Sargsyan’s Trip: Armenian leader “improving relations” with traditional parties on U.S. visit

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who is on a visit to the United States, has been holding meetings with representatives of the Armenian American community, including representatives of traditional Armenian parties operating in Diaspora communities, including in the United States.

On the first day of his visit, March 28, in Boston, Massachusetts, Sargsyan visited the Paykar Center of the Ramkavar-Azatakan (Liberal-Democratic) Party and the Hairenik center of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), where he got familiarized with the activities of these two Armenian traditional parties and conditions they work in.

Sargsyan’s relationship with the traditional Armenian parties got complicated after his government in 2009 signed controversial protocols with Turkey. It was shortly before that that the ARF withdrew from the coalitional government and in 2011, representatives of this traditional party officially refused to participate in a reception in honor of Sargsyan in Los Angeles, accusing him of betraying national interests. In 2015, Sargsyan recalled the Armenian-Turkish protocols from the parliament, but he didn’t cancel them. In February 2016 the ARF and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia announced the start of new political cooperation, which actually amounts to a new coalition.

According to many experts, Armenian-Turkish protocols led to a significant weakening of support to Armenia by the influential American Diaspora. To this was added the condemnation of the socio-economic policy of the Sargsyan government, which, in the opinion of many representatives of the Armenian Diaspora, promotes emigration and devastation of Armenia. Statements condemning such policies once were made not only by ARF representatives, but also by Armenia’s ambassador to Switzerland, renowned French-Armenian crooner Charles Aznavour and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I.

Analysts say that the weakened support for Sargsyan from the Diaspora has led to a record decline in investment of U.S. Armenians in Armenia. It could also affect the attitude of the Armenian lobbyist groups in the United States. Civilitas, a Yerevan-based think tank affiliated with ex-Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, points out that as a result during the eight years of his presidency Sargsyan was never officially received by the U.S. president, and had only two short meetings with Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the first and the second presidents of Armenia were officially received at the White House. Besides, the amounts of aid to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh by the United States have significantly reduced.

Restoring a coalition with the ARF is regarded by many analysts in Armenia as an attempt by Sargsyan to restore “friendship” with the Diaspora. In 2014, the ARF did not oppose Armenia’s accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, and in this sense there are no contradictions. As for differences over the socio-economic policies, Sargsyan gave the ARF three portfolios in his government, including the posts of the ministers of economy, science and education, and territorial administration, thus suggesting that they solve the problems together. And during his visit to the United States it is possible that Sargsyan will manage to have an agreement for the restoration of ARF investments in Armenia.