HILLARY CLINTON VISITS ARMENIA ON SOUTH CAUCUSUS TOUR
4 June 2012
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting Armenia at the
start of a tour of the South Caucusus.
Her trip comes as a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan is
looking increasingly fragile.
The two former Soviet republics fought a bloody war over the disputed
region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s.
The BBC's Damien McGuinness, in neighbouring Georgia, says it is
hoped Mrs Clinton will ease tensions between the two countries.
The region is dependent on US aid so Washington has much influence
there, he says.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted as the Soviet
Union collapsed and at least 30,000 people were killed by the time
a ceasefire was declared in 1994.
Since then, a simmering stalemate has prevailed and both sides have
reported sporadic breaches of the truce.
Both sides have been building up arms in recent months and refusing
It is hoped Mrs Clinton will at least call on both governments to
tone down the rhetoric and hold peace talks.
Human rights groups also want Mrs Clinton to address alleged abuses
in the region.
Azerbaijan's harsh treatment of government critics has been in the
spotlight since it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in May.
Authorities have dismissed criticism in the international press as
However, condemnation from the US Secretary of State will carry more
weight, our correspondent adds.
Mrs Clinton travels on to Georgia on Tuesday and Azerbaijan on
CLINTON TO ASK BAKU 'SERIOUS QUESTIONS' [UPDATED]
Monday, June 4th, 2012
YEREVAN (Combined Sources)-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
pledged that she will press Azerbaijan with "serious questions"
regarding the killing of three Armenian soldiers ahead of her visit
on Monday, reported panorama.am
Hours before her scheduled arrival in Yerevan, Azeri soldiers
violated the cease fire and killed three Armenian soldiers in the
Tavush district of Armenia.
"I was saddened to hear the latest news," Clinton told a news
conference at the Presidential Palace in Yerevan, commenting on the
ceasefire violation by Azerbaijan recorded on Monday.
Clinton expressed concern over death of soldiers. "Force cannot
resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, force must be ruled out."
"I will visit Baku the day after tomorrow, and I have serious questions
to ask the Azerbaijani leader. Both me and the Co-Chairs of the OSCE
Minsk Group are convinced that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be
resolved exclusively by peaceful means, and a way should be found in
this direction," the senior U.S. official noted.
She called on the sides to refrain from use of force, because there
is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"The only path for a solution is through the negotiating table,"
Armenia's Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian also spoke about the
cease fire violations at the press conference.
"I want to add on the first question that we strongly condemn the
violent provocations that are organized by the Azerbaijani side on the
Armenia-Azerbaijan border which, unfortunately, resulted in victims
and wounded, and that Azerbaijan is not satisfied by the fact that
every day there are violations by Azerbaijanis on the line of contact
of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. They are trying to transfer the
tension, to sharpen the situation onto the border between Armenia and
Azerbaijan which greatly undermines the negotiation process, as well as
it is threatening the regional stability. The responsibility of all the
possible consequences of all this lies on Azerbaijan," said Nalbandian.
Outraged at the latest cease-fire violation and the death of three
Armenian soldiers, Rep. Adam Schiff issued a statement urging Clinton
to condemn the attacks.
"This latest outrage by Azerbaijan's military makes it even more
important that Secretary Clinton condemn these belligerent actions
during her visit to Baku later this week. Azerbaijani provocations
along the Line of Contact are a direct result of the war mongering
rhetoric of the Aliyev regime and they must cease. We should fully
apply Section 907 and prohibit the transfer of any arms or dual use
items to Azerbaijan," said Schiff.
Nalbandian and Clinton were also asked about the Turkey-Armenia
Clinton reiterated her position that the "ball is in Turkey's court."
"Negotiations are not conducted, negotiations cannot be conducted,
as the negotiations are over and they had resulted in signing of the
protocols, which Turkey refuses to respect and implement, trying to
put forward preconditions. Turkey has no right to put preconditions in
this issue. This position is shared by the international community,"
Clinton arrived in Armenia Monday afternoon and after a reception at
the US Embassy (see below) she met with President Serzh Sarkisian.
"Historic ties between the two nations, large Armenian community
of U.S. as well as the ideas of freedom, justice and democracy have
promoted establishment of good relations between the states," Sarkisian
told Clinton, adding that in the 20 years of diplomatic relations
between the two countries, relations had been developing gradually.
In assessing the US role in the region, Sarkisian said bilateral
relation are built on the basis of mutual respect and confidence,
the presidential press service reported.
"I want once again thank the United States for assisting Armenia
during the last 20 years," he said.
In her turn, Secretary Clinton noted it is honor to her to visit
Armenia in the year marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic
relations between the states.
Clinton said that Washington greatly values its partnership with
Armenia, and continues to support the development and increasing
welfare of the Armenian people.
Clinton stressed that she, personally, and President Obama appreciate
contacts with Armenia and expect continuation of the dialogue. Clinton
added that she was well aware of how hard the president has worked
to find solutions to regional problems concerning Armenia.
Thus, the United States is committed to assist and support his ongoing
activities as an excellent leader, she emphasized.
Clinton Honors Rights Advocates Clinton, joined the U.S. Embassy,
Counterpart International, the British Embassy, the OSCE, and the
EU to honor individuals working to promote human rights, accountable
governance, and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards
Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan. Secretary Clinton delivered
remarks at the event and met privately with the award recipients. The
Universal Rights Awards Ceremony was the first multi-mission initiative
to highlight the contributions of Armenia's civil rights activists,
government officials, and media representatives to the promotion of
Armenian government officials, foreign diplomats, NGO representatives,
and the press attended the event.
USAID/Armenia Mission Director, Jatinder Cheema, opened the ceremony
and awarded Artur Sakunts with the Freedom Defender Award. "Artur
defends all minorities, especially those that are the target of
intolerance, such as ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. He is
not afraid to take unpopular stances, working constantly for a more
tolerant Armenia," said Director Cheema.
Counterpart International's Chief of Party, Alex Sardar, presented
the Woman of Courage Award to Tsovinar Nazaryan for her military
reform efforts. "Tsovinar should be proud of her role in encouraging
the military to embrace reform, which will lead to a more modern,
effective, and humane force for Armenia," Mr. Sardar said.
The British Ambassador to Armenia, Jonathan Aves, recognized the Deputy
Chief of Police, Major-General Artur Osikyan, for his contributions
to police reform, especially regarding improvements to the police
educational system. "Artur Osikyan has helped lay the foundation for
transparent and accountable police force that works for the citizens
of Armenia," Ambassador Aves said.
Presenting the award for media excellence to the editors of Epress.am
- Sonya Apresova, Yuri Manvelyan, and Armen Melikbekyan - the Head
of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Andrey Sorokin, commended
them for their fair and balanced coverage and commitment to human
rights reporting. Ambassador Sorokin stated, "Epress's coverage of
human rights plays an important role in informing the public and
contributing to public debate. This type of reporting is an important
element in Armenia's democratic transformation."
The EU Head of Delegation to Armenia, Traian Hristea, awarded
environmental activists - Apres Zohrabyan, Yeghia Nersesyan,
Gor Hakobyan, Mary Khachatryan, and Ruzanna Grigoryan - for
Their grassroots campaign to promote environmental conservation
"It is the commitment and perseverance of many civic activists that
led to important victories for the environment this year. With this
award, we would like not only to honor their work, but also to promote
their future efforts in Armenia," said Ambassador Hristea.
STILL IN LIMBO: STEPANAKERT RE-STATES OPENING OF AIRPORT,
BAKU RE-ISSUES THREATS
By Aris Ghazinyan
Karabakh | 04.06.12 | 13:51
Last week Tigran Gabrielyan, heading the Civil Aviation Department
of Nagorno Karabakh, stated that the Stepanakert airport will be put
into operation this summer.
These are daring words, taking into account the fact that a year ago
even the opening date was announced of the "first flight", however
it never took place.
The Karabakh authorities' statement made in March of 2011 announcing
that the airport was scheduled to open shortly, on May 9, stirred
a whirlpool of outrage in Azerbaijan; Arif Mamedov, director of
Azerbaijan's State Department of Civil Aviation, said that official
Baku holds the right to destroy the planes that would land at
Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan responded saying that Azeri
statements are words of sick people.
"The population of Nagorno Karabakh has a right to use air transport
services. I can only say that I - President of Armenia - will be the
first passenger of that plane," he said.
Nonetheless, on May 9, 2011 the Armenian president did not become
"the first passenger" as the airplane never took off. It was then
that speculations started that Baku might actually fulfill their
threat and fire on the Armenian plane.
Then US ambassadors in Baku and Yerevan - Mathew Bryza and Mari
Yovanohich respectively - called the Azeri threat "unacceptable". This
position forced the Azeri side to moderate the tone of its statements.
Elhan Polukhov, Azeri foreign ministry spokesperson, stated:
"Azerbaijan has never applied force against civilians and will never
Bryza then stressed that all the flight security issues had to be
solved between Armenia and Azerbaijan before the opening of the
It's hardly worth noting that "flight security issues" have never
been discussed between Baku and Yerevan, since Azerbaijan's Defense
Ministry has recently released another statement flushed with threats
along its usual lines.
"In accordance with international norms, in case the air space of the
Azerbaijani Republic is trespassed, Azerbaijan's anti-aircraft forces
will react to the aircraft the same way border guards would respond
to trespassers of the state land border. After a warning signal the
liner-trespasser will be shot down regardless of its type and nature".
Apparently, high-ranking officials will offer comments on the situation
and the issue will most probably be discussed during US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton's visit to Yerevan and Baku, which begins today.
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
HILLARY CLINTON VISITS ARMENIA ON SOUTH CAUCUSUS TOUR