RFE/RL Armenian Report – 05/18/2017


Sarkisian Vows To Work With All Forces As New Parliament Convenes

 . Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian delivers a speech in parliament at
its first session, 

President Serzh Sarkisian spoke about his readiness to work with all
political parties and blocs represented in the new Armenian parliament
as he addressed the legislative body during its inaugural session on

The current National Assembly consisting of 105 members is dominated
by Sarkisian's ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that polled 49
percent in last month's general elections and now controls 58 seats in
the body. Together with its junior coalition partner, the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), that has 7 members in the
body, the HHK also enjoys a constitutional majority. The alliance led
by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian has 31 seats, while the opposition Yelk (Way
Out) bloc of outspoken government critic Nikol Pashinian has 9 members
in the new National Assembly.

In accordance with changes made in Armenia's Constitution as a result
of a 2015 referendum, the South Caucasus country will make a full
transition to a parliamentary form of government in April 2018 when
Sarkisian's second and final term as president ends.

"We have put in place new constitutional structures and orders after a
heated debate. The goal of these changes is to have a more balanced,
effective, accountable and consolidated power. As to how we are
successful in achieving this goal will largely depend on people in
this chamber," the Armenian president said.

Sarkisian also stressed the increased role of political parties in the
public and political life of the country under the new
Constitution. "We have stressed that shared ideology will be the main
driving force for political parties. But as the head of state and
leader of the largest political party I urge all political forces in
the National Assembly, in selecting people or forming bodies working
in the spheres of justice and law-enforcement, to be guided not by the
principle of `he or she shares our ideology', but by the principle of
`he or she is a professional in this job'. Only with this approach can
we ensure an effective system of justice," he warned.

In his address, the Armenian leader also described injustice as one of
the most dangerous "internal enemies" of Armenia "Today, we declare a
new stage of war against injustice," he said.

According to Sarkisian, despite the difference of opinions on a
variety of issues that was clearly demonstrated during the election
campaign, "these opinions, after all, lead to one idea - we must build
a strong Armenia."

He said that the activities of the future governments will be aimed at
achieving this goal. "Therefore, I think it is very important to have
long-term economic targets that will be not only the responsibility,
but also a matter of honor for Armenian governments," Sarkisian

He said that average annual GDP growth in Armenia should be
considerably higher than the average expansion of global economy "so
that the difference between the per capita GDP indexes of Armenia and
developed countries get gradually reduced."

Armenia's GDP grew from about $2.25 billion in 1990 to over $10.5
billion in 2015, Sarkisian said. "In 2016-2040 we should ensure an
average annual GDP growth of 5 percent and achieve a GDP level of over
$57-60 billion," the Armenian leader emphasized.

Remarkably, the Yelk lawmakers were not present in the chamber during
Sarkisian's speech. Aram Sargsian, a member of the opposition
alliance's faction, later told RFE/RL's Armenian service
(Azatutyun.am), that this way they "boycotted Serzh Sarkisian and not
the parliament." "As a guarantor of free and fair elections the
president failed to fulfill his duties, and that's why we had to show
our attitude," he explained.

Under Armenian law, the government led by Karen Karapetian has
resigned today as the new National Assembly formed after general
elections convened. Later during the day President Sarkisian signed a
decree reappointing Karapetian prime minister.

Ara Babloyan Elected Armenian Parliament Speaker

 . Astghik Bedevian

Armenia -- Ara Babloyan, the newly elected speaker of the Armenian

Former health minister Ara Babloyan has been installed as speaker of
Armenia's newly elected parliament after receiving 88 "for" votes in a
ballot of 100 lawmakers on Thursday.

Twelve members of Armenia's National Assembly voted against Babloyan,
who was nominated by the majority Republican Party of Armenia (HHK),
and in favor of the second candidate, Edmon Marukian, nominated by the
opposition Yelk (Way Out) faction.

Babloyan served as Armenia's health minister in 1991-1997 before
returning to his professional medical career until 2007 when he was
elected to parliament on the list of the HHK and then was returned to
the legislative body five years later. He occupied the fourth position
on the HHK slate during last month's elections and was named for the
position by President Serzh Sarkisian, who is the leader of the HHK.

Before the vote Babloyan said that if elected, he would strengthen
cooperation between the government and opposition factions. "For me,
as for an Armenian, there are three key components of strengthening
the State - security, health and education. We ought to ensure the
internal and external security of our country, ensure state authority,
enhance our borders, strengthen our army and statehood," he said.

By contrast, Marukian suggested that an opposition figure could also
be the speaker of parliament. In his words, it would help the cause by
"introducing some balance."

Under Armenia's constitution, the opposition is entitled to having the
position of one of two deputy speakers. The second largest
parliamentary faction formed by the alliance of tycoon Gagik Tsarukian
that has declared itself an opposition has nominated Mikael Melkumian
for this post.

The other two deputy speakers are likely to be former justice minister
Arpine Hovannisian and former deputy speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, both
of whom have been nominated by the HHK.

The HHK has 58 mandates in the 105-seat National Assembly and together
with its coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashanktsutyun) that has 7 lawmakers, enjoys a constitutional
majority. The Tsarukian alliance and Yelk have 31 and 9 seats,

Armenia Reiterates Readiness For Compromise Solution In Karabakh

 . Suren Musayelyan

Nagorno-Karabakh - Armenian soldiers at an artillery position in
southeastern Karabakh, 5Apr2016.

A change of the status quo in the protracted Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
is acceptable to Armenia, "but only if there is a comprehensive
solution to the problem."

This was stated by President Serzh Sarkisian in his address to the
Armenian parliament today.

According to Sarkisian, Armenia has repeatedly pronounced in favor of
resolving the conflict with Azerbaijan on the basis of "mutual
concessions whose essence is the recognition and exercise by Artsakh
(ed: Nagorno-Karabakh) of its right to self-determination."

"Yes, on the basis of a compromise, and not unilateral concessions,
yielding to Azerbaijani threats that otherwise a war is inevitable. We
don't want to maintain the status quo for a single day if we don't
have to. We don't want to put the burden of resolving the problem on
the shoulders of the generations to come, and this is what our common
efforts with the mediating countries are aimed at," the Armenian
leader emphasized.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian addresses parliament, Yerevan, May
18, 2017
Sarkisian warned, at the same time, that while being ready for a
peaceful solution to the problem, "we are also ready and will be ready
to defend our homeland, our dignity and our freedom at any cost."

Sarkisian's statement comes amid heightened tensions in the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone where in recent days the Armenian and
Azerbaijani armed forces claimed to have destroyed enemy defense
facilities and inflicted casualties on each other.

As recently as Monday Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov
stated that after the Moscow meeting with his Armenian counterpart
Edward Nalbandian hosted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov he
"got the impression that peace in exchange for an Armenian withdrawal,
in other words, according to the `territories for peace' principle,
was possible."

He said that this was "the logic of the whole negotiating process
during the past 12 years." "Today it is evident to all that Armenia
must withdraw its troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,"
the top Azerbaijani diplomat said.

Armenia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly reacted to the remarks
as its spokesperson Tigran Balayan implied this was not what was
discussed during the Lavrov-Nalbandian-Mammadyarov meeting in late

The American, Russian and French co-chairs of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, which has an
international mandate to broker a peaceful solution to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, are expected to pay their next visit to the
region in June or July.

Nagorno-Karabakh broke free from Baku's control in the early 1990s,
triggering a three-year war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and
left ethnic Armenians in control of the region.

The Armenia-backed Karabakh military and Azerbaijani armed forces
clashed in April 2016 in what was later dubbed as a four-day war that
killed dozens on both sides.

International diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict during the
last 25 years have brought little progress.

Gyumri Massacre Convict Sent To Russian Jail

Armenia - Valery Permyakov, a Russian soldier, stands trial on charges
of murdering an Armenian family of seven in Gyumri, 18Jan2016

The Russian soldier convicted of murdering an Armenian family of seven
in Gyumri more than two years ago has been sent to Russia to serve his
life sentence there, the Armenian Ministry of Justice reported on

The Ministry, in particular, said that "as a result of consultations
with corresponding Russian bodies arrangements were made for the
provision to the Armenian side in the future of information about
Valery Permyakov's serving his sentence in the event of such an

Permyakov, 21, has admitted to gunning down a middle-aged couple,
their daughter, son, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old granddaughter in
their home in January 2015. The Avetisian family's seventh member, a
6-month-old baby boy, was stabbed and fatally wounded.

A Russian military court sentenced Permyakov to 10 years in prison for
desertion and theft of firearms and ammunition in a short trial held
in August 2015. His main, Armenian trial on murder charges began
shortly afterwards.

In an Armenian-jurisdiction trial controversially held on the premises
of the Russian military base in Gyumri a court sentenced the conscript
to life imprisonment in August 2016. Armenia's Court of Appeals upheld
the guilty verdict in December.

Permyakov was kept in custody at the Gyumri headquarters of a Russian
military base in Armenia ever since he was arrested on the
Armenian-Turkish border hours after the gruesome killings.

The Armenian Ministry of Justice announced earlier this month that
Permyakov might be transferred to Russia "since both Armenian and
Russian courts have handed down verdicts regarding him."

Officials in Moscow said in the immediate aftermath of the shock
killings that Permyakov could only be tried by a Russian court because
Russia's constitution prohibits extradition of Russian nationals to
foreign states. That caused outrage among many Armenians fearing a
Russian cover-up of the massacre.

Thousands of them demonstrated in Gyumri in January 2015 to demand
Permyakov's handover to the Armenian side. Some of them clashed with
riot police outside the local Russian consulate. The Russian
authorities eventually agreed to place the murder case under Armenian

Press Review

Armenian newspapers focus on the new National Assembly and nominations
for leadership positions in it.

"Zhamanak" suggests that the nomination of former health minister Ara
Babloyan for the position of parliament speaker shows President Serzh
Sarkisian's distrust towards his own political party: "This is not a
new phenomenon, but it gets a new manifestation#This time, however,
the matter concerns the speaker of parliament, that is, the leader of
the top political body under Armenia's reformed Constitution. And when
Sarkisian expresses his distrust towards the Republican Party of
Armenia (HHK) by this nomination, then it already becomes an essential
challenge to the HHK or its `old spirit'. Though, here the matter does
not concern a `new spirit' as Ara Babloyan can hardly be described as
`the HHK's new spirit'. He is more likely to be a `tie' within the
government that Sarkisian registers for now. Sarkisian has no solution
at least for now and is simply trying to gain time."

"Zhoghovurd" calls Babloyan's nomination a `surprise' as his name was
not mentioned among possible candidates and, in general, "he is not
considered to be a political figure, even though in 1991-1997 he
served as health minister." Babloyan has not particularly been
associated with the HHK either, even though he was number four in the
ruling party's slate during the elections. If we consider the fact
that Babloyan is not a discredited person, then his nomination can be
considered to be pretty normal. But, on the other hand, his nomination
is odd, as besides being an apolitical figure, Babloyan is also quite
old - he is 70 years old, a year older than former parliament speaker
Galust Sahakian. So, the HHK's assertions that they have brought
`fresh' figures to the National Assembly, in fact, are not true to

"168 Zham" writes: "The biggest problem of the newly elected
parliament is that, like its predecessors, the current legislature is
also as much detached from society as it is connected with different
threads to the government. And this means that the new parliament in
any case will be working not for the public, but for the government,
which has lost touch with society from times immemorial and has
ensured its reproduction due to this."

(Tigran Avetisian)

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Emil Lazarian

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