RFE/RL Armenian Report – 07/28/2021

                                        Wednesday, July 28, 2021


France Open To Defense Cooperation With Armenia
July 28, 2021
        • Sargis Harutyunyan

Armenia - French Ambassador Jonathan Lacote at a news conference in Yerevan, 
July 12, 2018


France is ready to consider embarking on military cooperation with Armenia that 
would boost the South Caucasus state’s security, the French ambassador in 
Yerevan, Jonathan Lacote, said on Wednesday.

Lacote cautioned at the same time that the two countries are members of 
different military alliances and that France’s top priority in the region is to 
facilitate a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict together with 
Russia and the United States, the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

“As I said last week in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, France is 
willing to examine Armenia’s requests relating to defense,” he told a news 
conference. “But one must also take into account the overall context. First of 
all, France and Armenia are not part of the same military alliance.”

“Generally speaking, our goal is not to prepare for future wars but to prevent 
wars because we believe that regional problems should not be resolved by force,” 
he went on. “The issues of Karabakh’s status and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border 
should be resolved only through negotiations. Any other path would lead to 
deadlock.”

Armenia is allied to Russia through bilateral defense treaties and membership in 
the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization. Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian’s government has pledged to further deepen Russian-Armenian military 
ties since last year’s war in Karabakh.

Lacote spoke with journalists amid fresh fighting on Armenia’s border with 
Azerbaijan which left three Armenian soldiers dead on Wednesday morning.

“Naturally, our thoughts are with the families of the killed soldiers,” he said, 
expressing serious concern at the escalation.

The envoy again called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume a “political process” 
that would address Karabakh’s status and lead to the demarcation of their 
border. “But the process must be fair and must take place without any use of 
force,” he said.

The latest fighting erupted at some of the several portions of the border where 
Azerbaijani forces advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory in May. 
French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly demanded their withdrawal.

“We stand in solidarity with Armenia and we will continue to do so,” Macron said 
as he met with Pashinian in Paris on June 1.

Baku maintains that its troops took up new positions on the Azerbaijani side of 
the frontier and did not cross into Armenia.



Armenian Parliament Said To Restrict Press Coverage
July 28, 2021
        • Marine Khachatrian

Armenia -- Photojournalists and cameramen at an official ceremony held in 
Yerevan for newly elected members of the Armenian parliament, January 10, 2019.


An opposition lawmaker claimed on Wednesday that the Armenian authorities are 
planning to ban journalists from physically attending sessions of the country’s 
parliament and impose other restrictions on their work inside the National 
Assembly building.

Taguhi Tovmasian said she has received such information from a reliable source 
and demanded that the parliament staff comment on it. She said the restrictions 
would deal a serious blow to press freedom in Armenia.

“I need explanations,” Tovmasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Why should the 
work of journalists be restricted? Why should journalists watch National 
Assembly sessions only through monitors and be unable to film proceedings on the 
parliament floor? I am told that they want to eliminate the press gallery and 
make sure that journalists cannot approach any deputy [in parliament corridors] 
and ask questions.”

“If we live in a democratic, parliamentary country why would members of its 
parliament avoid being transparent and accountable? What are they afraid of?” 
said the former reporter.

The parliament administration did not immediately confirm or deny Tovmasian’s 
claims, telling RFE/RL’S Armenian Service to submit its questions in writing.


Armenia -- Taguhi Tovmasian, a parliament deputy and the founder of "Zhoghovurd" 
daily, speaks to reporters at the entrance to its offices, Yerevan, December 19, 
2019.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, Vahagn 
Aleksanian, lent credence to the claims when he strongly defended the 
restrictions listed by the opposition parliamentarian.

“I hope that the National Assembly staff will opt for that,” he wrote on 
Facebook in response to the concerns voiced by Tovmasian.

Aleksanian claimed that parliamentary correspondents have interfered with the 
National Assembly’s activities by “chasing deputies” and ignoring “all ethical 
norms” for the sake of asking “sensationalist questions.”

The new regulations, if confirmed, will apply to press coverage of Armenia’s 
recently elected parliament, which is scheduled to hold its inaugural session on 
August 2. Pashinian’s party will control 71 of the parliament’s 107 seats.

Tovmasian edited a major Armenian newspaper before joining the Pashinian-led My 
Step alliance and becoming a parliament deputy in December 2018. She defected 
from My Step in December 2020 and got reelected to the parliament last month on 
the ticket of an opposition bloc led by former President Serzh Sarkisian.


Armenia -- Deputies from the ruling My Step bloc attend a session of the 
Armenian parliament, Yerevan, January 22, 2021.

Tovmasian insisted that the planned restrictions make mockery of the democratic 
credentials of a government that took office as a result of the “velvet 
revolution” of April-May 2018. She said that the country’s former, supposedly 
less democratic governments never dared to curb journalists’ freedom of movement 
inside the parliament building so drastically.

“A ‘revolutionary’ government that has declared itself a bastion of democracy is 
one by one dismantling all democratic safeguards accumulated by us over the 
years,” said the lawmaker. “I used to work as a parliamentary correspondent for 
many years and I never saw such treatment of journalists.”

Pashinian’s political team faced strong criticism from Armenia’s leading media 
associations in March when it pushed through the parliament a bill tripling 
maximum fines for defamation. President Armen Sarkissian refused to sign the 
bill into law, asking the Constitutional Court to assess its conformity with the 
Armenian constitution.

In February, Armenian prosecutors drafted legislation that would make defamation 
of state officials a crime punishable by up to two years in prison. All forms of 
libel and defamation were decriminalized in Armenia in 2010 during Sarkisian’s 
rule.



Fighting Intensifies On Armenian-Azeri Border (UPDATED)
July 28, 2021

ARMINIA -- An Armenian flag flies at an Armenian army post at the Sotk gold mine 
on the border with Azerbaijan, in Gegharkunik province, June 18, 2021


Three Armenian soldiers were killed and three others wounded in heavy fighting 
with Azerbaijani forces that broke out along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border 
early on Wednesday.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Azerbaijani forces attacked at dawn its 
positions in Gegharkunik province bordering the Kelbajar district in Azerbaijan.

“The enemy is trying to improve its positions and create favorable conditions 
for making advances,” the ministry said in a statement. Armenian army units are 
“carrying out combat tasks set for them,” it said, adding that hostilities 
continued as of 8:30 a.m. local time.

Another statement released by the ministry shortly afterwards said the 
Azerbaijani attacks were repelled by 9:20 a.m. “The exchange of gunfire is 
continuing,” it added.

Sources close to the Armenian military claimed that Azerbaijani troops initially 
seized one of its border posts in Gegharkunik. They said the post was recaptured 
by the Armenian side a couple of hours later.


Armenia - Armenian soldiers take up positions on the border with Azerbaijan, May 
17, 2021.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said, meanwhile, that its troops took “adequate 
measures” after coming under cross-border fire in Kelbajar overnight. It said 
two Azerbaijani soldiers were wounded in action.

Later in the morning the two sides agreed, with Russian mediation, to stop the 
fighting that reportedly involved mortar fire.

“The agreement is largely respected at the moment,” the Defense Ministry in 
Yerevan reported at noon. It insisted that “no change in the line of contact 
occurred” as a result of the deadly clashes.

One Azerbaijani soldier was killed and three Armenian servicemen wounded in 
skirmishes reported from the same border sections last Friday. Azerbaijani 
troops had advanced a few kilometers into in Gegharkunik in mid-May, provoking a 
continuing standoff with Armenian army units.


Armenia - An Armenian military commander inspects troops deployed in Gegharkunik 
province bordering Azerbaijan, May 20, 2021.

The latest fighting is one of the most serious armed incidents in the 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone since last fall’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war in 
Karabakh stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire. The Armenian Defense Ministry 
said the Azerbaijani side provoked it ahead of “negotiations planned in Moscow.” 
It did not elaborate.

The Interfax news agency reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu 
will host talks between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts later on 
Wednesday. Shoigu reportedly met with Armenia’s acting Defense Minister Arshak 
Karapetian in Moscow on Monday.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry accused Baku of deliberately heightening tensions 
on the border. It said Armenia will use all “military-political instruments” at 
its disposal to protect its territorial integrity.

For its part, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said Yerevan should stop “military 
provocations” and start talks with Baku on demarcating the border between the 
two states.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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