Khachatourian: Nalbandian Further Alienates

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalabandian chose a joint press briefing with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt to fire back at calls for his resignation.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) last week had called for Nalbandian to step down, saying “Armenia’s foreign policy has deviated from the main provisions of the national security strategy.”

“On the one hand, they can perhaps be explained by some naivety, to put it very mildly. On the other hand, perhaps by attempts to fish for something in troubled waters,” said Nalbandian. “I don’t think that speculation around the Karabagh problem, which is a matter of national importance, gives credit to anyone.” The undiplomatic manner in which Nalbandian addressed this matter demonstrates further that a change was needed.

The individual charged with shaping Armenia’s foreign policy cannot diminish national discourse on a matter as urgent and important as the fate of Karabagh by describing the sincere concerns—not just from the ARF, but also from political players in Karabagh—as “speculation.”

Calls for Nalbandian’s resignation and criticism of Armenia’s foreign policy stems from the lack of transparency from the foreign ministry during Nalbandian’s tenure. When both Azeri and Turkish officials—perhaps in tandem—are making statements on a daily basis and revealing details of discussions and agreements, the general silence by the foreign ministry prompts discussion. It is this very strategy that has muddied the waters, in which Nalbandian claims his detractors are fishing.

Clearly, the calls for his resignation prompted him to clarify a series of issues, including refuting claims by his Azeri counterpart that a timetable has been developed for withdrawal from the liberated territories surrounding the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR). “I can tell you that this issue has not been discussed at the Moscow meeting,” stressed Nalbandian.

He went on to say that while the “Madrid principles” serve as a basis for negotiations, Armenia has not given them its official approval.

Nalbandian also broached the thorny issue of Turkey-Armenia relations, saying that no new agreement had been signed following the April 22 announcement of the infamous “roadmap.” He also rejected claims that Armenia had approved the establishment of a historians’ commission to probe the Genocide. He did say, however, that once a final agreement is reached and corresponding agreements are signed, an intergovernmental committee—including sub-committees “that will deal with various issues, including the issue of the restoration of mutual trust between the two peoples”—will be established.

If the foreign ministry increases transparency and provides information on a timely manner, then the nation can have a more substantive dialogue and discussion about matters of great importance to Armenia, as it should, given the ramifications of these critical challenges confronting us.

By brushing aside any criticism and resorting to petty name-calling, Nalbandian showed his and the administration’s unwillingness to trust its own people, further alienating the political forces at a time when national unity is of paramount importance.

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