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By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian and Armen Sarkisian, a London-based former prime minister of Armenia, met on Thursday for the first time since their high-profile falling out eight years ago.

Kocharian’s office said the head of state received Sarkisian along with Serge Tchuruk, the ethnic Armenian chairman of Alcatel-Lucent, the world’s leading telecom equipment supplier. It said the three men discussed prospects for the development of information technology (IT) in Armenia.

“Serge Tchuruk briefly presented Alcatel’s activities and noted its desire and readiness to launch certain projects in Armenia,” the presidential press service said in a statement. It quoted Kocharian as reaffirming his government’s commitment to expanding the country’s IT sector. No further details were reported.

Sarkisian, who has developed extensive business interests in recent years, was Armenia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom before and after serving as prime minister in the administration of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in late 1996 and early 1997.

The former scholar was controversially sacked by Kocharian in early 2000 after reportedly negotiating with a powerful government faction that challenged the president in the months that followed the October 1999 shootings in the Armenian parliament. The faction, led by then Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian (no relation to Armen) viewed the London-based ambassador as Kocharian’s potential replacement before losing the bitter power struggle in May 2000.

Armen Sarkisian, 54, has lived in the UK and avoided any contacts with the Armenian media since then. His meeting with Kocharian came less than three weeks before Armenia’s crucial presidential election which the outgoing president hopes will formalize a handover of power to his longtime ally, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian (also not related to Armen). Unlike Kocharian, the latter is thought to have retained a cordial rapport with the London-based ex-premier.

The current and former prime ministers met, also in the presence of Tchuruk, later in the day. A government statement said the meeting focused on Alcatel-Lucent’s potential operations in Armenia.

“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun,” a newspaper sympathetic to Ter-Petrosian, attacked Armen Sarkisian on Tuesday, calling him the “spiritual father” of a small pro-government party which is now actively campaigning for Serzh’s victory in the February 19 election. The party’s founding leader was appointed as an aide to Serzh Sarkisian last year.

The paper also accused the ex-premier of playing a key role in “machinations” relating to imports of natural gas which have allegedly cost Armenia hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. It did not elaborate on the allegations, however.

(Photolur photo: Sarkisian, left, and Tchuruk pictured before meeting Kocharian.)
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