RFE/RL Armenian Report – 09/12/2017

Ruling Party Remains Opposed To Armenia's Exit From Eurasian Union
. Ruzanna Stepanian
. Sargis Harutyunyan
Kazakhstan -- Leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union (EES) pose for a
photograph during a summit in Astana, May 31, 2016.
President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party (HHK) dismissed on
Tuesday an opposition alliance's calls for an end to Armenia's
membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The Yelk alliance put forward late last week a draft parliamentary
statement demanding that the Armenian authorities embark on a
"process" of invalidating Armenia's accession treaty with the trade
bloc comprising five ex-Soviet states. The statement says that EEU
membership, effective from January, 2015, has hurt the country's
economy and security.
"Leaving the EEU would be fraught with very serious problems for
Armenia," the HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, told RFE/RL's
Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). "It would lead to an unprecedented
rise in the price of [Russian] gas. Secondly, it would change trade
volumes. There are no alternative markets for products which we now
sell in the EEU markets. Maybe there will be in five or ten years."
"Armenia's authorities see no need for changing the vector of Armenian
foreign policy," Sharmazanov added. "We should continue deepening our
relations with the EEU."
Armenia - Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesman for the ruling Republican
Party, at a news conference in Yerevan, 14May2017.
Russia's is Armenia's number one trading partner, having accounted for
26 percent of its foreign trade in January-July 2017, according to
official Armenian statistics. Armenian exports to Russia -- most of
them foodstuffs and alcoholic beverages -- rose by almost 31 percent.
By comparison, the European Union's share in the total stood at 24.3
percent. Armenia's trade with EEU member states also grew strongly in
the seven-month period.
Yelk blames the EEU for the fact that Armenia Gross Domestic Product
has shrunk in U.S. dollar terms while public debt increased since
2015. The authorities in Yerevan recorded a real GDP growth of just
0.2 percent last year.
"Had we not joined the EEU that negative dynamic would have been
deeper," insisted Sharmazanov.
Sharmazanov also brushed aside Yelk claims that EEU membership has not
strengthened Armenia's security as evidenced by continued Russian arms
sales to Azerbaijan and the April 2016 fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Armenia has received [since 2015] many modern weapons and ammunition
that ensure, along with the Armenian armed forces, its
security. Armenia's security system has grown stronger since we joined
the EEU," said the HHK spokesman, who is also a deputy speaker of the
Armenian parliament.
Armenia - Russian Ambassador Ivan Volynkin addresses a Eurasian youth
forum in Tsaghkadzor, 11Jun2014.
Russia's ambassador in Yerevan, Ivan Volynkin, also scoffed at the
Yelk initiative. "If they want to come up with such an initiative, no
problem, nobody is hindering them," Volynkin told reporters. "The
question is how necessary it is for Armenia."
"I think that the majority of Armenia's population disagrees with that
initiative because they can see the obvious advantages of Armenia's
membership in the EEU," he said.
Yelk holds 9 seats in the 105-member parliament. None of the other
political groups represented in the National Assembly has voiced
support for its initiative.
French, German Envoys See No Hurdles To EU-Armenia Accord
. Anush Mkrtchian
Armenia - Armenian and EU officials initial the Armenia-EU
Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement in Yerevan,
A landmark agreement to deepen the European Union's relations with
Armenia will most likely be signed as planned in November, Germany's
and France's ambassadors in Yerevan said on Tuesday.
"At the moment there are no circumstances that could hamper that
process," the German envoy, Matthias Kiesler, told a joint news
conference with his outgoing French counterpart, Jean-Francois
"I consider the new agreement a great success and believe that if
signed, it will open up new and multiple opportunities for deepening
EU-Armenia cooperation," added Kiesler.
Charpentier likewise said that "all prerequisites are in place" for
the signing of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement
(CEPA) during an EU summit in Brussels slated for November 24. Armenia
would thus become the first member of the Russian-led Eurasian
Economic Union to have such an "ambitious" deal with the EU, he said.
Armenia - Ambassadors Jean-Francois Charpentier (C) of France and
Matthias Kiesler (second from right) of Germany at a press conference
in Yerevan, 12Sep2017
The CEPA, which was finalized in March, is meant to deepen the EU's
political and economic relations with Armenia. It reportedly contains
the main political provisions of a more far-reaching Association
Agreement which the two sides nearly concluded in 2013.
President Serzh Sarkisian prevented the signing of that agreement with
his unexpected decision to seek Armenia's accession to the EEU. The
move was widely attributed to Russian pressure exerted on the Armenian
Sarkisian dismissed late last month suggestions that the CEPA may also
collapse at the last minute. "We have no reason to not sign that
document," he said.
The head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, Piotr Switalski, said last
week that officials in Brussels are making final preparations for the
signing of the accord with Armenia at the November summit.
The summit will focus on the EU's Eastern Partnership program of
closer partnership with six former Soviet republics. Three of them --
Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine -- have signed Association Agreements
with the EU.
Dashnak Leader Vague On Next Armenian PM
. Astghik Bedevian
Armenia - Armen Rustamian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation, speaks at an election campaign rally in Yerevan,
A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on
Tuesday praised Prime Minister Karen Karapetian's policies but
declined to clarify whether the party represented in his government
would like him to retain his post next year.
"Novelties which began to be introduced by the prime minister need
time, but we will see [their impact] in our lives," Armen Rustamian
told reporters. "The pace [of change] may not be satisfactory, but the
direction adopted by the government correspondents to our views by 99
Rustamian would not say whether this means that Dashnaktsutyun wants
Karapetian to remain prime minister after President Serzh Sarkisian
completes his final term in April. "For us, the key thing is the
directions adopted by the government," he said. "They are not
connected with individuals."
"As for who will implement [government programs,] it is certainly
important for us that he or she can do this job wholeheartedly. But
there are many such people. So in that sense, individuals are not that
important to us," he added.
Rustamian refused to speculate on whether Sarkisian would do a better
job as prime minister than Karapetian has. "Time will tell," he said.
Sarkisian has still not said whether he plans to become prime minister
after the end of his decade-long presidency. Another Dashnaktsutyun
leader, Aghvan Vartanian, said in July that top representatives of his
party hope to discuss the matter with the president soon. "Naturally,
the question of who will be prime minister is important to
Dashnaktsutyun," Vartanian told RFE/RL's Armenian service
Dashnaktsutyun is a junior partner in Sarkisian's coalition
government, having held three ministerial posts for the past 18
months. It extended its power-sharing deal with Sarkisian and his
Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) following parliamentary elections
held in April.
Dashnaktsutyun controls 7 seats in Armenia's 105-member parliament,
compared with 58 seats held by the HHK.
Press Review
"Zhoghovurd" believes that President Serzh Sarkisian will remain "at
the helm of power" regardless of whether or not he becomes prime
minister after serving out his final presidential term in April
2018. The paper expects the Armenian authorities to "push this notion
at any cost" in the months ahead in a bid to make Armenians come to
terms with the extension of his decade-long rule. "Generally speaking,
this prospect has been evident right from the beginning, when Serzh
Sarkisian initiated the process of constitutional changes," it
says. "He took that step in order to prolong his rule."
"Zhamanak" says that Gagik Tsarukian and his supposedly opposition
alliance are now ready to enter into a governing coalition with
Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The paper suggests that
a power-sharing deal between them could be reached right after Armenia
switches to a parliamentary system of government in April
2018. "Nobody can now say for certain what the Tsarukian Bloc stands
for now," it says. "It is formally not part of the government and
therefore cannot be regarded as a governing force in the political
sense. But you cannot call the bloc an opposition in any way. Its
members take every opportunity to praise the authorities and marvel in
their foreign economic and security policies."
"Aravot" claims that Russia is stepping up pressure on Armenia ahead
of the planned signing in November of a Comprehensive and Enhanced
Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the European Union. "It is a much
more modest document than the Association Agreement," comments the
paper. "Nevertheless, the prospect of its signing does not sit well
with Russia. The Kremlin did not like our participation in [recent]
U.S.-Georgian military exercises as well as discussions on renaming
streets in Yerevan # This is certainly a problem. But it's a problem
that requires a calm and composed approach, negotiations, flexibility,
rather than lamentations or disappointed excla mations."
"Haykakan Zhamanak" reports that Anahit Bakhshian, a member of
Yerevan's municipal council representing the opposition Yelk alliance,
has demanded Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian's
resignation. Bakhshian holds Mkrtchian responsible for a medal for
academic excellence which President Serzh Sarkisian gave recently to
the teenage son of a town mayor accused over running over and killing
a man with his father's car.
(Tigran Avetisian)
Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2017 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS

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