“Azg” writes that with social polarization in Armenia deepening, there are no signs that the authorities are taking serious steps to scale down the huge informal sector of the economy. In fact, it is much easier for them to secure more loans and grants from the West than to punish tax evaders.
But “Zhamanak” complains that the government is being attacked even now that it has just achieved “unprecedented success” at this week’s meeting of Western donors in Paris. “Some forces” want to discredit it and exploit problems facing the country. Deputy speaker of the parliament, Tigran Torosian, says the donors were unanimous in praising the government.
Commenting on the latest visit by the OSCE’s Minsk Group, “Golos Armenii” says the international community has never been so concerned about the possibility of renewed fighting around Karabakh since the signing of the 1994 ceasefire agreement. This is the result of the war talk in Azerbaijan. The paper says a peace settlement is not what Heydar Aliev tries to achieve at the moment.
The front-page picture in “Aravot” shows Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Dashnak leader Vahan Hovannisian having a friendly conversation. The paper reminds that nine years ago Sarkisian, then commander of the Karabakh Armenian forces, was one of the main enemies of Hovannisian and Dashnaktsutyun. Six years ago, then Minister of National Security Sarkisian foiled what the authorities said was a Dashnak coup attempt and “threw Hovannisian into jail.” “Today they serve the same cause with the former’s oil dollars and the latter’s revolutionary zeal.” The paper also brings the following quote from a newspaper article Hovannisian wrote back in 1992: “Robert Kocharian, a member of the HHSh board, has unleashed a smear campaign against the [Karabakh] Supreme Council and its chairman.”
Meanwhile, “Hayots Ashkhar” and Dashnak daily “Yerkir” continue to denounce the creation of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission. Both papers carry a statement by Dashnaktsutyun governing bureau which voices the nationalist party’s strong disapproval of “this adventure activity” and demands that the Armenian authorities “clarify their position.”
An editorial in “Yerkir” calls for Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s resignation on the grounds that he was aware of the initiative but did not inform President Robert Kocharian. But as presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian tells the paper, Kocharian did know about the Turkish-Armenian initiative and did not object to the commission’s creation, finding bilateral contacts on different levels “useful.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that former education minister Ashot Bleyan who was serving a six-year prison sentence on corruption charges was set free on parole late on Friday. His release was ordered by a Yerevan court of first instance. Bleyan, who has spent two years in prison, said he will continue to seek his acquittal by higher courts.