“168 Zham” carries an open letter to the Armenian people by a large group of Azerbaijani intellectuals which warns that the war in Nagorno-Karabakh will resume next year if Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks remain deadlocked. “We do not insist that we will certainly win in case of a war, even though the population of Azerbaijan is deeply convinced in that,” they write. “But even in case of defeat, the moral spirit of the [Azerbaijani] people will remain the same and another victory will not give Armenia anything. We are appealing to you to initiate the holding of a referendum on the return of at least five [occupied Azerbaijani] districts: Aghdam, Fizuli, Zangelan, Jebrail and Ghubatli.”
“A positive outcome of the referendum would boost the image of the Armenian people in the eyes of the international community and Azerbaijan,” says the letter signed by 101 people. “And this goodwill would give the Armenian authorities the blank check in reaching a peace accord.”
“Aravot” reports that a small Armenian party called Human Rights ’96 has condemned Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian over his decision to join the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The paper said in a statement that the move went against Armenia’s “constitutional order.” “For the first time in the republic’s history, a defense minister is attempting to breach the political neutrality of the armed forces,” it said, calling on President Robert Kocharian to ban the HHK.
Meanwhile, a senior Republican, Gagik Minasian, tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that Sarkisian will be elected to the HHK’s governing council during the party’s upcoming congress. Minasian argues that all “high-ranking officials affiliated with the party also become members of the council.”
“Iravunk” reports that General Manvel Grigorian, a deputy defense minister and chairman of the Yerkrapah Union, celebrated his birthday anniversary in a restaurant on July 14 in the presence of virtually every members of Armenia’s political elite except Kocharian. “The deputy defense minister was presented with weapons by almost all of the high-ranking guests,” reveals the paper. It says oligarch Gagik Tsarukian was even more generous, giving the feared general the keys of an unknown business enterprise.
“Taregir” reports that the Armenian customs continues to refuse to name companies importing large quantities of key commodities to Armenia on the grounds that this information is a state secret. “The fact is that if this information is made public it will emerge that one of the biggest importers of goods to Armenia is the deputy chief of the customs, Gagik Khachatrian,” says the paper. “According to our sources, this gentleman alone imports 12 items, ranging from alcohol to sweets confectionery. And naturally, Khachatrian’s goods enter the Armenian market without payment of import duties. That is, by means of smuggling.”