“Aravot” says that the two consecutive visits to Armenia by Georgia’s defense minister and the chief of the Russian president’s staff were “not a coincidence.” “They are thus trying to make sure that Armenian governing circles do not avoid addressing Russian-Georgian relations.” The paper claims that President Vladimir Putin counts on Armenia’s support for his plans to launch an anti-terrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge, reminding Yerevan of its membership of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. “In short, we are facing demands to make a choice between spoiling our relations with either Georgia or Russia. And yet Armenia is not ready to give a definite answer.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” also sees Russian and Georgian attempts to change Armenia’s “balanced” foreign policy. The paper says the Armenian government should continue to avoid taking sides in the Russian-Georgian dispute. “After all, the Russians and Georgians will eventually reconcile with each other, and in the event of adopting a unbalanced foreign policy we could find ourselves in a quite difficult situation.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” dismisses as “fabricated” the latest opinion poll by the opposition Hanrapetutyun party that puts public support for President Kocharian at 21 percent. The paper claims that in fact more than 33 percent of respondents approached by Hanrapetutyun pollsters said they will vote for Kocharian and only 9 percent claimed to support Stepan Demirchian. It says Demirchian is “not capable of doing anything except pretending to be intelligent and imitating his [late] father’s voice.”
Demirchian, meanwhile, advises “Haykakan Zhamanak” not to pay much attention to “every stupid analysis.”
“Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” expects that the 16-party opposition alliance will split in two groupings to be led by Demirchian and Artashes Geghamian. “Nothing should be ruled out,” the leader of the Hanrapetutyun party, Albert Bazeyan, tells the paper in that regard.
“Orran” says that Kocharian is now in a much weaker position than his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian was in the run-up to the September 1996 election. “The country and the people have not seen any improvement or solutions over the past four years. This Armenia is only able to change cobblestones in the center of its capital. But even that useful undertaking is not accepted by the people because of the absence of the most important thing: mutual trust.”
According to “Golos Armenii,” it is the government of Andranik Markarian that is now in serious trouble. The paper says the government is heading for another budgetary crisis after a further delay in the release of more World Bank and IMF loans. This will in turn weaken Markarian’s Republican Party and could lead to the prime minister’s sacking.