2009-09-30 – Armenia’s Opponents To Protocols Ratchet Up Their Rhetoric

by on 2009/09/30  •  In Wikileaks

Viewing cable 09YEREVAN687, ARMENIA’S OPPONENTS TO PROTOCOLS RATCHET UP THEIR

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09YEREVAN687 2009-09-30 11:00 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYE #0687/01 2731100
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301100Z SEP 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9544
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L YEREVAN 000687 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU AM
SUBJECT: ARMENIA'S OPPONENTS TO PROTOCOLS RATCHET UP THEIR 
RHETORIC 

REF: A. YEREVAN 638 
     B. YEREVAN 623 
     C. YEREVAN 622 
     D. YEREVAN 617 
     E. YEREVAN 611 
     F. YEREVAN 610 

Classified By: AMB Marie L. Yovanovitch, reasons 1.4 (b,d). 

------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 

1. (C) Less than two weeks before Armenia's and Turkey's 
foreign ministers are to sign their agreed protocols to 
establish bilateral relations, domestic and Diaspora 
opponents of President Sargsian's rapprochement policy are 
ratcheting up their rhetoric against the protocols and the 
President.  As has been the case since April 22 when Turkey 
and Armenia declared their intentions to pursue a roadmap to 
normalize relations, the most vocal critics include the 
Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaktsutiun 
(Dashnaks), ex-foreign minister Vartan Oskanian, and 
Armenia's Diaspora.  The Dashnaks warned Sargsian that his 
hold on power could be at stake if he proceeds with the 
protocols as drafted.  Oskanian roundly slammed the protocols 
and authorities' handling of the domestic debate as 
"unforgivable, insulting, and dangerous."  And the Diaspora 
reminded authorities that "genocide" recognition should 
transcend and not be sacrificed for any immediate diplomatic 
consideration. END SUMMARY. 

--------------------------------------------- --------- 
DASHNAKS WARN SARGSIAN, INSIST ON CHANGES TO PROTOCOLS 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 

2. (SBU) On September 16, Hrant Markarian, the de facto head 
of the nationalist and newly opposition Armenian 
Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaktsutiun (Dashnaks) party 
issued a warning to President Sargsian that he could fall 
from power if he proceeded with the signing of the protocols 
with Turkey.  Markarian added, "you must not cut the tree 
branch on which you are sitting."  Markarian said that a deal 
concluded with Turkey based on the existing terms of the 
protocols could be the last straw for a public increasingly 
dissatisfied with Sargsian's government, stating that "the 
people would sooner or later hold him accountable, and the 
price would be heavy." In spite of Markarian's stark warnings 
to the President, the Dashnaks have yet to call for his 
resignation, opting for now only to call for the resignation 
of the foreign minister. 

3. (SBU) On September 15, the Dashnaks launched protest 
actions they had previewed earlier in the week. 
Approximately 50 Dashnak members (a number designed to keep 
below the 100-person limit when permission must be sought for 
a demonstration) camped outside the Prime Minister's office 
building located in Republic Square, erecting banners that 
read "NO to preconditions" in English.  The participants can 
be rowdy, with some shouting "traitor" whenever the Foreign 
Minister appears.  Two dozen other Dashnaks began a 
collective hunger strike outside the nearby foreign ministry 
building.  The Dashnaks said the hunger strike would be a 
symbolic one, with members taking turns in refusing food for 
two days.  Security has been accordingly beefed-up. 

4. (SBU) On September 14, the Dashnaks issued a statement 
that read: "We do not object to the policy of establishing 
relations and opening the border with Turkey, but we say no 
the preconditions trampling on the rights of future 
generations and threatening the security of our state and 
people.  We insist on making drastic changes in the 
protocols."  The Dashnak sit-ins are continuing 
around-the-clock, and the party claims it has collected over 
40,000 signatures from passers-by.  The Dashnaks are 
organizing a large demonstration on September 30, one day 
before the October 1 parliamentary debate. 

5. (C) In a September 15 discussion with the DCM, Giro 
Manoyan, head of the Dashnaks' Hay Dat (Armenian Cause) 
Department, fumed that the president "will pay a price" if he 
proceeds with the protocols as drafted and gets parliament to 
support him.  When the DCM asked what kind of price Sargsian 
would have to pay, and whether it was a political one, 
Manoyan paused but, rather ominously, declined to respond. 
In a separate conversation with the Ambassador the following 
day, FM Nalbandian expressed concerns about his physical 
security, something we had not heard from him for months. 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
EX-FM OSKANIAN SLAMS PROTOCOLS AS "UNFORGIVABLE" 
--------------------------------------------- --- 

6. (SBU) On September 8, Vartan Oskanian, Armenia's foreign 
minister from 1998-2009 and currently the director of the 
Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation think tank, published a 
bitter critique of the protocols entitled "Getting This Wrong 
Will Be Unforgivable."  Oskanian first slammed the 
authorities' handling of the domestic debate on the 
protocols, sniping that it is "hugely insulting that 
high-level officials can be this dismissive and trivializing 
on a matter that is so critical for our people." Oskanian 
then slammed the Armenian government for the "badly 
formulated" protocols, arguing that rapprochement has been 
negotiated "poorly and dangerously," and that "it is 
irresponsible of our government to force our people to make 
such choices about our present and future."  Oskanian 
directed his ire in particular at the government's alleged 
betrayal of Armenian territorial claims and willingness to 
set aside demands for genocide recognition.  Oskanian has 
made numerous public appearances and hosted a discussion on 
September 22 where he vigorously pursued the same themes. 

----------------------------------------- 
HERITAGE CONTINUES TO CALL FOR REFERENDUM 
----------------------------------------- 

7. (SBU) Leaders of the opposition Heritage Party, which 
holds just seven seats in the 131-member parliament, 
continued their calls to submit any agreement with Turkey to 
a national referendum. Heritage also said the referendum 
should be accompanied by a vote of confidence in President 
Sargsian.  In response to these demands, PM Sargsian replied 
during a September 16 question-and-answer session with MPs 
that it was "premature" to consider a referendum as the 
president was carrying out his foreign policy initiative. The 
opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) is generally 
positive about rapprochement, with the exception of the 
provision for a historical committee.  However, the ANC is 
taking a back seat on the issue, with many assuming that ANC 
Levon Ter-Petrossian hopes that Sargsian will make a fatal 
error that he can use to his advantage. 

--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
FM NALBANDIAN TELLS PARLIAMENT PROTOCOLS CAN'T BE ALTERED 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 

8. (SBU) On September 16, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian 
told a session of parliament that the protocols on 
establishing and developing relations between Armenia and 
Turkey cannot be changed.  Dashnak leader Vahan Hovhannisian 
protested that the six weeks devoted by Turkey's and 
Armenia's governments were not, as described, intended for 
public discussions, but rather for the publics to "become 
informed," with it now clear to him that the Armenia's 
parliament would have no way to propose changes to the 
protocols. (NOTE: The Dashnaks' disappointment on this point 
has not prevented them from producing and distributing a 
booklet proposing detailed changes to virtually every 
provision in the two documents. END NOTE.) 

----------------------------------- 
PRESIDENT'S POLITICAL CONSULTATIONS 
----------------------------------- 

9. (SBU) On September 17, President Sargsian and FM 
Nalbandian held five-hour-long political consultations to 
discuss the protocols with approximately 52 leaders of 
political parties he had invited on September 14.  The 
President characterized the meeting as "extremely difficult." 
 The opposition led by the Armenian National Congress 
boycotted the consultations, deriding them as a farce. 
According to the presidency, all 50 or so leaders had the 
opportunity to present their views on the protocols. 
According to reports, the talks "deepened" Dashnak concerns 
over rapprochement."  Armen Rustamian, a representative on 
the Dashnaks' Supreme Body, told reporters after the 
consultations that "we continue to state that the documents 
(protocols) convey preconditions.  Moreover, we state that 
after the protocols are ratified, Armenian-Turkish 
rapprochement will be determined in favor of Turkey." 

------------------ 
DIASPORA CHIMES IN 
------------------ 

10. (C)  The largest, most vocal, best-organized, and most 
well-funded Armenian-American, the Armenian National 
Committee of America (ANCA) has made its strong opposition to 
the protocols well known.  "Genocide" recognition is the 
first priority for the ANCA, and it has relentlessly 
campaigned against normalization on the grounds that it would 
undercut efforts aimed at achieving "genocide" recognition. 
Although previously more passive (and more moderate), the 
Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the Armenian 
Assembly of America (AAA), and the Eastern and Western 
Diocese Church of America wrote a joint letter to President 
Obama that forthrightly said "we support normalization of 
relations between Armenia and Turkey without preconditions." 
Adhering closely to GOAM policy, the letter also indicated 
concerns about Turkish intentions and the importance of 
Qurkey-Armenia n  (###) 
egotiations. 
Hayrapetian is quoted as saying, "In my view, the Diaspora 
has no right to interfere in Armenia's internal affairs.  If 
they want to interfere, they should move here, become 
citizens of Armenia and share our yoke." 

------- 
COMMENT 
------- 

12. (C) Despite the sound and fury coming from some quarters, 
a clear-eyed assessment of the protocols' parliamentary 
prospects indicates Sargsian has the votes for ratification 
(ref C).  Some opposition figures privately acknowledge as 
much (septel).  Still, the GOAM leadership does seem 
unsettled.  In part, this may reflect a recognition that, 
despite repeated public insistence to the contrary, 
Turkey-Armenia rapprochement is related to Nagorno-Karabakh 
-- an area where a Sargsian misstep actually could threaten 
his hold on power (ref H).  Also, given the history of 
extreme Armenian nationalists using violence as a form of 
political action, Sargsian may be harboring some anxieties 
about his own physical security.  The fact that, on the day 
of the parliamentary hearings October 1, Sargsian is setting 
out on a Diaspora road show to visit Armenian communities in 
Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Beirut, and Rostov-on-Don is 
also telling (or at least symbolic).  To the President, 
parliamentary processes represent mere formalities, and 
domestic criticism can be overcome with the help of 
state-controlled media and the security services.  The 
dissatisfaction of large segments of the Diaspora and the 
possible withdrawal of its support, however, represents a 
greater and less controllable threat.  It will be key during 
his outreach abroad for the President to invigorate the 
"silent majority" of diasporans who support normalization and 
sideline his more vocal critics. 

PENNINGTON

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