By Emil Danielyan
President Serzh Sarkisian on Monday appointed Artur Baghdasarian, the leader of the Orinats Yerkir Party, as secretary of his National Security Council in accordance with a power-sharing agreement reached by the two men following last February’s presidential election.
The agreement enabled Orinats Yerkir to take up senior governments in return for accepting Sarkisian’s victory in the disputed vote. Two of its senior members became ministers of transport and emergency situations in Armenia’s new government formed last month.
Baghdasarian, who was a major presidential candidate, initially questioned the legitimacy of Sarkisian’s election win, alleging serious fraud. He also harshly criticized Sarkisian and President Robert Kocharian and claimed to have received death threats from them during the election campaign.
The National Security Council, which comprises top state officials, discussed and made decisions on key issues such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under Armenia’s first President Levon Ter-Petrosian. Its famous two-day meeting held in January 1998 exposed serious disagreements on Karabakh existing within the country’s leadership, forcing Ter-Petrosian to resign one month later. The council turned into a largely ceremonial body during Kocharian’s ten-year presidency.
Sarkisian said the body will play a more important role during his term in office as he unveiled his power-sharing deal with Baghdasarian on February 29. He said its secretary will occupy “the third or fourth most important position in the republic.” Few local observers think, however, that the 39-year-old former parliament speaker will have a major say on the unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan and other security challenges facing Armenia.
In a separate decree signed on Monday, Sarkisian approved the council’s new composition and instructed Baghdasarian to draft its statutes within one month. The consultative body will now comprise 15 members, including the president of the republic, the prime minister, the parliament speaker, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, the ministers of defense and foreign affairs, the chief of army staff as well as the country’s top law-enforcement officials.
(Photolur photo: Sarkisian and Baghdasarian pictured after signing the agreement on February 29.)