Monday, June 7, 2021 Armenian Foreign Ministry Confirms More Resignations Armenia - The Armenian Foreign Ministry building in Yerevan. All four deputy foreign ministers of Armenia tendered their resignations after Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian stepped down on May 27, it was officially confirmed on Monday. Ayvazian announced his decision hours after an emergency session of the Armenian government’s Security Council which discussed mounting tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Speaking at a May 31 farewell meeting with the Foreign Ministry staff, Ayvazian hinted that he is quitting because of disagreeing with government decisions which he believes could put the country’s sovereignty and national security at risk. He did not go into details. It emerged afterwards that one of Ayvazian’s deputies, Gagik Ghalachian, also handed in his resignation on May 27. Some Armenian media outlets reported last week that the three other deputy ministers -- Artak Apitonian, Avet Adonts and Armen Ghevondian -- followed suit. The Armenian Foreign Ministry confirmed those reports on Monday. It told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the resignations of Apitonian, Adonts and Ghevondian were submitted to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s office for approval last week. None of the vice-ministers has been formally relieved of his duties so far. Speaking at the May 27 meeting of the Security Council, Pashinian called for the deployment of international observers along contested portions of the frontier where Armenian and Azerbaijani troops have been facing off against each other for the last four weeks. Some opposition figures and other critics of Pashinian denounced the proposal, accusing him of failing to defend Armenia against foreign aggression and plotting to cede Armenian territory to Baku. The prime minister and his allies deny that. Ayvazian’s remarks gave Pashinian’s detractors more ammunition. An Armenian government spokeswoman challenged the outgoing minister to publicly clarify “who, where and how was going to take some steps or to make decisions contradicting our country’s national and state interests.” Ter-Petrosian Warns Of Election Trouble • Sargis Harutyunyan Armenia -- First President Levon Ter-Petrossian launches the election campaign of his Armenian National Congress party, Yerevan, June 7, 2021 Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian continued to attack his successor Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Monday, saying that their bitter rivalry will make the upcoming parliamentary elections the “most dangerous” in Armenia’s history. Ter-Petrosian claimed that they are ready to do everything to win the snap elections scheduled for June 20. “It’s a battle between their resources and supporters for now,” he said. “They will not content themselves with that. There will be thousands of irregularities by both sides during the elections. In case of thousands of irregularities there will definitely be incidents inside polling stations that could get out of control.” Speaking during the official presentation of the election manifesto of his Armenian National Congress (HAK) party, Ter-Petrosian also said Pashinian and Kocharian are motivated by personal revenge and never fulfill their promises. “They have said one thing but done a totally different thing,” he said. Last month Ter-Petrosian publicly called on Kocharian and the other former Armenian president, Serzh Sarkisian, to lead together with him a broad-based opposition alliance and try to unseat Pashinian. He said they also must also pledge not to seek the post of prime minister in the event of their bloc’s victory. Both men turned down the proposal. Ter-Petrosian, who had served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, insisted that an electoral alliance of the three ex-presidents would have left Pashinian without any chance of reelection. Pashinian last week invited Ter-Petrosian, Kocharian and Sarkisian to a live televised debate. All three men dismissed the offer. “I turned down Pashinian out of pity,” Ter-Petrosian explained on Monday. “I took pity on him because that debate could have meant a [political] suicide for Nikol.” Pashinian played a major role in Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 opposition movement. He subsequently fell out with the 76-year-old ex-president and set up his own party. Gunfire Reported On Armenian-Azeri Border • Susan Badalian Armenia - A view from Kut village in Gegharkuniq province, June 6, 2021. Tensions remain high along contested sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, with the Armenian military claiming on Monday to have forced Azerbaijani troops to stop fortifying some of their new positions controversially taken almost a month ago. Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its troops took “counteractions” on the Armenian side of the frontier near the village of Verin Shorzha in eastern Gegharkunik province. It released a short video that purportedly showed Azerbaijani excavators digging trenches and then leaving the scene after what appeared to be gunshots fired from nearby Armenian positions. “They [the excavators] worked here both yesterday and today. But nothing is being done right now,” Verin Shorzha’s mayor told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. Azerbaijani troops reportedly crossed several sections of the border and advanced a few kilometers into Gegharkunik and another Armenian province, Syunik, on May 12-14, triggering a tense standoff with Armenian army units reinforced in recent weeks. Yerevan has repeatedly demanded their unconditional withdrawal. Baku maintains that they did not cross into Armenian territory. In a weekend statement, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan said Azerbaijani forces halted last Thursday similar fortification work at a Gegharkunik section of the border after Armenian “warning shots.” The ministry also said that Armenian and Azerbaijani troops deployed near another Gegharkunik village, Kut, exchanged gunfire on Saturday. It accused Azerbaijani soldiers of firing at an Armenian shepherd who tried to herd livestock that approached their post back to Kut. “The gunfire stopped after retaliatory actions taken by the Armenian side,” the ministry said, adding that no one was wounded in the incident. Local residents told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Monday that about 80 cows belonging to five Kut families ended up in Azerbaijani-controlled territory. They said Armenian military officials are negotiating with their Azerbaijani colleagues in a bid to return the cows to their owners. The Azerbaijani military did not report shooting incidents in the area in recent days. Armenian Election Campaign Officially Starts • Naira Nalbandian • Marine Khachatrian • Satenik Hayrapetian Armenia - Edmon Marukian, the leader of the opposition Bright Armenia Party, starts its election campaign in Yerevan, June 7, 2021. Campaigning officially began in Armenia on Monday for the June 20 snap parliamentary elections aimed at ending a serious political crisis resulting from last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Twenty-six political parties and blocs are vying for at least 101 seats in the next Armenian parliament that will decide the political future of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. The parties will need to win at least 5 percent of the vote in order to be represented in the National Assembly. The legal vote threshold for blocs is set at 7 percent. The main challengers of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party are the two opposition parties represented in the outgoing parliament as well as blocs led by the country’s three former presidents: Levon Ter-Petrosian, Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian. They blame Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war with Azerbaijan stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement last November. Most major election contenders began holding meetings with supporters weeks before the official start of the campaign. Pashinian has traded increasingly bitter accusations and insults with Kocharian and Sarkisian. In particular, the latter have accused the incumbent of misrule and inability to confront grave security challenges facing Armenia even after the war. As he campaigned in Armavir province west of Yerevan on Monday Pashinian again lambasted the two ex-presidents and said that they will be brought to justice for what he called past corrupt practices if he retains power. He also reiterated his calls for voters to hand him a landslide victory in the upcoming elections. “We expect at least 60 percent of the vote … We must uproot the political forces that want to provoke a civil war in Armenia,” he said at a rally held in the village of Parakar. Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks at an election campaign rally in Echmiadzin, June 7, 2021. According to an opinion poll commissioned by the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and conducted from April 8 through May 4, only 26 percent of Armenians were ready to vote for Pashinian’s party. Kocharian and his opposition allies making up the Hayastan (Armenia) bloc campaigned, meanwhile, in southeastern Syunik province. The ex-president was scheduled to hold a rally in the provincial capital Kapan on Monday evening. Unlike Kocharian, Sarkisian is not seeking to become prime minister or even a parliament deputy. His Republican Party (HHK) has formed an alliance with the opposition Fatherland party of Artur Vanetsian, a former head of Armenia’s National Security Service. Vanetsian tops the list of the alliance’s election candidates. He kicked off its election campaign in northern Tavush province. Edmon Marukian, the leader of the parliamentary Bright Armenia Party (LHK), expressed serious concern over mounting tensions between the ruling party and the radical opposition forces led by the two ex-presidents. He claimed that they could plunge the country into a “civil war.” Marukian said Armenians can prevent it by voting for his party in large numbers. “Or else, if one of those sides succeeds it will seek to destroy the other,” he told reporters while marching through Yerevan together with his associates. Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the other opposition party represented in the outgoing parliament, was due to hold its first campaign rally in Abovian, a town 15 kilometers north of Yerevan has long been BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s political stronghold. Other senior BHK members presented the party’s campaign platform at a news conference in Yerevan. The BHK promises, among other things, to further deepen Armenia’s security ties with Russia through a new “military-political treaty.” The document also reaffirms Tsarukian’s controversial pledge to write off every Armenian’s debts commercial banks not exceeding 3 million drams ($5,800). Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2021 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.