Armenian leader says Karabakh talks "more intense"

Golos Armenii
26 Feb 05

President Robert Kocharyan has said that Armenia's negotiations with
Azerbaijan on the disputed area of Nagornyy Karabakh have become "more
intense and there is a slight hope for a result". In a wide-ranging
interview with the newspaper Golos Armenii, he also called for
Karabakh's involvement in the negotiations. Kocharyan said that he
would like to see a strong opposition in the country because "a weak
opposition corrupts power and stimulates apathy in society as people
have to compare bad with very bad". The following is an excerpt from
Marina Lazarian and Lana Mshetsyan's report by the Armenian newspaper
Golos Armenii on 26 February headlined "'I would suggest to abandon
any comparison with Baku', Armenian President Robert Kocharyan said";
Subheadings have been inserted editorially:

A large number of questions was asked during a hotline with Armenian
President Robert Kocharyan. The questions were virtually from all
over Armenia, members of the diaspora, CIS countries as well as from
Azerbaijan. Alas, as always, this time too, we had failed to pass on to
the president all the questions received from our readers. Therefore,
we have chosen the questions only on "hot" topics. But we intend to
forward the remaining questions to the appropriate ministries and
departments. Thus, no question will remain unanswered or open.

[Artur Yesayan, teacher] Mr President, what kind of a status should
Nagornyy Karabakh have?

[Robert Kocharyan] Independence in the foreseeable future and part
of Armenia in the long run.

[Nikolay Markosyan, engineer] Mr President, what do you think of the
fact that there is a large number of Azeris with Iranian passports
in Yerevan at present? Is it not strange that the Iranian citizens
speak Armenian and marry Armenian girls? How would they react in Baku
if they see two Armenians speak Armenian in a public place?

[Kocharyan] Unfortunately, Armenophobia is part of the state
policy of Azerbaijan. The reaction of society in Azerbaijan to the
brutal murder of an Armenian officer in Budapest is a result of
that policy. Moreover, our nations are different in terms of their
perception of the world and in terms of our cultural traditions. The
Sumqayit events could have never happened in Armenia. This is our
strength and not weakness. For this reason I would advise you not to
make any comparison with Baku.

Karabakh

[Andranik Saakyan, engineer] Mr President, don't you think that the
11-year-long negotiations on Nagornyy Karabakh ended in deadlock
because of Azerbaijan's non-constructive position? What do you think
will happen next?

[Kocharyan] As long as no practical solution to the Nagornyy Karabakh
problem has been found, people will keep saying the negotiating
process is at a dead end. The world experience shows that such
conflicts cannot be settled quickly. We must work persistently and
consistently towards that end and this is what we have been doing. At
present, the negotiating process has become more intense and there
is a slight hope for a result.

[Internet-newspaper Patriot Day.az, Azerbaijan] Mr President, even if
we assume that Armenia's military force now equals that of Azerbaijan,
in your opinion how long will this parity be preserved taking into
account the difference between the economic potential of the two
countries?

[Kocharyan] This is one of Azerbaijan's propaganda arguments. It has
been used since 1989 with a different degree of intensity. This is
what made Azerbaijan start a large-scale war for Karabakh in 1992. It
is enough to have a retrospective look at the press and speeches by
Azerbaijani officials to see that. I think that the economic potential
in the modern world is defined not by the number of the oil barrels
produced, but by the efficiency of the economy. And here undoubtedly
Azerbaijan is lagging behind.

PACE

[Ardan Luros, Canada] Mr President, what do you think of David
Atkinson's latest report on Karabakh in PACE?

[Kocharyan] That was the report by the former rapporteur Terry Davis,
inherited by Atkinson. Maybe for this reason there is a dichotomy
between David Atkinson's remarks and the content of the report. There
are positive as well as negative sides in the report. [Passage omitted:
urges experts to prepare reports on conflicts based on facts] I would
suggest not to overestimate the significance of the document. The
real negotiations are being conducted within the framework of the
OSCE Minsk Group.

[Eduard Ayrapetov, physicist] Mr President, Armenia has repeatedly
been saying that the Nagornyy Karabakh Republic should become a party
to the talks in any format. Incidentally it is known that the NKR has
also something to say to Azerbaijan. David Atkinson's latest report
seems to point to this aspect. How is Armenia going to react to the
"ray of light" in the "dark" report by the British MP? What has the
Armenian Foreign Ministry been doing for the NKR to get involved in
the negotiating process?

[Kocharyan] I think there is an incorrect perception of the NKR
participation in the negotiations. The negotiating process is much
broader than simply meetings between the presidents of Armenia and
Azerbaijan. I meet Arkadiy Gukasyan [the NKR president] regularly to
coordinate the negotiating positions. There are also regular visits
by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen to the region where they meet the
NKR leadership. By the way, this is the most comprehensive part of
the negotiation process. There are also visits by the OSCE incumbent
chairman's assistant to the NKR. The NKR is actively involved in
all the processes. At my meetings with the president of Azerbaijan I
represent the interests of Karabakh as well. Certainly we would like
the NKR to be involved in this format as well.

[Passage omitted: reiterates the point, tells Nigar from Azerbaijan
that he has been to Baku and other Azeri towns in Soviet times, calls
for recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turkey,
says the CIS has future and urges better ties with Armenians in
Georgia's Javakhk]

Russia

[Silva Karapetyan, musician] Mr President, the year of 2005 was
announced a Year of Russia in Armenia. What do you think of the
current level of Armenian-Russian relations?

[Kocharyan] Cooperation between Armenia and Russia in all spheres
continues to grow. The Russian president is expected to pay an official
visit to Armenia in the spring. This will give us a chance to discuss
what has been achieved and define our future cooperation plans.

[Liana Mikaelyan, geodesist] Mr President, has Armenia been
marginalized from many railway projects? What can you tell us about
Armenia's involvement in the "North-South" transport corridor?

[Kocharyan] No railway project has been kept away from us. We discuss
the involvement in different projects. But we mean the projects that
demand big expenditure. The functioning railways pass though Armenia
and do not demand capital expenditure. They had been frozen due to
political constraints, but might start working at any moment. This
undoubtlessly is an advantage when looking at the figures in any
project.

[Passage omitted: more of the same, Kocharyan disagrees that the
influence of the Armenian Diaspora abroad is weakening and says that
40 per cent of the GDP is formed by small and middle businesses]

Opposition

[Vladimir Gromov, colonel] Mr President, a man as inexperienced in
policy as Stepan Demirchyan has become your real competitor for the
second term. Are you pleased with such an alternative?

[Kocharyan] I will refrain from replying in personal terms and try
to speak generally. The higher the level of the opposition the higher
the level of society. It is obvious that those in power should aspire
to appear better then their opponents. A weak opposition corrupts
power and stimulates apathy in society as people have to compare bad
with very bad. I favour a strong opposition, but not in the sense of
shamefulness or hysteria, but in the sense of a professional level
and organization.

[Passage omitted: generalities on the need to choose right people
for posts]

[Vera Azatyan, scientist] Mr President, the opposition promises to
stage a revolution in April, similar to the revolutions in Georgia
and Ukraine. But it is obvious that those revolutions were done
on order. Is there a danger of a revolution like that happening in
Armenia with the help of Western subsidies? How can we protect our
country from this?

[Kocharyan] An effective and energetic team, a targeted social policy
and a balanced foreign policy are the best guarantors of stability. If
the authorities are weak, there will always be somebody who will try
to undermine them even further. The existence of many unhappy people
would mean that somebody might decide to enlist their support.

[Passage omitted: talks more about Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions,
Kocharyan says he prefers to work more and talk less, the president
talks about gasification problems, natural resources and promises
more jobs and better economy and talks about the need for optimism].

Business

[Roza Babayan, musician] Mr President, why only sons of top officials
become successful businessmen in Armenia? Does that mean that all
the others are lacking in talent?

[Kocharyan] More than 50,000 businesses have been registered in the
country, more than 34,000 have been paying taxes. In 2004 1,500 new
firms were registered. I can assure you that there aren't that many
children of the country's top officials among the businessmen.

[Passage omitted: reiterates the point and denies corruption in the
education system.].