Thursday, February 12, 2009

Post- PACE interview with Grigoryan

Late last week, after the PACE debacle, I was searching for an explanation as to what really happened at the PACE meeting. Arman Grigoryan (one of the two, along with Levon Zourabyan who had represented the Opposition at PACE) gave an interview to, which gives at least some explanation. Below are the first two questions, and the last question, translated. I especially liked the last paragraph.
[photo is from a1plus]
Thursday 5 February 2009. Interview with Arman Grigoryan.
“Serge Sargsyan hopes to do that which Robert Kocharyan succeeded in doing for ten years,” thinks Arman Grigoryan

Q: Mr. Grigoryan, you were recently in Strasbourg to represent the Armenian National Congress at the winter session of PACE. What were the results of your meetings with European officials? What were your impressions? What was the general mood among the Europeans after you presented your documents?
A: It’s still too early to speak about concrete results, but that after meeting with us European officials are a little better informed about the situation in Armenia then they were before, is undeniable. In the beginning, Mr. Zurabyan and I were a little surprised at how little PACE delegates and certain officials knew about the situation in Armenia, but it soon became clear to us why that shouldn’t surprise us.
We should consider a few factors. First, that PACE is not a body that works continuously. The delegates of that organization gather in Strasburg a few times a year for sessions that last less than a week. They deliberate on many issues at each session, and due to the lack of time they have a very superficial image of most of the issues. And because they physically are not able to discuss all of the issues in depth during those sessions, they are forced to rely on the information provided to them by the co-rapporteurs. For that very reason the institution of the co-rapportuers can’t be overestimated at PACE. This is especially true in cases when the issue is not at the center of the international media; and Armenia is one of those cases.
Second, we tend to see PACE as a non-political organization whose principal mission is the defense of certain legal norms and principals. Unfortunately, that is not so. In reality, political considerations influence the decisions of PACE. There has been much talk on this, so it’s not necessary to discuss it further.
Third, like many other organizations, PACE is limited by certain regulations and can function only within the limits of those regulations. I emphasize this especially for one reason: it is considerably difficult for PACE to have relations with extra-parliamentary opposition groups, regardless of how the degree of popularity that opposition enjoys in its country. This places us before serious obstacles. I should mention, though, that those obstacles have been overcome at least to some extent, and from here on we should put more effort in that direction. Especially now that we better understand the ‘kitchen’ of that organization. The disposition of European officials will depend at least in some part on the intensity and quality of that effort.

Q: Mr. Grigoryan, in fact the Armenian authorities got a carte-blanche with resolution 1643. In your opinion what factors influenced that decision?
A: I don’t agree that the Armenian authorities got a carte-blanche. Of course it is deeply worrisome, especially the fact that in this resolution the term ‘political prisoners’ is absent. It is also worrisome that the resolution was based at least in part, on that ridiculous decree whereby a large number of political prisoners were supposedly freed. The co-rapporteurs had either lost their way or that for whatever reason they didn’t find it expedient to seriously look into it. At any rate, the new resolution has clear demands and a mechanism to be stricter with the authorities of Armenia in the event that no palpable and positive changes are implemented by April. In particular, we received certain assurances that the authorities in Armenia will have serious problems if they don’t reconsider criminal codes 225 and 300. They also assured us that the co-rapporteurs, besides promises, also received guarantees that those changes will take place. Our initial reactions, including mine, were much more negative because we were all comparing it to the December 17 document accepted by the Monitoring committee. But it seems to me that we had misunderstood the essence of that document. The basic purpose of that document was to get the authorities in Armenia to come to their senses, rather then the implementation of every threat in the document. At PACE, in general, they are very negatively inclined toward applying sanctions because Armenia is really not the only country where the authorities have earned sanctions. For that very reason, PACE tends to avoid applying sanctions to any country so that it won’t have to do the same to other “worthy” delegations.


Q: What do you think about the policies of the administration of the newly elected president of the United States, President Obama? What policies will the United States pursue in its relations with Armenia?
A: The policies of the United States will not undergo serious changes, either in the southern Caucasus or in general. The policies of the United States never undergoes radical changes as a result of a change in the administration. More, in the basic principles of foreign affairs there is no difference between the upper levels of the Republican and Democratic parties. The differences are basically of a rhetorical or at best, tactical nature. With regard to US policy towards Armenia, under Obama, as before him, that policy will basically be ancillary to the evolution of the dynamics of its rivalry with Russia in the Caucasus. If that rivalry deepens and gets sharper, nothing good awaits us.
I am also worried about future developments in the US-Iranian relations. Omaba is making certain careful attempts to ease the tension with Iran. But to reach real results in this area, he must be able to overcome extremely intense resistance from certain internal interest groups, which will not be easy at all. From the point of view of Armenia’s interests, I don’t expect anything good. Nor do I expect anything good in the event these relations deteriorate, which I don’t exclude.
Of course, the dangerous aspects of US policy towards Armenia could have been eased considerably, if the Armenian American organizations had made it a priority. Sadly, those organizations are much more interested in, let’s say, whether the senate in New Hampshire will accept the resolution on Genocide recognition than Armenia’s security and strategic interests.

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