Kocharian aide wants another NK-born leader for Armenia

By Hrach Melkumian and Emil Danielyan

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
June 7 2004

YEREVAN, 08.06.04. Garnik Isagulian, President Robert Kocharian’s
recently appointed national security adviser, said on Saturday
that Armenia’s next president should also be originally from
Nagorno-Karabakh, arguing that it is a “vital territory” for all

“Without Karabakh Armenia can not breathe, no matter how many borders
you reopen,” Isagulian told a roundtable discussion in Yerevan.

The adviser did not specify whom he would like to see succeed
Kocharian and when. Still, the remarks could be interpreted by some
local commentators as another indication that Kocharian’s preferred
successor is Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the second most powerful
government official in Armenia and also a native of Karabakh.

The two men led the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic during its
successful war with Azerbaijan before moving to higher positions
in Yerevan, with Sarkisian appointed defense minister in 1993
and Kocharian prime minister in 1997. Some leaders of the Armenian
opposition frequently attack them as the heads of the “Karabakh clan”
allegedly governing the country.

Armenia’s next presidential elections are to take place in 2008, and
its existing constitution bars Kocharian from contesting them for a
third term in office. Neither the president nor his top lieutenant,
who have been busy dealing with an opposition campaign of street
protests for the past two months, have shed light on their long-term
political plans so far.

Isagulian joined the presidential administration in early April
to take up a position that has been vacant for the past decade. A
retired officer of the Soviet-era KGB secret police, he entered the
political arena in the early 1990s, getting elected to Armenia’s first
post-Communist parliament and joining the then opposition Armenian
Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). He was expelled from the
party about two years after it was controversially banned in 1994
by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and emerged from a political
oblivion three years ago to set up his own nationalist group called
the National Security Party.

Isagulian has since been an outspoken supporter of Kocharian and
detractor of his political opponents. He on Saturday strongly defended
the recent government crackdown on the opposition, alleging that
the latter has attempted to stage a coup and labeled Kocharian as a

Ironically, Isagulian had himself faced `terrorism` and coup charges
in July 1995 along with 31 members of Dashnaktsutyun, including Vahan
Hovannisian, who is currently the deputy speaker of the Armenian
parliament. But unlike them, Isagulian went into hiding and escaped
arrest and trial. He remained on the run until Ter-Petrosian’s
resignation in February 1998.