YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Representatives of a Jewish-American organization held talks with the Armenian leadership on Tuesday–with the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and development of the Armenian-Israeli relationship topping their agenda–officials said.
A delegation from the American Jewish Committee–headed by retired US foreign policy-maker Peter Rosenblatt–was visiting Armenia on a tour of the three South Caucasus states. The Armenian government’s press office quoted Rosenblatt as telling Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan that a key purpose of the trip is to become familiarized with Yerevan’s position on how to end the long territorial dispute with Azerbaijan. The Karabakh issue was also discussed during the delegation’s meetings with President Robert Kocharian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian.
Last January–Rosenblatt and a retired US veteran diplomat of Armenian origin–Edward Djerejian–toured Azerbaijan and Armenia in what they called a "private effort" to facilitate the search for peace. The two men made it clear that they do not mean to launch a new mediation effort parallel to negotiations sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
According to Sargsyan’s press office–Rosenblatt said that the "Jewish[-American] community is not going to support any of the conflicting parties–but is interested in peace and stability in the region." The remark apparently referred to the ban on US government assistance to Azerbaijan–imposed by Congress in 1992 under pressure from Armenian-American lobbying groups. The ban known as Section 907 was specifically discussed during the Rosenblatt-led delegation’s meetings with the three Armenian leaders. But it was not clear whether the American Jewish Committee supports efforts by several other Jewish groups to repeal the clause.
In an article on February 9–the Washington Post mentioned the AJC among six Jewish-American organizations that "decided only last June (1998) to take up the Azeri cause in Congress."Jewish support for Azerbaijan dovetails with Israel’s deepening security alliance with another secular Muslim state–Turkey–which itself has close linguistic and cultural ties with Azerbaijan," the Post wrote. Azeri officials–for their part–have said Jewish support could be decisive for removing Section 907. However–the US Senate voted last week to keep the ban in force–in a another setback for Baku.
The AJC’s Rosenblatt told speaker Demirchian that "there are now close ties between the Jewish and Armenian communities in America," the press service of the Armenian parliament reported. He was also quoted as saying that the "existing mutual respect between the Jewish and Armenian peoples has historical roots." In the words of Demirchian–who was Armenian Communist Party leader from 1974-1988–"the Armenian government is ready to expand relations with Israel."
Kocharian’s office said the Armenian leader "attached great importance to such meetings and emphasized the need to make them more frequent."
The sides "agreed that cooperation between various Jewish and Armenian organizations should be expanded," it said. Also on Tuesday–the AJC delegation visited a memorial in Yerevan to the victims of the Arnmenian Genocide.