Hillary in Armenia: All eyes on Tsitsernakaberd as Secretary Clinton arrives in Yerevan

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Armenia today (July 4) for an overnight visit that is seen to be symbolic but nonetheless significant.

Clinton arrived to Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport from Baku at around 6 p.m. as part of her five-country trip that besides Azerbaijan and Armenia has also included Ukraine, Poland and will finish in Georgia.

Her overnight stay in Yerevan will mark the first time a high-ranking US official has been in Armenia since another Secretary of State, James Baker, was here in 1992.

In attempting to cipher significance from the Clinton visit, some Armenian observers claim it is notable that Clinton would visit Armenia on America’s Independence Day (July 4). Others say it is notable that she chose to overnight here.

Clinton, meanwhile, thanked President Serzh Sargsyan for his congratulations on the day, and said she will be pleased to mark Armenia’s Constitution Day, tomorrow.

In both Baku, and already in Yerevan, Secretary Clinton has predictably re-stated her country’s viewpoint that the Karabakh issue must be resolved according to principals outlined by international bodies. She also reiterated that the Turkey-Armenia steps to “normalization” should be taken without “preconditions”.

The secretary’s visit isn’t expected to reveal any breakthrough information in either Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan over the Karabakh conflict, nor in its stalled rapprochement efforts with Turkey.

The bell-weather mark, then, of the Clinton visit will be whether she visits Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide Victims Memorial.

According to information released since Clinton arrived, she is in fact expected to visit the Genocide commemoration site Monday morning.

As a senator, Clinton was a staunch supporter of US resolutions recognizing the Genocide and promised to see legislation passed to that effect. As Secretary of State, she has just as staunchly stood against the current House Resolution, saying that passing such legislation would hurt US relations in the region, specifically with Turkey.

It is custom for dignitaries to lay a wreath or place carnations at the memorial, however whether Clinton does so may be viewed through the prism of US-Turkey relations.

“We do not know for sure (whether she would go to the memorial), however, we are preparing and waiting for Hilary Clinton,” Seda Parsamyan, deputy director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, told ArmeniaNow.

“There would be no better place for Secretary Clinton to explicitly offer America's condemnation of this terrible crime, and end years of shameful US complicity in Turkey's denials, than at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan,” said a statement by the Armenian National Committee of America.

“Should the Secretary choose to avoid the Memorial, due to concerns about Turkey's response, she will, sadly, have dug the Obama Administration into an even deeper hole of genocide denial.”

In anticipation of Clinton’s arrival, Yerevan has been swept and watered and decorated with flowers in the areas expected to be seen by the US official.

Of course it is a top secret as to where Clinton will spend the evening, but if she follows pattern of lower-ranking but important American officials she will share the residence of US Ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yavonovitch. (On other occasions VIP guests such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin stayed at Golden Palace Hotel -- according to non-official data, belonging to Former President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan.)

According to official information, Clinton is expected to meet with civil society representatives to discuss issues related to human rights, democratization, freedom of mass media, etc.