Armenian newspapers carry fresh condemnations of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones by politicians and political commentators. Perhaps the most noteworthy and interesting is a statement jointly issued by the prefect and legislative council of Yerevan’s Kanaker-Zeytun district, local non-governmental organizations and business associations.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says the Armenian authorities have still not decided whether to officially react to Jones’s claims that Nagorno-Karabakh and other breakaway regions in the former Soviet Union are ruled by “criminal secessionists.” “Intensive discussions” on the issue are going on. The government, the paper says, is instead whipping an anti-American uproar among the public. The paper compares to anti-Western PR campaigns often staged by the Soviet leadership.
“In reality, however, power in Karabakh, both in the past and now, is based on criminal clans,” continues “Haykakan Zhamanak.” “Government officials plunder the people as much as they can.” It claims that “the path chosen by the Armenian and Karabakh authorities is leading to destruction.” “The day when the phrase ‘Armenia’s criminal government’ is uttered by a Western leader will not be long in coming.”
“Aravot,” another pro-opposition daily, also takes a sarcastic look at the outcry. “According to some observers, the statement about the Karabakh government being corrupt and criminal is absolutely slanderous because Karabakh’s criminal and corrupt elements have long moved to Armenia,” it says in an editorial. Still, the paper finds Jones’s statement “unfortunate,” arguing that the Karabakh government is no more corrupt and illegitimate that the ruling regimes of Armenia, Azerbaijan or even Russia.
“Much more important is trying to understand why the high-level American official expressed such an unfair view,” writes “168 Zham.” “We must look for the reasons for that among ourselves. The main objective of our foreign policy must be not fighting against falsification, but formulating a policy that would make the international community disinterested in leveling false allegations against Armenia.”
“Aravot” reports that tensions between Karabakh’s leadership and the local chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) are persisting. One of its leaders is quoted as saying that the authorities in Stepanakert are doing little to address Dashnaktsutyun concerns. He says the Dashnaks are unhappy with the government’s failure to tackle corruption as well as with its economic policies.
In separate interviews with “Hayots Ashkhar” and “Haykakan Zhamanak,” the head of Armenia’s State Taxation Service, Felix Tsolakian, promises to act on President Robert Kocharian’s demands for a tougher government crackdown on tax evasion. “Let nobody think that they will be left out [of taxation] with the help of someone,” Tsolakian says. “I will go to the end.”