No serious foreign policy changes should be expected in Armenia - Richard Giragosian

12:32 • 22.05.18



No serious foreign policy changes should be expected in Armenia after the “velvet revolution” that led to a change of government, according to Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC).


In an interview with Tert.am, the analyst cited the newly appointed prime minister’s reassurances given to Moscow, considering his statement a serious hint about future policy orientations. “This suggests no strategic U-turn in foreign policy,” he said, highlighting at the same time two important factors “suggesting some change or modification”.


As a very important move by the new government, Giragosyan cited the foreign minister’s replacement. “He [Zohrab Mnatsakanyan] is both young, energetic and dynamic, but also has good technical expeience, having negotiated the past Association Agreement with the EU. This will actually also reassure Armenian-EU relations,” he noted.


Giragosian further emphasized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) peace process (as the second reason indicating some change).


“Prime Minister Pashinyan and his new cabinet has a[n] overwhelming priority on domestic issues first – not foreign policy. Therefore, we should expect a retreat to a much more cautious, safe approach towards a peace process, trying to elevate the status and stature of Nagorno-Karabakh. So Armenia is expected to be much less active – in [both] the peace process and the negotiations,” he added.


Commenting upon the prime minister’s call for returning Artsakh to the process as a direct negotiating party, Giragosian said he would expect increased pressures upon Azerbaijan in case of such a scenario of developments. “The pressure will be increased on Azerbaijan even by the Minsk Group in terms of 'nothing has worked to date excluding Nagorno-Karabakh is both irresponsible and dangerous'. But it’s a long-term change, and it remains to be seen whether it will work. But in a good sense, Nagorno-Karabakh has a new foreign minister - the very qualified Masis Mayilyan, so there is now an opportunity for Karabakh to be much more active on its own.”

 

Asked whether the widely accepted belief that Nikol Pashinyan selected pro-Western politicians to form the new cabinet may pose any challenge to Armenia’s developing relationship with Russia, Giragosian replied, “In general, I don’t think that they could be or should be qualified as pro-European. I think they are more pro-Armenian (and not necessarily pro-American or pro-Russian). The bigger problem and the much more important problem is the lack of experience. And this, combined with pressure from high expectations, is more of a challenge for the new cabinet. At the same time, we should be extremely careful in terms of greater balance between the West and Russia, especially now that Russia has lost two friends in the Armenian government – former Foreign Minister [Edward] Nalbandian and the former acting prime minister, previous prime minister, Karen Karapetyan. Therefore, we should expect, perhaps, Russia to strengthen its degree of power and pressure on the Armenian government in terms of Armenia’s dependence on Russia – for [natural] gas, for guns and for goods, in terms of Eurasian Economic Union and CSTO, as well as dependence on Russian gas supplies. ”

 

The expert meantime stressed the need of demonstrating a higher degree of caution. “Armenia has to be careful in becoming more independent and more sovereign - not necessarily provoking a conflict with Russia. But I do think there are grounds for optimism, especially because Armenia is not only more reliable than Georgia, less confrontational than Ukraine [but also] can demonstrate that Armenia’s value to Russia is much more than even Moscow has appreciated,” he added.

Addressing the Armenia-EU relations, Giragossian admitted that the renewed cooperation deal (Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement) was completed under the previous government. “This is an important achievement and foundation that Russia at that time allowed. So this is not something new in terms of deepening ties with the EU. But if we look also at the past – what’s also reassuring - is Armenia is developing its relationship more with the European Union, not necessarily with the United States. It’s less part of a bigger confrontation between [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the West, so we are more hopeful. And the EU will play more of a strategic role in supporting economic and political reforms within Armenia,” the RSC director added.

 

Asked to comment on the future of Armenia-NATO relations, Giragosian said he thinks that the appointment of Davit Tonoyan, a former deputy minister of defense, to a full ministerial position, is really important to “furthering defense reforms”. “[It] also implies a deepening of ties with NATO. But Armenia has long been smart in terms of not seeking NATO membership. It’s unnecessary for Armenian defense, and it would be a provocation. So we shouldn’t expect that much in terms of Armenia-NATO relations”.

 

As for other possible foreign policy vectors, Giragosian said he highly appreciated the successful efforts towards maintaining balance between the two poles (West and Russia). “The most interesting about Armenia’s pursuit of greater balance in terms of the West and Russia [is that] we see the development or exploration of a third vector or party, i.e. – China, and this should be only encouraged and deepened,” he added.

Hripsime Hovhannisyan





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