Sarkisian Marks 30th Anniversary Of `Armenian Revival' In Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh - A public celebration in Stepanakert of the 30th
anniversary of a popular movement for Karabakh's unification with
Armenia, 13 February 2018.
President Serzh Sarkisian celebrated on Tuesday the 30th anniversary
of the start of a popular movement for Nagorno-Karabakh's unification
with Armenia, saying that it marked "the revival of the Armenian
"Monte [Melkonian] (an American-born Armenian military commander
killed in action in 1993) was right to say that if we lost Artsakh
(Karabakh) we would turn the final page of Armenian history,"
Sarkisian said in a written address to the nation. "February 20, 1988
was a moment of unity, determination and national revival of the
On that day the legislative assembly of Karabakh, then an autonomous
region in Soviet Azerbaijan, voted for the mostly Armenian-populated
territory's unification with Armenia. The decision came amid large
demonstrations taking place in Stepanakert which swiftly triggered
huge rallies in Yerevan.
With both the Soviet and Azerbaijani authorities rejected those
demands, there were counterdemonstrations and anti-Armenian pogroms in
Azerbaijan later in 1988.The bitter conflict escalated into an all-out
war in Karabakh as the Soviet Union fell apart at the end of 1991.
Around 7,000 Armenian fighters and over 1,260 civilians, most of them
Karabakh residents, died during the war stopped by a Russian-brokered
truce in May 1994. Azerbaijan publicized in 2014 an incomplete
official list of over 11,500 Azerbaijani combat deaths. Its late
President Heydar Aliyev had spoken of some 21,000 Azerbaijani war
casualties, including civilians. The warring sides have suffered
hundreds of more casualties in ceasefire violations since 1994.
Nagorno-Karabakh - Karabakh Armenian troops are pictured outside an
Armenian church in Shushi after capturing the town from Azerbaijani
forces on 9 May 1992.
The nearly three years of fierce fighting left the Karabakh Armenians
in control of almost the whole of Karabakh. They also fully or partly
occupied seven Azerbaijani districts surrounding the disputed
enclave. International efforts to settle the conflict have still not
yielded a breakthrough.
Sarkisian claimed that the Karabakh Armenians would have faced
"physical extermination" had they not taken up arms and won the
war. "Now, three decades on, we can confidently assert that the
Karabakh movement saved hundreds of thousands of lives," he said in
Karabakh's population is still facing the same security threats as in
1988, the Armenian president added in a clear reference to Azerbaijani
leaders' regular threats to reconquer the territory.
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev again condemned "Armenian
occupation" of Karabakh when he met with a European Union envoy on
Monday. He said Yerevan's "hypocritical and unconstructive position"
is the main obstacle to the conflict's resolution. Sarkisian insisted
earlier in this month, however, Baku's "maximalist" demands are to
blame for the lack of serious progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace
Born and raised in Stepanakert, Sarkisian was an active member of the
1988 movement. He commanded Karabakh Armenian forces in 1991-1992 and
went on to become Armenia's defense minister and hold other high-level
positions in Yerevan.
The movement's 30th anniversary was marked in Stepanakert earlier this
week with official ceremonies attended by thousands of people.
Armenian Minister Denies `Constitutional Crisis'
# Nane Sahakian
Armenia - Justice Minister Davit Harutiunian holds a news conference
in Yerevan, .
Justice Minister Davit Harutiunian on Tuesday brushed aside claims by
some lawyers and opposition politicians that the upcoming election by
the Armenian parliament of the country's next president is
Armenia's constitution controversially amended in 2015 stipulates that
the president of the republic shall no longer be elected by popular
vote because of the country's transition to a parliamentary system of
government. The National Assembly is expected to choose President
Serzh Sarkisian's successor on March 2, just over one month before the
end of his final term in office.
Citing provisional clauses of the amended constitution, some Armenian
lawyers critical of the government say that the new constitutional
provisions calling for the parliament vote are supposed to take effect
only when the next president is sworn in for a seven-year term. The
president must therefore be again directly elected by voters, they
One of those lawyers, Vahe Grigorian, has accused the authorities of
"usurping the people's power." Another attorney, Gevorg Gyozalian,
alleged on Monday a "constitutional crisis" in the country.
Aram Manukian, a deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian National
Congress (HAK), echoed those claims. "It's so simple and obvious that
you don't have to be a lawyer to understand it," he said.
But Vartan Poghosian, another legal expert who was personally involved
in the constitutional reform, pointed to Article 7 of the amended
constitution which has already come into force. He argued that it
overturned a previous constitutional provision mandating the
president's election by popular vote. In a newspaper interview,
Poghosian also cited another provisional clause which says that
lawmakers can pick the next head of state no sooner than 40 days
before the end of Sarkisian's decade-long presidency.
Harutiunian made similar arguments at a news conference in
Yerevan. "Things are very clear and any talk of constitutional crisis
is just wide off the mark," he said.
"Please take a more simple look at the matter and don't be fooled by
tricky and complicated legal definitions," added the minister.
President Sarkisian and is Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have
nominated Armen Sarkissian, a former prime minister who has lived in
Britain for nearly 30 years, for the largely ceremonial post of
president. Sarkissian formally accepted the nomination late last week.
Armenia, Russia Hail Soaring Bilateral Trade
Armenia - Prime Minister Karen Karapetian (R) meets with Russian
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov in Yerevan, .
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian and a visiting Russian government
member praised on Tuesday a further sizable increase in
Russian-Armenian trade which reached a new high last year, according
to official statistics.
Armenian government data show bilateral trade rising by just over 26
percent to $1.7 billion in 2017 on the back of an almost 45 percent
surge in Armenian exports to Russia. The latter thus remained the
South Caucasus state's leading trading partner.
Karapetian cited these figures at the start of a regular session in
Yerevan of a Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on economic
cooperation. He chaired it together with Russian Transport Minister
Sokolov also noted the record-high amount of Russian-Armenian trade
recorded in 2017. "We are happy that the volume of shipments of
Armenian products to the Russian is rapidly growing," he said in his
opening remarks publicized by Karapetian's press office.
Russian-Armenian trade plummeted in 2015 following a sharp
depreciation of the Russian ruble which hit Armenian exporters
hard. But with the Russian currency subsequently rallying against the
U.S. dollar and the euro, Armenian exports to Russia soared by 51.5
percent in 2016.
Sokolov said that Armenia's membership in the Russian-led Eurasian
Economic Union (EEU) is a key reason for the sharp gains recorded in
2016 and 2017. Tariff-free access to the markets in Russia and other
ex-Soviet states making up the trade bloc is also making Armenia more
attractive to foreign investors, he said.
Karapetian stressed in that regard that Armenia also enjoys
preferential trade regimes with the European Union and the United
States and that Russian investors should capitalize on that. He also
called for Russian investments in a free economic zone which was set
up on the Armenian-Iranian border in December.
"We are ready to create comfortable conditions for Russian capital in
Armenia," added the prime minister.
Karapetian visited Moscow as recently as on February 16-17. The
Armenian government said ahead of his visit said he will meet with
"Armenian and Russian business circles" to discuss with them "ongoing
and prospective projects." The government has issued no further
statements on the trip.
The Armenian premier has been strongly backed by Russia's wealthiest
ethnic Armenian businessman, Samvel Karapetian (no relation), ever
since he took office in September 2016. The billionaire tycoon has
pledged to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Armenia's energy
Incidentally, energy was on the agenda of Tuesday's meeting of the
Russian-Armenian commission.A government statement said the panel
discussed ways of "expanding cooperation" in this and other economic
Ter-Petrosian Aide Slams Other Oppositionists
# Narine Ghalechian
Armenia - Levon Zurabian, deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian
National Congress, 23Jan2017.
A senior representative of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian's
party indicated on Tuesday that it will not join forces with another
opposition group, the Yelk alliance, in trying to prevent President
Serzh Sarkisian from extending his decade-long rule.
Levon Zurabian, the deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian
National Congress (HAK), said Yelk leaders, notably Nikol Pashinian,
themselves made it easier for Sarkisian to hold on to power when they
declined to campaign against his controversial constitutional changes
Under those changes enacted in a disputed referendum, Armenia will be
transformed soon into a parliamentary republic governed by a powerful
prime minister. Sarkisian is widely expected to take up that post
after completing his final presidential term on April 9.
Pashinian and his allies have said that they will strive to prevent
such a scenario. Pashinian warned earlier this month that the outgoing
president could heighten political tensions in Armenia if he becomes
Zurabian scoffed at such statements when he spoke to RFE/RL's Armenian
service (Azatutyun.am). "When we were telling the people in 2015 that
this is a plan to usurp power, that these constitutional changes are
only aimed at extending Serzh Sarkisian's dictatorial rule # we were
alone," he said. "The Armenian National Congress single-handedly
conducted the No campaign, whereas the people who are now saying `join
us' or something called that a `false agenda.' Furthermore, they were
telling people that the opposition is fooling them and that they
should not join it."
"How can we trust the individuals who at the most critical moment did
exactly what the authorities needed for extending their rule?" added
Yelk has yet to clarify whether it will stage street protests to try
to scuttle Sarkisian's continued rule. Another leader of the bloc,
Aram Sarkisian, said last week that there are disagreements within
Yelk on this score.
Pashinian played a prominent role in Ter-Petrosian's broad-based
opposition movement that nearly brought the ex-president back to power
in a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. He spent
about two years in prison on dubious charges stemming from the March
2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
Pashinian subsequently fell out with Ter-Petrosian and set up his own
political party, Civil Contract. It is one of the three opposition
parties which formed Yelk in late 2016.
Armenia -- Newspapers for press review illustration, Yerevan,
"Zhoghovurd" condemns Yerevan's municipal administration for
restricting journalists' access to its premises following last week's
violent dispute between pro-government and opposition members of the
city council. "The Yerevan municipality is being increasingly turned
into a penitentiary institution," writes the paper. It accuses Mayor
Taron Markarian of "fighting against journalists instead of reining in
his Republican [party] gang."
"Zhamanak" scoffs at President Serzh Sarkisian's claim, made at an
international security conference in Munich, that there is popular
consensus in Armenia regarding his administration's foreign policy
and, in particular, its efforts to combine membership in a Russian-led
bloc with closer ties with the European Union. The paper recalls the
collapse in 2013 of Armenia's Association Agreement with the EU,
calling it a "shameful" end to Yerevan's European integration
drive. It also complains that no Armenian opposition force has since
come up with a viable pro-Western alternative to Sarkisian's foreign
policy. It says domestic opposition forces have thus helped Sarkisian
advance the official line that there is simply no alternative to that
"Aravot" carries an editorial on the 30th anniversary of the start of
a popular movement for Nagorno-Karabakh's unification with
Armenia. The paper says that the movement allowed Armenians to
"overcome ethnic complexes" of victimhood that had taken shape over
the centuries. "The generation that was at the heart of the movement
consisted of grandparents of not only those who were slaughtered in
1915 but also those who won in 1945," it says. "People who received
quality education and lived in relative prosperity for several
decades. The main ideology of the movement was formulated by Rafael
Ishkhanian's article that made a case against [Armenians' reliance on]
a third force. The message was totally clear: we must believe in
ourselves and avoid the trap of traditional orientations. What we have
managed to create and gain in the last 30 years is the result of our
adherence to that line."
Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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