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Cablegate: Tough Dashnak Talk On N-K, Turkey at Party

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000347

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CACEN

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM TU AJ AM
SUBJECT: TOUGH DASHNAK TALK ON N-K, TURKEY AT PARTY
CONFERENCE SPARKS CONTROVERSY

1. (U) Sensitive But Unclassified. Please treat
accordingly.

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

2. (SBU) Dashnak Party Chairman Hrand Margarayan's
February 6 comments on relations with Turkey, N-K,
and Georgia's Armenian population sparked renewed
controversy among Armenia's political elite.
Margaryan declared during his address to the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF or
"Dashnaksutyun") 29th World Congress that the GOAM
should not entertain closer relations with Turkey,
endorsed permanent independent status for all
geographic regions involved in the N-K conflict and
called for autonomy for the Armenian enclaves in
Georgia's Javakheti region. FM Vartan Oskanian, who
himself addressed the meeting before Margaryan's
speech, was quick to distance himself and the GOAM
from these statements during press opportunities
this week. Margaryan's comments appeared carefully
calibrated for the Diasporan audience that is still
a significant support base for the ARF. The extent
to which local ARF politicians are willing to adopt
Margaryan's speech as a party mantra will affect the
ARF's privileged place in the governing coalition.
While it is still too early to separate last week's
hype from long-term effects on party policies, the
ARF congress hurled the party back into the domestic
spotlight. End Summary.

------------------------------
SPEECH MAKES HEADLINES FOR ARF
------------------------------

3. (SBU) ARF Chairman Hrand Margaryan opened the
party's 29th World Congress February 6 with a
controversial speech that has sparked debate among
Armenia's political elite. Margaryan declared
during the speech that the GOAM should halt
discussions of rapprochement with Turkey until the
GOT met all ARF pre-conditions. He called any
proposal for border opening "irrelevant" until the
GOT classified the events of 1912-15 as genocide.
Margaryan accused the Turkish-Armenian
Reconciliation Commission of "treachery" against
Armenia and criticized its "secret funding by world
powers."

4. (SBU) Margaryan reiterated the ARF's
traditionally harsh stand regarding Nagorno-
Karabagh. He told the audience categorically that
no land involved in the N-K conflict should ever be
returned to Azerbaijan. He suggested expanding the
current areas controlled by Armenian forces to
include other regions historically inhabited by
Armenians (referring to Shahumian and Getashen).
These comments incited waves of enthusiastic
applause from the audience and wincing from GOAM
representatives seated behind him on the stand.

5. (SBU) The most unexpected part of Margaryan's
speech was a call for autonomy for Armenians living
in Georgia's Javakheti region. He declared that
Javakh was "now a part of the Armenian agenda" and
accused successive Georgian regimes of
discrimination and exploitation of the country's
Armenian population. He fell short of calling for
an independent state and clarified that an
autonomous Armenian region should exist within the
Georgian state. Margaryan claimed that the Armenian
Diaspora was increasingly supportive of the ARF's
approach to Javakheti.

-------------------------------------
SPEECH CREATES HEADACHES FOR THE GOAM
-------------------------------------

6. (SBU) FM Vartan Oskanian, who himself addressed
the meeting before Margaryan's speech, was quick to
distance himself and the GOAM from these statements
during press opportunities this week. Oskanian did
not criticize Margaryan's comments, but went to
great lengths to categorize them as ARF opinions
that "do not reflect Government of Armenia policy."
MFA spokesman Hamlet Gasparian responded
aggressively to the speech by reciting
constitutional passages giving the president
authority to create foreign policy. Local news
outlets carried his closing statement that,
"[Foreign Policy] issues are a constitutional
prerogative of the President," not of the Dashnaks.

--------------------------------------------- -
MEETING ATTRACTS DIASPORA, LOCAL POWER PLAYERS
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (U) The ARF Congress was a standing-room only
event that included an impressive selection of high-
level GOAM representatives. The Prime Minister, a
majority of cabinet-level ministers and
parliamentarians from the whole range of Armenia's
political spectrum attended the meeting. Most
speeches from GOAM representatives made
congratulatory remarks about the ARF's place among
the GOAM governing coalition and the party's current
role as a cooperative political player. The event
attracted a large number of Diasporans who support
ARF and was the largest public event for the party
since its reemergence in 1998. An ARF
parliamentarian told us that the most enthusiastic
support for the event came from Diasporan ARF
chapters in France and Russia.

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

8. (SBU) Margaryan's comments appeared carefully
calibrated for the Diasporan audience that is still
a significant support base for the ARF. The extent
to which local ARF politicians are willing to adopt
Margaryan's speech as a party mantra will no doubt
affect the ARF's privileged place in the governing
coalition. Some are quick to forecast the
controversy surrounding the speech as one of the
first fissures before the coalition's possible
breakdown. While it is still too soon to determine
how much of last week's hype has real resonance
within ARF party leaders and policy, Margaryan's
comments and the ARF's splashy World Congress has
definitely hurled the party back into the domestic
spotlight -- for now.

ORDWAY

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