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ARMENIA'S FOREIGN RELATIONS

By Hratch Tchilingirian


EVENT:  Senior presidential adviser Jirair (Gerard) Libaridian resigned.

SIGNIFICANCE:  Libaridian's departure comes at a time when
Armenia has been mounting a relatively successful effort to
build its international ties.

ANALYSIS:  On September 15, Jirair Libaridian announced that
President Levon Ter-Petrosian had accepted his resignation as
a senior foreign policy advisor, on purely personal grounds.
Libaridian has been a key architect of Armenian foreign policy
since independence, playing a central role in negotiations
over Nagorno Karabakh and in warming relations with Turkey.  
Libaridian also played an important part in establishing Armenia's
foreign ministry and foreign policy-making processes.

Libaridian was one of several diaspora Armenians to have
played a prominent part in Armenia's foreign policy.  Born in
Beirut, Libaridian is a US citizen and will now return to the
United States.  Other diaspora Armenians with important
foreign policy functions have included Raffi Hovanissian, the
first foreign minister of independent Armenia, and First
Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Armenia's chief
negotiator within the OSCE Minsk Group, the principal forum
for international talks on Nagorno-Karabakh.  Such diaspora
figures have brought valuable knowledge and experience to the
newly independent state's diplomacy.

Libaridian has no obvious successor.  Armenia is still
affected by its shortage of skilled foreign policy personnel 
-- its ambassadorial posts to the UN and the United Kingdom
have been vacant since late last year -- but Libaridian's
departure will not be as major a blow as it once would have
been.  Several native Armenian diplomats who have served in
the West are returning to Yerevan.  Moreover, Libaridian seems
likely to continue to provide ad hoc advice to Ter-Petrosian
in his new capacity as ambassador-at-large.

Foreign policy setbacks.  Libaridian's departure from Yerevan
comes as Armenian foreign policy is recovering from last
December's Lisbon OSCE summit, which was widely seen as a
diplomatic failure for Armenia.  Azerbaijan won from the
summit an affirmation of the country's territorial integrity,
despite Armenia's veto of the summit.

Since December, Armenia has faced a number of foreign policy
problems and the prospect of increased international
isolation:

--      In February, Armen Sarkissian resigned as prime
        minister, owing to ill health.  Sarkisian had taken a
        high-profile foreign policy role and had been
        achieving some success in rebuilding Armenia's
        international position following.  However, Sarkisian 
        now appears to have recovered, and has recently been appointed as
        another ambassador-at-large.

--      In April, reports that Russia had made major arms
        transfers to Armenia in 1992-94 allowed Azerbaijan to
        intensify its efforts to isolate Armenia
        internationally, and encouraged a shift in western
        sympathies from Yerevan to Baku.

--      US support for Section 907 of the 1992 US Freedom
        Support Act -- which blocks government-to-government
        aid to Azerbaijan until Baku lifts its economic
        embargo on Armenia -- has been waning.  During
        Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev's visit to the
        United States in August, US President Bill Clinton
        pledged to seek to repeal Section 907.  Aliyev's
        visit also saw the signing of several agreements
        strengthening US-Azerbaijani relations.

Foreign policy successes.  Armenian foreign policy rests on
three linked principles:

--      Security.  Armenia sees its immediate environment as
        hostile, and its foreign policy agenda is dominated by
        military and security concerns.  For the purposes of
        deterrence, Armenia wishes to build its defense
        forces so that it at least matches Azerbaijan in
        military strength.

--      Balance.  For historical reasons, Armenia prefers to
        take the initiative in building a set of balanced
        relations with all relevant powers, rather than
        relying on a single alignment led by another state.
        Yerevan's enthusiasm for ties with both Russia and
        the United States contrasts with the more unequivocal
        pro-western orientation of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
        Armenia has been able to preserve a balance by
        neither antagonizing nor fully accommodating the
        players in a crowded region.

--      Pragmatism.  Armenia is aware of its relative military
        and economic weakness -- especially compared with
        Azerbaijan -- and takes account of this in pursuing
        its foreign relations, sometimes to the dismay of
        domestic public opinion.  Armenia's main foreign
        policy lever is its geo-strategic position.

Armenia thus aims to build as many international ties as
possible, both within the region and beyond, in order to boost
its security.  The Ter-Petrosian administration is also aware
that the international community will not allow the Nagorno-
Karabakh conflict to go unresolved indefinitely.  Yerevan thus
aims to build a set of relationships that will facilitate an
eventual settlement as favorable to the Armenian position as
possible.

Despite foreign policy setbacks, Yerevan has recently recorded
some foreign policy successes:

1.  Neighboring states.  Progress in developing friendly
relations with neighboring states includes:

--      Georgia.  Relations between Tbilisi and Yerevan are
        friendly, although Georgia's more antagonistic
        orientation vis-a-vis Russia make for a closer
        affinity with Azerbaijan. Georgia has more to gain 
        from Azerbaijan's oil wealth than from good relations 
        with Armenia. Nevertheless, in July Armenia signed a 
        'strategic partnership' agreement with Georgia.

--      Iran.  Relations with Iran are increasingly cemented
        by numerous bilateral agreements.  Iran's economic
        presence in Armenia (especially in energy, industry
        and consumer goods) is particularly strong.  Although
        Iran maintains a neutral stance on Nagorno-Karabakh,
        its economic ties with Armenia aggravate Baku, as
        they undermine the effect of the Azerbaijani
        blockade.  Armenia is developing a 'strategic
        cooperation' agreement with Iran, and has announced
        its intention to appoint a military attache.

--      Turkey.  There are signs of a softening of Ankara's
        position on its blockade of Armenia, although a
        normalization of relations with Yerevan remains
        hostage to Turkey's hopes of benefiting from the
        transit of Azerbaijani oil.  Azerbaijani pressure
        means that Turkey continues to make resolution of the
        Nagorno-Karabakh conflict a condition of normalized
        relations with Armenia.  However, Turkey has
        suggested that opening its Armenian border to trade
        would foster progress on Nagorno-Karabakh, although
        Aliyev appears unconvinced by this.

No progress will be made in relations with Azerbaijan until a
resolution is reached on Nagorno-Karabakh, of which there is
little prospect at present. The diversity of regional states' 
interests means that none is likely to be able to mediate 
effectively between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  A settlement 
on Nagorno-Karabakh will probably rely on mediation by outside 
powers.

2.  Wider ties.  There have been several recent developments
in Armenia's ties outside its immediate neighbors, including
an economic and military cooperation agreement with Ukraine
and a 'strategic partnership' agreement with Kazakhstan,
adding to those which Yerevan already has with Turkmenistan
and Kyrgyzstan.  Armenia is developing 'strategic cooperation'
agreements with the United States -- where it hopes to post a
military attache -- and China, and over the summer signed
agreements with Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.  Yerevan also gives
weight to participation within multilateral fora such as the
CIS and NATO's Partnership for Peace.  In July, Armenia signed
military cooperation agreements with Greece and Bulgaria.
Yerevan hopes to appoint a military attache in Athens.  Some
Armenian officials have spoken of a Moscow-Yerevan-Athens
axis, although this prospect alarms Turkey.

Armenia's most notable recent foreign policy success came with
the August 29 treaty with Russia on friendship, cooperation
and mutual assistance, in which Moscow committed itself to the
defense of Armenia should it be attacked by a third party.
Russia is the key regional security player, and has proved a
valuable historical ally for Armenia.  Although it appeared as
a response to Aliyev's US trip, the treaty had probably long
been under development.  However, it is clear from the wider
context of Armenian foreign policy that -- while Yerevan
welcomes the Russian security guarantee -- the country does
not want to rely exclusively on Moscow, nor to become part of
a confrontation between Russian and US-led alliances in the
Transcaucasus.

CONCLUSION:  The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will continue to
dominate Armenia's foreign policy agenda.  However, Armenia
will continue to develop a range of bilateral and multilateral
ties to constrain Baku's ability to mobilize international
pressure, and to improve the Armenian position vis-a-vis a
final settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh.


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Hratch Tchilingirian, a PhD candidate at London School of Economics
and Political Science, is the  Director of the Zoryan Institute for
Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation, Cambridge, MA and
Toronto.

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