news.am, Armenia
Nov 1 2009


Armenian-Turkish Protocols vs. Nagorno-Karabakh: weekly review

13:12 / 10/31/2009
Domestic policy

The main political event this week has been the 10th anniversary of
the most appalling terrorist act in the history of independent
Armenia. On October 27, 1999, a group of terrorists burst into the
assembly hall of the RA Parliament and, in the presence of numerous
journalists, fired point-blank at Speaker of the RA National Assembly
Karen Demirchyan, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and six other
political figures. Thus the terrorists beheaded the Unity bloc, which
had won the elections just a few months before, as well as the RA
Parliament and Government. Within a few moments the then President of
Armenia Robert Kocharyan became absolute ruler over the country. Ten
years have passed, but the `October 27 factor' still plays an
important role in Armenia's domestic political life. Although the
terrorists were sentenced to life imprisonment, and the authorities
are sure that the crime was thoroughly investigated, the Opposition
has been insisting that the terrorist act had been masterminded.
During last year's presidential campaign, the political opponents were
exploiting the `October 27 factor.' In particular, Armenia's first
President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who resumed his political activities,
publicly laid the responsibility on the authorities. Back in October
1999, he was strongly against the army's interference in political
affairs thereby actually supporting Robert Kocharyan, who found
himself in an extremely critical situation. At present, however, on
the eve of the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, the Armenian National
Congress led by Levon Ter-Petrosyan made the most strongly worded
statement over this period, actually charging Robert Kocharyan with
direct complicity in that crime. The ANC also placed great
responsibility on Serzh Sargsyan, who was then Head of the RA special
services. Commemorations have taken place in memory of the victims at
their graves and at the monument within the precincts of the RA
Parliament. Attending the commemorations were both the Armenian
top-officials and the Opposition leaders, including the victims'
relatives: Stepan Demirchyan, son of Karen Demirchyan and Chairman of
the People's Party of Armenia, and Aram Sargsyan, brother of Vazgen
Sargsyan and Chairman of the Political Council of the Republic Party.

The trial of Editor-in-Chief of the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper Nikol
Pahshinyan continued this week. He is charged with having organized
riots during last year's post-election processes and with having
offered resistance to a policeman on October 23, 2007. Over 40
witnesses in the case are testifying in court. According to the `fine'
tradition of all the trial of Opposition members over the last year
and a half, the witnesses for the prosecution are giving contradictory
testimonies, which often run counter to elementary logic. For example,
one standing on the opposite side of the street in the dark could see
Pashinyan striking the policeman with his leg. Hundreds of Opposition
members regularly gather in front of the Shengavit minor court. They
have regular clashes with policemen, which, on the one hand, are the
result of the demonstrators' strongly worded anti-government
statements and banners with similar slogans, and, on the other hand,
of some policemen's aggressive behavior, which became `an allergen'
for participants in mass actions long ago.

Late this week the ANC sprung a surprise by nominating Nikol Pashinyan
at the by-elections to the RA Parliament in Election District #10 in
Yerevan. According to the law, Pashinyan can run for Parliament if no
court verdict has been returned on him and come into force. At
present, the authorities are facing a dilemma: either speeding up the
trial or witnessing inevitable intensification of the Opposition's
activities as a result of the forces rallying round Pashinyan. The
first is rather problematic with more than 40 witnesses involved in
the case. In the second case, signs of consolidation can already be
observed: on Friday evening the Republic Party, which forms part of
the ANC, reported that Suren Surenyan, Political Council member, has
refused to accept his nomination.

The Prosperous Armenia Party led by the oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan can
fulfill its election pledges provided the absolute majority of the
population supports it, stated Khachik Galstyan, Spokesman for Gagik
Tsarukyan. According to him, the party's nominee received over 23% of
votes at the municipal elections. `If the present Mayor takes the
wrong course in the city's development, the Prosperous Armenia Party
cannot bear maximal responsibility. The same situation was after the
parliamentary elections: although the Prosperous Armenia Party is the
second largest political force, it received only 15% of votes. So this
is its share of responsibility for the implemented programs,' Galstyan
said. Responding to a question as to why the party does not secede
from the ruling coalition, Galstyan said that being coalition member
enhances the party's chances to accomplish the tasks. He also pointed
out that the Armenian political forces will intensify their activities
next year to start preparing for the 2012 parliamentary elections. New
formats and political poles can be expected to form then.

Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and region

The `downward tendency' in the process of ratification of the
Armenian-Turkish Protocols is getting stronger. Both the sides seem to
be delaying the ratification after a rather active dialogue that ended
in the signing of protocols. We have to understand the reasons for
some delay in the reopening of the Armenian-Turkish border and
establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, which was to take
place within two months after the protocols were signed.

After the protocols were submitted to the Grand National Assembly of
Turkey on October 21 they were `held up' at one of the committees to
be resubmitted to the Presidium of the Turkish Parliament. The
Presidium is to submit the protocols to the Turkish Parliament for
ratification. The situation is no better in Armenia. `Relevant
agencies' are discussing the protocols now. Thereafter they will be
submitted to the RA Constitutional Court, which is to confirm their
constitutionality. After that the RA National Assembly will consider
the issue of ratifying them. It is noteworthy that most local and
international experts are of the unanimous opinion that both the
Parliaments will successfully ratify the protocols.

In this context one can conclude that the reason for the
Armenia-Turkey normalization process is not only the intensifying
geopolitical changes in the region, which has never been denied, but
also the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Despite the repeated
statements that the two processes are not immediately linked, the
`lower speed' at the `final stretch' suggests the following
conclusion: the Armenia-Turkey normalization process has reached the
highest extent possible with no fundamental changes in the
Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

Further warlike statements have been heard from Baku this week. The
Armenian side gave adequate responses. International mediators and key
geopolitical players got Armenia to show ` directly or indirectly '
its readiness to maximum possible concessions thereby stalemating
themselves. While the Armenian authorities are consistently preparing
the public for painful concessions, their Azeri counterparts have got
entangled in their own web of lies and deception, the one they have
been weaving for many years. As a result, everybody sees the Azeri
mass media, controlled by President Ilham Aliyev's administration,
pursuing contradictory information policy thereby throwing the
confused society into even greater confusion. Now they let bits of
information on the necessity to agree to the return of five `occupied'
regions now they howl about the `Dashnak-Communist yoke' the Turkish
army helped Azerbaijan to throw off, and so on. The latest example is
the `funereal' reports by the Baku TV channels about `the occupation
of the strategically important Zangelan region by Armenian invaders.'
It is no problem that the Azeri TV channels could hardly count 16 or
17 years from October 29, 1993. But the question is: how well does the
biased interpretation of the reasons for Armenian troops' entry to the
region fit the preparation of the public for a peaceful settlement? We
could hear once more that, during the `occupation', 188 defenders of
the region became `shahids', heroes in the Azeri manner. As regards
numerous victims among the civil population in Kapan, Armenia, as a
result of long-lasting shelling from Zangelan, official Baku is
`modestly' silent.

There is growing influence of the geopolitical changes in the region
on Nagorno-Karabakh's status quo. The much warmer relations between
Turkey and Iran are of fundamental importance. Although at his press
conference Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan stated Turkey has no
intention to act as mediator between Iran and the West, there is no
doubt Ankara is playing this role. A new agreement on the supply of
Iranian gas to Turkey and further to Europe is within the framework of
the arm-twisting policy implemented by official Baku, which is
torpedoing the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process by holding a
non-constructive position. It is difficult, however, to imagine a
situation when a major regional conflict remains frozen amid radical
geopolitical changes in the region. This not only runs counter to the
interests of key geopolitical players, which are nearing a consensus
on the key political issues, but also is a serious impediment to
further implementation of major international energy projects.

So it is no wonder that the international mediators should be expected
to intensify their efforts to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
next month. Much depends on the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs'
forthcoming visit to the region. Which of the events will be the first
to occur ` the ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols by the
two Parliaments to be followed by a framework agreement on the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or vice versa? It will be clear within the
next few weeks. The fact is that there remains the only state that is
capable of frustrating all the regional processes thereby turning into
a rogue nation. In the near future we will be able to see whether the
geopolitical players will allow Azerbaijan to do it.

Economy and social life

This week the Armenian Parliament has adopted, in the third reading,
the bill on construction of a new nuclear power unit in Armenia.
Introducing the bill, RA Minister of Energy and Natural Resources
Armen Movsisyan said that the document provides for the construction
of a power unit or units with a total capacity of 1.2MW and operating
life of 60 years. The project is estimated at U.S. $4.5bn. Movsisyan
pointed out that the construction project is of special importance for
Armenia ' the neighboring states have energy deficit, while Armenia is
the only regional country generating electric energy not only for
domestic needs, but also for exports. President of the Rostom
Corporation Sergey Kiriyenko, who was on a visit to Yerevan, stated
the corporation's readiness to participate in the construction
project.

Iran plans to increase its gas exports to Armenia five-fold in the
near future. The information is reliable, as it was the IRNA agency
that reported it, referring to a local official. `We plan to increase
daily gas exports from 2m to 10m cubic meters,' the official said.
Gazprombank (Russia) and the ArmRosgasprom CJSC signed a 7-year
agreement on a U.S. $40m credit line. ArmRosgasprom reported it is one
more step in carrying out Gazprombank's strategic task of developing
effective cooperation with the Armenian fuel-energy complex.

`Emigration from Armenia has reached 20.3%. Most of the emigrants,
72.8%, prefer Europe,' Irina Davtyan, Deputy Head of the Migration
Agency, stated at the UN Office in Yerevan. According to her report
entitled `Overcoming obstacles: human migration and development', 2/3
of Armenian emigrants prefer Russia, and 9% the other of the CIS
member-states.

A 67% decrease in diamond exports has been registered in Armenia this
January-September as compared with the corresponding period last year.
The RA Customs Service reports that a total of 60,875 carats of
diamonds were exported this January-September. Thus, Armenia's
diamonds exports decreased by U.S. $70m as compared with the
corresponding period last year. Diamond exports totaled U.S. $39.1m
this January-September against U.S. $109m (21,200 carats) last
January-September.
From: Baghdasarian