RFE/RL Armenian Report – 06/30/2020

                                        Tuesday, 

Armenian, Azeri FMs Trade Accusations In Fresh Talks


Switzerland -- Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian of Armenia and Elmar 
Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan and international mediators meet in Geneva, January 
30, 2020.

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of hampering a resolution of the 
Nagorno-Karabakh during a fresh video of conference of their foreign ministers 
and international mediators held on Tuesday.

Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov spoke with each 
other and the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group 
for the second time in two months.

Mnatsakanian was quoted by his press office as condemning Azerbaijani leaders’ 
latest “bellicose and unconstructive” statements. He said that they “damage” 
international efforts to end the conflict.

Mnatsakanian apparently referred to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s June 25 
remarks made at a meeting with Azerbaijani army officers. Aliyev described 
Armenia’s post-Soviet history as “shameful,” saying that his country’s arch-foe 
was for decades ruled by “criminals and thieves.” He also said that the 2018 
popular protests that brought Nikol Pashinian to power were not a democratic 
revolution.

An Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman hit back at Aliyev, saying that he 
leads one of the world’s most corrupt and repressive regimes which feels 
threatened by “democratic changes taking place in Armenia.”

Mammadyarov was reported to say during the video conference that the recent 
“aggressive rhetoric” deplored by the mediators is the result of Armenia’s 
provocative actions” taken in the “occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” Those 
include illegal “infrastructure changes” carried out there, he said in an 
apparent reference to the planned reconstruction of another road connecting 
Karabakh to Armenia.

According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Mnatsakanian stressed the importance 
of ensuring Karabakh residents’ “free and safe movements.” This is an important 
element of Karabakh’s “comprehensive security,” he said.

In a joint statement on the talks, the Minsk Group co-chairs said they “noted 
with concern that recent provocative statements, inflammatory rhetoric, and 
possible steps intended to change the situation on the ground in tangible ways 
could undermine the settlement process.”

“The Co‑Chairs stressed that there is no military solution to the conflict,” 
read the statement. “They urged the sides to take additional steps to strengthen 
the ceasefire and to prepare the populations for peace.”

“The Co‑Chairs and Foreign Ministers‎ agreed to hold another joint video 
conference in July and to meet in person as soon as possible,” concluded the 
mediators.

Prime Minister Pashinian criticized Aliyev in unusually strong terms as he 
chaired a meeting of Armenia’s and Karabakh’s top security officials on June 19. 
He said that Aliyev is sticking to “maximalist” demands instead of reciprocating 
his repeated calls for an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal that would satisfy all 
parties to the conflict.




Parliament Passes More Amendments On Constitutional Court

        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia -- A session of the National Assembly, Yerevan, June 24, 2020.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc pushed through the parliament on 
Tuesday more legal amendments meant to complete the controversial dismissal of 
three of the nine members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court.

The parliament already approved on June 22 constitutional changes calling for 
their replacement by other judges to be appointed by its pro-government majority.

The changes require the gradual resignation of seven members of the high court 
installed before April 2018. Three of them are to resign with immediate effect. 
Also, Hrayr Tovmasian must quit as court chairman but remain a judge.

Tovmasian and the three judges refused to step down, however. In a joint 
statement issued last week, they argued that the authorities have not made 
similar changes to a separate Armenian law on the Constitutional Court.

The National Assembly did just that on Tuesday. Another amendment passed by it 
made the ousted justices eligible for a state pension.

The parliament controlled by My Step also altered a legal procedure for the 
appointed of the new Constitutional Court members. They will be nominated by the 
Armenian government, President Armen Sarkissian and an assembly of the country’s 
judges. The high court will pick its new chairperson shortly after the three 
vacancies are filled by the parliament.

The latest amendments were passed after a short debate that was boycotted by the 
two opposition parties represented in the parliament. One of them, the 
Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), says that the constitutional changes contradict 
other articles of the Armenian constitution and were enacted with serious 
procedural violations.

The BHK as well as two other, extraparliamentary opposition parties -- the 
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Hayrenik (Fatherland) -- 
demanded on Tuesday a criminal investigation into what they called a “usurpation 
of power.” In a 9-page “crime report” submitted to the Office of the 
Prosecutor-General, they claimed that Pashinian’s political team has illegally 
seized control of the Constitutional Court.

Tovmasian and the three ousted judges -- Alvina Gyulumian, Felix Tokhian and 
Hrant Nazarian -- also challenge the legality of the constitutional changes. 
Gyulumian has pledged to ask the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to 
reinstate her.


Armenia -- Supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian block the entrance to 
the Constitutional Court buildin in Yerevan, May 20, 2019.

Pashinian and his political allies maintain that the constitution was amended in 
a lawful manner. A senior My Step lawmaker said last week that the amendments 
will eventually result in a Constitutional Court “enjoying the public’s trust.”

Tovmasian and most other court justices have been under strong government 
pressure to step down over the past year. Pashinian has accused them of 
maintaining close ties to the country’s former government and impeding his 
judicial reforms.

Tovmasian and opposition figures have dismissed Pashinian’s claims and in turn 
accused the prime minister of seeking to make the Constitutional Court loyal to 
the current government.

In a written opinion made public on June 22, the Venice Commission of the 
Council of Europe largely backed the constitutional amendments drafted by the 
Armenian authorities. But it criticized the authorities’ refusal to introduce a 
transitional period that would “allow for a gradual change in the composition of 
the court in order to avoid any abrupt and immediate change endangering the 
independence of this institution.”

The Strasbourg-based body also said that the authorities should not rush to have 
Tovmasian replaced by another Constitutional Court chairman.

In a letter to Tovmasian publicized by the Constitutional Court on Friday, 
Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio reiterated that the amendments are 
“not in line” with the commission’s recommendations.




Tsarukian Also Infected With Coronavirus

        • Astghik Bedevian

Armenia -- Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian arrives for a court 
hearing in Yerevan, June 21, 2020.

Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party 
(BHK), said on Tuesday that he has been infected with the coronavirus.

Tsarukian posted on his Facebook page a short video of him saying jokingly 
earlier this year that “the coronavirus doesn’t hit good people.”

“So the coronavirus does not bypass good people either,” he wrote. “Quick 
recovery to all carriers of the virus!”

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Iveta Tonoyan, Tsarukian’s spokeswoman, 
confirmed that he has caught the disease.

It was not immediately clear whether the 63-year-old businessman and former 
arm-wrestler, who also heads Armenia’s National Olympic Committee, is receiving 
treatment at home or in hospital.

Several other members of the Armenian parliament affiliated with the BHK tested 
positive for the virus late last week. At least seven deputies representing 
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc also reportedly got infected and 
had to self-isolate in recent days.

The Armenian health authorities have registered 25,542 coronavirus cases in the 
country of about 3 million so far. They said on Tuesday that 14 more people 
infected with COVID-19 have died in the past 24 hours.

According to the Ministry of Health, the virus was the main cause of 10 of those 
deaths. The official death toll from the epidemic thus rose to 443.

Despite the reported infection of at least a dozen lawmakers, Armenia’s 132-seat 
parliament convened in the morning for an emergency session initiated by My Step.

The BHK’s 25-strong parliamentary group has boycotted parliament sessions for 
the last two weeks in protest against its pro-government majority’s June 16 
decision to lift Tsarukian’s immunity from prosecution. The BHK leader is facing 
accusations of vote buying which he rejects as politically motivated.

On June 21, a Yerevan court refused to allow law-enforcement authorities to 
arrest Tsarukian pending investigation. Prosecutors appealed against the ruling.




France Offers Emergency Loan To Armenia



France -- French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the annual dinner of 
the Co-ordination Council of Armenian organisations of France (CCAF), in Paris, 
February 5, 2019

France has expressed readiness to lend Armenia up to 80 million euros ($90 
million) in emergency funding designed help the South Caucasus state tackle the 
coronavirus crisis and its severe economic fallout.

French President Emmanuel Macron offered the low-interest loan in a letter to 
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian publicized on Tuesday.

Macron voiced “solidarity” with the Armenian authorities’ efforts to contain the 
spread of the coronavirus and said that a third team of French medics will fly 
to Yerevan later this week to help their Armenian colleagues struggling to cope 
with the deadly pandemic.

He went on to inform Pashinian that the French Development Agency (AFD) stands 
ready to allocate a loan worth between 50 million and 80 million euros that 
would partly cover Armenia’s “needs for additional budgetary funding” and 
strengthen the country’s crisis management capacity.

The French government agency would provide this assistance in collaboration with 
the World Bank and other multilateral lending institutions, added Macron.

The Armenian government announced in late April plans to borrow more than $500 
million to cushion the impact of an unfolding recession resulting from the 
pandemic. The government subsequently amended its 2020 budget to take account of 
150 billion drams ($310 million) in coronavirus-related relief measures financed 
by it and a shortfall in tax revenues which is projected to total 170 billion 
drams this year.

In May, the International Monetary Fund disbursed a $280 million emergency loan 
to the authorities in Yerevan. The authorities announced afterwards that they 
will receive a separate $30 million IMF loan later this year.

The Armenian economy expanded robustly from 2017 through the first quarter of 
this year. It is now on course to contract by at least 2 percent in 2020.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


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RFE/RL Armenian Report – 06/30/2020

                                        Tuesday, 

Armenian, Azeri FMs Trade Accusations In Fresh Talks


Switzerland -- Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian of Armenia and Elmar 
Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan and international mediators meet in Geneva, January 
30, 2020.

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of hampering a resolution of the 
Nagorno-Karabakh during a fresh video of conference of their foreign ministers 
and international mediators held on Tuesday.

Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov spoke with each 
other and the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group 
for the second time in two months.

Mnatsakanian was quoted by his press office as condemning Azerbaijani leaders’ 
latest “bellicose and unconstructive” statements. He said that they “damage” 
international efforts to end the conflict.

Mnatsakanian apparently referred to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s June 25 
remarks made at a meeting with Azerbaijani army officers. Aliyev described 
Armenia’s post-Soviet history as “shameful,” saying that his country’s arch-foe 
was for decades ruled by “criminals and thieves.” He also said that the 2018 
popular protests that brought Nikol Pashinian to power were not a democratic 
revolution.

An Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman hit back at Aliyev, saying that he 
leads one of the world’s most corrupt and repressive regimes which feels 
threatened by “democratic changes taking place in Armenia.”

Mammadyarov was reported to say during the video conference that the recent 
“aggressive rhetoric” deplored by the mediators is the result of Armenia’s 
provocative actions” taken in the “occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” Those 
include illegal “infrastructure changes” carried out there, he said in an 
apparent reference to the planned reconstruction of another road connecting 
Karabakh to Armenia.

According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Mnatsakanian stressed the importance 
of ensuring Karabakh residents’ “free and safe movements.” This is an important 
element of Karabakh’s “comprehensive security,” he said.

In a joint statement on the talks, the Minsk Group co-chairs said they “noted 
with concern that recent provocative statements, inflammatory rhetoric, and 
possible steps intended to change the situation on the ground in tangible ways 
could undermine the settlement process.”

“The Co‑Chairs stressed that there is no military solution to the conflict,” 
read the statement. “They urged the sides to take additional steps to strengthen 
the ceasefire and to prepare the populations for peace.”

“The Co‑Chairs and Foreign Ministers‎ agreed to hold another joint video 
conference in July and to meet in person as soon as possible,” concluded the 
mediators.

Prime Minister Pashinian criticized Aliyev in unusually strong terms as he 
chaired a meeting of Armenia’s and Karabakh’s top security officials on June 19. 
He said that Aliyev is sticking to “maximalist” demands instead of reciprocating 
his repeated calls for an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal that would satisfy all 
parties to the conflict.




Parliament Passes More Amendments On Constitutional Court

        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia -- A session of the National Assembly, Yerevan, June 24, 2020.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc pushed through the parliament on 
Tuesday more legal amendments meant to complete the controversial dismissal of 
three of the nine members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court.

The parliament already approved on June 22 constitutional changes calling for 
their replacement by other judges to be appointed by its pro-government majority.

The changes require the gradual resignation of seven members of the high court 
installed before April 2018. Three of them are to resign with immediate effect. 
Also, Hrayr Tovmasian must quit as court chairman but remain a judge.

Tovmasian and the three judges refused to step down, however. In a joint 
statement issued last week, they argued that the authorities have not made 
similar changes to a separate Armenian law on the Constitutional Court.

The National Assembly did just that on Tuesday. Another amendment passed by it 
made the ousted justices eligible for a state pension.

The parliament controlled by My Step also altered a legal procedure for the 
appointed of the new Constitutional Court members. They will be nominated by the 
Armenian government, President Armen Sarkissian and an assembly of the country’s 
judges. The high court will pick its new chairperson shortly after the three 
vacancies are filled by the parliament.

The latest amendments were passed after a short debate that was boycotted by the 
two opposition parties represented in the parliament. One of them, the 
Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), says that the constitutional changes contradict 
other articles of the Armenian constitution and were enacted with serious 
procedural violations.

The BHK as well as two other, extraparliamentary opposition parties -- the 
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Hayrenik (Fatherland) -- 
demanded on Tuesday a criminal investigation into what they called a “usurpation 
of power.” In a 9-page “crime report” submitted to the Office of the 
Prosecutor-General, they claimed that Pashinian’s political team has illegally 
seized control of the Constitutional Court.

Tovmasian and the three ousted judges -- Alvina Gyulumian, Felix Tokhian and 
Hrant Nazarian -- also challenge the legality of the constitutional changes. 
Gyulumian has pledged to ask the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to 
reinstate her.


Armenia -- Supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian block the entrance to 
the Constitutional Court buildin in Yerevan, May 20, 2019.

Pashinian and his political allies maintain that the constitution was amended in 
a lawful manner. A senior My Step lawmaker said last week that the amendments 
will eventually result in a Constitutional Court “enjoying the public’s trust.”

Tovmasian and most other court justices have been under strong government 
pressure to step down over the past year. Pashinian has accused them of 
maintaining close ties to the country’s former government and impeding his 
judicial reforms.

Tovmasian and opposition figures have dismissed Pashinian’s claims and in turn 
accused the prime minister of seeking to make the Constitutional Court loyal to 
the current government.

In a written opinion made public on June 22, the Venice Commission of the 
Council of Europe largely backed the constitutional amendments drafted by the 
Armenian authorities. But it criticized the authorities’ refusal to introduce a 
transitional period that would “allow for a gradual change in the composition of 
the court in order to avoid any abrupt and immediate change endangering the 
independence of this institution.”

The Strasbourg-based body also said that the authorities should not rush to have 
Tovmasian replaced by another Constitutional Court chairman.

In a letter to Tovmasian publicized by the Constitutional Court on Friday, 
Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio reiterated that the amendments are 
“not in line” with the commission’s recommendations.




Tsarukian Also Infected With Coronavirus

        • Astghik Bedevian

Armenia -- Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian arrives for a court 
hearing in Yerevan, June 21, 2020.

Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party 
(BHK), said on Tuesday that he has been infected with the coronavirus.

Tsarukian posted on his Facebook page a short video of him saying jokingly 
earlier this year that “the coronavirus doesn’t hit good people.”

“So the coronavirus does not bypass good people either,” he wrote. “Quick 
recovery to all carriers of the virus!”

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Iveta Tonoyan, Tsarukian’s spokeswoman, 
confirmed that he has caught the disease.

It was not immediately clear whether the 63-year-old businessman and former 
arm-wrestler, who also heads Armenia’s National Olympic Committee, is receiving 
treatment at home or in hospital.

Several other members of the Armenian parliament affiliated with the BHK tested 
positive for the virus late last week. At least seven deputies representing 
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc also reportedly got infected and 
had to self-isolate in recent days.

The Armenian health authorities have registered 25,542 coronavirus cases in the 
country of about 3 million so far. They said on Tuesday that 14 more people 
infected with COVID-19 have died in the past 24 hours.

According to the Ministry of Health, the virus was the main cause of 10 of those 
deaths. The official death toll from the epidemic thus rose to 443.

Despite the reported infection of at least a dozen lawmakers, Armenia’s 132-seat 
parliament convened in the morning for an emergency session initiated by My Step.

The BHK’s 25-strong parliamentary group has boycotted parliament sessions for 
the last two weeks in protest against its pro-government majority’s June 16 
decision to lift Tsarukian’s immunity from prosecution. The BHK leader is facing 
accusations of vote buying which he rejects as politically motivated.

On June 21, a Yerevan court refused to allow law-enforcement authorities to 
arrest Tsarukian pending investigation. Prosecutors appealed against the ruling.




France Offers Emergency Loan To Armenia



France -- French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the annual dinner of 
the Co-ordination Council of Armenian organisations of France (CCAF), in Paris, 
February 5, 2019

France has expressed readiness to lend Armenia up to 80 million euros ($90 
million) in emergency funding designed help the South Caucasus state tackle the 
coronavirus crisis and its severe economic fallout.

French President Emmanuel Macron offered the low-interest loan in a letter to 
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian publicized on Tuesday.

Macron voiced “solidarity” with the Armenian authorities’ efforts to contain the 
spread of the coronavirus and said that a third team of French medics will fly 
to Yerevan later this week to help their Armenian colleagues struggling to cope 
with the deadly pandemic.

He went on to inform Pashinian that the French Development Agency (AFD) stands 
ready to allocate a loan worth between 50 million and 80 million euros that 
would partly cover Armenia’s “needs for additional budgetary funding” and 
strengthen the country’s crisis management capacity.

The French government agency would provide this assistance in collaboration with 
the World Bank and other multilateral lending institutions, added Macron.

The Armenian government announced in late April plans to borrow more than $500 
million to cushion the impact of an unfolding recession resulting from the 
pandemic. The government subsequently amended its 2020 budget to take account of 
150 billion drams ($310 million) in coronavirus-related relief measures financed 
by it and a shortfall in tax revenues which is projected to total 170 billion 
drams this year.

In May, the International Monetary Fund disbursed a $280 million emergency loan 
to the authorities in Yerevan. The authorities announced afterwards that they 
will receive a separate $30 million IMF loan later this year.

The Armenian economy expanded robustly from 2017 through the first quarter of 
this year. It is now on course to contract by at least 2 percent in 2020.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


You may also like