By Anush Dashtents
Raffi Hovannisian, the US-born former foreign minister of Armenia, accused the authorities on Thursday of dragging their feet over his request for Armenian citizenship. Hovannisian, who had abandoned American citizenship shortly before filing his application in April, said there has been no response yet from President Robert Kocharian and hinted that the delay is politically motivated.
The accusation, voiced through a newspaper, was rejected by Kocharian’s office later in the day. A presidential spokeswoman, Hasmik Petrosian, told RFE/RL that the delay was caused by Hovannisian’s insistence on being officially considered to have been an Armenian national since 1991. She said his application was approved on April 25 by a special presidential commission led by Justice Minister David Harutiunian.
Under the Armenian constitution, the granting of citizenship is the exclusive prerogative of the head of state.
With Hovannisian declining a comment, it was not clear why he should demand a ten-year nationality. The constitution stipulates that only a person who has been an Armenian citizen and has “permanently” resided in the country for the ten preceding years can run for president. The threshold for candidates in parliamentary elections is set at five years.
Hovannisian, who has been based in Yerevan since 1989, became independent Armenia’s first foreign minister in January 1992 and was removed from the post by then President Levon Ter-Petrossian later that year. He has been the founding president of an independent Yerevan think-tank since 1994.
In a statement published by the daily “Aravot,” Hovannisian described his current status as “absurd and full of subtexts.” He said Kocharian “must resolve this matter which is lying on his desk for a long time.” Hovannisian complained that, having no citizenship and passport, he was unable to travel to the United States to pay his last respects to his deceased uncle.
Armenia’s basic law prohibits dual citizenship. Constitutional amendments put forward by Kocharian call for the lifting of the ban. The change would enable Diaspora Armenians to become nationals of the country of their ancestors while retaining their current citizenship.
The current Diaspora-born foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, is also a former US citizen. He handed back his American passport before taking office in 1998.