GLENDALE, CA — United States Ambassador Rudolf Perina, Special Negotiator for Nagorno Karabakh and NIS Regional Conflicts, accompanied by Advisor Theresa Grencik, addressed the concerns of Armenian Americans at two forums organized by the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region on Thursday, February 26, 2002. During his visit to the Southland, which included a one-hour appearance on Armenian Cable Television’s Community Forum program, Ambassador Perina maintained that Section 907 did not become an obstacle in the Karabakh negotiations process. “We, as the mediators, argued that Section 907 did not really have a direct impact on the negotiations, in the sense that if for example Azerbaijan was to find a settlement with Armenia that was acceptable to it, the settlement would not be turned down just because 907 exists or does not exist,” explained the US Envoy to the Karabakh Talks.
The forums were the culmination of the Ambassador’s four-day visit to the Southland where he met with Armenian community leaders, activists and organizations. The ANCA-WR hosted the day with Ambassador who kicked off the day with a visit to the Western Region Headquarters of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) in Glendale. Ambassador Perina met with ARS Western Region Chairwoman Sonia Peltekian where they discussed the various projects that the organization oversees in Southern California, Armenia as well as Nagorno-Karabakh. After the meeting the Ambassador interacted with ARS staff and clients during his tour of the organization’s facilities. The Ambassador’s next stop was the ANCA-WR headquarters where he addressed ANCA-WR sponsors, board members, staff, and a host of organizational leaders, at a reception held by the organization.
Ambassador Perina made a brief presentation on the state of the political negotiations on Karabakh, explaining that the process was at a stand still, with every effort being exerted to make sure that new talks are held between the parties to the conflict.
Ambassador Perina told the audience that in his opinion the Key West, Florida talks held in 2000 were not necessarily a failure, even though a serious breach of trust occurred between presidents Robert Kocharian of Armenia and President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan, as a result of Aliyev’s unwillingness to act on agreed initiatives during the negotiations.
In addition, Ambassador Perina, responding to attendees’ concerns over historical instances, when Armenians have not received hard guarantees of security, said, “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because of what happened in 1915, as horrible as it was, that you cannot now get the peace agreement that will guarantee [Armenians’] security.” He added, “Don’t think that you cannot…get a deal for Karabakh, which is very much in Armenia’s interest, just because you cannot resolve the Genocide issue.” Ambassador Perina in response to concerns over biased international posturing on the issue of sovereignty of Azerbaijan, conceded that “…I know that Nagorno-Karabakh was never a part of an independent Azerbaijan…” and went on to explain that those are some of the core issues, with which to be dealt.
Later that evening Ambassador Perina spoke at an ANCA-WR sponsored community forum that was held at St. Garabed Church in Hollywood. The Ambassador briefed the guests and opened the forum for questions. The crowd of several dozen attendees engaged in a substantive discussion with the American diplomat, at times questioning the approach taken to the negotiations in general.
Responding to repeated questions on Section 907 and its recent waiver signed by President George W. Bush, Ambassador Perina explained that, “[the waiver of Section 907]…has not had any immediate effect that I have seen on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or the resolution of this conflict and this does not surprise me, because we did not think—we, the negotiators—did not think it had a great effect before…So, I don’t think it was a barrier to finding a solution, likewise I don’t think its repeal will necessarily be an asset in finding a solution to the conflict.”
“It is interesting to hear that Ambassador Perina and the other negotiators in the Karabakh peace process did not and do not see Section 907 as a hindrance to the successful outcome of the negotiations,” explained ANCA-WR Executive Director Alex Sardar. “This comes as a surprise, because the State Department for the last decade has been attempting to win a repeal of Section 907, using precisely the opposite argument, saying that without Section 907, negotiations will be much easier.”
The question and answer portion of the Community Forum covered a range of issues, including other regional conflicts, and many parallel were drawn between the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and recent European conflicts in the Balkans. Ambassador Perina maintained that any peace settlement would entail hard guarantees for Armenia and Armenians. At the same time the US Envoy urged to the audience to separate historical memory of the Armenian Genocide from the realities of today, despite, audience members’ remarks reminding him that it wasn’t only 1915, but the Baku and Sumgait massacres and pogroms that are just as much a part of the historical and national psyche of the Armenian people. “The two ANCA-WR forums, which were the only ones in Southern California, gave a cross section of the Armenian American community a great chance to directly interact with the highest level American official directly involved with the Karabakh Peace process,” explained ANCA-WR Government Relations Director, Ardashes Kassakhian. “Apparent from the questions posed at both gatherings, there is a great need for the exchange of information, and the ANCA-WR is continues to work to facilitate such important forums. At the same time, we must use these opportunities to reiterate the importance of self-determination and our community’s collective concerns in regard to any attempts to subvert the process.” Ambassador Perina assumed his duties as the Special Negotiator for Nagorno-Karabakh and Eurasian Conflicts in October 2001 replacing Ambassador Carey Cavenaugh. Before returning to Washington for his current assignment, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova from 1998 – 2001. Ambassador Perina earned his B.A. at the University of Chicago and did graduate study at Columbia University, where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in European History.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.