RFE/RL Armenian Service – 02/07/2024

                                        Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Pashinian Again Defends Plans For New Constitution

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - A bodyguard stands near Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian as he speaks in 
the Armenian parliament, Yerevan, February 7, 2024.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian defended his plans to try to enact a new Armenian 
constitution on Wednesday in the face of continuing opposition claims that he 
wants to make more concessions to Azerbaijan.

Pashinian denied any connection between the plans and a peace treaty currently 
discussed by Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“There is an agreed article in the text of the peace treaty, which says that the 
parties cannot refer to their own laws to avoid fulfilling any obligations under 
this treaty. So the issue here is not about the peace treaty at all,” he told 
opposition lawmakers during his government’s question-and-answer session in the 

Some of those lawmakers have been allowed by the Armenian Foreign Ministry to 
read written proposals on the treaty exchanged by Yerevan and Baku in recent 
months. One of them, Gegham Manukian, said the clause cited by Pashinian was 
imposed by the Azerbaijani side and runs counter to Armenia’s current 
constitution. This is why, he said, Pashinian wants to the change the 

The premier responded by accusing Manukian of misleading the public and saying 
that he and the other opposition deputies will no longer have access to details 
of the negotiation process. He went on to again criticize a 1990 Armenian 
declaration of independence, saying that Armenia cannot make peace with 
Azerbaijan as long as it is guided by that document.

The declaration cited in a preamble to the current constitution refers to a 1989 
unification act adopted by the legislative bodies of Soviet Armenia and the then 
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and calls for international recognition of 
the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on February 1 that Armenia should remove 
that reference and amend other documents “infringing on Azerbaijan’s territorial 
integrity” if it wants to cut a peace deal with his country. Armenian opposition 
leaders portrayed Aliyev’s statement as further proof that Pashinian wants to 
effectively declare the 1990 declaration null and void under pressure from 
Azerbaijan as well as Turkey. They say this is the main aim of the 
constitutional change sought by him.

Opposition Members Ousted From Yerevan City Council

        • Narine Ghalechian

Armenia - Former Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutian talks to journalists after being 
stripped of his seat in the city council, February 7, 2024.

The ruling Civil Contract party on Wednesday managed to strip three opposition 
members of Yerevan’s municipal council of their seats with the decisive help of 
two other councilors summoned to an Armenian law-enforcement agency on Tuesday.

The ousted oppositionists include former Mayor Hayk Marutian, whose party 
finished second in last September’s municipal election, and two councilors 
representing the radical opposition Mayr Hayastan alliance.

Civil Contract and its local coalition partner, the Hanrapetutyun party, argue 
that they can no longer sit on the city council because of having skipped most 
of the council sessions and votes. The opposition forces dismiss the 
explanation, saying that their absence was part of legitimate boycotts designed 
to scuttle key decisions made by Mayor Tigran Avinian.

“Why did you not oust dozens of your teammates from the previous council who did 
not attend sessions for years? Because they didn’t challenge you,” Marutian told 
Avinian and his political allies during a heated session preceding a vote on 
their seats.

“You are removing us because we are fighting against you and demanding your 
resignation,” charged Marutian.

“If you don’t attend and speak during sessions why would we want to silence 
you?” countered Suren Grigorian, a deputy mayor affiliated with Civil Contract.

Council members from Mayr Hayastan boycotted the session in protest against what 
they too described as a government bid to silence the opposition. The bloc’s 
leader, Andranik Tevanian, called for a fresh municipal ballot on Tuesday.

Civil Contract and Hanrapetutyun lacked a single vote to oust the oppositionists 
and they predictably secured it from the Public Voice party that was until 
recently led by Vartan Ghukasian, a controversial video blogger based in the 
United States.

Two Public Voice councilors showed up for the session and voted for the ouster 
of the oppositionists. One of them, Vahan Avagian, admitted that they were 
summoned to the Investigative Committee on Tuesday.

“I won’t say why because it’s confidential information,” Avagian told reporters. 
He denied opposition claims that he was pressured to back the ruling party’s 
latest initiative.

Public Voice, which campaigned for the September polls on an opposition 
platform, already decisively helped Civil Contract install Avinian as mayor last 
October. Its nominal chairman, Artak Galstian was arrested last year on charges 
of blackmail and extortion and remains in custody. Ghukasian is wanted by 
law-enforcement authorities on the same charges.

HSBC Announces Exit From Armenia

U.S. -- The entrance to a HSBC Bank branch in New York, 10Aug2011

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, has announced the sale of its Armenian subsidiary 
which will end its nearly 30-year presence in Armenia.

In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the British bank said it has agreed to 
sell the HSBC Armenia unit to the country’s leading bank, Ardshinbank, in line 
with its “strategy to redeploy capital from less strategic or low-connectivity 
businesses into higher-growth opportunities globally.”

Ardshinbank confirmed the agreement in a separate statement. Neither side 
disclosed the terms of the deal subject to regulatory approvals.

“Ardshinbank looks forward to welcoming HSBC Armenia customers onto our 
award-winning platform and to further delivering on its strategy to accelerate 
growth and expand product offering for clients,” said the bank’s chairman, Artak 
Ananian. He promised a “smooth and fluid transition” for the 30,000 or so 

Reuters reported last May that HSBC is considering a possible exit from as many 
as a dozen countries after earlier announcements about selling off parts or all 
of its activities in France, Canada, Russia and Greece. HSBC completed the sale 
of its French retail business to CCF on January 1 days after Canada approved the 
acquisition of the bank's Canadian business by Royal Bank of Canada.

Established in 1996, HSBC Armenia is the only local commercial bank controlled 
by a major Western banking group. It currently has total assets worth 290 
billion drams ($720 million) and around 200 billion drams in customer deposits.

HSBC Armenia’s net profit rose from 8 billion drams in 2022 to over 11 billion 
drams ($27 million) last year. By comparison, Ardshinbank reported nearly 63 
billion drams in earnings in 2023.

The 18 banks operating in Armenia nearly tripled their combined profits, to a 
record 253 billion drams, in 2022 amid a dramatic increase in cash flows from 
Russia which followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The figure fell by 9 
percent in 2023, according to the Hetq.am publication.

State Radio Chief Censured After Criticizing Pashinian

        • Astghik Bedevian
        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - Garegin Khumarian, director of Public Radio of Armenia.

A state body overseeing Armenian Public Radio has moved to take action against 
its executive director Garegin Khumarian who has openly criticized Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian’s latest statements on the conflict with Azerbaijan.

In a reportedly pre-recorded interview with the state-funded radio aired on 
February 1, Pashinian again took aim at a 1990 declaration of independence cited 
in a preamble to the Armenian constitution. He claimed that Armenia “will never 
have peace” with Azerbaijan as long as there is such reference. Accordingly, 
Pashinian defended his plans to try to enact a new constitution that would 
presumably make no mention of the declaration.

Khumarian took issue with Pashinian’s comments in an op-ed article published on 
Public Radio’s website on Monday. The premier, he said, wants to destroy one of 
the pillars of “our political identity” and to “stop us being who we are.”

“We were told that the Turks are strong and the Armenians weak, the Turks 
massacre Armenians,” he wrote. “This syllogism should have ended with the 
deductive conclusion ‘let's get stronger,’ but what was said instead was ‘let's 
stop being Armenians.’”

Khumarian said that this policy will not prevent Azerbaijani aggression against 
Armenia. He went on to accuse Pashinian’s government of failing to rebuild the 
Armenian army since the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia’s Council of Public Broadcaster, which appoints the heads of state of 
state television and radio, accused Khumarian late on Tuesday of abusing his 
position to express his personal view on the radio website in an “arbitrary” and 
“unchallenged” way. The council will “examine the conformity of the actions of 
the Public Radio Company director with ethical and legal norms,” it said in a 

All seven members of the body have been appointed by Pashinian. None of them 
agreed to comment further on Wednesday.

“I don’t agree with that [statement] and am waiting to see what our company’s 
lawyers will say,” Khumarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

The Public Radio chief insisted that he performed his “professional duty” and 
simply commented on Armenia’s “existential” problems that are “a step above 
politics.” He noted that he had previously posted about a dozen articles on the 
same website and none of them got him in trouble with his supervisors.

Pashinian’s plans to change the constitution have also been denounced by his 
political opponents and other critics. They say that say his appeasement 
strategy will not lead to a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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