WikiLeaks – Armenia No 39
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 001940
SUBJECT: A/S FRIED’S MEETING WITH DEFENSE MINISTER SARGSIAN
Classified By: Amb. John M. Evans for reasons 1.4 (b,d).
EUR A/S Daniel Fried
EUR/SNEC Elizabeth Rood
Minister of Defense Serzh Sargsian
Lt. Hovhannes Ghazarian (interpreter)
¶1. (C) Assistant Secretary Fried described for Defense Minister Sargsian a sense in Washington that history in Armenia’s neighborhood is accelerating, for better or worse. U.S.-Armenian relations, he said, have “unrealized potential.” The United States wants to work with all its friends in the region. Whatever others might say, the U.S. is not in favor of revolutions; rather we are interested in strong reforms. Armenia is moving in a positive direction, as its two nearest neighbors were also moving in interesting directions.
U.S. NOT IN COMPETITION WITH RUSSIA
¶2. (C) Defense Minister Sargsian said that Armenia was headed toward Europe, because Armenians considered themselves members of the European family. But he said Armenia now needed to find the answers to a number of questions. The Minister said that for Armenia the optimal situation was when relations between Russian and the United States were good. Armenia had never sought to benefit from contradictions between the two. Such a small and weak country was Armenia that even small events could be critical; a country with only one gas pipeline had to make all of its choices with that pipeline in mind.
¶3. (C) Fried said that the United States had never regarded Armenia as an object of competition between ourselves and the Russians, and we do not want to develop our relations with Armenia at the expense of Russia. It is good for Armenia to have good relations with Moscow. We do not seek to weaken Russia in this part of the world, but do want the countries here to be sovereign and at peace. We want Armenia to succeed, and would not ask Armenia to weaken its ties to Russia. Armenia might, for that matter, help to show Russia the way, by reforming and developing in a democratic direction while being a friend to Russia. As the Europeans are absorbed in internal issues at the moment, it is perhaps easier for Americans than for the Europeans to see Armenia as an eventual part of Europe. Washington did not see events in the region as based on a zero-sum principle, although we do sense that our Russian friends are nervous. Accusations that U.S. policy is Trotskyite — that is, favoring permanent revolution — is not serious. Reforms, though, are necessary, which is why we place so much importance on the referendum on the constitutional amendments in November.
PROSPECTS FOR PEACE IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH
¶4. (C) Fried noted that a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement would open up interesting possibilities for Armenia. He asked what the Minister thought of the situation and how the United States might help. Sargsian recalled the recent meetings of the Armenian and Azeri presidents and said that the way forward that was currently on the table was “optimal.” There was no other way forward. This “compromise solution” was the only possible solution.
¶5. (C) The A/S agreed that there was wisdom in discussion and compromise, and that to speak in terms of victory and defeat makes no sense. Azeri Foreign Minister Mammadyarov is a serious person, and we are encouraged enough to think that 2006 should be the time for a major step forward on N-K. We will do all we can, but ultimately it would be up to the parties to reach an agreement.
¶6. (C) Sargsian said he had doubts about whether the Azeris really wanted to make the deal that was on the table work. He stressed he was not particularly worried by this possibility, as he had observed the problem at all stages of its development. It was not necessary to speak of “compromise;” one could talk about a “solution,” if that were easier. The important thing was that the situation not revert to conflict.
¶7. (C) Fried agreed, saying that conflicts keep countries in the region vulnerable and weak. What the Central and Eastern Europeans had achieved in their region since 1989 was a positive example that opened their door to Europe.
¶8. (C) Turning to Turkey, Fried said that Prime Minister Erdogan was doing a good job, despite some difficulties in our relationship. He has dealt with a number of difficult questions. Armenia’s leaders should keep in mind that Turkey is changing. The fact that Turks are now thinking about Armenia is progress. Absent an agreement on N-K, however, there was not much Turkey could do. Still, the situation is much improved as compared to even five years ago.
¶9. (C) Sargsian said that the prosperity of Armenia ultimately depended on the opening of the border with Turkey, which would “make us three times freer than we are.” He added that Armenians living abroad did not have to face such fateful decisions as did the GOAM [Government of Armenia].
MOVING TOWARD EUROPE?
¶10. (C) Fried said that, as Armenia continued to emerge and head toward Europe, we wanted our relations to develop. Every country in the region, e.g., Georgia, had its problems. He told Sargsian he was glad he understood that the U.S. was not trying to exclude Russia from the region. Looking around the region, it was clear that fearful leaders make mistakes. Reform through constitutional processes makes good sense.
¶11. (C) Sargsian noted how useful it would be for all countries in the region to have the railway through Abkhazia reopened. After some sharing of impressions of personalities in Georgia (A/S Fried’s next stop), the meeting concluded.
¶12. (U) EUR/FO has cleared this cable.