“Aravot” says that by threatening to punish Armenia for this year’s elections the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) showed a “yellow card” (i.e., issued the last warning) to President Robert Kocharian. The paper says the PACE may have decided against slapping sanctions on Yerevan, but will not tolerate further delays in the fulfillment of membership obligations even if those are seen by some Armenian leaders as “jeopardizing our country’s security.” The paper points to Dashnaktsutyun leader Vahan Hovannisian’s latest remark that a law on alternative military service to be adopted by the Armenian parliament later this year should not meet European standards.
“I remain of the opinion that the likelihood of the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border is great,” Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian says in an interview with “Aravot.” Sarkisian again chides unnamed “very serious persons” who believe that an open border with Turkey would damage Armenia both economically and politically. “Thinking of themselves as great theorists, those persons do not understand elementary things,” he says. “They don’t understand that the border’s opening does not depend on us. It’s the Turks’ business to open or not to open their border.” Sarkisian argues that neither Armenia nor Turkey should set any preconditions for normalizing their trade relations.
“Iravunk” says the Armenian authorities’ continuing efforts to “woo Europe” will have implications for domestic politics which is increasingly affected by the high-profile trials in the October 1999 terrorist attack on parliament and the December 2002 murder of journalist Tigran Naghdalian. The ruling coalition may find itself in greater trouble after the increase in the price of basic utilities planned for the beginning of next year. The paper claims that some government factions that are not connected with any of the three coalition parties may fan public anger with the measures. Some pro-establishment media are already sending corresponding signals.
“Golos Armenii” attacks Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian for characterizing Armenia as a “Caucasian tiger” in his speech at the UN General Assembly last week. The paper says rosy economic statistics cited by the authorities do not reflect the situation on the ground. It accuses President Robert Kocharian of failing to make good on his 1998 pledge to improve the lot of most ordinary citizens within two years. “Those [economic] indicators, as it turned out, are for the UN, while we, ordinary residents of the country, are left to languish in malnutrition.”