Washington briefing: Regional leaders offer courtesies to President-elect Obama

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Saturday November 08, 2008

Following the election of Barack Obama as president on November 4, foreign leaders communicated their desire to strengthen their respective countries' relations with the United States.

In congratulatory messages, President of Armenia Serge Sargsian and President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Bako Sahakian spoke of a "new quality" in relations and "epochal changes" in world politics that they expect the Obama presidency to bring about.

In his message, Mr. Sargsian underscored the importance of the Armenian-American community, which "repeatedly conveyed" to Armenia's president "their enthusiasm for the changes" Mr. Obama has promised the American people.

Both Armenian presidents stressed the role the United States is playing as a supporter of Armenia and a mediator in the Karabakh peace process.

Also noting the mediating role of the United States was Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, who in his message appeared to hold out hope that the United States would help Azerbaijan to "put an end to Armenia's aggression and liberate our occupied territories." Mr. Aliyev also underscored a "strategic partnership" between two countries based on Azerbaijan's oil sales to the United States.

Both Azerbaijani and Turkish commentators expressed concerns about Mr. Obama's pledge to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. Speaking in reference to the issue, Prime Minister Receb Tayyip Erdogan expressed "hope that some theses raised during the election campaign will stay there," in the past, as campaign issues; he also noted the "strategic nature" of bilateral ties, Turkish media reported.
From Georgia, one of the few countries in the world where the public was more sympathetic to Sen. John McCain's foreign policy approach, leader Mikheil Saakashvili also highlighted positive expectations from President-elect Obama.

In televised remarks reported by www.Civil.ge, Mr. Saakashvili cited Mr. Obama's supportive comments and the role played by Vice President-elect Joe Biden in securing the pledge of $1 billion in U.S. assistance to Georgia following the August war with Russia.

A congratulatory telegram from Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev had perhaps the most reserved tone. In a message posted to www.Kremlin.ru, Mr. Medvedev said he "counts on a constructive dialogue [with President Obama] based on trust and consideration of each other's interests" in order to promote bilateral cooperation "for the cause of international peace and security."

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