Front-page headlines like “OTE challenges our state” or “ArmenTel against the state,” which appear in “Azg” and “Yerkir,” sum up the generally hostile attitude of the Armenian press to the embattled telephone company. For “Hayots Ashkhar” the key question is: “So is the per-minute in force or not after all?”
“Aravot” says that in its dispute with the Greek telecom group the Armenian government has no lever other than urging people not to abide by ArmenTel’s new billing system. But this should not come as a surprise to officials and ordinary people. The government did realize well what it was giving away to the Greeks in 1998 when it sealed ArmenTel’s sell-off. OTE was legally granted a 15-year monopoly on telecom services and the right to set tariffs practically at will.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” accentuates Robert Kocharian’s continuing silence on the row. “Of course, it can be said that the government’s opinion is his opinion. But as recently as one year ago, Kocharian declared that he is not the head of the executive branch and the government therefore does not reflect his views.” He described this as “an observer’s role” at the time. “The experience shows that Kocharian’s becoming an observer results in the change of government.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that a leader of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party, Albert Bazeyan, has written to the ministries of interior and energy to ask them to ensure that the party’s upcoming congress takes place without disruptions. The unusual letter followed a bizarre incident in the town of Echmiadzin where police banned a Hanrapetutyun gathering at a local factory, citing a bomb alert.
“Hayots Ashkhar” deplores the recent expulsion of pro-government activists from several opposition parties. The “experienced” and “respected” leaders of the National Democratic Union (AZhM) and the Communist and People’s parties are now replaced by “ignorant” figures.
Another pro-government newspaper, “Zhamanak,” claims that the opposition is preparing for a major assault on the authorities because it fears that they will succeed in improving the socio-economic situation in Armenia before the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2003.
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian looks forward to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forthcoming visit to Armenia, “Hayots Ashkhar” reports. Sarkisian, who co-chairs the Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on bilateral cooperation, says the visit is “very important” and he has “great expectations” from it. He also anticipates a “solution to issues of vital interest to our country.”