Speaking on the third anniversary of the brief but bitter war, Vladimir Karapetian, the HAK’s foreign policy spokesman, acknowledged that President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration followed a “prudent” line by not siding with Russia or Georgia.
“Armenia’s authorities adopted a fairly balanced position and there has been no deterioration in [Armenian-Georgian] relations or increased distrust between our countries and peoples,” Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in rare praise of the government.
Karapetian said at the same time that the lingering Russian-Georgian tensions continue to have a negative impact on Armenia. They hamper a further development of its relations with Georgia and Russia, he said.
The five-day war in South Ossetia put Armenia in a delicate position, pitting its main ally, Russia, against its most important neighbor. Official Yerevan sought to maintain neutrality throughout the fighting that left hundreds of people dead.
While criticizing the Georgian government for attempting to regain control over South Ossetia by force, President Serzh Sarkisian resisted reported pressure from Moscow to recognize this and the other Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.
Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), highlighted this caution as he commented on the war anniversary. “That is the internal affair of Russia and Georgia,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I don’t think it’s right to evaluate that.”
“Russia is Armenia’s strategic partner and Georgia a friendly country,” he said, reiterating Yerevan’s hopes for the eventual normalization of Russian-Georgian relations.
In televised remarks aired late last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the Russian-Georgian war taught Armenia and Azerbaijan a “very serious lesson.” He said the presidents of both warring nations told him in 2008 that “it is better to hold endless negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh … than to go through five days of war.”
Sergei Minasian, a senior analyst with the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, agreed that the war reduced chances of renewed large-scale fighting in Karabakh. “Everyone realizes that the price of war is extremely high,” he said.
In Minasian’s words, Azerbaijan, which often threatens to end the Karabakh conflict by force, could win back the disputed territory only in the unlikely case of quickly defeating the Armenians.
“I don’t think Azerbaijan can achieve any results with a quick offensive,” said the HAK’s Karapetian. “I believe that the army units in Karabakh would manage to repel the enemy,” he added.