In its first issue of 2005, “Haykakan Zhamanak” draws parallels between what it sees as Soviet-style New Year’s addresses delivered by the presidents of Armenia and Russia. Both Robert Kocharian and Vladimir Putin were talking about social security and improving living standards. “Of course, those are important issues the solution to which is vital for any state and government. But trouble is that in their televised addresses the presidents did not go beyond the social and defense topics and said nothing about political, legal and moral protection of citizens and other related values,” says the paper. “That means this type of politicians treat the citizens of their countries as a crowd whose needs are summed up by the concept of food.”
“Aravot” takes a skeptical look at Kocharian’s promises to crack down on tax evasion and ensure a level playing field for all businesses. The paper argues that none of Armenia’s wealthy oligarchs could have thrived without government support. “In reality, everything will boil down to a campaign of stricter [tax] administration as a result of which illegal taxes paid by entrepreneurs will become greater and more diverse.” The paper is sure that nobody will touch the oligarchs.
“Aravot” also devotes a separate editorial to the 60th birthday anniversary of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian which he celebrated on Sunday. The paper, which is sympathetic to Ter-Petrosian, admits that he made “serious mistakes” during his eight-year rule. This, it says, includes his heavy reliance on former senior Communists, the army and law-enforcement bodies. Besides, Armenia’s first oligarchs emerged under Ter-Petrosian. The ex-president is also blamed for the less than democratic elections of 1995 and 1996. But the paper remains convinced that Ter-Petrosian’s 1997 ideas of resolving the Karabakh conflict were “100 percent right” while those of his opponents “100 percent wrong.”
“Azg” reports that Armenia and Azerbaijan could sign an “interim agreement” on Karabakh as a result of Tuesday’s meeting in Prague between their foreign ministers. The paper says Karabakh forces will withdraw from some of the occupied Azerbaijani lands in return for Azerbaijan agreeing to leave Karabakh under Armenian control at least until a future referendum on its secession from Azerbaijan. It notes that a similar peace accord was signed this weekend between Sudan’s government and secessionist rebels.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says Armenia gets a real opportunity to end its transport blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey this year. The paper refers to the ongoing efforts to restore direct rail communication between Russia and Georgia. It says this will only reinforce Armenia’s bargaining position in the Karabakh talks.