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It's all in the invitation

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 14
Analysts have different views on the participation of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Washington nuclear security summit. Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia is there, and Obama will meet him, but Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan was not invited. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already expressed its dissatisfaction that Aliev has not been invited to Washington.

It is generally considered that the omission of Aliev is a reflection of the US administration's policy in the Caucasus. It has become evident that this policy is now mainly based on developing Armenian-Turkish relations and reestablishing full diplomatic relations between these two countries. However Armenia is not going to turn away from Moscow in exchange, as the US probably hopes.

Some analysts suggest that not inviting the President of Azerbaijan is meant as a statement about the recent moves of the Baku leadership. This has lately shown a clear sympathy towards Russia, but despite this partial reorientation, designed to help resolve the Karabakh problem in Azerbaijan's favour, no breakthrough has been achieved on this issue. Obama’s scheduled meeting with the Armenian President is explained by the activities of the pro-Armenian lobby in Washington, the recently adopted resolution on the Armenian Genocide and US interest in the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border. The question however is whether any action should be taken over Karabakh as part of this process.

Russia is observing developments in the Armenian-Turkish relationship attentively, considering that the US is promoting this to further its own interests. It has stated that the US wants to open the cross-border railways to facilitate the transport of its cargo to Afghanistan. This may be true, but as Russia has several times stated that it has a Sphere of privileged influence" in the Black Sea region, it is in no position to complain about other countries also treating states weaker than themselves as a conduit for their own aims and interests, particularly if the people of those states broadly support the US and its policies.

President Saakashvili of Georgia is also in Washington. Georgian analysts think that by inviting him the US administration is expressing its support for Georgia. However they highlight that Vice-President Joe Biden, rather than Obama, will be the one meeting Saakashvili. The invitation was confirmed during the recent telephone conversation between Obama and Saakashvili, but interestingly the published accounts of this conversation were slightly different. Analysts have picked up on the fact that the Georgian Government's rendering omits the Obama’s critical remarks about the conduct of the Tbilisi administration. The Georgian Government seems to think that criticism of Saakashvili personally is the same as criticism of Georgia as a whole, but this is not the US understanding, as Joe Biden pointed out during his visit to Tbilisi last year. If the US thought Saakashvili and Georgia were the same thing he would not have been invited to the summit after being given comments critical of his administration's conduct.

The personal attitude of any US administration member to any individual politician anywhere does not ultimately matter that much. People come and go but countries remain, at least most of the time. The US is concerned about and supports the state of Georgia, and this is what matters. Similarly the level of US support for Armenia and Azerbaijan should not be assessed by whether their Presidents are invited to Washington or not. But just as the Georgian President knows that a personal slight from the US will not do his career any good, so does Ilham Aliev. It is up to him to decide whether he cares about this.