WASHINGTON – The House International Relations Committee, chaired by Congressman Ben Gilman (R-NY), on July 31, held a hearing devoted to examining United States interests in the Caucasus region.
The Committee heard testimony from two panels of witnesses, the first from the State Department, and the second representing private citizens with expertise on the Caucasus region. Serving on the second panel were former State Department official Richard Armitage, currently with Armitage Associates, and David Nissman, an adjunct professor of Caucasian and Central Asian history at Georgetown University.
Among the main issues addressed during the hearing was the Armenian government’s banning of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun.
Committee Chairman Gilman inquired about the Armenian government’s decision to ban the ARF Dashnaktsutyun party:
Gilman: Why in your view did Armenian President Ter-Petrossian suspend the activities of the [ARF] Dashnak party in Armenia prior to the July 1995 Parliamentary elections?
Armitage: Well, here goes. I am not sure that I can comment completely knowledgeably and I have only had two in-person conversations with President Ter-Petrossian, and they were quite a while ago, certainly before the time you mentioned. But there is a great difference of opinion in the body-politic in Yerevan of what to do in Nagorno Karabakh. Whether it ought to be an autonomous region, whether it ought to be an independent region, or whether it ought to be part of Armenia. I think some held these views very strongly, and I suspect, at heart, that this is at the bottom of Ter-Petrossian’s decision, but I do not know for sure Mr. Chairman.
Gilman: Any other Comment?
Nissman: Yes, I might add to that the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh was basically inspired through a Dashnak effort and this alone, this hard-line with regard to Karabagh, was one of the factors that alienated Ter-Petrossian from the Dashnaks, which he did despite the fact that they probably remain the most powerful group in the Diaspora, financially, as well as in membership.