“Hayots Ashkhar” says a breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiating process looks possible after the Minsk meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents. “We think we are seeing a much more complex game, the main player of which is neither the conflicting parties, nor Russia,” says the paper. “The latter is faced with a difficult choice because the international community and the United States in the first instance assign to Russia the key role in securing a breakthrough in efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict.” The paper speculates that the West is ready to go as far as to halt NATO’s further expansion if Moscow helps to end the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.
“It is evident that Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliev agree on dragging out the problem’s resolution as long as possible,” “Hayk” says, adding that they turned to Russia for that purpose ahead of the Minsk meeting. But, claims the paper, during the meeting both leaders were issued with an “ultimatum” on Karabakh. It says this fact exposed a “new radical change in Russian foreign policy which is not beneficial for the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” devotes an editorial to the fact that Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission on Wednesday lowered a utility tariff for the first time during its history. “There are going to be two elections in Armenia,” writes the paper. “Parliamentary elections in 2007 and presidential elections in 2008. The situation is such that if there are upheavals before those elections, possibilities for the current regime’s reproduction will diminish. That is the reason why Armenia now lives in an era of unprecedented populism.” That populism will cost the country dearly, warns the paper.
“Aravot” is also unimpressed with the 10 percent reduction in the price of natural gas, seeing a government ploy to win over the disaffected electorate. The paper says the price may well be raised after the elections.
In a separate commentary, “Aravot” says Armenia’s 2007 budget passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday also has a “pre-election” character. “Before every election, our National Assembly begins harboring warm feelings towards the roofs of [rundown] schools and other buildings and demands money from the government for their repair,” says the paper.
“Hayots Ashkhar” wonders why the government scrapped this week controversial plans to raise the salaries of high-ranking state officials by 40 percent. “Was it scared of public opinion or just did not want take an unpopular step ahead of the elections?” it asks. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian is quoted as saying that the government simply responded to opposition attempts to “exploit that issue.”