“Haykakan Zhamanak” says the visit to Azerbaijan and Armenia by high-ranking American, French and Russian diplomats spearheading the Karabakh peace process is “unprecedented in terms of its seriousness.” The paper says their statement made in Baku on Wednesday was also unprecedented. “It shows that the resolution of the Karabakh conflict is entering an unprecedented phase, after which the process will not boil down to mere statements and comments.”
“Hayots Ashkhar” says the visit comes amid “unusually strong pressure” facing the Armenian side.
“168 Zham” says official statistics on imports of mobile phones to Armenia in recent years testify to the enormous scale of tax evasion in this lucrative business. According to those figures, the number of mobile handsets used by Armenian has increased by only 11,178 in the last three years. “It’s hard to imagine a more ridiculous number,” comments the paper, arguing that at least 400,000 Armenians have become cellphone subscribers since 2004.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” estimates that at least 275,000 handsets were sold in Armenia last year. The paper claims that those phones were smuggled into the country with the help of President Robert Kocharian’s elder son Sedrak. “That is, the sums which should have gone to the state budget from these imports were apparently received by Sedrak Kocharian. And if we assume that Sedrak gets $10 from every phone, [it will mean that] in 2005 alone Sedrak earned $2.75 million.”
“Aravot” editorializes that the bitter dispute between Artashes Geghamian and Artur Baghdasarian must be particularly entertaining for the authorities because “the belligerent parties are becoming discredited while the authorities are finding themselves with white gloves.” “Of course, neither man will become president in 2008. Everyone knows who will become. But at issue is not how to become president but how to make money in the process,” writes the paper.
In a separate report, “Aravot” quotes a close associate of another opposition leader, Stepan Demirchian, as accusing Geghamian of breaking promises given to his opposition allies during the 2003 presidential race.
“Artur Baghdasarian does not seem to pose a threat to the authorities now, but the situation may change later on,” writes “168 Zham.” “Artur Baghdasarian may not only switch to the opposition camp but also become the key figure who will unite one of the wings of that camp. The opposition camp has a leadership problem right now.” The paper says the Armenian authorities must be worried also because Baghdasarian seems to enjoy Western support.
Smbat Ayvazian, a senior member of the radical opposition Hanrapetutyun party, tells “Aravot” that Orinats Yerkir’s departure from government was a “positive” development. Ayvazian says Baghdasarian has shattered a government myth that whoever challenges Kocharian is solely concerned with power.