By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian on Thursday congratulated George W. Bush on his convincing electoral victory despite receiving no such felicitations from the U.S. president after his own, disputed reelection last year.
“Accept my warmest congratulations in connection with your reelection as president of the United States of America,” Kocharian said in a letter to Bush released by his office. “I anticipate a further strengthening of the already extensive relations between our countries in the next four years.”
Kocharian thanked the U.S. for its continuing economic assistance to Armenia and in particular the Bush administration’s decision to include his country in the Millenium Challenge Account program that has made it eligible for additional multimillion-dollar aid. He also noted Washington’s “active involvement” in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“We hope to register serious progress in that process during your second term in office,” Kocharian said.
Bush expressed similar hopes in a message sent to Kocharian shortly after he was declared the winner of the February-March 2003 presidential elections which Western observers said fell short of democratic standards due to widespread fraud. The U.S. State Department likewise expressed its “deep disappointment” with the Armenian authorities’ handling of the vote.
Kocharian’s press service claimed that Bush congratulated his Armenian counterpart. However, there were no congratulatory phrases in the text of the letter subsequently leaked to the press.
“In a spirit of friendship, I share the disappointment of the OSCE and others who have observed that Armenia missed an opportunity to make an example of a democratic election,” Bush wrote at the time.
In a related development, Bush’s reelection was welcomed on Thursday by Armenia’s most radical opposition party, Hanrapetutyun, led by former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian. In a congratulatory statement, Haraneptutyun said it is confident that the Bush administration will “bring the ongoing fight against international terrorism to a logical conclusion.”
“We expect that American efforts to ensure a lasting peace in the South Caucasus and Armenia’s democratization will end in success,” the statement added.