Washington briefing: U.S. diplomats, Armenian commentators disagree on trends in U.S. Caucasus policy

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Saturday November 08, 2008

Vahan Hovhannesian. Photolure.

Although Barack Obama ran with the slogan "The change we need," American diplomats posted in the Caucasus say they do not expect U.S.' regional priorities to change.

The Democratic candidate renewed his pledge on the Armenian Genocide and stronger relations with Armenia in a statement released on the eve of the election.

Nevertheless, the Regnum news agency cited a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, Terry Davidson, telling Azerbaijanis "not to fear" Mr. Obama's pledges to speak clearly on the Armenian Genocide, and promising continuity in U.S. regional policy.

But Ruben Safrastian, a Yerevan-based Turkey expert, cautioned against expectations that the United States could influence Armenian-Turkish relations. He said, "Turkey's approach toward Armenia can only change through a fundamental reassessment of the priorities of the Turkish elite, which needs considerable time to play out."

At the same time, Mr. Safrastian remained hopeful that changes in U.S. policy under the new president would occur. In particular, U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide will now be "more realistic" and would contribute to strengthening of U.S.-Armenia relations, he said.

Vahan Hovhannesian, a National Assembly member from the ARF, similarly suggested that the election result provides Armenian-American organizations with "new serious opportunities for promoting Armenian interests."

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