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Officials In Caucasus See Little Change Following U.S. Election

  • Liz Fuller

http://gdb.rferl.org/90DB69CA-7980-44D2-8FFD-7A2AF53F40AE_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/90DB69CA-7980-44D2-8FFD-7A2AF53F40AE_mw800_mh600.jpg Senior defense officials in Georgia and Armenia appeared convinced that given their respective countries' geopolitical significance, no changes were likely in bilateral relations with the United States, whatever the outcome of the 2 November U.S. presidential election. Georgian Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze told journalists on 2 November that relations between Georgia and the United States are "fundamental" and that both U.S. presidential candidates support the idea of further developing relations with Georgia, especially in the sphere of counterterrorism, Caucasus Press reported.

Groong quoted Baramidze's Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian as having told the first channel of Armenian radio on 3 November that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is "not that important" for Yerevan. "I think that our relations will develop and deepen, especially in the military sphere," he said. "Once again I would like to reiterate that the relations between the U.S. and Armenia in the military sphere will not depend on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election." Sarkisian, together with a number of other Armenian politicians, was invited to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan to watch ongoing coverage of the vote count.

Most Armenians, however, both in Armenia and the United States, favored Democratic challenger John Kerry in light of his repeated pledges to recognize as genocide the killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915.

In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev told journalists on 3 November, before the final outcome of the ballot was known, that the United States "is a strategic partner of Azerbaijan," and that Baku considers the development of relations with Washington in various spheres important. He stressed especially the "outstanding cooperation" in the oil and gas sphere. Aliyev said he will send a letter of congratulation to the new president.

But the independent daily "Zerkalo" made the point in a commentary published on the eve of the U.S. ballot that Washington's policy towards Azerbaijan might change fundamentally in the event of a Democratic victory, given Senator Kerry's pro-Armenian sympathies. It suggested that a Kerry administration would be more critical of Azerbaijan's human rights record and of perceived election violations. By contrast, a second term for incumbent President George W. Bush could offer Azerbaijan the opportunity to resolve the Karabakh conflict on favorable terms, the paper predicted.

Azerbaijan's second independent Russian-language daily, "Ekho," chose to focus not on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election but the voting procedure. "Ekho" on 4 November quoted two Danish Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe election observers who noted procedural violations and complained of not being admitted to some election precincts. The paper also cited Azerbaijani presidential-administration official Siyavush Novruzov as arguing that in the light of the violations registered during the 2 November presidential vote, Washington "has no right" to comment on whether or not the election process in Azerbaijan is democratic.

[For reaction from around the world to the U.S. presidential election, see RFE/RL's webpage "World Reacts To U.S. Election".]
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