John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, described Armenia on Friday as an “important friend” of the United States after visiting the country and meeting with its leaders.
“Yesterday I had a nice visit to Armenia, an important friend in the region,” Bolton wrote on his Twitter page. “I enjoyed productive conversations with the Prime Minister [Nikol Pashinian] and his national security team.”
Bolton also retweeted a U.S. Embassy post that quoted him as telling Pashinian that the U.S. supports the new Armenian government’s “efforts to address corruption, increase judicial transparency and enhance the government’s accountability to its citizens in ways that strengthen democracy, rule of law and regional stability.”
Speaking in Yerevan, Bolton said he discussed with Pashinian a “very wide range of subjects,” notably the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said Washington expects the Armenian leader to take “decisive steps” towards a compromise peace deal with Azerbaijan after his widely anticipated victory in upcoming general elections.
Bolton also indicated that the Trump administration is ready to allow Yerevan to buy U.S. weapons and thus reduce Russia’s “excessive influence” on Armenia.
The Trump adviser noted that Russia has been the principal arms supplier of both Armenia and Azerbaijan. That has given Moscow “enormous leverage” against the two warring nations but “not contributed to the resolution” of the conflict, he said.
Together with France, the U.S. and Russia have long been jointly spearheading international efforts to broker a Karabakh settlement.
Armenian officials have not yet publicly commented on Bolton’s surprise offer. One of them said earlier this month that Yerevan is seeking yet another Russian government loan for more arms acquisitions from Russian manufacturers.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), a Washington-based lobbying group, voiced concern at some of Bolton’s statements later on Thursday.
“Bolton expressed openness to U.S. arms sales to Armenia, which - almost certainly - would happen in the context of such sales to Azerbaijan,” it said in a statement. “The danger here is that Azerbaijan, given the size of its military budget, can afford significantly more advanced U.S. arms than Armenia - leading to imbalances both on the battlefield and in terms of political relationships.”
Armenia’s relations with neighboring Iran and renewed U.S. sanctions against Tehran were another major theme of Bolton’s talks in Yerevan.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Bolton said he told Pashinian that the Trump administration will enforce those sanctions “very vigorously.” For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border, one of Armenia’s few conduits to the outside world, is “going to be a significant issue.”
“Obviously, we don’t want to cause damage to our friends in the process,” added the U.S. official.
The ANCA said in this regard that it “will work with key government stakeholders to ensure that regional sanctions do not improperly or unduly impact Armenia.”