Armenian Reporter – 3/1/2007 – front section


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March 1, 2008 — From the front section

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* * *

BREAKING NEWS: At around 7 a.m. on Saturday, March 1, internal
security forces removed protesters from Freedom Square. There was
resistance. Mr. Ter-Petrossian has been taken to his home. Other have
been arrested. Freedom Square is surrounded by security forces.

* * *

1. Sargsian builds coalition as protests continue in Yerevan (by Vincent Lima)
* Baghdasarian gets security post
* Ter-Petrossian appeals to top court

2. The 1988 Sumgait massacre crystallized anti-Armenian hatred (by
Tatul Hakobyan)
* 20 years ago the city on the Caspian was a killing field

3. Washington Briefing (by Emil Sanamyan)
* State Department, members of Congress offer congratulations over
Armenia elections
* U.S. official: assistance to Armenia a "success story"
* U.S. continues aid to Armenia’s peacekeepers
* Azerbaijan to pull out of Kosovo, and to renew push for UN
resolution on Karabakh
* Armenia, Georgia to launch military cooperation
* U.S. Russia watchers weigh in on Putin-Medvedev succession

4. Knollenberg, Pallone send letter to Rice asking for public rebuke
of Azerbaijani president

5. Trial continues in the murder of Hrant Dink (by Talin Suciyan)

6. Nagorno-Karabakh insists on directly participating in the
negotiations (by Armen Hakobyan)

7. Post-election week is exhilarating and frustrating (by Betty
Panossian-Ter Sarkissian)

8. After the presidential elections in Armenia
* A chronology of events

9. Will the "Old Friend" become the new opposition? (by Armen Hakobyan)

10. Bringing travel business to Armenia (by Betty Panossian-Ter Sarkissian)
* Levon Travel celebrates its 15th anniversary in Yerevan

11. Commentary: Neither side must come out as losers (Interview by
Maria Titizan)
* Presidential elections in Armenia tend to cause rather than solve
conflicts, Hrair Tovmasian argues

12. "We cannot allow a schism in society," Oskanian says
* Cites "negative effects" on diplomacy

13. Living in Armenia: The three presidents of modern-day Armenia (by
Maria Titizian)

14. Editorial: Democracy in Armenia

***************************************** **********************************

1. Sargsian builds coalition as protests continue in Yerevan

* Baghdasarian gets security post

* Ter-Petrossian appeals to top court

by Vincent Lima

YEREVAN — As tens of thousands of people continued a round-the-clock
demonstration protesting the results of the presidential elections
held on February 19, President-elect Serge Sargsian reached a
cooperation agreement with Artur Baghdasarian, who had finished in
third place and leads the larger of two opposition delegations in
Armenia’s National Assembly. Mr. Baghdasarian will be secretary of
Armenia’s National Security Council.

Former president Levon Ter-Petrossian, who had come in second with
one-fifth of the vote, led the protests, which are continuing at press
time. Claiming that he has in fact won the election, Mr.
Ter-Petrossian, who is staying in one of perhaps two dozen tens
erected on Freedom Square, has announced that he will leave only to
occupy the presidential palace.

On February 29, Mr. Ter-Petrossian filed a claim with the
Constitutional Court disputing the election results and calling on the
court to order a new election.

In each of the first few days after the election, Mr. Ter-Petrossian
announced the names of senior figures who he claimed were defecting to
his camp. Among them was Gagik Jhangirian, a deputy prosecutor
general. (He was promptly fired for violating the ban on political
activity by prosecutors. He was later arrested on illegal weapons
charges.) Mr. Jhangirian had been deputy chair of the Central
Electoral Commission during disputed elections in the course of Mr.
Ter-Petrossian’s presidency. Also among them were Deputy Foreign
Minister Armen Baibourtian, Ambassador Rouben Shugarian (formerly
posted in Washington), other ambassadors, and the spokesperson of the
Foreign Ministry. All were promptly dismissed for violating the ban on
political activity by diplomats.

Mr. Ter-Petrossian also claimed that seven members of parliament
from the governing coalition and senior officials in the Ministry of
Defense were joining him.

The defections stopped, however, on Saturday, February 23. On that
day, President Kocharian met with senior officials of the armed
forces, police, and national security apparatus and reiterated their
constitutional responsibilities. Mr. Sargsian met with members of
parliament from the governing coalition; the members, including most
of those named by Mr. Ter-Petrossian as defectors, signed a statement
congratulating Mr. Sargsian and rejecting Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s

* A call for unity

On February 26, Mr. Sargsian staged a victory rally on Republic
Square, a short walk from Freedom Square along the newly constructed
Northern Avenue. At the rally, which was covered extensively on
television, Mr. Sargsian thanked his supporters and also "those who
voted for other candidates. We respect the opinion of our citizens and
do not divide the society into ‘our people’ and ‘theirs,’ or, as some
pseudodemocrats put it today, into ‘us’ and ‘the scum of the nation.’
Fascism and revanchism are alien to us."

"Together we shall overcome this divide," he continued. "I ask you
not to succumb to meanness, because those in the other square are our
sisters and brothers. I am certain that they were driven to the square
by a desire to have a better Armenia. Alas, they are not allowed to
notice how they have been turned unwillingly into instruments by a
vengeful and power-hungry few."

Quoting scripture, Mr. Sargsian concluded that for everything there
is a season. "Today is not the time to gather stones. Today is the
time to let the stones drop. Today is not the time for spite and
grudges. Today is the time for peace. Today is not the time to draw
new boundaries. Today is the time for unity. Today is the time for

In the days the followed, Mr. Sargsian held coalition talks with
former adversaries. On Friday, February 29, he and Mr. Baghdasarian
announced that they had reached an agreement.

Mr. Sargsian said, "The position will allow him to be involved in
the governance of the country, having complete information on all the
processes and actively participating in them."

Mr. Baghdasarian said that his talks with Mr. Sargsian "revealed
something very important — serious readiness and determination of the
new president to combine our pre-election programs."

Mr. Baghdasarian’s party had been part of the governing coalition,
and Mr. Baghdasarian the speaker of parliament, until a falling out in
early 2006.

Last April, in a meeting with a British diplomat, Mr. Baghdasarian
was caught on tape urging the European Union to criticize the conduct
of Armenia’s next parliamentary elections. President Kocharian had
characterized Mr. Baghdasarian’s action as "a real manifestation of

More recently, on the eve of the election, Mr. Ter-Petrossian called
Mr. Baghdasarian a traitor for refusing to withdraw his candidacy in
Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s favor. He repeated the accusation after the vote.

Recent secretaries of the National Security Council have been
Aleksan Harutiunian (1998~V99), Mr. Sargsian (1999~V2007), and Armen
Gevorgian (2007 to the present).

*************************************** ************************************

2. The 1988 Sumgait massacre crystallized anti-Armenian hatred

* 20 years ago the city on the Caspian was a killing field

by Tatul Hakobyan

[This is the third of a series on the 20th anniversary of the Karabakh

KAPAN, Armenia — The 70-year history of the Soviet Union is full of
bloody episodes, but what happened in Sumgait was unprecedented.
Firstly, the massacres occurred in completely peaceful times.
Secondly, the massacres were based on ethnicity not political
loyalties. Thirdly, the central Soviet and republican authorities,
though they did not implement the massacres themselves (as they had in
Tbilisi in April 1989), by their lack of response, gave the
opportunity to realize the massacres to the working class, which was,
according to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s expectations, supposed
to establish social order.

As a result of the Armenian massacres in Sumgait during the last
three days of February, at least 29 Armenians and six Azerbaijanis
were killed; about 400 people were injured; and the 18,000-strong
Armenian population of the city became refugees. The six Azerbaijanis
were probably killed by Soviet naval officers when the armed forces
attacked the young murderers gathered at the Sumgait bus station. This
was on the evening of February 29, when the massacres of the Armenians
was drawing to an end. Maybe this attack on the Azerbaijanis was
carried out to give the massacres in Sumgait an inter-ethnic cast.

The fact that the Azerbaijani slaughterers were armed with similar
metal bars, that they had the addresses of the apartments of
Armenians, and had been separated into special groups, speaks about
the prior planning of the massacre. On the other hand, however, it is
obvious that if other Azerbaijanis had not sheltered Armenians in
their homes, the numbers of the murdered and injured would have been
more. Only after the afternoon of February 29 did the Soviet army get
the order to interfere and use weapons; rescuing thousands of
intimidated Armenians from further massacre.

In the spring of 1988 Samvel Shahmuradian recorded dozens of stories
about the survivors of Sumgait. Some Azerbaijani authors insist that
the Armenian massacres in Sumgait were realized by Azerbaijanis who
had been exiled from Kapan. That Azerbaijanis expelled from Armenia
may have been among the groups of slaughterers cannot be excluded.
However, the slaughterers did not use the word "Kapan" to justify the
massacre; to be more precise, they used the word to incite violence.

Constantine Pkhakadze, a Georgian who lived in Sumgait with his
Armenian wife, has said that on February 21 an Azerbaijani friend had
informed him that an anti-Armenian demonstration was to be expected
within a week, but he had taken the information with a grain of salt.
On the evening of February 26, Pkhakadze had seen a small number of
people gathered in Lenin Square. One of them, not mentioning his name
or surname, had recounted that he had run away with his compatriots
from Kapan, where Armenians had killed both his and his wife’s

"We have run away from Kapan," said the Azerbaijani with the long
face and thin mustache, who was the organizer of the rally. The next
day other stories had been added; supposedly the Armenians had invaded
the girls’ dormitory in Kapan, raped the Azerbaijani girls and cut off
their breasts. The Azerbaijani who claimed to be from Kapan concluded
his words with "Armenians get out of Azerbaijani lands and death to
the Armenians."

On the afternoon of February 27, the second secretary of the Sumgait
City Committee Bayramova appealed to the participants of the rally.
"There is no need to kill the Armenians. Gorbachev has said that no
one is seizing Karabakh. The territory has been and will remain
Azerbaijani. Allow the Armenians to leave Azerbaijan peacefully. Give
them a chance to leave," said Bayramova, concluding her speech.

* What happened in Kapan

According to some assertions in Azerbaijani sources the intercommunity
clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis had begun prior to the
February 1988 rallies. Historian Arif Yunusov persistently, but
without any proof, insists that the exile and displacement of
Azerbaijanis from Armenia had started in November 1987, and continued
on January 25, 1988, and not 8 months after the massacres in Sumgait.
Yunusov and other Azerbaijani and international authors, who repeat
Yunosov word for word, have no quotes from even one of the thousands
of Azerbaijanis supposedly exiled from Armenia before Sumgait.

Jhora Mkrtchian was the Chief of the Kapan Train Station until 1992.
However, he does not remember a single Azerbaijani displaced before
Sumgait. "The Azerbaijanis only started moving after the massacres,
when pandemonium broke out. They wrote requests and those who wanted a
wagon, received a wagon, those who wanted containers, received
containers; they loaded their cargo, bought tickets and left. They
left on the Kapan-Baku train. Many left by car."

The former second secretary of the Kapan Regional Committee Aramais
Babayan says that in September 1987 news spread among local
Azerbaijanis that a new city was being constructed in Azerbaijan and
they were in need of laborers. "At that time a group of Azerbaijanis
left Kapan. When they arrived there, they were told that a city was
not being built. There were no possibilities of staying and some of
them returned. None of them had left with their families", says

From 1987 to 1990 Grigor Harutyunyan was the president of the
executive committee of the Regional Council of Meghri; the
second-highest ranking official in the region. He insists that only
after the incidents in Sumgait did the Azerbaijanis start moving from
the regions with their families. Harutyunian notes that before and
after the years 1980~V85, Azerbaijani youth left for Baku to receive an
education and some of them did not return, just as some Armenians who
came from the different regions of Azerbaijan to receive education in
Yerevan stayed in Armenia. Harutyunian excludes the possibility of
Azerbaijanis leaving with their families for Azerbaijan from the
region of Meghri in 1987 without his knowledge.

"After Sumgait some Azerbaijanis from Meghri and Kajaran left for
neighboring Nakhijevan and the region of Zangelan out of fear, but
returned. Some time later they started exchanging apartments. The
process had already started; Azerbaijanis did not want to stay in
Armenia and Armenians did not want to stay in Azerbaijan. Not a single
Azerbaijani was injured in the region of Meghri," says Harutyunian.

Not a single Azerbaijani was killed in Kapan and the region of
Meghri from 1988 to 1991, when about 170,000 Azerbaijanis left
Armenia. Of course Azerbaijanis had been killed; mainly in today’s
Lori marz, but not in Syunik.

The first large rally took place in Kapan’s city stadium on February
22, 1988. Before then, small rallies had taken place in different
squares; groups of students from the technical schools of construction
and metallurgy, and medicine, had passed through the streets of the
city. Many of the students of the colleges were from Nagorno-Karabakh
and were calling, "Karabakh, unification!"

"After the rally in the stadium, the Azerbaijanis became noticeably
afraid. The next morning, on February 23, when we came to work, they
called us from Baku to ask what our citizens were doing in the
territory of Azerbaijan. As a result of the conversation it became
clear that on the previous night 276 Azerbaijanis had left the city on
the Kapan-Baku train. They were stopped half way, in the territory of
Aghjabad and told to return to their homes, probably at Moscow’s
demand," says Babayan.

The political authorities of the Kapan and Zangelan regions agree to
meet on the border. Babayan remembers, "When we arrived, there was no
one there. They told us that the people were waiting for us in
Zangelan. They suggested that I sit in their car, as traveling in our
car would be dangerous according to them, the youth of Razdara had
gathered with guns, rocks and truncheons. I sat in their car and we
arrived in Zangelan. When I asked where the people were, they answered
that they had just dispersed. The only Azerbaijani from Kapan I met
that day was the former master of the technical college. That day we
were unable to return any Azerbaijanis to Kapan."

The next day Babayan, the first secretary of the Regional Committee,
Roland Ghonian, and other officials once again left for the border,
taking buses with them. The authorities of the region of Zangelan had
promised to bring the Azerbaijanis that had left Kapan to the border.
"They had transported people by bus to the border, from where we
brought them to Kapan with our three buses; two of them full and one,
half full. The employees of the law enforcement bodies of the region
of Zangelan also came with them. They got acquainted with the
situation and were convinced that the information they had received
was incorrect; not a single Azerbaijani had been injured in Kapan, no
one had been beaten up and that it had all been provocation," says

The echoes of what had happened in Kapan quickly reached the
Kremlin. The representative that had arrived from Moscow organized a
reception for the Azerbaijanis. An official with the last name of
Slobodnyuk from the Central Committee’s inter-racial relations
subdivision arrived in Kapan. During the consultation with the
authorities of the region they invited and listened to the

Babayan gave us the list of the Azerbaijani passengers who had left
Kapan and its surrounding villages on February 22 on the
Baku-Kapan-Baku train (number 672-671). The list, which was compiled
and presented to the authorities of the region of Kapan by the
Azerbaijanis, included the names of 276 people. Babayan also gave us
another list, where it was noted village by village how many
Azerbaijanis had left the region of Kapan during the five days from
February 24-29. According to that list, which may also include
mistakes, the number of Azerbaijanis that left is 97. This number does
not include the 276 that had left by train on the eve of February 22,
some of which (about 100 people) had returned to Kapan on the 3 buses.

* The victims of Askeran

One of the eyewitnesses of Sumgait, Vladimir Grigorian told Samvel
Shahmuradian, "I looked out of the window and there was a rally in
Lenin Square. I could not hear anything so I opened the window. They
were saying, calm down, we will not give Karabakh to the Armenians and
Karabakh belongs to us. Another one said that Armenians had killed two
Azerbaijanis in Karabakh; one 16 and the other 22 years old." His wife
Marina added that the Azerbaijanis became more irate after hearing
Katusev’s words.

On February 27, the Military Prosecutor of the USSR in Baku,
Alexander Katusev announced on Azerbaijani television that two young
people had been killed in Askeran two days ago, underscoring their
Azerbaijani last names. This news further encouraged the Azerbaijanis,
who were already prepared to kill the Armenians and steal their

On the morning of February 22, 1988, a crowd of people from Aghdam
moved towards Askeran. The motive behind the "peaceful attack" remains
arguable. There are different versions, but the main one is that the
Azerbaijanis were trying to scare the Armenians as a response to the
rallies that had started in Nagorno-Karabakh and the calls of
unification with Armenia.

The attack of the Azerbaijanis was prevented near Askeran after
short clashes. Dozens of people from both sides were injured, two
Azerbaijanis were killed, one of them probably from a Karabakhi

In the Avrora monthly magazine, Russian author Alexander Vasilevski,
who had gone to Nagorno-Karabakh at the end of April 1988, casts
suspicion on the allegations of the media of Azerbaijan and the
central media. According to these allegations, as a result of the
February 22 intercommunity clashes in Askeran, Armenians killed the
two Azerbaijanis. Vasilevski met with Arif, the brother of Ali Hajiev,
one of the deceased. The former told him that Ali had gotten into a
fight with an Azerbaijani policeman, who shot and killed his brother.

"Undoubtedly the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh had nothing to do
with the death of at least one of them; 22-year-old Ali Hajiev, who
worked on a lathe in the factory in Aghdam. Ali’s brother, 29 year old
engineer-constructor Arif Hajiev recounts, "An Azerbaijani policeman
shot at Ali. The shot came from directly in front of him and the
bullet went through his heart. My brother and the policeman had an
argument. Then Ali fell into the arms of his close friend Ulvia
Bahramova and said, "Hold me, I have been shot" and he fell down.
Ulvia saw the face of the policeman who shot her. Ulvia does not
recognize him, although she recognizes the other Aghdami officer, who
immediately pulled the shooter into a car and drove off. Recently
Lieutenant-Colonel Nikolayev of Moscow said that a new investigation
has commenced. An announcement has been placed in the newspapers
asking for witnesses to the killing to present themselves to the
police station," writes Vasilevski.

The other victim of the clashes; 16 year old Bakhtiar Uliev, was
probably killed by an Askerani hunting rifle or by weapons of the
employees of the Internal Forces.

* Moscow’s response

On February 28, the Soviet news program Vremya qualified the Armenian
massacres as "hooliganism." The next day Mr. Gorbachev presided over a
session of the Politburo.

Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov recommends introducing martial law in
Sumgait, based on the scenes of atrocities taking place in the city.
"The breasts of two women have been cut off, another’s head and a
young girl has been skinned. Behold this savagery."

Grigor Kharchenko and Deputy Head of the USSR KGB Philip Bobkov were
the first officials of the Kremlin to travel from Baku, arriving in
Sumgait on February 28, where they saw the brutality with their own
eyes. Kharchenko assesses Gorbachev’s justification that the military
forces arrived only three hours late as absolutely incorrect. They
arrived one day late, as they had been waiting for the decision to be
taken. He told British author Thomas De Waal, "It was impossible to
control the situation because the whole town was in panic. Crowds of
Azerbaijanis walking around, screaming came from the courtyards,
‘Help! Help!’ We had an escort, we were led to one place~E I don’t want
to show you the photographs. I simply destroyed them. But with my own
eyes I saw dismembered corpses, a body mutilated with an ax, legs,
arms, practically no body left. They took the remains of dry leaves
off the ground, scattered them over corpses, took petrol from the
nearest car and set fire to them. Terrible corpses."

According to Pkhakadze’s evidence, on the evening of February 27,
Jahangir Muslimzade, the leader of the Sumgait Communist Party
replaced Bayramova in the square. The Azerbaijani who claimed to be
from Kapan repeated his story about the brutality of the Armenians,
saying that both his wife and her relatives had been killed and
Azerbaijani girls had been raped in a dormitory. Then Muslimzade
picked up the microphone and repeated Bayramova’s words, "Brothers, we
have to allow the Armenians to leave peacefully."

On the eve of the same day, while the massacre of the Armenians
continued, Muslimzade came to the front of the crowd, waved the
Azerbaijani flag and headed the procession of protestors. He tried to
direct the crowd towards the beach along Friendship Avenue. Later he
justified his action by saying that he had tried to move the angry
crowd away from the city centre toward the outskirts, in order to
prevent further tragedy. While Muslimzade moved with the front rows of
the crowd toward the beach, people in the back separated into groups
and started to search for Armenians.

Around 90 criminals stood before courts in different cities of the
Soviet Union charged with implementing inter-racial massacre,
violence, rape, and other charges in Sumgait. Only one of them
received the maximum death sentence. The Soviet justice system does
its utmost to avoid stressing and referring to the nationality of the
criminals during the court cases. The insistence that some of the
slaughterers were not Azerbaijani also serves that purpose.

Spouses Mayor Arzoumanian and Larisa Zakharian, survivors from
Sumgait initially settled in Spitak and then in Mughni. They were
originally from the Arajadzor village of Martakert and started living
in Sumgait in 1959, when the city was being constructed. However,
tragedy struck the family much later. Their 28 year old daughter
Marietta Petrossian died during the earthquake in Spitak, leaving
behind sons, four-year old Michael and five-year old Arthur.
Marietta’s husband, Valery Petrossian who was also from Arajadzor and
had left for Baku with thousands of Karabakhi-Armenians was killed in
the Karabakh war. On October 12, 1992, he and 12 others were
surrounded and killed in the village of Maghavuz in Martakert.

************************************** *************************************

3. Washington Briefing

by Emil Sanamyan

* State Department, members of Congress offer congratulations over
Armenia elections

In a February 22 statement, the U.S. State Department "congratulated
the people of Armenia on the active and competitive presidential
elections on February 19." The statement took note of preliminary
conclusions by Western observers that the election was conducted
"mostly in line with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and
standards for democratic elections."

It also noted remaining "significant problems with electoral
procedures," praised the holding of recounts in a number of precincts,
and urged the Armenian government to address shortcomings "to improve
future elections."

In reference to continuing opposition protests over the election,
State Department spokesperson Tom Casey added in the February 25
briefing that all election-related "disputes need to be settled within
the confines of Armenia’s constitution and political system."

Unlike other world leaders, President George W. Bush has not yet
sent a message to President-elect Serge Sargsian. Similarly, President
Bush did not communicate with President Robert Kocharian on his
re-election until after his inauguration on April 9, 2003.

Reps. Frank Pallone (D.-N.J.) and Joe Knollenberg (R.-Mich.),
co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues (which
includes more than 150 House members) published a letter they sent to
President-elect Sargsian congratulating him on his election. The
February 26 letter also said the election "proved [Armenia’s]
commitment to free and fair elections" and offered to work with the
next president "to help address the important issues facing Armenia."

Mr. Sargsian also received congratulations from Armenian-American
community leaders, including Kirk Kerkorian, Gerald Cafesjian, Berge
Setrakian, Hirair Hovnanian, and the leadership of the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation.

* U.S. official: assistance to Armenia a "success story"

The U.S. Director for Foreign Assistance and head of the U.S. Agency
for International Development Henrietta Fore offered praise for the
progress made in Armenia with the help of U.S. assistance during a
congressional briefing this week.

The Armenian Assembly of America reported that during a February 27
hearing of the House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Ms. Fore was
queried by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R.-Mich.) about the administration’s
proposed cut in aid to Armenia. As Secretary Condoleezza Rice before
her (see this page in the February 16 Armenian Reporter), Ms. Fore
appeared to justify the reduction in USAID-administered funding by
pointing to expanding aid under the Millennium Challenge Account

Ms. Fore went on to say that the administration was "very pleased"
about progress in Armenia and that "it is indeed a success story."

"It troubles me that MCA funding continues to be used to explain the
vast reduction in aid to Armenia," Rep. Knollenberg told the Assembly.
"MCA funding for Armenia, which supports rural roads and irrigation
infrastructure development, should not be used as a justification to
cut [other] funding."

* U.S. continues aid to Armenia’s peacekeepers

Armenia’s Peacekeeping Battalion, elements of which are deployed in
Kosovo and Iraq, received a new batch of U.S. communications equipment
valued at $3 million, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia reported on February
27. The previous consignment of communications gear arrived in August

The equipment includes field radios and supporting equipment
purchased from the Harris Corporation in the U.S. The aid is intended
to contribute to Armenia’s inter-operability with Western-led forces
in peacekeeping operations under the Individual Partnership Action
Plan (IPAP) of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This
year, the U.S. is also expected to provide transport trucks, uniforms,
field equipment and additional communications equipment to help expand
the battalion into a brigade.

* Azerbaijan to pull out of Kosovo, and to renew push for UN
resolution on Karabakh

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev indicated that he will pull out a
small Azerbaijani unit that has served with the NATO-led peacekeeping
forces in Kosovo, Reuters reported on February 28. An Azerbaijani
official said that the move came due to a "sharply changed political

At the same time, at the United Nations General Assembly, Azerbaijan
introduced yet another resolution supporting its claim on
Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has introduced similar resolutions in the
past, but has not brought them to a vote on the insistence of France,
Russia, and the United States — the countries that are jointly
involved in the Karabakh mediation effort.

Both moves came following the recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral
independence by Western countries; in the words of Armenian Foreign
Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan, the moves reflect Azerbaijan’s
"panic" over the development. Mr. Balayan said that Armenia would
continue to oppose the Azerbaijan-initiated United Nations resolution.

Unlike its ally Turkey, which recognized Kosovo, Azerbaijan called
Kosovo’s independence "illegal." Russia has also opposed it.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian said on February 29
that the Kosovo precedent would play a positive role in the
international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence, Regnum
news agency reported the same day.

* Armenia, Georgia to launch military cooperation

Armenian Defense Minister Mikhail Harutiunian’s visit to Georgia this
week is expected to mark the start of bilateral military cooperation
between the two countries, Armenian and Georgian news agencies
reported this week. Such cooperation has been absent even though the
two neighbors have close economic ties, and are also cooperating
through NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

Between February 28 and March 1, Mr. Harutiunian met with the
Georgian president and other leaders and visited with U.S.-trained
Georgian Special Forces unit. As an initial steps toward cooperation,
the two countries are due to appoint defense attaches at their
respective embassies and establish a defense working group.

* U.S. Russia watchers weigh in on Putin-Medvedev succession

Washington-based Russia experts say the March 2 vote for the next
Russian president should be viewed not as an "election," but rather a
"succession," according to a discussion hosted by the Center for
Strategic and International Studies on Feb. 28.

On March 2, Russians are expected to vote in President Vladimir
Putin’s former aide Dmitry Medvedev as his successor; with Mr. Putin
himself becoming Prime Minister.

"The good news," said Andrew Kuchins, the CSIS Director for Russia
and Eurasia, "is that we have heard no anti-Western rhetoric from Mr.
Medvedev. The bad news is that he has said nothing about [foreign
affairs] ~E This shows that Putin will take the lead role for some
time," he said.

Sarah Mendelson, director of the CSIS Human Rights and Security
Initiative, agreed that Mr. Putin’s potential role would see "Russia
shifting towards the Prime Minister system, which means that Putin
would [still] be the primary figure for some time to come." She added
that Russia would "take advantage of declining U.S. influence."

"We have seen that iPods, lattes, and skateboards, and other
elements of Western culture do not, alas, translate into a desire for
free media and [democracy]," she said.

Anders Aslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for
International Economics, cited Russia’s significant economic growth
over the past eight years, and said that this growth would most likely
continue — a factor that he says contributes to the country’s

"Countries that are as rich and educated are normally democratic.
Russia is an extreme outlier," he said, calling Mr. Putin’s
administration "about the most corrupt regime we have ever seen."

* * *

~WAlexa Millinger contributed to this briefing.

*************************************** ************************************

4. Knollenberg, Pallone send letter to Rice asking for public rebuke
of Azerbaijani president

WASHINGTON — Representatives Joe Knollenberg (R.-Mich.) and Frank
Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on
Armenian Issues, along with over 50 of their colleagues sent a letter
to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking for a public rebuke
of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev for his recent threatening
comments regarding war with Armenia.

"It has been 20 years since the liberation movement in
Nagorno-Karabakh and still today the president of Azerbaijan is
threatening war over this territory. Azerbaijan can no longer spew
hatred and war threats towards Armenia without a public international
response." Knollenberg and Pallone said.

"Enough is enough. It is time for the U.S. Department of State to
hold Aliyev and his government accountable for their words. Armenia is
an ally and friend to the United States and threatening to go to war
with an ally is never acceptable."

"A peaceful resolution to this conflict can and must be achieved.
Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh agree that peaceful negotiations are the
way forward. It is now time for President Aliyev to rescind his
vicious statements and come to the negotiating table."

The letter was cosigned by Gary Ackerman (D.-N.Y.), Gus Bilirakis
(R.-Fla.), Dennis Cardoza (D.-Calif.), Jim Costa (D.-Calif.), Jerry
Costello (D.-Ill.), Joseph Crowley (D.-N.Y.), Danny K. Davis
(D.-Ill.), Lloyd Doggett (D.-Tex.), Anna Eshoo (D.-Calif.), Chaka
Fattah (D.-Pa.), Barney Frank (D.-Mass.), Elton Gallegy (R.-Calif.),
Scott Garrett (R.-N.J.), Charles Gonzalez (D.-Tex.), Raul Grijalva
(D.-Ariz.), Maurice Hinchey (D.-N.Y.), Michael Honda (D.-Calif.), Rush
Holt (D.-N.J.), Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.), Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.), James
Langevin (D.-R.I.), Sander Levin (D.-Mich.), Daniel Lipinski
(D.-Ill.), Frank LoBiondo (R.-N.J.), Stephen Lynch (D.-Mass.), Carolyn
Maloney (D.-N.Y.), Edward Markey (D.-Mass.), Betty McCollum
(D.-Minn.), Thaddeus McCotter (R.-Mich.), James McGovern (D.-Mass.),
Howard McKeon (R.-Calif.), Michael McNulty (D.-N.Y.), Candice Miller
(R.-Mich.), Grace Napolitano (D.-Calif.), Colin Peterson (D.-Minn.),
George Radanovich (R.-Calif.), Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.), Steven Rothman
(D.-N.J.), Bobby Rush (D.-Ill.), Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.), John Sarbanes
(D.-Md.), Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.), Chris Shays (R.-Conn.), Brad
Sherman (D.-Calif.), Mark Souder (R.-Ind.), Chris Van Hollen (D.-Md.),
Tim Walz (D.-Minn.), Diane Watson (D.-Calif.), Anthony Weiner
(D.-N.Y.), Albert Wynn (D.-Md.)

USAPAC has urged Armenian-Americans to call these representatives
and thank them for cosigning the letter. They can be reached at (202)

********************************* ******************************************

5. Trial continues in the murder of Hrant Dink

by Talin Suciyan

YEREVAN — The fourth hearing in the trial of 19 men for the murder of
Hrant Dink took place on February 25 in Istanbul. Of the 19
defendents, eight are detailed and some are members of the GUP (Buyuk
Birlik Partisi/Great Unity Party), which is known for its
ultranationalist ideas. The court decided that four GUP members whose
questioning process is already done do not have to attend the

It was reported that tension was high throughout the day in the
courtroom, since the lawyer for the accused Fuat Turgut and the
suspects continued their insults. Turgut reportedly said "My client is
not like the rabid Armenians who committed the Khojalu massacres."

He further said, "Attorneys know much better what a terror
organization means." Turgut, continuously referred to the late Hrant
Dink as a "proven enemy of the Turk." Upon this, Delal Dink, Hrant
Dink’s daughter said, "This very expression killed my father even when
he was alive." Further, murder suspect O.S. [Ogun Samast] reportedly
cursed Dink family lawyer Kezban Hatemi.

The court rejected a request to further investigate the murder
suspect’s age. Thus, O.S. is deemed as underage at the time of
committing the crime. Hence, the hearings continue to be kept closed
to the public.

After the hearing which lasted nine hours, Fethiye Çetin, one of the
lawyer’s of the Dink family, stated that their demands have not been
met. The cases regarding the officers in Trabzon and Samsun, who are
to be tried for dereliction of duty and allegedly knew the murder plan
beforehand, will be held separately. "We do think that these cases
should have been joined. Renouncing our requests causes to keep the
whole entity of the criminal organization covered," said Ms. Cetin.

Zafer Üskül, MP of the ruling Justice and Development Party and head
of the Special Commission formed within the Turkish Parliament on
Hrant Dink’s murder case, stated that the gendarme officer whose
conduct was unethical in the second hearing of the case, was penalized
under the military rule and was sent to another city.

Until today, seven of the suspects have been questioned. Coskun
Igci, a gendarme informant, who said he reported the plan of murder
four months before it took place, is yet to be questioned. Two people,
who were in the room of deputy governor of Istanbul "warned" Hrant
Dink, after publishing the news item on the Armenian origins of
Ataturk’s daughter Sabiha Gökçen, remained unknown. The fifth hearing
will be held in April.

****************************************** *********************************

6. Nagorno-Karabakh insists on directly participating in the negotiations.

by Armen Hakobyan

YEREVAN — During a visit to Armenia, on February 26, the
chairman-in-office of the OSCE, the foreign minister of Finland, Ilka
Kanerva, met with the president of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh
(NKR), Bako Sahakian, at the Golden Tulip Hotel.

"This was our first meeting and was more of an opportunity to become
acquainted, but we also tried to discuss issues of a practical nature
with the chairman-in-office of the OSCE. We talked about the
negotiation process, the implementation of the cease fire monitoring
process by the OSCE permanent representative on the line of contact;
we came up with a series of suggestions and, as a first meeting, I
consider it productive," said Mr. Sahakian.

For his part Mr. Kanerva noted that the OSCE is not only interested
in the speedy settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but also in
supporting the promotion of democratic processes throughout the
Southern Caucasus. As far as the primary issue is concerned, he said,
"When the situation surrounding the presidential elections becomes
history in Armenia, I think that in terms of the settlement of the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict we will have a stronger basis for growing

He also noted contentedly, "Recently I met with the political
authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh and I must note with satisfaction that
they support the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through
peaceful negotiations."

Unlike Armenia and Artsakh, the Azerbaijani side is constantly
making hostile statements. One of the journalists asked Mr. Kanerva
for his reaction to that fact. "It is understandable that prior to
reaching a settlement, during political arguments, severe expressions
and severe words are used from time to time," said Mr. Kanerva. In
answer to another question, he emphasized that to date he had not been
presented with convincing facts that the OSCE Minsk group has
exhausted itself. "In my opinion the Minsk group has an added
investment in this process. It instills trust and also guarantees
reaching positive results. Leaving one ship and boarding another
without knowing the consequences would be risky. On the other had, it
is understandable that meetings and exchanges between the presidents
are very important and necessary and that we expect results from those
meetings," he said.

Following this, Mr. Kanerva had a meeting with the accredited
ambassadors to the Republic of Armenia of OSCE member-states. The
press conference continued without his participation. Referring to the
substance of their recently concluded meeting, Mr. Sahakian said, "We
talked about the negotiation process with the chairman-in-office of
the OSCE. As always we have proved our steadfastness in supporting the
settlement of the issue by exclusively peaceful means. At the same
time we asked the chairman-in-office of the OSCE to use his authority
and resources to restore the decision of the OSCE Budapest summit so
that the NKR continues participating in the negotiation process as an
active side." Later Mr. Sahakian added, "Today the reaching of a
logical conclusion to the negotiation process is being impeding mainly
by the fact that NKR is not participating in the negotiations. But at
the same time we have mentioned that it is in our interest that
Armenia continues its participation in the process, as that
participation is securing today’s peace."

As for the precedent set by Kosovo, Mr. Sahakian noted that they
would be happy if Kosovo’s independence would promote the recognition
of NKR by the international community. He said that in Artsakh they
are closely monitoring the course of Kosovo’s independence and
recognition and they are analyzing it and drawing conclusions.

* Bako Sahakian notices manifestations of artificially created tension

The post-election period in Armenia was also touched upon during the
press conference. It was unavoidable especially since while supporters
of Levon Ter-Petrosian were continuing their rally in Freedom Square,
Serge Sargsian’s supporters were in Republic Square for a victory
rally. The press conference was being held at the Golden Tulip Hotel,
which is located midway between the squares. It was enough to stand in
front of the hotel to clearly hear the chants of "Levon! Levon!"
coming from the Opera as well as the slogan "Forward Armenia" from
Republic Square.

During one of his rallies, Mr. Ter-Petrossian praised Mr. Sahakian
for the fact that the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the
country’s authorities, had not been involved in the presidential
elections of Armenia and its developments. "That is the truth, because
the people of NKR and its authorities have not interfered in the
presidential elections of Armenia," said Mr. Sahakian adding, "During
that same meeting he compared me with the former president and then,
condemning the former president of NKR, Levon Ter-Petrossian said that
in 2003 he interfered in the presidential elections of Armenia. In
2003, I was the director of the National Security Service of NKR and I
am well aware of the way events developed at that time. The former
president of NKR, Arkadi Ghukasian, had not interfered, but had
expressed his willingness to participate in easing the tensions in the

Mr. Sahakian also called attention to the fact that only one day
after Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s announcement, the latter’s supporter,
former prime minister of Armenia Hrant Bagratian, also spoke and
called on the authorities of NKR, the president of NKR, the president
of the National Assembly, the prime minister, and head of the Artsakh
diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Pargev
Martirossian, to join them. "I think comments are superfluous in this
case. The contradictions are there and I would ask you to come to your
own conclusions," Mr. Sahakian said.

Bako Sahakian gave his evaluation of those developments. "The
elections in Armenia have concluded. I have congratulated the newly
elected president of Armenia on behalf of the people of Artsakh and
myself. I am sure that under the guidance of the newly elected
president, Armenia will register considerable development. We had the
opportunity to fight in the battlefield under Serge Sargsian. We are
well aware of his organizational skills. We know his civil character,
and we respect him. We are convinced that Armenia will register
significant progress under his leadership; the Armed Forces will
become stronger; the security of the country will be reinforced and it
is natural that the stronger Armenia becomes, the stronger the
President of NKR will be."

About Robert Kocharian he said, "Regardless of what the current
president of Armenia will be occupied with [later], he will go down in
history as a leader who guided his people along a victorious path.
This is how the people of Artsakh consider the current president."

The leader of Artsakh also mentioned that he is acquainted with the
section concerning Karabakh in Levon Ter-Petrossian’s program and his
stance on that issue is negative.

To the question of whether Azerbaijan is taking advantage of the
situation created in Armenia, the president of NKR replied, "In the
situation created, we notice manifestations of artificially created
tension and we condemn this stance, as all this is taking place at a
time when the Armenian soldier is on military duty. And naturally this
behavior cannot benefit the security of our countries. We have
interests in the stabilization of the situation in the shortest
possible time as it is no secret that the main accomplishment of our
two countries over these years has been the stability achieved. And
that stability has found its firm place in the life in Armenia, which
we welcome."

********************************** *****************************************

7. Post-election week is exhilarating and frustrating

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sarkissian

YEREVAN — The post-election week in Yerevan featured massive rallies
organized by the opposition and the authorities alike, choking the two
main squares of downtown Yerevan. Meanwhile, for inhabitants going
about their business in the central core of the city, it was difficult
to avoid the rallies.

The streets adjacent to Freedom Square, where Levon Ter-Petrossian’s
supporters had been camping for ten days, were even more crowded by
pedestrians mostly grouped on the sidewalks. However, the nearby
shops, cafés, and restaurants were unusually empty for a busy midday.
There were many police cars parked by the square.

"I can only say that the atmosphere around here is very stressful.
And this much tension cannot be positive, anyway," said 23-year-old
Ella Yaputyan, a student at the Interlingual University. Of the many
passers-by I approached, she was one of the few who dared to speak to
a reporter holding out a tape recorder.

"I do not expect anything good to come out of all this," said Ella.
On February 19, she had hesitated all day to go to the polling
station. By the time the polling stations closed their doors, she had
not yet made up her mind. "I don’t know why. Perhaps because none of
the candidates was to my liking," she said.

Yet Ella had taken part in the rally in Freedom Square — mostly out
of curiosity. "Those people worship Levon," she noted.

Ashot Hayrapetyan, 37, a construction worker, has participated in
the Liberty Square rallies several times "for the improvement of our
state." He said he believed that the candidate he has voted for will
eventually come to power. On the other hand, Avag Ghazaryan, 35, a
minibus driver who had taken part in the rallies three times, was not
hopeful. "I am sure that it is all useless. All I see is vain
speeches. Justice will not come to our country." Avag added that what
he wanted is for people’s votes not to be ignored. "I cannot say that
the new president has been elected by the people," he said.

19-year-old medical student Anahit Papayan had voted for the first
time on February 19. "I am content with our post-election situation. I
hope that they have used my vote as I intended it," she said. However,
in the first few days following the presidential elections, she had
been very careful and decided to avoid the streets of downtown
Yerevan, even if that meant skipping a few classes. "Now we have
become sort of accustomed to this situation. I am no longer afraid of
the rallies," she said.

"I cannot say that these elections were fair and just. Then again I
do not believe in the opposition leader," said Dr. Martirossyan, 52,
who refused to give her complete name. However, one thing she
considered highly positive in post-election Yerevan, was the civic
awareness of the people, the fact that they expressed what they
wanted, even if that meant going up against the government.

"I perceive this as a reawakening." she said.

******************************************* ********************************

8. After the presidential elections in Armenia

* A chronology of events

* February 19

Election Day

* * *

* February 20

11:00 A.M. The Central Electoral Commission issues preliminary results
of presidential elections.

With 70% voter turnout, as of 10:00 A.M. the CEC has tabulated
1,632,139 votes or 97.8 percent of the votes cast. The preliminary
results show Serge Sargsian with a considerable lead at 52% and Levon
Ter-Petrossian in second place with 21.5%.

* * *

CIS Observation Mission calls the elections "free and open."

* * *

2:00 P.M. Artur Baghdasarian’s campaign announces that it is
requesting a recount at over 200 polling stations. "We declare that we
are starting a process of reconsideration of the election results and
we demand to recognize invalid the results of voting in more than 100
polling stations, holding a second vote count in over 200 polling
stations, which will considerably increase the votes of our candidate,
which, in its turn, will have considerable influence on the final
results of the elections,"the statement read.

* * *

3:00 P.M. Levon Ter-Petrossian and his supporters numbering in the
tens of thousands hold a rally at the Matenadaran. From the
Matenadaran the protesters walks through the streets of downtown
Yerevan, stopping at the CEC and then finally ending up in Freedom
Square, shutting the city down. Mr. Ter-Petrossian tells his
supporters to come back the next day dressed warmly.

* * *

4:00 P.M. The International Election Observation Mission states in its
preliminary report that the presidential election in Armenia was
"mostly in line" with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and
standards. In 16 percent of the polling stations the counting process
was deemed "bad" or "very bad."

* February 21

3:00 P.M. Ter-Petrossian rally gets under way at Freedom Square. Mr.
Ter-Petrossian’s people announce that they will stay in the square
indefinitely. Mr. Ter-Petrossian claims that two deputy defense
ministers, General Manvel Grigoryan and General Gagik Melkonyan
"support the people’s movement."

* * *

Heghine Bisharian, Mr. Baghdasarian’s campaign manager comes to the
rally and reads the statement issued the day before. She declines to
join the protest.

* * *

A tent city is erected for the sit-in. Protesters celebrate early into
the morning.

* February 22

Deputy Prosecutor General Gagik Jhangirian joins Mr. Ter-Petrossian.
Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepyan applies to the president to
dismiss him from his post for violating the ban on political activity
by prosecutors.

* * *

Four members of the Republican Party of Armenia and three from
Prosperous Armenia allegedly join Ter-Petrossian. (Most later deny

* * *

Raffi Hovannisian of the Heritage Party joins Mr. Ter-Petrossian at his rally.

* * *

Vahan Hovhanessian, ARF presidential candidate, announces his
resignation from the position of deputy speaker of the National

* * *

President Robert Kocharian flies to Moscow to participate in informal
meetings of the CIS countries.

* February 23

Sit-in continues.

* * *

Aram Karapetyan, leader of the New Times Party, which is supporting
Mr. Ter-Petrossian, is arrested on charges of making false

* * *

Vardan Jhangiryan, brother of Gagik Jhangiryan, Karen Hovhanesyan and
Leova Poghosyan are arrested after a scuffle with police in which
Vardan Jhangirian was slightly injured. The charges are possession of
illegal weapons and resisting arrest.

* February 24

Sit-in continues.

* * *

Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Baibourtian, Rouben Shugarian, Armenia’s
ambassador to Italy, Spain, and Portugal, Levon Khachatryan, Armenia’s
ambassador to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and Razmik Khumaryan of
Armenia’s Embassy in Ukraine and Moldova signed a statement calling
Mr. Ter-Petrossian "the newly elected legitimate president of Armenia"
who can handle Armenia’s foreign policy challenges. The president
promptly relieved them of their positions and stripped them their
diplomatic rank.

* * *

Recounts end. New numbers are posted by the CEC; the outcome remains the same.

* * *

The CEC certifies the final results of the presidential elections. The
CEC members appointed by the Country of Laws and Heritage Parties are
not present and do not sign the protocol. The ARF appointee signs the
protocol with reservations. The others all sign.

* * *

Vladimir Karapetian, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
and seven others resign from the ministry and join Mr. Ter-Petrossian.

* * *

Smbat Ayvazian, former taxation chief and member of the radical
opposition Republic Party (Hanrapetutyun), is arrested.

* February 25

Sit-in continues.

* * *

Mr. Ter-Petrossian calls for students to boycott their classes and
join the movement. Says that Freedom Square is the best education they
can hope for.

* * *

ARF announces a proposal to leave the government.

* * *

Petros Makeyan of ANM splinter Democratic Homeland Party is arrested
and charged with violations on Election Day in Gyumri.

* * *

Slovakia’s foreign minister Jan Kubis, chairman of the Council of
Europe, calls the Feb. 19 vote "another positive step towards the
country’s democratic development."

* February 26

Sit-in continues.

* * *

Mr. Ter-Petrossian submits letter of intent to Constitutional Court to
nullify results of presidential elections.

* * *

Mr. Sargsian holds a victory rally at Republic Square. Tens of
thousands participate.

* * *

Suren Surenyants of Republic Party arrested for organizing
unauthorized rallies and marches.

Garnik Margarian, former senior police official, arrested.

Samvel Harutiunian, former mayor of Goris, released after questioning.

Vachik Simonian, Ter-Petrossian election campaign chief in Yeghvard, detained.

* * *

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian regrets that some diplomats chose to
make their personal sentiments public, in violation of their duties.
He notes that Ter-Petrossian appointees were kept and promoted in the
ministry over the last 10 years, and asserts that there will be no
witch hunt in the ministry.

* * *

Asked in a TV interview about Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s declaration that he
would leave Freedom Square only to move into the presidential palace,
Mr. Kocharian says he could offer the former president a job in the
mail room.

* February 27

Sit-in continues.

* February 28

Sit-in continues.

* * *

Vahan Hovhanessian issues a statement proposing topics for reconciliation talks.

* * *

The National Security Service of Armenia arrests six people, including
the 72-year-old brother and 61- year-old brother-in-law of Vano
Siradeghyan. Mr. Siradeghyan was the Interior Minister during Levon
Ter-Petrossian’s presidency and is wanted on criminal charges for
politically motivated murders.

* February 29

Mr. Baghdasarian agrees to enter the governing coalition.

* * *

"The longer they try to keep the people in the Theater Square, the
greater the disappointment of those people will be," Mr. Kocharian
says, urging Mr. Ter-Petrossian to send people home.

* * *

Mr. Ter-Petrossian files his application with the Constitutional Court.

****************************************** *********************************

9. Will the "Old Friend" become the new opposition?

by Armen Hakobyan

YEREVAN — The Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Vahan Hovhanesian,
who according to Central Electoral Commission count, received 6.2
percent of the total votes cast in Armenia’s presidential election,
declared that he was resigning from his post of deputy speaker of the
National Assembly.

On February 25, the party’s Supreme Body in Armenia proposed to
withdraw from an agreement on cooperation with the governing
Republican Party of Armenia (RPA)~VProsperous Armenia (PA) coalition.
The party holds three ministerial portfolios as well as leadership
posts in the National Assembly.

"We could and should have come out of the elections more united and
stronger," the Supreme Body declared, referring to Armenia. "That did
not happen for a number of reasons; mutual enmity and hatred,
intolerance and threats prevailed during the campaign. Society was
artificially divided and polarized. On the one hand there was the zeal
of the has-beens to bring about regime change at all costs; on the
other, the desire of today’s rulers to maintain their positions at all

There were also violations on Election Day, the party stated. "The
supporters of the leading candidates engaged in universal, open and
secret bribery; there were cases of violence and ballot-stuffing in
some precints; and there were violations in the count as well." This
has led to social tension.

Nonetheless, the ARF Supreme Body "does not dispute the final
results of the elections and wishes success to the newly elected
president, Serge Sargsian."

In the interests of maintaining stability and seeing progress, the
body proposed (a) to conduct an unbiased and comprehensive analysis of
all evidence of voting fraud and punish the culprits; (b) to condemn
any intention to change the regime by force and, also, to use force
against those who are unsatisfied with the results; (c) to take urgent
steps toward strengthening the international prestige of Armenia, and
easing domestic tension; (d) to develop an electoral system that will
exclude bribes, the participation of nonpolitical, semi-criminal
elements, and use of administrative resources in all election
processes; (e) to ensure true pluralism and freedom of speech in the

"We urge both parties to refrain from steps that could strain the
situation even more. We urge one side not to try to implement any
program of changing power in the country by force and we urge the
other side to respect the views of those who indeed have grounds and
can be discontent with the results of the elections, and not to label
them as outsiders, not to create hostility," said Supreme Body
representative Armen Rustamian at a February 26 press conference.

Mr. Rustamian said the party’s proposal to pull out of government
puts the ball in the governing coalition’s court.

Asked by the Armenian Reporter whether the ARF, with its 16 seats in
the 131-member National Assembly, would become "a high-quality,
ideological opposition," Mr. Hovhannesian said, "No ideological,
political debate took place, which indicates that the opposition that
has taken to the streets cannot — maybe it can but doesn’t want to
— take the role of a civilized opposition. I am proud of those one
hundred thousand people who voted for me, because on the one hand,
they do not dance drunken in the squares, they are not that kind. On
the other hand, they do not take funeral wreaths to the house of one
of the candidates and make hysterical comments there," he said,
referring to a demonstration outside Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s house. I
really like my voters; they all are decent people.

"Now, it will be very hard to start everything form nothing, because
you have to again create a model that is not recognized in society
today. . . . In such conditions, yes, we will try to create a
civilized opposition model, but how it will work I cannot say. I think
we will need many years until this model becomes effective in our

In the Supreme Body’s announcement, the ARF had offered to take on
the role of mediator between the government and Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s
camp. How did it see that happening when Mr. Ter-Petrossian and the
administration are pursuing completely different goals? "First of all,
they have to be little bit more tolerant toward each other," Mr.
Hovhannesian said, adding: "We need to understand one thing: are the
demands extremist because the negotiation always starts from a
maximalist position, or is this really beyond the red line, and no
concessions are possible? If no concessions are possible, then no
mediation will succeed, obviously. But nevertheless, I think that
there are areas on which agreement is possible. On the one hand, the
authorities should admit that it is in large part responsible for
violations in the last few elections. On the other hand, the
opposition in the streets today should confess that many of those in
their ranks today are the authors and designers of these violations.
For example, Gagik Jhangirian," he said referring to the deputy
prosecutor general who defected to Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s camp last week
and was dismissed from his position. "Gagik Jhangirian was the
engineer of electoral fraud in Armenia, while some days ago he was
making declarations about the violations and clamoring for justice. In
such conditions one understands that both approaches are polarized."

Mr. Hovhanessian concluded: "The authorities have to ask themselves:
What have we done that so many people decided to join Levon
Ter-Petrossian? They have done something, haven’t they? They must
confess in order to ease the tension and change the attitude of the
opposite side. The opposite side must also confess. On the other hand,
Levon Ter-Petrossian and those that surround him are the main authors
of this travesty, against which they are fighting today in the

****************************** *********************************************

10. Bringing travel business to Armenia

* Levon Travel celebrates its 15th anniversary in Yerevan

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian

YEREVAN — Fifteen years ago Levon Travel, an American travel agency
based in Glendale, California, opened its branch office in Yerevan.
This initiative became a driving force behind the development of
travel and tourism business and regulations in Armenia.

Levon Travel was founded back in the 1960s in Beirut by Levon
Berberian. After his death in Beirut, his son, Khachig Berberian, his
daughter, Lori Titizian, and her husband, Garbis Titizian moved the
business to Los Angeles. The agency has been prospering for nearly
five decades now.

September 2007 marked the 15th anniversary of the Levon Travel
Yerevan branch office, the 10th anniversaries of the Tbilisi and
Stepanakert (Nagorno-Karabakh) branch offices, as well as the 25th
anniversary of the head office in Glendale.

* One of the very first

In the beginning of the 1990s Levon Travel was one of the very first
diasporan-Armenian institutions to open an office in the then-newly
independent Republic of Armenia.

Garbis Titizian, the president of Levon Travel, had been frequently
visiting Armenia even before independence, right after the earthquake
in 1988.

"I was lucky to be in Yerevan during Armenia’s pre-independence
period," says Garbis Titizian to the Armenian Reporter via e-mail.

It was in the chaos of those days that he was drawn closer to the
people and the country. "I got to know the people of Armenia, their
needs, their shortcomings, and in general, the lifestyle of the
society," says Mr. Titizian.

Geographically landlocked Armenia was isolated at that time from the
rest of the world by the still dominating Soviet traditions in every
aspect of communication, transport, and international relations on one
hand and by the political and economic blockade on the other.

"Transportation to the outside world was a major problem Armenia was
facing right after its independence," says Mr. Titizian. He adds that
it was essential to establish air contact with the United States,
where a large number of the Armenian diaspora looked for ways to
assist the homeland.

During the Soviet period all air travel to and from Armenia was
carried through Moscow and Aeroflot, the Soviet airline. Although
right after its independence Armenia had its very own national
airline, Armenian Airlines, the latter carried out most of its flights
within the boundaries of the former Soviet Union.

With their experience in the air travel business, Garbis Titizian
and Levon Travel had direct input in the foundation of travel and
tourism business in Yerevan. They brought the first-ever travel agency
to the capital.

"I volunteered my services to the government of Armenia and, like
many other diasporan-Armenians during this period, acted as an adviser
to the Prime Minister on aviation issues," says Mr. Titizian. He adds
that a lot of the rules applying to foreign companies doing business
in Armenia today date back to those years when Levon Travel came to
the country. "The steps we took at every stage became a blueprint and
paved the way for other foreign companies," says Mr. Titizian.

In the meantime Armenian Airlines started to flourish, although
still carrying on the regulations and the work ethic inherited from
the Soviet period. However, soon there was some competition. Within
few years, Levon Travel became the official representative of British
Airways in Yerevan, the first major foreign airline carrying out
regular flights to Armenia.

Anahit Papazian, the managing director of the Yerevan branch office,
says that after Armenia got its independence, everyone in the country
thought that soon investments will flow in. "But even the
diasporan-Armenians were very cautious. Garbis Titizian was one of the
very first to invest in the business sector in Armenia. He is someone
not afraid of taking risks," says Ms. Papazian.

The functioning of Levon Travel in Yerevan was quite a novelty in
town. Travel agencies were a completely new field in Armenia. When
first started, Levon Travel was the only source for getting tickets on
air carriers other than Aeroflot.

* Difficult, early days

In the "dark and cold years," Levon Travel operated from a room in the
Ani Plaza Hotel on Sayat Nova Street, in central Yerevan. "Electricity
and heating was a major problem, especially in the winter," recalls
Mr. Titizian.

In time, Levon Travel moved to new premises on Sayat Nova, across
from the hotel.

Finding trained personnel was a challenge. The lack of travel
agencies in Armenia also meant the lack of experienced staff. However,
Mr. Titizian was firm on forming his staff by Armenians residing in
Armenia. He says that to this day it consists of local residents only.
"I believe strongly in encouraging local talent and making sure that
the business contributes both to Armenia’s travel and tourism
industry," says Mr. Titizian.

While opening a new business in Armenia, Garbis Titizian focused on
training the personnel, later to become the core managing group of
Levon Travel’s offices in Yerevan. "He has invested his time and
energy to guide us through the world of travel agency," says Ms.

Mr. Titizian says that the main criteria of his staff always has
focused on good working habits, excellent customer relations, honesty,
and a willingness to learn and advance in the travel field. "All of my
staff has received appropriate training either in the airline or
tourism industry," says Mr. Titizian.

"One of the most memorable events from those days was acting as a
personal courier for the U.S. Mission in Armenia," says Mr. Titizian.
"In the early days before the U.S. Embassy was officially opened in
Armenia, I was proud to assist Tom Price, the U.S. chargé d’affaires
at the time, in a number of flights from Yerevan to Sofia to deliver
pouches. No official courier existed at the time. I am proud to have a
certificate of appreciation I received from the State Department in
1993 for assisting in the establishment of the U.S. Embassy in

During Levon Travel’s first years in Yerevan, Mr. Titizian spent the
majority of his time in Armenia. "It was a difficult decision but a
necessary one. Personal attention and service are crucial to the
success of any new business," says Mr. Titizian.

Presently Mr. Titizian visits Yerevan almost every 3 months "to make
sure we continue to be a leading agency in Yerevan," he says.

Fifteen years of doing business in Armenia means getting through
difficulties related to business laws and regulations. However, Mr.
Titizian thinks all in all it has been a rewarding experience.

"I feel I contributed in a small way to my country’s advancement in
the modern business world," he says.

Fifteen years later Levon Travel still encounters many challenges,
not the least of which is competition. Now in almost every street in
the center of Yerevan there are new travel agencies.

"It is hard to stay always at the top," says Mr. Titizian. "When we
first opened our offices there were no other travel agencies in the
capital. Today, there are small shops selling travel tickets or
offering tours in every corner. Although I am not sure you can qualify
them as agencies."

* International tourists, come to Armenia!

At the beginning Levon Travel focused more on selling air tickets and
providing air travel services. "In the beginning this was the priority
and there was no infrastructure for tourism yet," says Mr. Titizian.

In the following years, as Armenia underwent a new wave of
construction and the service sector was considerably improved, Levon
Travel was encouraged to expand its activities into tourism.

In 1997 Levon Travel started organizing incoming tours to Armenia,
managed by Davit Khachiyan. Together with Levon Travel Mr. Khachiyan
became one of the pioneers to take organized incoming tours in Armenia
to new levels.

Although lacking work experience in the tourism business, Mr.
Khachiyan was armed with his rich personal experiences as a frequent
traveler to European and ex-USSR countries. Soon the tourism
department in Levon Travel began promoting Armenia as a new hot spot
for tourism not only for the diasporan-Armenians, but also for

At the beginning, the tours targeted diasporan Armenians. However
within a decade they have embraced growing numbers of tourists from
North America, European countries, as well as Japan, New Zealand, and
other countries from around the globe. "We do everything possible to
attract non-Armenian tourists to Armenia. It is essential that we
witness a growth in non-Armenians exploring Armenia," says Ms.

Mr. Khachiyan says that according to the figures of 2006, only 40
percent of the tourists participated in tours organized by Levon
Travel to Armenia were Armenians. "The other 60 percent were
non-Armenians, 20 percent of which were Italian tourists. Next come
Germans, English, French, Japanese, Russians, and Netherlanders," said
Mr. Khachiyan.

Through coordinating the staff in its Glendale, Yerevan,
Stepanakert, and Tbilisi offices, Levon Travel plans group tours and
independent travel itineraries. The agency has developed dozens of
custom packages of various durations of travel in Armenia,
Nagorno-Karabakh, and Georgia.

In addition to the tours, Levon Travel provides full travel
services. It assists travelers in obtaining air-tickets, visas and
insurance, airport transfers, hotel accommodation, guides, and
interpreters’ assistance.

Mr. Khachiyan says that one of the major objectives of Levon Travel
is to promote Armenia. "The Yerevan, Los Angeles, Stepanakert, and
Tbilisi offices of our agency coordinate the promotion of Armenia and
the development of tourist projects. Our agency encourages national
policies and enterprises taken by the government of Armenia. The
overall development and progress of Armenia is very important for our
business to prosper and flourish," says Mr. Khachiyan.

Besides propping up Armenia on the Internet, Levon Travel also takes
part in international travel and tourism exhibitions in Berlin, Milan,
and Tokyo.

Levon Travel is a founding member of the Union of Incoming Tour
Operators in Armenia, an Armenian nongovernmental organization, and
one of the few focusing on incoming tourism. The organization unites
the most efficient tour operators in Armenia, and raises issues and
problems related to tourism in Armenia to the decision making bodies.

The agency has witnessed the growth of tourism in Armenia. "The
progress on both quantitative and qualitative levels is obvious," says
Mr. Khachiyan. "Ten years ago we only thought of the market of
diasporan-Armenian tourists. Now we are witnessing an important growth
in the number and national diversity of non-Armenian tourists. I think
we should focus on the latter aspect of tourism in Armenia, because
the market of the diasporan-Armenian tourists is very limited compared
to the market of the world tourists."

For the coming years Levon Travel aims to further expand its
activities in tourism. "We will be promoting tourism to Armenia,
Georgia and Artsakh within the United States," says Mr. Titizian.
"There is great interest by non-Armenians to discover Armenia’s
ancient treasures."

******************************** *******************************************

11. Commentary: Neither side must come out as losers

* Presidential elections in Armenia tend to cause rather than solve
conflicts, Hrair Tovmasian argues

Interview by Maria Titizan

YEREVAN — During elections in most democratic nations, candidates can
represent a broad political spectrum: liberal, conservative, right
wing, left wing, etc. The conclusion of the election, however, means
that there is a winner at the end of the day. In most democracies, the
losers congratulate the winners, they shake hands, appear to present a
spirit of solidarity and the institutional mechanisms, like components
of a well-oiled machine, continue to chug along.

However, what happens when those elections are called into question
— when there are charges of election fraud, bribery, coercion, and
ballot stuffing? What happens when a country has an officially elected
president, receiving congratulations from world leaders and another
self-proclaimed president who has taken over one of the symbols of the
capital city, the Opera Square claiming he has won 65 percent of the

Hrair Tovmasian, author of Armenia’s first electoral code and a
co-author of Armenia’s constition, believes the current impasse
Armenia finds itself in has its roots in history. What we are living
and experiencing is the consequence of certain phenomena. Why have the
people taken to the streets? Why are they alleging that the elections
were rigged? Why does the broadcast media primarily do the bidding of
those in power? These issues are not new, they were born many years

When humankind, or at least the civilized world, embarked on a
journey to establish democratic, legal, and social statehood, drafting
constitutions which declared that the rights of humans, including
dignity, constituted the most important value, the Armenian nation had
lost its statehood and was floundering.

According to Mr. Tovmasian, after the loss of the kingdom of
Cilicia, Armenians began developing national features which were
symptoms of their existence. Those features included a willingness to
adapt, indifference, passivity, the idea that the authorities are
always right, the notion that "nothing depends on me." It was at this
time that Armenian proverbs, still being passed on today were written:
Ur hats, and gats (Where there’s bread, stay there) and Yete yeghung
unes, klught kereh (If you have a nail, scratch your head).

The first Armenian republic, 1918~V20, for many reasons — war,
refugees, famine, sickness — was not able to lay firm foundations for
a civilized, democratic, and legal state, Mr. Tovmasian said. The
second republic with its Soviet experience, viewed the legal state as
bourgeois sentimentality. Today, the third Armenian republic is having
to deal with the consequences of this national historical experience.
The concept of statehood is one which we have not been able to grasp
and appreciate.

In examining democratic elections globally there are three
fundamental issues which they address: (a) resolution of political
conflicts, (b) the formation and evolution of a political elite, (c)
the legitimacy of the authorities. In Armenia however, these issues
are not addressed.

The first issue of democratic elections is conflict resolution. In
the civilized world, after each election the different candidates,
having different political positions or conflicts, accept defeat and
extend a hand to the winner. They each had a platform with which they
went to the electors. The electors decide the winner. In Mr.
Tovmasian’s opinion, in Armenia, political conflicts are not resolved
during elections; on the contrary they create political conflicts. "If
we look at the presidential elections of 1996, 2003, and 2008, we see
that they became the cause for the creation of new conflicts," he

The formation of a political elite in this country has not come to
be and the governing group after each presidential election loses some
of its legitimacy. "We saw this process take place in previous
presidential elections. Today the people are back on the streets.
Obviously this presidential election did not solve the issue of
legitimacy, it only contributed to people’s loss of faith in the

Elections in Armenia have not been able to address or resolve
political conflicts, have not helped in the formation of a political
elite nor have they contributed to the legitimacy of the authorities.
In order to have democratic elections, there are three preconditions.
"We need to have in place a well-formulated electoral code, a well
developed sociopolitical and legal culture, and political will of the
authorities to hold democratic elections," Mr. Tovmasian says.

According to Mr. Tovmasian, designing an electoral code is similar
to designing a computer program. Any program is susceptible to
viruses, regardless of how well the program is designed and protected.
In Armenia, the viruses are more resilient than the program. "I
remember one time during an interview on television, I joked that I
could write a book on a thousand ways to rig an election. The next day
I received over a hundred calls from people requesting that book. Some
even asked that I supply only them with that book. When I told them
that this book doesn’t exist, they wanted me to order one for them.
This just shows the willingness of certain elements to sabotage the

* The culture of democratic elections doesn’t exist in Armenia

In Armenia the culture of democratic elections and their role is
nonexistent. "We have not seen all the positive things that democratic
elections can bring," says Mr. Tovmasian. "That person who tries to
steal 100 drams from our pocket, we deem a thief, robber, a dreg of
society. But those who commit fraud during the elections, who pass out
bribes, who take bribes, we don’t see them as criminals or thieves —
we consider them sharp, nimble, artful, but they are not criminals.
What does this mean? It means that stealing the 100 dram is a
transgression or a crime committed against us, yet the other, election
fraud, we don’t appreciate as a crime. We don’t see it as a crime
against us, our pride of citizenship, our participation in the
elections, our state."

People should not expect their life to change for the better when
they take a bribe. "Taking a bribe is like taking pain relievers —
they might temporarily take the pain away, but the main sickness
remains; it’s only a band aid measure. The Armenian who takes the
bribe, believes that his problem will be eased, is fooling himself,
there is no healing," says Mr. Tovmasian.

One of the prerequisites to holding democratic elections is
political will expressed by the authorities. A state is created to
safeguard the rights of its citizens; but in Armenia people are in
search of mechanisms to protect them from the state. If the political
will to hold democratic elections in Armenia is lacking, the reason is
that being in power is the shortest and quickest way to get rich.
"Secondly, being in power is the only way to protect your accumulated
wealth. Why? If you do not have institutionalized guarantees such as
an independent justice system, a civil society, the only way to
protect what you have accumulated is to come to power," says Mr.
Tovmasian. "Therefore to expect in Armenia for authorities to have the
political will is infantile because that would mean first of all they
could not reap the benefits of the redistribution of the country’s
wealth, and that they could not protect their accumulated wealth,
therefore they neither want nor need political will to conduct
democratic elections if it means they will lose. As long as these
reasons exist, this situation will continue to perpetuate itself."

For Mr. Tovmasian, the "authority of the square" (referring to Mr.
Ter-Petrossian) is not a solution. There has to be a systematic,
consistent awareness campaign that needs to be realized, where every
citizen is empowered, and knows his or her rights. You cannot expect
to do that 20 days before an election.

* Protecting property rights by coming to power

"Why don’t rich Americans generally want to get into Congress? Because
they don’t need it; they don’t need to be there to (a) make money or
(b) protect their accumulated wealth. The high price of elections
diminishes, when the loss of power in government doesn’t mean losing
everything, when we have a developed civil society and people can make
the right decisions."

According to Mr. Tovmasian, the U.S. has had great presidents —
Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, who through their own persons have
created American history. Washington, through his own principles and
person laid the foundations for what the United States is today. "But
the U.S. has also had weak presidents like Johnson who admitted to
those closest to him that he had only read two or three books. Truman
— who had said that there are several million Americans who would do
a better job at the presidency than him. Eisenhower — who in his
political speeches said that he knew nothing about politics — he was
a military man. But during each of their presidencies America
continued to grow and develop and served as a beacon of hope and
democracy for the whole world." Mr. Tovmasian explains that it
continued because the political structure in the U.S. and other
developed democratic nations is not dependent upon individuals; it is
dependent upon institutions such as an independent judiciary,
federalism, decentralized governance, civil society. "If we, in
Armenia, are not able to institutionalize these values, then come the
next election, we’ll have different people rally in Freedom Square,
with the same slogans, the same accusations."

Mr. Tovmasian believes that the intelligentsia have the greatest
role to play, "They have to rise above all this and say something,
suggest solutions — instead of receiving medals, they should have
something to say."

His greatest concern is that if there are serious clashes today in
Armenia, there is no one who can rise up and lead people toward calm,
toward a resolution, starting from the Catholicos and ending with the
last intellectual. "God forbid that this situation not find its
resolution through legal and political means — otherwise that would
mean clashes, civil war, the victory of one over the other. Today, it
is crucial that both sides come out of this in victory," Mr. Tovmasian

The more aware citizens are, the more they know their rights and are
not willing to "adapt," the more the authorities will have to be
careful with what they do. People have been asking themselves how it
is that Levon Ter-Petrossian was able to get so many people to vote
for him. Mr. Tovmasian said that he told the authorities, "It’s
because of you. If any citizen has had to deal with the Customs
Department, or the Tax Department or City Hall, the courts, that
person will no longer vote for you. It’s not enough for you to raise
their pensions; you need to give them an honorable life. The Armenian
citizen wants to be able to go to court and believe that it’s
independent; he wants to be able to go to any state authority and not
be kept waiting ten hours outside their doors. If the citizen doesn’t
see this, then he will vote for the authorities. It’s not good enough
for you to say that you placed street lamps. The most important right
for any citizen is their dignity. Dignity can be lost even on the most
illuminated street."

Why did Levon Ter-Petrossian garner so many votes? According to most
experts, Mr. Ter-Petrossian was tactically right on the money. In
order for him to gain an upper hand he had to polarize the race, he
had to go toward conflict, show power. "People oftentimes like to go
with those who are powerful," said Mr. Tovmasian. This is where he
sees the difference between parliamentary elections and presidential

During parliamentary elections people will vote for the party, or
leader they find an affinity with or whose platform they support. In
presidential elections they bet their money on the fastest horse who’s
going to cross the finish line first. Levon Ter-Petrossian was able to
show that he has the ability to win. "In my opinion, the votes for
Vazgen Manukian and Vahan Hovhannesian were in reality much more, but
their electorate began to believe that they would not be able to win
therefore decided to go with Levon Ter-Petrossian. They said, ‘Yes,
he’s smart, honest, but doesn’t have any chances,’ and that’s why they
placed their bet on the former president. People don’t want to be with
the loser," Mr. Tovmasian explains.

While it is very apparent that those citizens gathered in Freedom
Square day after day are extremely dissatisfied and want to change the
present authorities, the question remains: do they know where they
will end up with Levon Ter-Petrossian? The authorities very
unsuccessful at attempting to show people what would happen of Mr.
Ter-Petrossian came to power. One of the candidates constantly showed
images from the dark and cold years as part of his media campaign
against the former president. "Those dark and cold years were the most
enlightened years of my life. I was going to school, I got married, we
were creating a new state and we were victorious in Karabakh," says
Mr. Tovmassian.

He explains that the authorities are now blaming Levon
Ter-Petrossian for creating this political structure, whereas in 1995
they adopted a constitution whose fruits he is enjoying today. "They
are waging a campaign against him with the very weapons he gave to the
authorities. He did not become DeGaulle, he did not become Lincoln or
Peter the Great — he laid crooked, distorted foundations of this
state where personal allegiances were paramount, where getting rich
through the authorities was the shortest way, where criticizing and
shutting down the media was the norm, where murders were politically
motivated. The foundations for all of these circumstances were placed
during the Ter-Petrossian regime and not to talk about them is not
possible. However what is he saying today? He’s saying I’ll come to
power and everything will be great. I have heard nothing else from
him. When I see who is standing beside Levon Ter-Petrossian in the
square, when I hear him announce that this general or that general has
come over to his side, when I see the team with which he plans to
govern, I understand that nothing will change in this country."

In this expert’s opinion the country desperately needs a third force
who can mediate and in the end show the right path to go down
together. Whether that could be a democratic grouping, or an
individual, people should not place personal ambitions above the
greater good. "Why Raffi Hovannisian joined Levon Ter-Petrossian I
will not understand. I myself do not have an explanation for that. Why
didn’t other forces unite? Quantity could have brought qualitative
change. People then would have had an alternative. It has to do with a
lack of a healthy political culture and the existence of personal
ambitions. Politics is the art of the possible. If you have the
ability, then you can make change. If you can’t make change then you
are not a good politician."

What would happen if Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s movement succeeds in
having the Constitutional Court deem the elections null and void? That
would mean victory for the one side, for Levon Ter-Petrossian. "I am
happy when I see that people believe in their movement — it gives me
pleasure when I see that young person in Freedom Square protesting,
and really believing in something, although I might not share his
beliefs — I don’t think we should destroy that belief. But we should
also be wary of having the authorities lose. There has to be solutions
or ways in which both sides can come out of this stalemate victorious,
or in the least, not as losers. We need to have people who can act as
mediators and bring the two sides to the table."

Mr. Tovmasian believes that Serge Sargsian’s effort to reach out at
his victory rally signifies a positive turn of events. One day after
the elections or even a few days ago, no one would have believed that
one side could suggest such a thing. "I welcome his position — Artur
Baghdasarian and Vahan Hovhannesian have suggested becoming mediators.
Political analysts are also getting more involved. It seems that
people are searching for a way to come out of the situation without
any bloodshed. Whereas 10 days ago any suggestion of some kind of
reconciliation or compromise was considered to be a fable —
unrealizable — today it has turned into a story which might be
realized. I haven’t lost hope that there is a solution or a way out of

********************************** *****************************************

12. "We cannot allow a schism in society," Oskanian says

* Cites "negative effects" on diplomacy

YEREVAN — What effect can increasing post-election tensions have on
the resolution of the Karabakh conflict? The Armenian Reporter posed
this question to Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian during a February 25
conversation with journalists. Mr. Oskanian said the effect can be
very negative. "I can understand rallies until the announcement of the
final results. I consider them to be expressions of democracy, in some
sense. Those 6~V7 days of the recounts, people protest that their
candidate was not elected. It is true, these rallies had an extremist
nature, but, in any case, I consider that they are tolerable, they are
an expression of democracy.

"But now that the final results have been announced, and nothing has
changed, if they continue, that means people intend to change
something by force. That is already something else. I think the
response to this must be different. There is the constitutional route;
they can apply to the Constitutional Court. This might in some way be
positive for democracy so far; but from here on in, it will start to
have a negative effect. I hope that everyone will realize this and
they will bring a very quick end to these rallies, they’ll take the
legal route, and also the route of ending this intolerance. We are
going to live together in this small country and cannot allow a schism
in society.

"You cannot imagine what negative effects this can have. Azerbaijan
has started taking advantage of the situation; in a diplomatic sense,
they have seen a window; it seems to them our administration is torn,
our society is torn, and they will be able to implement certain plans
that they have long tried and failed to implement.

"I think we should come together very quickly, become a strong fist
again, so that we can face all challenges.

"Most importantly, it would be a shame to lose the positive image
that Armenia has today in international Until now we haven’t lost it;
we have received positive evaluations from the international
community, after the parliamentary elections. It would be very bad.
Until now we haven’t lost it; we have received positive evaluations
from the international community. I even consider these rallies an
expression of democracy. But if we are able to evaluate the situation
correctly, end all of this, and shake each others hands. Maybe I am
overly hopeful. Maybe that won’t happen, but we must start a process
of c`oming together. We have a new president, who will take over on
April 9, and we must be able to move forward without schisms."

In response to another question, Mr. Oskanian said, "In this
election, it wasn’t ideas but people who clashed. The past and the
present, hatred, intolerance, the geography of our very small country,
and this is really very painful."

~WArmen Hakobyan

**************************************** ***********************************

13. Living in Armenia: The three presidents of modern-day Armenia

by Maria Titizian

Armenia is probably the only country in the world who can boast that
it has three presidents. Three. That’s right. There’s the incumbent,
Robert Kocharian, there’s President-elect Serge Sargsian, and then
there’s the self-proclaimed president of Freedom Square, Levon

For all intents and purposes, at least according to the Central
Electoral Commission of Armenia, Serge Sargsian is the president-elect
of this tiny, landlocked country that has sold off most of its energy,
communication networks, and infrastructure to Russia. Then there’s
also the small issue of the unresolved status of Nagorno-Karabakh, the
imposed blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan and the continuing war
mongering by Ilham Aliev and his cronies. Since independence a million
people have left the country. They left behind their homes, their
families, their lives. A young, energetic and highly qualified
generation is struggling to find its mission in this fledgling

Then there’s the reality that’s unfolding in Opera Square. Tens of
thousands of disgruntled citizens, tired of the ruling classes, tired
of living in a dual reality, have decided to support the former
president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrossian. The tents have increased,
the names of those who are defecting and going over to Mr.
Ter-Petrossian’s camp is also increasing, though the newer names are
not prominent ones. Every day they march through the streets of
Yerevan. Flags and fists in the air. Young and old.

This is the second presidential election I have witnessed in
Armenia, not to mention two sets of parliamentary elections, a
referendum on constitutional amendments and a couple of local
elections. In the 2003 presidential election, incumbent Robert
Kocharian was unable to cross the 50 percent threshold in the first
round, thereby forcing a second round. I remember very clearly the
impending sense of doom some of us were experiencing at the thought of
his rival, Stepan Demirchian becoming president, especially after the
now infamous debate he had with Robert Kocharian. I was in
self-imposed exile, unwilling to face the possibility of a weak,
inexperienced president. I think it was the only time I floundered
about our decision to move to Armenia. I remember thinking that I
would rather have stayed in Canada and kept the idea of an independent
Armenia on a pedestal, idolizing it rather than living in this mess.
Mess is not the word I was using at the time. In retrospect I was over
reacting. Today’s impasse is one which is far more dangerous to the
stability and future of this country.

The international observer mission gave what can be interpreted as a
positive report on the conduct of the election; the CIS observer
mission called them free and fair. The OSCE/ODIHR mission said their
responsiblity was not on the outcome of the elections, but the
process. Many of us present at the press conference of the
international observer mission were stunned into silence, knowing the
depth of violations that had occurred. While I appreciate that the
process tried to adhere to the principles of a democratic election,
the reality was something else. While I also appreciate that Armenian
statehood is in its infancy and am willing to accept much more is
unfair, I would have at least liked to have seen a veiled attempt at
something that had more integrity.

The one glaring shortcoming of this election campaign was media
coverage. It was very clear that the authorities through pressure and
manipulation were able to censor the airwaves. An independent media
can be as important as an independent judiciary, especially in a newly
formed democracy. In their attempt to discredit Levon Ter-Petrossian,
the authorities embarked on a smear campaign against the former
president. The little coverage they did give managed to capture
less-than-appealing images of the candidate and attempted to portray
his supporters as a bumbling, misguided collectivity. In fairness,
they did want to interview him, and he constantly refused everyone,
including our own paper. The media coverage of the post-election
period was worse than the campaign itself. While Levon Ter-Petrossian
managed to create a movement, bringing together tens of thousands of
supporters, erecting a tent city, and a 24-hour sit in, the media
consistently refused to cover it. They mentioned it briefly in
passing, but most of us who were desperate to find out what was
happening had to physically go to his rallies or hear it through the
BBC or Euronews.

Last Saturday morning at home I was switching between channels
trying to find out what had happened the night before. We were on a
constant state of alert, fearing that the authorities would try to
disperse the crowds under the pretext of public order, thus causing
clashes. Internet connection from my house is shoddy; just trying to
get connected is a test of nerves — yes, I still have dial-up and our
phone lines are not digitized — therefore I couldn’t read online wire
services. I called my girlfriend and we both decided to go to the
rally ourselves. It was a sunny day, with the feeling of spring in the
air. Just as we got to Liberty Square, Nikol Pashinian,
Ter-Petrossian’s supporter and organizer of the rallies, was speaking.
My friend and I walked arm in arm through the crowd, looked at the
tents that had been used as sleeping quarters for those who had stayed
overnight. Everyone was quietly and attentively listening to what
Pashinian was saying while eating sunflower seeds or smoking. We tried
to get close to the podium but it was packed. After walking around the
Opera and once again through the crowd we decided to go and sit at a
cafe on the grounds of the Opera building. While drinking our coffee,
we were watching people coming and going. Some carried flags, with
their fists in the air; others it seemed were out for a stroll; and a
lot of people like ourselves were there out of curiosity to try and
understand what was going on. We were in a media blackout after all.

While drinking my coffee I saw a tall woman walking along the path
leading to the rally. She was wearing a long, light brown coat with a
matching fedora. She had short, snow white hair and carried herself
with grace and poise. What caught my attention was a scarf she was
wearing over her coat. It was the scarf that belonged to one of the
other presidential campaigns. I thought my eyes would fall out of
their sockets. I couldn’t believe that this woman, about my mother’s
age, would take the risk of sporting an opponent’s campaign
paraphernalia on her person and walk into a crowd of thousands and
thousands of people there to support Levon Ter-Petrossian.

Hers was a quiet, courageous act, a stance, a position which she
dared to say silently, without pointing fingers, or yelling
profanities or spreading lies. This one woman had something to say and
she said it with as much dignity as I have ever seen in my life.

Everyone in this country could learn something from this woman. I
just wish they would stop to look and listen.

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14. Editorial: Democracy in Armenia

The weeks leading to Armenia’s February 19 presidential elections were
a time of passionate debate and engagement in the homeland. Citizens
of Armenia saw nine candidates articulate their positions on national
television, on the radio, in print media, online, and in gatherings in
every corner of the country.

Some candidates spoke about their vision for the future. Among those
were Prime Minister Serge Sargsian, former speaker Artur Baghdasarian,
and the ARF’s Vahan Hovhannesian. Others engaged in fierce criticism:
former president Levon Ter-Petrossian attacked President Robert
Kocharian and Mr. Sargsian; candidate Artashes Geghamian and others
went after Mr. Ter-Petrossian.

Most people we spoke to in Armenia in the early phase of the
election contest expected Mr. Sargsian to obtain a plurality of the
vote, after which he would face the second-place candidate — likely
Mr. Ter-Petrossian, Mr. Baghdasarian, or Mr. Hovhannesian — in a
second round.

As Election Day came closer, Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s support among
opposition voters began visibly to increase: more people showed up for
his rallies; the Heritage Party endorsed him; and polls showed him in
second place. Meanwhile, our interviews with voters indicated that the
prospect of a second Ter-Petrossian presidency increased the support
enjoyed by Mr. Sargsian. Undecided voters — and voters who were
leaning toward candidates who were unlikely to win — tilted toward
Mr. Sargsian, who represented stability and a predictable foreign
policy and was not Mr. Ter-Petrossian.

Turnout was high on Election Day. After the polls, reports from the
precincts began to trickle in. It began to emerge that Mr. Sargsian
had won outright, with 53 percent of the vote.

Did the outcome reflect the will of the electorate? All eyes were
now on the Western observers. They noted problems, but they found that
Armenia’s elections were an improvement over the May 2007
parliamentary elections, which were, in turn, an improvement over past
elections. In sum, they were "mostly" in line with Western standards.

The various camps listened to the reports coming in from their
people in the field: electoral commission members, proxies, and
organizers. Mr. Baghdasarian’s campaign decided to demand a recount in
certain precincts, where they had information about problems. Mr.
Hovhannesian’s team decided to accept the results, while calling for
certain improvements in the process for the future.

But Mr. Ter-Petrossian declined to concede his defeat at the polls.
He called on supporters to gather in Freedom Square and stay there
until he was inaugurated as president. Tens of thousands of Armenians
have joined him in his round-the-clock rally.

* * *

In the face of uncertainty about what might happen next, the mood in
the country in the 10 days that have elapsed since the election has
been grim.

Except, perhaps, in Freedom Square. One cannot help but be moved by
the sight of people from every walk of life gathered, making their
demands peacefully but resolutely. The last few nights have been cold
in Yerevan, and hundreds of people are spending them dancing on
Freedom Square.

In mobilizing this mass of people — in evoking their idealism and
in raising their hopes — Mr. Ter-Petrossian has taken on a heavy
responsibility. Will he be able to deliver what his supporters hope
for: a more democratic Armenia with a more level playing field?

Mr. Ter-Petrossian has tapped into a rich vein of popular discontent
and raw anger. With his encouragement, this anger is expressed in
unworthy terms: dividing the Armenian people into "us" and "scum";
"the people" and "traitors"; "Armenians" and "the Karabakh clan." This
is troubling, to say the least.

The central premise of Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s campaign is that he was
actually elected president by 60 to 65 percent of the electorate, with
Mr. Sargsian in fourth place. By making the goal of the campaign the
elevation of Mr. Ter-Petrossian to an office to which he was not
elected, Mr. Ter-Petrossian makes it difficult for other forces to
join the campaign, and for a compromise, win-win solution to emerge.

In fact, it has had the opposite effect. On Friday, Mr. Baghdasarian
agreed to bring his Country of Laws Party into a coalition with Mr.
Sargsian’s Republican Party and the Prosperous Armenia Party.
Meanwhile, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which has indicated
a desire to quit its power-sharing agreement with the Republican and
Prosperous Armenia coalition, has been reluctant to do so outright,
lest it be perceived as part of Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s camp.

The net effect, so far, has been to leave Armenia’s National
Assembly with a smaller opposition than it has had for the last nine

* * *

The initial tactic of the post-election campaign was to encourage mass
defections from the machinery of government. In the first few days a
handful of senior civil servants and diplomats joined the
Ter-Petrossian camp. Mr. Ter-Petrossian expressed confidence that the
commanders of the armed forces and the police will join him too. To
ask civil servants, diplomats, and above all people in uniform to
violate the laws on political neutrality and engage in mutiny is not a
route open to responsible leaders — especially in a country that
faces hostile neighbors to the east and west. Fortunately, that tactic

To their credit, Mr. Ter-Petrossian and his followers have
studiously avoided violence. And to his credit, Mr. Kocharian has
resisted any temptation he may have had to use force against peaceful

Mr. Ter-Petrossian has applied to the Constitutional Court to order
new elections. At press time, we had not seen the evidence of fraud
offered to support the application. In view of the conclusions of the
observers and the other camps, however, it appears unlikely that
evidence of massive fraud exists and that the application can succeed.

Where will this all end? We can hope that it will not end with the
complete marginalization of the 350,000-odd voters who supported Mr.
Ter-Petrossian. On their behalf, and on Armenia’s, he must start to
tone down the divisive rhetoric and look toward constructive steps
toward political reconciliation.

Steps that would address the concerns of the protesters — and could
be taken with or without Mr. Ter-Petrossian — include further
electoral reforms, the appointment of a strong and independent figure
as Armenia’s new prosecutor general, and reforms in the way broadcast
media are regulated and public television and radio are managed.

Meanwhile, there are avenues for a mobilized and responsible
opposition to take from here on in. Later this year, Yerevan will hold
municipal elections. Part of democratic political culture, as
President Kocharian recently noted, is accepting defeat at the polls;
and, we would add, moving on to the next electoral contest with new
ideas and renewed energy.

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