By Gohar Gasparian in Prague
The United States and Russia are not locked in an “unhealthy” tussle for influence in the South Caucasus, and Armenia wants to strengthen its ties with both world powers, according to President Robert Kocharian.
“Russia and the United States are cooperating very well on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the framework of the Minsk Group. I don’t see any unhealthy competition in the Caucasus between these great powers,” Kocharian said in an interview with the Austrian newspaper “Die Presse” which appeared on Thursday.
Reiterating the main tenet of Armenia’s “complementary” foreign policy, Kocharian said Moscow and Washington “can complement rather than confront each other in the Caucasus.”
“Armenia has very good relations with both Russia and the United States,” he said. “These countries are important for us, and neither has told us, ‘Either [you choose] us or them’.”
Armenia is Russia’s closest ally in the region and has at the same time been a leading per-capita recipient of American economic assistance since independence. Kocharian admitted that Yerevan’ ties with Moscow, especially in the military field, are deeper “for historical reasons.”
Armenian officials, wary of a Cold War-style rivalry in the region, have downplayed a recent Russian-American diplomatic spat over Washington’s decision to provide anti-terrorist training to Georgian security forces. Earlier this month Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian was quick to point to President Vladimir Putin’s effective withdrawal of Russian objections to the planned deployment in Georgia of a small U.S. army unit. Sarkisian said the troops’ arrival will not destabilize the situation in the region.