By Armen Dulian
President Robert Kocharian will likely meet President George W. Bush at the White House just days after his Azerbaijani counterpart’s upcoming visit to Washington, a senior Armenian diplomat was quoted as saying on Monday.
Bush is scheduled to receive Azerbaijani President Ilham on Friday for talks that are expected to focus, among other issues, on the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“The Armenian president will probably be another guest in Washington in the upcoming days, after Aliev,” Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian was quoted by the Turkish newspaper “Zaman” as saying in an interview that was posted on its English-language website.
Kirakosian did not give any details of the planned trip, saying only that Armenia is not worried about Bush’s invitation to Aliev because its relations with the United States are “excellent.”
The report could not be immediately confirmed. Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, did not answer phone calls throughout the day, while another official in the presidential press service said she is not aware of any plans for the Armenian leader’s trip to Washington.
The White House normally avoids hosting foreign leaders whose democratic credentials have been questioned by the West. The U.S. State Department strongly criticized disputed presidential elections held by Aliev and Kocharian in 2003. Neither leader has been treated to a White House reception since then.
Incidentally, Kocharian’s sole encounter with Bush took place in five years ago in the wake of his U.S.-mediated peace talks with Aliev’s late father and predecessor Heydar that nearly resulted in a Karabakh settlement.
Some observers say the Karabakh dispute may thus be the main reason for Bush’s unexpected decision to meet Aliev. The U.S. and other international mediators are currently making last-ditch attempts to get the conflicting parties to cut a framework peace deal this year.