By Ruben Meloyan
Armenia should exercise caution in forging closer links with NATO because of its strained relationship with alliance member Turkey, a leader of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said on Friday.
Deputy parliament speaker Vahan Hovannisian claimed that Ankara has long been acting against “Armenian national and state interests” and may use NATO for that purpose.
“We have many unresolved issues with Turkey,” he told an international conference in Yerevan. “We must not let Turkey put those unresolved problems on NATO’s shoulders. We don’t need that. We have a problem with Turkey, not NATO.”
Hovannisian and his nationalist party, a member of Armenia’s governing coalition, regards Turkey as a grave threat to Armenia’s national security. Dashnaktsutyun also takes the view that Turkish recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide must be the main prerequisite for normalizing relations between the two nations.
President Robert Kocharian and his administration as a whole favor a softer line, saying that Ankara should establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan and open the Turkish-Armenian border without any preconditions. But they share Dashnaktsutyun’s position, reaffirmed by Hovannisian, that membership of NATO should not be on the Armenian foreign policy agenda in the near future, despite growing public support for it.
Yerevan is instead trying to step up cooperation with the U.S.-led alliance under an “individual partnership action plan,” or IPAP, launched earlier this year. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian discussed the implementation of Armenia’s IPAP with NATO’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Yerevan conference, Oskanian’s deputy Arman Kirakosian said closer ties with NATO will not only strengthen Armenia’s security but also facilitate its “European integration.”
(Photolur photo: Vahan Hovannisian.)