ASBAREZ Online [04-13-2004]


1) Police Break up Opposition Demonstrations in Armenia
2) OSCE Concerned over High Political Tension in Armenia
3) Authorities Firm in Resolution to Preserve Stability
4) President Meets with Leaders of Parliament Parties, Welcomes Dialogue
5) Oskanian, Kharrazi Focus on Karabagh and Economic Cooperation
6) Juharian Wins Wrestling Championship in Europe

1) Police Break up Opposition Demonstrations in Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Yerkir)–Political confrontation between Armenian President
Robert Kocharian and his rivals took a violent twist on Tuesday when special
police forces broke up an opposition rally in the center of Yerevan, at
2:00 AM
local time, a few dozen meters away from parliament and the US embassy.
“People are panicking and are running down Marshal Baghramian Avenue. Police
are using water cannons. They have taken away the barbed wire that was in
of the parliament building and started charging the demonstrators,” said
Yerevan bureau correspondent Hrach Melkumian, speaking live from the scene.
“We saw these water cannons coming toward us and they starting drenching us.
Then special police forces started throwing [blank] grenades at the crowd. We
heard explosions and ran away in panic.”
Yesterday, some 10,000 protesters were stopped by police on Marshal
Avenue while marching toward Kocharian’s office. No violence was reported
Approximately one-third of the demonstrators decided to camp there for the
night, turning the protest into an improvised open-air music festival.
As soon as the security raid started, opposition supporters spread out in
various directions and attempted to break through the police cordon. Some
refuge in smaller streets, others in private houses nearby.
Police today confirmed the operation, saying only that several people were
injured and others detained during the night raid.
Armenia’s Noyan Tapan news agency quoted Yerevan city health officials as
saying 16 demonstrators were hospitalized. Armenian state television showed
pictures of policemen being assaulted by people identified as protesters and
security officers receiving medical treatment. It gave no details of civilian
In comments broadcast on state-run television today, Interior Ministry
spokesman Sayat Shirinian said protesters provoked the security forces.
“Police repeatedly warned demonstrators that their unlawful actions would be
met with adequate reaction if they were to continue. But, despite this, the
transgressors went on for quite a long time with their antisocial actions. On
top of this, in response to [our] warnings, they started moving menacingly
toward police forces,” Shirinian said.
Shirinian said protesters assaulted security officers with stones and petrol
bombs while shouting antigovernment slogans and calling for the violent
overthrow of the existing regime.
The opposition denies these claims.
One female demonstrator said the streetlights went out suddenly and that the
police moved in without prior warning.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) gave a mixed
assessment of the overnight unrest. In comments made to RFE/RL’s Armenian
Service, Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin suggested that both protesters and
forces were to blame for the violence.
“We don’t share the opinion that the demonstration was purely peaceful,
because all sorts of provocative statements were being made and stones were
being thrown [at police forces]. But that’s not the point. We are against any
kind of violence, and we conveyed our concerns with this regard personally to
[President Kocharian],” Pryakhin said.
RFE/RL’s Yerevan Bureau reports that the offices of Armenia’s main opposition
parties were raided during the night and several activists detained. Some,
as lawmaker Shavarsh Kocharian of the Justice (Artarutyun) alliance, were
released shortly after.
None of the main opposition leaders were detained.
National Unity Party Chairman Ardashes Geghamian said he was among the
protesters on Marshal Baghramian Avenue and that he escaped with only slight
Yesterday’s march marked the culmination of four days of anti-Kocharian
protests led by the Justice alliance and the National Unity Party.
In a bid to defuse the mounting political tension, the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation (ARF)–one of the three partners in the ruling coalition–last week
proposed that Justice and its allies have a say in domestic affairs through
National Security Council, warning that “either we shall all win, ensuring the
rapid and stable development of the country, or we shall all lose, reaping the
devastating consequences of confrontation and civil conflict.”
The ARF’s statement called for real and guaranteed reforms in the life of the
country and its people, as the substance of the agreement, that it proposed
would include: The formation of an electoral system that entirely meets
international standards; Constitutional reforms that strengthen democratic
mechanisms; A comprehensive fight against corruption, the shadow economy, and
the system of clans.
However, the opposition rejected the offer.
Lawmakers of the ARF and the two other coalition partners–the Republican
Party and Rule of Law (Orinats Yerkir)–unexpectedly walked out of yesterday’s
parliamentary session.
ARF parliamentarian Vahan Hovhanissian said the boycott by the coalition
partners sought to avoid possible violence between their supporters and
anti-Kocharian street protesters.
Whether the opposition will be able to stage further antigovernment
rallies in
the coming days remains unclear.

2) OSCE Concerned over High Political Tension in Armenia

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–President Robert Kocharian met with the head of The
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Yerevan,
Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin, to discuss practical implementation of programs
to tackle corruption and the necessity to improve Armenia’s election law; he
also attached importance to carrying out Armenia’s poverty reduction program.
Pryakhin expressed concern about political tensions in Armenia, stressing
the use of force against peaceful demonstrators is “unacceptable;” he
nevertheless endorsed police claims that they behaved aggressively.
He also denounced various political forces for exploiting the names of
international organizations, including the OSCE, which he said seeks to
“establishment of civil society,” and stands for maintenance of constitutional
order and legality in Armenia.

3) Authorities Firm in Resolution to Preserve Stability

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–A presidential spokesman said on Tuesday that the
opposition’s calls for a change of power and violence, along with its
unsanctioned rallies and marches, have developed into political extremism that
stands to jeopardize Armenia’s stability and tarnishes the international image
of a country that has chosen the path of democracy and radical reform of its
Spokesman Ashot Kocharian argued that law-enforcement bodies were forced to
intervene to maintain public order, and that their actions did not go beyond
the framework set by law. “The police interfered after the anti-government
rally had disrupted the work of the president and the parliament, endangering
the county’s constitutional order,” he said.
He said police stepped in after demonstrators refused to obey their orders.
“The capital is under the full control of the authorities and all government
agencies are functioning normally. The authorities are firm in their
to apply all measures, according to law, to preserve stability and stave off
manifestations of extremism,” he said.

4) President Meets with Leaders of Parliament Parties, Welcomes Dialogue

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–President Robert Kocharian welcomed the ruling
coalition’s initiative to begin dialogue with the opposition without any
preliminary conditions on both sides.
Kocharian met with the leaders of the ruling coalition and representatives of
the United Labor Party (ULP), and People’s Deputy parliamentary factions to
discuss the situation in the country.
The Republican party was represented by Prime Minister Andranik Margarian and
National Assembly Vice-speaker Tigran Torosian; the Orinats Yerkir by
Parliament Speaker Arthur Baghdasarian and Mher Shahgeldian; the ARF by Levon
Mkrtchian and Armen Rustamian; the People’s Deputy by Karen Karapetian; and
ULP by Gurgen Arsenian.
Vice Speaker Tigran Torosian, said the having assessed the domestic political
situation in the country, the president proposes a range of measures to ease
the tension. The participants agreed that the possibility of dialogue had not
yet been ruled out.
Torosian reiterated the ruling coalition’s willingness for dialogue with the
opposition, adding that initiating the meeting should serve as concrete
evidence. He expressed confidence that the opinions on both sides would
coincide on vital issues as long as it occurs at a negotiation table. Torosian
added that the opposition’s all-or-nothing position calling for the
resignation, is already not constructive.

5) Oskanian, Kharrazi Focus on Karabagh and Economic Cooperation

Tehran (IRNA)–Iran and Armenia discussed the expansion of already increasing
bilateral cooperation, as well as regional and international issues, including
Mountainous Karabagh Republic.
Visiting Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, told his Iranian
counterpart Kamal Kharrazi, that developments in Karabagh, as well as upcoming
negotiations with Azeri officials, are important and stressed the need to
maintain regional consultations, particularly with Iran, for the sake of
regional stability.
“What is of crucial importance to us,” said Oskanian, is that Iran has
to implement a balanced policy toward Armenia since its independence, and
displayed neutrality on the Mountainous Karabagh issue.”
Kharrazi proposed the continuation of ministerial level talks between Armenia
and Azerbaijan, saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran supports dialogue in
settling the Karabagh issue.”
Oskanian voiced readiness to hold negotiations with Azerbaijan on any level.
“This is why we are going to Prague and we expect Azerbaijan to specify its
position regarding to the process,” but was quick to criticize Azerbaijan’s
newly appointed foreign minister for announcing that Baku would neither
tolerate Karabagh’s independence, nor its joining Armenia.
“Such statements will create serious political problems for them. It would be
preferable if the newly appointed minister refrained from such statements and
got involved in the negotiations instead,” Oskanian said, stressing that
or later Azerbaijan will have to review its approaches.
Considering the high-level political relations already established between
two countries, the sides focused on economic cooperation–the Kajaran tunnel,
construction of the Arax hydro-electric power station, and specifically, the
Iran-Armenia gas pipeline.
Both Iran and Armenia expect the project to boost cooperation between them,
and play an important regional role. Construction on the pipeline is expected
to begin soon after finalizing the agreement between the two countries.
Oskanian and Kharrazi signed a Memorandum on Understanding that provides a $1
million permanent loan to Armenia, and also discussed cooperation in the
care, education, and culture sectors.
Oskanian also met with the secretary of Iranian National Security Council
Yasan Rohani, first vice-president of Iran Mohammad Reza Arif, Iran’s minister
of information Ali Yunesi, as well as representatives of Iran’s Armenian

6) Juharian Wins Wrestling Championship in Europe

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Greco-Roman style wrestler Vahan Juharian (60 kg weight
category) from Gyumri snatched the gold at the European championship in
Aparanda, Sweden. Juharian was the only one among six Armenians to win a
beating his Turkish rival in the final 4-1.

All subscription inquiries and changes must be made through the proper carrier
and not Asbarez Online. ASBAREZ ONLINE does not transmit address changes and
subscription requests.
(c) 2004 ASBAREZ ONLINE. All Rights Reserved.

ASBAREZ provides this news service to ARMENIAN NEWS NETWORK members for
academic research or personal use only and may not be reproduced in or through
mass media outlets.