(Saturday, July 15)
“Haykakan Zhamanak” comments that Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Friday rekindled speculation that he might be President Robert Kocharian’s preferred successor. Oskanian had until then answered very ambiguously to questions about his possible participation in the 2008 presidential election. “Yesterday, however, seemed to see the first indications that talk of Oskanian’s presidential future is not unfounded,” says the paper.
“Azg” carries comments on the same issue, also made on Friday, by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. “We will address this issue after the National Assembly elections,” said Sarkisian. “For if the Republicans and forces supporting them do not have a serious presence in the National Assembly, it will make no sense to speak about further steps … If we see that our voters, our people approve of our ideas, our programs, then why not?”
“168 Zham” quotes opposition politician Hovannes Hovannisian as calling for former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s return to active politics. “Let’s face it, what Levon Ter-Petrosian said in 1997-1998 has materialized,” says Hovannisian. “He is no Nostradamus. He is just a serious, far-sighted politician who had a clear idea of what could happen.”
“Zhamanak Yerevan” claims that Kocharian’s former chief of staff, Artashes Tumanian, is selling off his businesses because of having fallen out with the Armenian president. “He is selling the tufa quarries at Ani and a cattle farm close to the Ani ‘railway’ station,” says the paper.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg will not have any major implications for the South Caucasus. The paper predicts that the leaders of the world’s eight leading industrialized nations could only issue a largely meaningless statement calling for a peaceful to the regional conflicts.
“Aravot” carries an interview with a senior member of one of Azerbaijan’s main opposition parties, Musavat, who admits that that civil society contacts between the two warring states have become even more difficult in the past few years. “They say in Azerbaijan that such contacts play into the Armenians’ hands because they thereby reduce our vigilance and make us forget consequences of the conflict,” says Hikmet Hajizade.
Several newspapers report on yet another high-profile shooting in Yerevan which occurred early on Thursday. Armen Novikov, a reputed mobster who was supposed to be serving a five-year prison sentence for murder, came under fire and was seriously wounded while driving through the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district. The papers suggest that he was shot by the friends of another young man whom he was convicted of killing during a massive gunfight last year.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reveals that Novikov got the unusually lenient prison sentence in May 2005 only to be set free by a Yerevan court five months later, ostensibly due to poor health. The paper says state prosecutors have announced the arrest of one man in connection with the attack on Novikov. The man, Levon Ghazarian, also actively participated in last year’s infamous shootout and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment as a result. Ghazarian, as it turned out, too was granted a pre-term release.
“When the state fails to perform its punitive function, the criminal underworld steps in,” “Hayots Ashkhar” comments on the shooting.