Rwanda to sensitize the world against the proliferation of genocide.
Armenia and China have been deepening their cooperation in scientific and educational fields. Armenia’s Minister of Education and Science Arayik Harutyunyan met recently with the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Tian Erlong and he noted that mutually beneficial and effective cooperation has developed between Yerevan and Beijing, which has the potential for expansion.
On April 4, Prime Minister Pashinyan received a parliamentary delegation headed by the vice chairwoman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee of China. Both parties have underlined the development of interparliamentary relations between the two countries. The Chinese side has also evaluated Armenia’s role as a bridge between Eurasian Economic Union and China.
China has contributed generously to Armenia by donating thousands of buses and ambulances in the past. Also, military assistance. Every official visit by an Armenian government dignitary to China has been received at the highest level of protocol.
Many observers wonder why a global power like China lavishes so much attention on tiny Armenia. Without any particular political pursuit from the Armenian side, the latter is the indirect beneficiary of antagonism between Ankara and Beijing for two major reasons: Turkey has been agitating and arming Uyghur militants in China’s Xinjiang province and accusing Chinese authorities of genocide, because Beijing has been trying to observe peace in the province. The other reason is that Turkey has ambitions to unite ethnically, religiously and linguistically all central Asian Turkic nations, challenging China’s influence in the same region. Active developments with China may yield further dividends for Armenia in the future.
Armenia faces tremendous global challenges and it has been addressing them through a coherent policy. No country can survive in this era of globalization and Armenia’s foreign policy establishment is keenly aware of that fact.
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