BAKU: Kocharian may start war in Karabakh to remain in office

Armenian leader may start war in Karabakh to remain in office – Azeri daily

Ekho, Baku
26 Mar 04

The military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan may resume in
April. The command and staff exercises of the Armenian armed forces
which started this week “in order to get the army fully operational”,
may be the first step to increase tension.

“War is today the only option for [Armenian President] Robert
Kocharyan to somehow silence the opposition,” the chairman of the
Helsinki Association of Armenia, Mikayel Daniyelyan, has told Ekho
newspaper in an interview.

[Correspondent] Military exercises started in Armenia this week.

[Daniyelyan] Yes, we have begun military exercises. At this stage,
they have more to do with the promise of the opposition to carry out
serious actions of protest. Permanent actions of protest are expected
in mid-April with the sole objective – resignation of the
president. We will see what happens.

The authorities are seriously concerned. They have replaced the
prosecutor-general, dismissed several prosecutors and heads of police
departments in various districts of Yerevan. The authorities are in
need of more than ever control over the army, as there are fears that
not all the top brass will follow [defence minister and Kocharyan’s
political ally] Serzh Sarkisyan. The more people there are in the
army, the less of them can attend rallies. If Kocharyan sees that
nothing can be achieved through these harsh measures (arrests, so on),
then he will take this step (go to war – correspondent).

The opposition took a decisive step towards unity this week. Following
protracted negotiations, the Justice bloc and the National Unity Party
issued a statement which said, in particular, that the Justice bloc
and the National Unity Party are taking on responsibility to lead the
national movement to fulfill national demands: remove the illegitimate
regime, establish the constitutional order and legal authorities in
Armenia. To that end, the sides agreed to jointly organize a
nationwide demonstration of disobedience no later than by 13
April. The date of the demonstration will be announced on 5 April. The
Justice bloc and the National Unity Party will make a joint statement
on that day. “We re-confirm our determination to struggle till the
change of power in Armenia,” the statement read.

[Passage omitted: Citing a report in Russian newspaper]

Robert Kocharyan has more than enough grounds for concern. In order to
remain in office in such a situation, his only, and perhaps last,
resort is to increase tension on the frontline, Mikayel Daniyelyan
told Ekho.

Armenia will hardly be able to resume military operations without a
“cause”. Official Armenian newspaper started dreaming it up as long
as several weeks ago. Ekho reported earlier calls aired in Yerevan
that Karabakh separatists “retain their right to launch a preventive
attack” against Azerbaijan. The Armenian official press urges
“harsher” approach towards Azerbaijan.

[Passage omitted: David Shakhnazaryan’s reported views]

Meanwhile, as Ekho was told in the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, the
situation in the occupied territories and in Armenia is being
carefully monitored, with information coming in from various
sources. “At present, there is no tension on the frontline,” the
ministry said. However, the Azerbaijani army is ready to respond to
provocation. “We have it all under control and our response will be
instantaneous,” the ministry said.