By Armen Dulian
Armenia’s reclusive former President Levon Ter-Petrosian met with President George W. Bush during a private visit to the United States late last week, his office in Yerevan said on Monday.
Officials there told RFE/RL that the meeting took place on Thursday in Little Rock, Arkansas where the two men were attending the high-profile inauguration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s $165 million presidential library. They would not be drawn on details of the conversation, referring all inquiries to aides accompanying Ter-Petrosian on the trip.
According to newspaper reports, Ter-Petrosian was invited by Clinton to attend the opening ceremony along with two other former U.S. Presidents and numerous foreign dignitaries. The “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily reported on Saturday, that the Armenian ex-president, rarely seen in public since his resignation nearly seven years ago, will meet with unspecified U.S. policy-makers in Washington before returning home.
The reported conversation with Bush indicates the West’s continuing interest in Ter-Petrosian. Observers attribute it to Ter-Petrosian’s advocacy of greater Armenian concessions for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a stance which cost him the presidency in February 1998. His successor, Robert Kocharian, favors a harder line.
Ter-Petrosian received the Yerevan-based ambassadors of the major European Union countries ahead of last year’s presidential election. They were reportedly seeking to clarify whether he will contest the ballot. Ter-Petrosian, mindful of his continuing unpopularity, eventually decided not to run.
Bush’s apparent desire to meet him contrasts with the U.S. president’s failure to congratulate Kocharian on his disputed reelection and receive him in the White House. The only Bush-Kocharian meeting so far took place in April 2001, in the immediate aftermath of U.S.-sponsored peace talks on Karabakh.
Ter-Petrosian likewise received no congratulations from Clinton after his equally controversial reelection in September 1996.