(Saturday, January 24)
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that construction firms in Gyumri and surrounding areas still owe their employees back wages for last year’s work on construction projects financed by the Lincy Foundation of U.S.-Armenian billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Some of the workers claim to have not been paid since September. The Lincy contractors blame the wage arrears on an expected rise in the price of construction materials. The paper says their workers reject the explanation. “Why are they cheating us?” one of them, a mother of two children, is quoted as saying. “I worked as hard as men and am not asking for alms. I simply want the money earned by me.” A local Lincy official interviewed by the paper blames the problem on the contractors, saying that the charity has paid them in full.
“Aravot” sticks to its view that the “unfavorable” wording on Nagorno-Karabakh in a draft resolution to be debated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe this week was not included because of the poor work of Armenian parliamentarians. The paper says it resulted from an overall change in the international community’s treatment of the Armenian authorities over their controversial handling of last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections as well as their policy on Karabakh.
“Hayots Ashkhar” speculates that Armenia and Azerbaijan could be issued with an “ultimatum” later this year to accept a Karabakh peace plan put forward by the OSCE’s Minsk Group or face international sanctions. The paper says that both warring nations will be unable to resist the pressure if the Minsk Group’s Russian, U.S. and French co-chairs act as a single team enjoying the support of their governments. It says competition among the three foreign powers is increasingly driven by economic motives that make their geopolitical rivalry in the Caucasus and other regions less important. “To think that it is possible to go against the course of the world’s development is, in our view, not quite realistic. So the challenge now is to get the maximum from that course.” The pro-establishment paper, which until now consistently argued that the Karabakh status quo is good for the Armenian side, concludes the analysis by calling for public discussions on the “inevitability of mutual compromise” with the Azerbaijanis.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the leader of the opposition Artarutyun alliance, Stepan Demirchian, is in “militant spirits” after this month’s trip to London and other major European capitals where he met with unspecified policy-makers and political strategists. The paper says the latter approved of Demirchian’s push for a referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian. “They did not rule out that at a particular stage of the opposition’s actions the West will exert pressure on Armenia’s authorities by trying to convince the latter to hold a referendum of confidence. In essence, the extent of Western pressure will be commensurate with actions to be taken by the Armenian opposition.”
Dashnaktsutyun leader Vahan Hovannisian tells “Aravot” that the sole “ideological opponent” of Armenia’s present leadership is the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) party. “In that regard, the HHSh is positively different from all those opposition groups that while not envisaging political or ideological changes in the country, want a mere change of regime,” he says. Hovannisian is quick to add that the HHSh’s return to power is “not yet deserved in the organizational sense.” As for its unofficial leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, his return “neither realistic nor necessary” because “he has an eternal stigma in our society.”