Armenia–United States relations

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Armenia – United States relations
Map indicating locations of Armenia and USA

Armenia

United States

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 brought an end to the Cold War and created the opportunity for bilateral relations with the New Independent States (NIS) as they began a political and economic transformation. The U.S. recognized the independence of Armenia on December 25, 1991, and opened an embassy in Yerevan in February 1992.

The United States has made a concerted effort to help Armenia and other NIS during their difficult transition from totalitarianism and a command economy to democracy and open markets. The cornerstone of this continuing partnership has been the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets (FREEDOM) Support Act, enacted in October 1992. Under this and other programs, the U.S. to date has provided nearly $2 billion in humanitarian and technical assistance for Armenia. U.S. assistance programs in Armenia are described in depth on the website at: http://www.usaid.am/main/en/129/.

On March 27, 2006, Armenia signed a Millennium Challenge Compact with the United States; the agreement entered into force on September 29, 2006. Provided the Armenian Government makes progress on mutually agreed-upon policy performance criteria (corruption, ruling justly, and investing in people), the agreement will provide $235 million to Armenia over five years to reduce rural poverty through the improvement of rural roads and irrigation networks. In 2012 or 2013, US and Armenia are planning to hold their first ever joint military drills, during which Armenian soldiers will be trained for their current multi-national peacekeeping operations.[1]

According to the 2012 U.S. Global Leadership Report, 46% of Armenians approve of U.S. leadership, with 27% disapproving and 27% uncertain.[2]

U.S.-Armenian economic relations[edit]

Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Washington in 1918

In 1992, Armenia signed three agreements with the U.S. affecting trade between the two countries. The agreements were ratified by the Armenian parliament in September 1995 and entered into force in the beginning of 1996. They include an "Agreement on Trade Relations", an "Investment Incentive Agreement", and a treaty on the "Reciprocal Encouragement and Protection of Investment" (generally referred to as the Bilateral Investment Treaty, or BIT). Armenia does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the U.S. The 1994 Law on Foreign Investment governs all direct investments in Armenia, including those from the U.S.

Approximately 70 U.S.-owned firms currently do business in Armenia, including Dell, Microsoft, and IBM. Recent major U.S. investment projects include the Hotel Armenia/Marriott; the Hotel Ani Plaza; Tufenkian Holdings (carpet and furnishing production, hotels, and construction); several subsidiaries of U.S.-based information technology firms, including Viasphere Technopark, an IT incubator; Synopsys; a Greek-owned Coca-Cola bottling plant; jewelry and textile production facilities; several copper and molybdenum mining companies; and the Hovnanian International Construction Company.

U.S. government-funded agencies involved in Armenian economic institutions[edit]

Embassy of Armenia in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. continues to work closely with international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to help Armenia in its transition to a free-market economy. Armenia has embarked upon an ambitious reform program, which has resulted in a double-digit GDP growth for the last 6 years. U.S. economic assistance programs, primarily under the administration of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have three objectives: to promote sustainable private sector economic growth, to strengthen non-executive governmental systems and civil society to build a more robust democracy, and to ensure a smooth transition towards primary healthcare and the rationalization of social support systems of the government. Other agencies, including the Departments of State, Agriculture, Treasury, Defense, Commerce, Energy, Justice, and the Peace Corps sponsor various assistance projects. The U.S.-Armenia Task Force, established in 2000, is a bilateral commission that meets every 6 months to review the progress and objectives of U.S. assistance to Armenia. The last meeting was held in Washington, D.C., in October 2007.

Specific USAID programs focus on private sector competitiveness and workforce development in selected industries, including information technology and tourism; development of the financial sector and fiscal authorities to achieve an enabling environment for businesses; and reforms promoting the efficient and safe use of energy and water; democracy and good governance programs, including the promotion of a well-informed and active civil society, support to decentralization of authority, independent justice sector and the parliament to ensure the separation of power; social sector reform, including benefits and public services administration for vulnerable populations; health sector reform, including improvement of primary healthcare (PHC) services with an emphasis on preventive care; strengthening of reproductive, maternal, and child healthcare countrywide to ensure access to quality PHC services in rural areas; public education programs; and training for PHC providers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Caucasus Agricultural Development Initiative provides targeted and sustained technical and marketing assistance to small and medium-sized agribusinesses, farmer-marketing associations, and the Government of Armenia. USDA's goal is to sustain the productivity of the agricultural sector by expanding access to markets and credit, increasing efficiency, and modernizing agriculture systems. USDA's priority assistance areas are: farm credit, food safety and animal health, support to the Armenian private sector through the NGO CARD. Also, as a training component of USDA projects in Armenia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cochran Fellowship Program provides training to Armenian agriculturists in the United States.[3]

U.S. humanitarian assistance[edit]

Memorial to the Armenian Genocide in Philadelphia

Over the past 16 years, the U.S. has provided nearly $2 billion in assistance to Armenia, the highest per capita amount in the NIS. humanitarian aid originally accounted for up to 85% of this total, reflecting the economic paralysis caused by closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, destruction in northern Armenia left from the devastating 1988 earthquake, and the closure of most of the country's factories.

As conditions in Armenia have improved with the stabilization of the economy and increased energy production—including the restarting of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant near the capital—U.S. assistance programs have progressed from humanitarian priorities to longer-term development goals.

U.S. government-funded agency involvement in Armenian politics and media[edit]

Technical assistance and training programs have been provided in municipal administration, intergovernmental relations, public affairs, foreign policy, diplomatic training, rule of law, and development of a constitution. Specific programs are targeted at promoting elections that meet international standards, strengthening political parties, and promoting the establishment of an independent judiciary and independent media. This includes financing for programs that support civil society organizations, local non-governmental organizations (NGO) capacity building, National Assembly professional development, and local and community-level governance.

State Department and USAID educational exchange programs claim to play an important role in supporting democratic and free-market reforms. Assistance in the translation and publication of printed information also has been provided. Exchange programs in the U.S. for Armenian lawyers, judges, political party members, business people, government officials, NGO activists, journalists, and other public figures focus on a range of topics, including the American judicial and political system, privatization, specific business sectors, the media, and civil society. The State Department has funded an ongoing project to provide Internet connectivity to schools at various levels throughout the country; these centers provide both educational and community-building opportunities.

USAID has funded international and domestic groups to monitor national elections. USAID also has funded programs to educate voters and to strengthen the role of an array of civic organizations in the democratic process.

U.S. discontent on Armenian arms shipments to Iran[edit]

The 2010 diplomatic cable leaks disclosed by Wikileaks revealed discontent of US administrations over Armenia's arms shipments to Iran despite urges from the US government to apply its containment policy to Iran. In late 2008, U.S. diplomats came to the conclusion that the government of Armenia had been supplying Iran with rockets and machine guns in 2003, subsequently used against American troops in Iraq.[4]

As a result, Deputy Secretary of State at that time John D. Negroponte wrote a letter to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in December 2008 expressing "deep concerns about Armenia's transfer of arms to Iran which resulted in the death and injury of U.S. soldiers in Iraq." The cable indicates that "in 2007 some of these weapons were recovered from two Shia militant attacks in which a U.S. soldier was killed and six others were injured in Iraq." One Western diplomat familiar with the incident said the United States had multiple streams of intelligence connecting the Armenian arms shipments to Iran with the deaths of U.S. soldiers in 2007 in Iraq. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confronted President Sargsyan with this intelligence in 2008 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, he denied knowing anything about the matter.[5] In a letter to Sargsyan, Secretary Rice wrote: "Such cooperation with Iran, a known state sponsor of terrorism and supplier of arms to terrorist groups and other non-state actors, is unacceptable," instructing US diplomats to pressure the Armenian leadership to take responsibility for the transfer, and threaten it with sanctions.[6] Assistant Secretary Fried, Deputy Assistant Secretary Bryza, and then Ambassador Yovanovitch also raised deep concerns about Armenia's transfer of arms to Iran which resulted in the death and injury of US soldiers in Iraq.[4]

Armenia had purchased 1,000 anti-tank rockets and 260 machine guns from Bulgaria in 2003 when Sargsyan was the Defense Minister of Armenia. Giving personal written guarantees to Bulgaria that the weapons would stay in Armenia, Sargsyan was able to import the purchased weapons. American troops continue finding military equipment from Armenian shipment during their raids in Iraq.[citation needed]

American intelligence revealed and documented almost all of the details concerning the Armenian weapons deal. The finding confirm that the RPG-22 anti-tank rockets were manufactured at the Vazovski Mashinostroitelni Zavodi, and that the machine guns were manufactured by the Bulgarian weapons manufacturer Arsenal. Upon the purchase and subsequent shipment of the weapons to Armenia, they were immediately shipped to Iran. The transaction was made between the partially state-owned company Zao Veber and Abbas Abdi Asjerd, an Iranian arms dealer. It is alleged that the weapons were paid for by the Iranian government, but the money trail was covered by having it go through an Armenian bank.[6]

Expressing the frustration of the US government, Negroponte wrote to Sargsyan: "Notwithstanding the close relationship between our countries, neither the Administration nor the U.S. Congress can overlook this case... The direct role of high-level Armenian officials and the link of the weapons to an attack on U.S. forces make this case unique and highly troubling. ...By law, the transfer of these weapons requires us to consider whether there is a basis for the imposition of U.S. sanctions. If sanctions are imposed, penalties could include the cutoff of U.S. assistance and certain export restrictions."[5]

The Deputy Secretary noted to Sargsyan that a team will be sent to Armenia to seek written agreement that Armenia will take steps to ensure that it will not become a source of weapons for Iran or other states or groups of concern and that the team would also present additional information that would clarify why the United States is convinced that the transfers happened and make it unreasonable for Sargsyan to continue his denials.[4] According to Der Spiegel, due to the arms transfer to Iran, Sargsyan bore partial responsibility for killing or wounding American soldiers.[6]

At a January 14, 2009 meeting with US envoy Mahley with Sargsyan and NSS Chairman Gorik Hakobyan, the Armenian leadership was presented with evidence of weapons purchased by Armenia, shipped to Iran and recovered from Iran-backed Iraqi insurgent groups which fought against US troops in Iraq. Hakobyan had tried to lay the blame on Bulgaria for diverting the responsibility from Armenia's involvement but Ambassador Mahley presented facts showing the arms transfer and serial numbers of weapons were used to kill a US soldier in an armed attack on US troops on January 31, 2008. US military personnel continued to recover arms from the Sargsyan deal at the hands of Iraqi insurgents. One instance was the recovery of an arms cache in Baghdad on February 15, 2008 which belonged to the Hizballah Brigades - an Iranian-backed Iraqi militant group. Among mostly Iran manufactured weapons in the raid were six Bulgarian RPG-22 anti-tank weapons, production lot and serial numbers of which indicated they were produced by the Bulgarian firm which sold the weapons to Armenia. Similar finds were in mid-March 2008 in Baghdad, when two RPG-22 launch tubes were recovered during the ambush of US troops resulting in injuries of American soldiers. The lot and serial numbers matched and handwritten on both launchers was the Arabic message "Rejoice - Islamic Resistance of Iraq - Hizballah Brigades".[7]

However, in the course of the investigation, Armenian officials accepted the US recommendations regarding border security and unannounced visits by US experts.[8]

Principal U.S. embassy officials[edit]

  • Ambassador - John A. Heffern
  • Chargé d'affaires a.i.--Joseph Pennington
  • Political/Economic Chief—
  • Assistance Coordinator—
  • Consular Officer—
  • Management Officer—Robert Frazier
  • Regional Security Officer—Gordon Goetz
  • USDA Marketing Assistance Project Director—Sean Carmody
  • USAID Director—
  • Public Affairs Officer—Thomas Mittnacht

Armenian officials[edit]

Embassies[edit]

The U.S. Embassy is located in Yerevan, Armenia. The Armenian Embassy is in Washington, D.C.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "U.S., Armenia to Hold Joint Military Drills". Asbarez. 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  2. ^ U.S. Global Leadership Project Report - 2012 Gallup
  3. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/armenia/foreign-relations-us.htm
  4. ^ a b c "US embassy cables: US fury at Armenia over arms transfers to Iran". London: The Guardian. 2010-11-28. WikiLeaks cable:08STATE134490. Archived from the original on 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  5. ^ a b Eli Lake (2010-11-29). "WikiLeaks: Armenia sent Iran arms used to kill U.S. troops. State expressed 'deep concerns'". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  6. ^ a b c "The US Takes on the Underworld. On the Trail of Weapons Smugglers". Der Spiegel. 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  7. ^ Copy of diplomatic cable dated 24 December 2008 (2010-12-06). "US embassy cables: Armenian defence minister rebuked over arms sales to Iran". London: The Guardian. WikiLeaks cable:09YEREVAN20. Archived from the original on 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2010-12-16. 
  8. ^ Tisdall, Simon (2010-11-28). "Fear of 'different world' if Iran gets nuclear weapons". The Guardian (London). 

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State (Background Notes).

External links[edit]

Media related to Armenia – United States relations at Wikimedia Commons