“Zhamanak” says that Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev’s tough stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is “too short-sighted” for an experienced and wily politician. The paper attributes Aliev’s “stubborn” rejection of Minsk Group peace proposals to domestic political considerations. The 78-year-old strongman now prefers the image of an “unbending warrior” to that of a “wise politician.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” takes the view that the threat of a new war in Nagorno-Karabakh has subsided since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. As for the Azerbaijani intransigence, it is not rooted in domestic politics. It is part of Baku’s calculated bid to draw benefits from the new geopolitical situation in the region. Aliev wants to achieve that before Russia and the United States agree a peace deal on Karabakh and “impose” it on the conflicting parties. This, according to the paper, is just a matter of time.
The weekend congress of the Union of Constitutional Rights (SIM), a small party that made up the now defunct opposition Right and Accord bloc, also draws comment. “Iravunk,” which is controlled by the party, lauds the SIM’s rejection of “political extremism” and criticizes both the authorities and hardline opposition groups for launching a “pre-mature election campaign.”
On the 55th birth anniversary of Vano Siradeghian “Aravot” carries an editorial on the political role of the fugitive former minister of interior. The paper, which is sympathetic to the former authorities, pays tribute to the controversial ex-minister, saying that his contribution to Armenian statehood outweighs his “sins.” Siradeghian, it says, contributed to the Armenian victory in Karabakh with material and human resources and by sharply reducing the crime rate. “True, part of those material resources were collected illegally. It is hard to say what situation we would have been in now if there had been no law and order behind our frontline positions and if criminal elements had not been reined in. True, that was often ensured through arbitrary decisions. But was there any other way out?”
Any talk of the fortune built by Siradeghian while in power is irrelevant these days, according to “Aravot.” For example, many of the current government officials have more luxurious villas than he did. The paper concludes: “In the political and philosophical sense, Vano has committed many sins. But it is also true that, compared with our current rulers, he is just a good old Santa Claus.”
Meanwhile, “Hayots Ashkhar,” which is fiercely critical of the former regime, seeks to resurrect its theory that Siradeghian may have been behind the October 1999 assassinations of Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and other officials. It argues that Sarkisian’s plans to clamp down on corruption are bound to have terrified Siradeghian and his associates. His death was their “salvation.”
“Yerkir” welcomes the government’s intention to reduce Armenia’s dependence on budgetary loans from the World Bank but casts doubt on the its ability to achieve a significant rise in tax revenues next year. With “powerful clans” continuing to evade taxes, it is the law-abiding business people that could find themselves under a an even heavier tax burden.