2009-09-30 – Kocharian Grim On Normalization, NK Conflict, Economy

by on 2009/09/30  •  In Wikileaks

Viewing cable 09YEREVAN688, KOCHARIAN GRIM ON NORMALIZATION, NK CONFLICT,

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09YEREVAN688 2009-09-30 12:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
VZCZCXRO8056
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHYE #0688/01 2731243
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301243Z SEP 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9547
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 YEREVAN 000688 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/2019 
TAGS: PBTS PGOV PREL TU AJ AM
SUBJECT: KOCHARIAN GRIM ON NORMALIZATION, NK CONFLICT, 
ECONOMY 

REF: A. YEREVAN 308 
     B. YEREVAN 307 
     C. 08 YEREVAN 998 

YEREVAN 00000688  001.2 OF 003 

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

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

1. (C) During the Ambassador's recent call on Robert 
Kocharian, Armenia's second president criticized President 
Sargsian for his handling of normalization of relations with 
Turkey.  Kocharian said Sargsian was taking too big a risk 
and conceding too much in a misguided negotiating process 
that he said Turkey would drag out endlessly without any 
benefit for Armenia.  Kocharian warned against outsiders 
pressuring Sargsian for a breakthrough in the 
Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) settlement process, arguing that any 
forced concessions could trigger "a backlash" against 
Sargsian, and he warned the Ambassador that if Turkey-Armenia 
normalization fails, the Armenian public would ultimately 
blame the U.S.  Kocharian saw no possibility of a 
breakthrough until Azerbaijan realized it could not solve the 
conflict militarily.  The former president also accused the 
Armenian government of ineptly handling the economic crisis. 
In spite of his palpable policy disagreements with President 
Sargsian, Kocharian said he had no intention of interfering 
in his successor's handling of national affairs.  END SUMMARY. 

--------------------------------------------- -- 
PRESIDENT MISHANDLING NORMALIZATION WITH TURKEY 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

2. (C) On September 25, the Ambassador called on ex-president 
Robert Kocharian to gauge his views on the normalization 
process with Turkey, the NK settlement process, and Armenia's 
economic situation.  Not one to pull a punch (either in 
public nor in private), Kocharian griped that current 
President Serzh Sargsian is mishandling the normalization 
process, cutting off all of Armenia's room for maneuver with 
Turkey.  Kocharian stated that the situation was not 
catastrophic for Sargsian, but he need not have taken such 
significant risks -- the possibility of normalization failing 
and the border remaining closed -- which will only tarnish 
Sargsian's presidency and relations with Armenia's Diaspora. 

3. (C) Kocharian repeatedly affirmed to the Ambassador that 
he has always favored normalizing ties with Turkey, but he 
would never have gone about it through the pursuit of the 
protocols.  (Comment: Based on our interaction with Kocharian 
when he was president, his claims that he always favored 
normalization are not credible.  End comment.)  He asked, 
"why should Turkey's parliament have to ratify" a set of 
protocols when "the Turks did no such thing in closing the 
border" in 1993.  Kocharian bitterly complained that the 
Turks were exploiting the protocols and Sargsian in an effort 
to embark upon a negotiating process that they had every 
intention of dragging out, to the detriment of Armenia's 
interests.  "If they want to establish relations and open the 
border, all they have to do is sign a document saying they 
want relations, and then open the border," Kocharian fumed. 
He said he would have imposed a deadline on the Turks to do 
both things, and criticized Sargsian for not doing so.  "Now 
Turkey is dictating the process, and we have no room for 
maneuver."  He also warned that now Armenia has entered into 
"an eternal process that risks having no results." 

4. (C) Kocharian also criticized Armenia's agreement to a 
sub-commission on historical matters.  He said he was 
surprised that Foreign Minister Nalbandian had even agreed to 
this; it would have been better, Kocharian stated, had 
Armenia insisted on the establishment of one 
inter-governmental commission that could study the gamut of 
bilateral issues (similar to what Kocharian had proposed to 
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in 2005).  Miffed, Kocharian 
said that now President Sargsian was about to embark upon "an 
unnecessary" and "avoidable" world tour of Armenian Diaspora 
communities to defend the protocols. 

----------------------------------- 
DISMISSES "POLITICAL CONSULTATIONS" 
----------------------------------- 

5. (C) Asked by the Ambassador about his view of the domestic 
opposition to the protocols, Kocharian dismissed political 
parties as a potential obstacle for Sargsian.  He said, 
however, that the president could have avoided the opposition 

YEREVAN 00000688  002.2 OF 003 

of the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation - 
Dashnaktsutiun (Dashnaks) by consulting them on the wording 
of the protocols prior to their publication.  "Two word 
fixes: is all it would have taken to neutralize the Dashnak 
criticism.  He said that not a single political party, with 
the exception of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, 
mattered in the debate.  Surprisingly, Kocharian disparaged 
Prosperous Armenia, calling it "a one-man party" that has no 
say.  (COMMENT:  It is widely believed that then-president 
Kocharian was behind the establishment of the Prosperous 
Armenia, which he envisioned as a future rival of the RPA, 
and that it is still Kocharian's stalking horse today.  END 
COMMENT) 

-------------------------------- 
"OSKANIAN DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME" 
-------------------------------- 

6. (C) Kocharian flatly denied that ex-Foreign Minister 
Vartan Oskanian was speaking for him in his increasingly 
shrill attacks on Armenia's normalization policy.  Kocharian 
argued that Oskanian's recent interventions had more to do 
with Oskanian's principled stand, and the fact that the 
current administration has ignored Oskanian and his 
decade-long experience on the matter.  "Vartan is concerned," 
Kocharian said, "because he feels Armenia is being forced to 
pay a price for the border opening when it should not have 
to."  Kocharian claimed that Foreign Minister Edward 
Nalbandian insulted Oskanian by not consulting with his 
predecessor, and that Kocharian had recommended to President 
Sargsian some sort of advisory role for Oskanian on the 
normalization process.  "The authorities could have utilized 
the most competent person in Armenia" on Turkey-Armenian 
relations, but instead "forced him into a corner," Kocharian 
stated. 

7. This is in contrast to how Kocharian himself is being 
treated.  He said he still occasionally consulQwith the 
president on affairs of state, and that he recently voiced 
his differences with Sargsian on Turkey.  "But I won't 
interfere" in the President's business, Kocharian vowed. 
Kocharian said he intended not to interfere because if he did 
he would not be able "to lie about what he thought" of the 
government's policies and performance. 

------------------------------------- 
U.S. TO SUFFER IF NORMALIZATION FAILS 
------------------------------------- 

8. (C) Kocharian warned the Ambassador that should the 
current normalization talks fail, U.S. interests could be 
adversely affected in Armenia.  Kocharian said the perception 
that United States was forcing Armenia to make unrequited 
concessions was already well established in Armenian society, 
and that if the process didn't produce results for Armenia, 
"it will harm Armenia's relations with the United States." 
"No one wants to blame themselves," he noted, adding that 
"nobody wants to be viewed as a fool," in reference to the 
possibility that President Sargsian faces should the talks 
breakdown without any gain for Armenia. 

--------------------------------------------- - 
CAREFUL NOT TO PRESSURE ARMENIA TOO MUCH ON NK 
--------------------------------------------- - 

9. (C) When asked his views on the way forward for a 
settlement of the NK conflict, Kocharian warned that now, 
more than at anytime during his own presidency, "it will be 
very complex" for Armenia's president to extract substantive 
compromises from NK's leadership.  He cautioned against 
outsiders pressing Armenia's president so much "that there 
can be a backlash" against him for attempting unpalatable 
compromises.  Somewhat ominously, Kocharian expanded on such 
a scenario, saying that if an Armenian leader agreed to such 
compromises, "he will be stopped" by (unspecified) others who 
have long been part of the settlement process. 

--------------------------------------------- ------- 
NO BREAKTHROUGH UNTIL BAKU RULES OUT MILITARY OPTION 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 

10. (C) Kocharian asserted that there would be no 
breakthrough in the settlement process "until Azerbaijan 
accepts that there can be no military solution to Karabakh" 
and "it has the will to compromise."  Kocharian cautioned 
that such a compromise would not come as long as Azerbaijan 
felt empowered by its hydrocarbon riches and thought it held 
aQdvantage over Armenia.  Kocharian nevertheless noted that 

YEREVAN 00000688  003.2 OF 003 

in spite of repeated inflammatory statements by Azerbaijani 
President Ilham Aliyev to take back NK and the adjoining 
territories by force, he did not think Aliyev was an 
adventurist.  "He's not a Saakashvili," exclaimed Kocharian, 
"he's more careful and cautious."  Kocharian then qualified 
his assessment, noting that the only time he thought the 
Azerbaijanis might try to settle the conflict militarily was 
if "the internal situation in Armenia became catastrophic." 

11. (C) As for Armenian motivations to settle the conflict, 
Kocharian said with each passing day it becomes harder for 
Karabakhi Armenians to fathom unpalatable compromises, such 
as giving up the seven provinces that now form the security 
zone around NK. Kocharian said that he had warned 
then-President Heydar Aliyev of this in 1999, and urged that 
the two leaders strive to avoid such a scenario by coming to 
a final settlement.  He then stated that "sacrificing the 
independence" of NK was now "impossible."  "Can you imagine," 
Kocharian exclaimed, "why a people who has lived freely and 
independently for 21 years (since NK declared its secession 
from the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan) would 
revert back" to what existed before. 

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

12. (C) As previously reported, the ex-president keeps a 
close pulse on state affairs, and gives the distinct 
impression that he could quickly step into the breach to 
serve again if conditions warranted. He appears to be biding 
his time enjoying his new life of leisure and reveling in 
traveling internationally without the complications of being 
President.  However it is far too early to count Kocharian 
out.  "Who knows?" he said; "This might be my only window to 
travel..." 

PENNINGTON

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