Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 107

At the height of the power struggle in Yerevan, Armenia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry–whose head, Vardan Oskanian, took the president’s side–revitalized the concept of “complementarity” in its foreign policy. The concept implies an effort to pull out of one-sided reliance on Russia and avoid isolation, by accommodating at least in part the interests of Western and neighboring countries when they diverge from Russia’s. Recent visits by President Robert Kocharian to Georgia, by Oskanian to several Western countries and by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ruben Shugarian to the Baltic states put the complementarity principle into practice.

On May 30, however, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Ara Papian redefined complementarity in a restrictive way. Armenia, he stated, has “strategic relations with Russia” but not with others countries, “not with the United States for example.” “Complementary does imply symmetric relations.” While ruling out symmetry in that particular equation, however, Papian seemed to elevate Iran to the role of symmetrical counterweight to the United States: “The policy of complementarity calls for [Armenian] neutrality in such disputes as between the United States and Iran,” Papian was quoted as stating in his briefing.

Whether complementarity was ever meant to apply to Turkey seems less than likely. Yet Armenia in recent months had engaged with Turkey in a cautious exchange of overtures. The latest statements by Armenian officials seem to signal a halt to that course. Speaking at the American University of Armenia (AUA) on May 26, Shugarian “stressed that the main goal in the issue of the Armenian genocide is the recognition of that genocide by Turkey” (Noyan-Tapan, May 27). Whatever the historical merits or demerits of that claim, injecting it into current foreign policy–let alone as a central goal–is a recipe for thwarting accommodation with Armenia’s key Western neighbor. Kocharian had only recently defined accommodation with Turkey as a vital interest of Armenia, particularly in the sphere of economic relations. Kocharian thus came around to the view of his predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrosian, who was ousted from office two years ago by hardliners–including Kocharian at that time–for articulating that view (AP, May 30; Noyan-Tapan, May 27, 31).

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