In a Sept. 25, 2009 meeting with former President of Armenia Robert Kocharian initiated by then US Ambassador to Armenia Marie L. Yovanovitch, Armenia’s second president criticized current President Serzh Sargsyan for his handling of the rapprochement with neighboring Turkey.
According to a diplomatic cable sent by then US Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Pennington to the US State Department soon after the meeting and recently published by WikiLeaks, Kocharian 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? In the ex-president’s view, the Turks were exploiting the protocols and Sargsyan “in an effort to embark upon a negotiating process that they had every intention of dragging out, to the detriment of Armenia’s interests… He said he would have imposed a deadline on the Turks to do both things, and criticized Sargsyan for not doing so. ‘Now Turkey is dictating the process, and we have no room for maneuver’.”
Kocharian also criticized Armenia’s agreement on a sub-commission on historical matters. “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… Miffed, Kocharian said that now President Sargsyan was about to embark upon ‘an unnecessary’ and ‘avoidable’ world tour of Armenian Diaspora communities to defend the protocols.”
Asked about his view of the domestic opposition to the protocols, Kocharian said political parties were not a potential obstacle for Sargsyan. “He said, however, that the president could have avoided the opposition of the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Dashnaktsutyun (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.”
Kocharian flatly denied that former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian was speaking for him in his “increasingly shrill attacks” on Armenia’s normalization policy, which, according to Kocharian, 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 Sargsyan some sort of advisory role for Oskanian on the normalization process.”
Pennington notes that this is in contrast to how Kocharian himself is being treated, saying he recently voiced his differences with Sargsyan on Turkey and that he still occasionally consulted with the president on affairs of the state. “‘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.”
In his commentary, Pennington writes that 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…'”
Updated 10:57 pm, same day: US Ambassador to Armenia Marie L. Yovanovitch was erroneously stated as being the author of the cable.