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Armenia - Foreign Relations

Armenia considers Georgias military ties with Turkey a threat to its national security. Tbilisi, in turn, feels threatened by Yerevans military ties with Moscow. The foreign policy of Armenia is based on complementarity, a partnership approach that seeks to simultaneously develop relations with all states in the region and with states with interests in the region. Such a policy is aimed at maintaining an overall balance in the region. The positive trends in the dialogue and cooperation among the major powers and the consolidation of the international community to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are conducive to Armenias pursuit of its foreign policy of complementarity.

Armenia's closest political and economic relationship is with Russia. Armenia joined the CIS on 21 December 1989 and has signed a Friendship Treaty with Russia. There is a Russian division currently stationed in Armenia, as well as Russian border guards on the Iranian and Turkish borders. A treaty was signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Ter-Petrosian in 1995 establishing the legal status of the base and agreements on military co-operation have been signed since. Armenia is 1 of 6 parties to the CIS Treaty of Collective Security signed in Tashkent in May 1993.

The country maintains close ties with both Russia and the US. Armenian troops served with NATO in Kosovo, and in Iraq under Polish command before Poland withdrew its troops. In addition, the US provided some $1.5 billion in economic aid over the 15 years from 1993 to 2008, and the US was the only foreign donor to the Armenian enclave of Karabakh.

Armenia is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization (BSEC), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Trade Organization. Armenia re-assumed the chairmanship of the CSTO for one year in September 2008 and assumed BSEC's six-month chairmanship in November 2008.

In 1988, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, voted to secede and join Armenia. This act was the catalyst that led Armenia and Azerbaijan into a full-scale armed conflict that claimed the lives of over 30,000 on both sides. Armenian support for the separatists led to an economic embargo by Azerbaijan, which has had a negative impact on Armenia's foreign trade and made imports of food and fuel more expensive, three-quarters of which previously transited Azerbaijan under Soviet rule.

Peace talks in early 1993 were disrupted by the seizure of Azerbaijan's Kelbajar district by Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian forces and the forced evacuation of thousands of ethnic Azeris. Turkey in protest then followed with an embargo of its own against Armenia. A cease-fire was declared between Azeri and Armenian/Nagorno-Karabakh forces in 1994 and has been maintained by both sides since then in spite of occasional shooting along the line of contact. All Armenian governments have thus far resisted domestic pressure to recognize the self-proclaimed independence of the "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic," while at the same time announcing they would not accept any peace accords that returned the enclave to Azerbaijani rule. Approximately 572,000 of the estimated 800,000 ethnic Azeris who fled during the Karabakhi offensives still live as internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan (according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, quoting Azeri Government statistics, June 2008), while roughly 4,700 of 360,000 ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan since 1988 remain refugees. Negotiations to peacefully resolve the conflict have been ongoing since 1992 under the aegis of the Minsk Group of the OSCE.

Sparking talk of a new Cold War, NATO and Russia effectively froze their relations following Moscow's August 2008 military campaign against Georgia that was strongly condemned by the West. Armenia, which maintains close military ties with Russia, made clear that this would not deter it from continuing to implement its Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was not alarmed by Armenia's growing cooperation with NATO and welcomes its main regional ally's efforts to expand economic ties with Georgia after the recent Russian-Georgian war.

In September 2008 Armenia hosted the first NATO-led military exercises in the South Caucasus since the recent Russian-Georgian war, underlining its intention to continue to deepen security ties with the West despite the latter's confrontation with Russia. About one thousand troops from 17 nations, eight of them NATO members, practiced over three weeks joint military and humanitarian operations at the training ground of Armenia's main military academy located on the northern outskirts of Yerevan. The drills, codenamed "Cooperative Longbow / Lancer -2008," followed a NATO-drawn scenario involving the evacuation of non-combatant civilians, counter-terrorist activities and stabilization operations.

The past decade has seen a rapid spread of pro-Western sentiment among local journalists, civil society members, and youth activists who rely heavily on social media. This process only accelerated after Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided in 2013 to forego a far-reaching Association Agreement with the European Union and make Armenia part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) instead. For this expanding circle of politically active people, Russia is a threat to Armenia's sovereignty, security, and democratization which must be neutralized by a reorientation of Armenian foreign policy towards the West. Some of them demand not only Armenia's exit from the EEU, but also an end to the Russian military presence in the country.




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