“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev promised on Wednesday to give “security guarantees” and “privileged rights” to the Karabakh Armenians. Aliev’s statement is construed by the paper as a readiness agree to a future referendum of independence in Karabakh, an issue reportedly on the agenda of the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. “At first glance, this variant is very beneficial for the Armenian side, but everything depends on the details. And even if the details are clarified in a way acceptable to Armenia, we will have more of a phased than a package solution.” That solution would be very different from what Robert Kocharian stood for when he came to power in 1998, concludes the paper.
“Hayots Ashkhar” sees “brilliant prospects” for a consensus-based reform of Armenia’s constitution. The paper says conditions are now ripe for ending “mutual animosity” between the country’s leading political actors and “meaningless and ridiculous revolutionary calls” by opposition leaders and “finally clarifying the rules of the game” for the 2007-2008 elections.
“168 Zham” writes that the Armenian authorities accepted the Council of Europe recommendations on the constitution because they failed to “dupe” the organization. But, says the paper, the authorities will never admit that they bowed to pressure from Strasbourg. “That is why they have to present what happened as Armenia’s achievement. Robert Kocharian has stated that he will stand by the constitutional reform and will convince the public that it is good for Armenia’s future. This is a serious step toward botching the referendum because the public will hardly support something which is put forward by Kocharian.”
“It is very easy to botch the referendum because the vast majority of our population does not care about the constitution, whether it is new or old, reformed or not reformed,” agrees “Aravot.” “So everything depends on the authorities. If they hand out vote bribes and then fix the numbers, then we will have a ‘yes’ [vote]. If not, we will have a ‘no’.”
“Golos Armenii,” meanwhile, attacks Kocharian’s critics for suggesting that he could not resist pressure by the Council of Europe. The paper says what matters the most is that the authorities and the opposition are close to an agreement on such an important issue and that Armenia took “yet another step toward integrating into the European community.” “Such an agreement is extremely rare,” it notes.
“168 Zham” reports that the brother of Trade and Industry Minister Karen Chshmaritian has admitted owning a newly built luxury hotel in Yerevan. Hayk Chshmaritian now works as deputy minister of transport. The paper wonders how a government official making 180,000 drams ($400) a month could have raised millions of dollars invested in the property. “That is my problem,” replies Chshmaritian.