By Ruzanna Stepanian
Artur Baghdasarian, Secretary of the National Security Council, has shrugged off opposition allegations of an imminent collapse of the state system, saying that Armenia’s power has never been so strong and united.
Talking to RFE/RL on Thursday, Baghdasarian responded to the claims made by opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian at a recent rally that the power pyramid is cracking because of a continuing redistribution of spheres of influences and riches.
Baghdasarian, who also heads the governing coalition member party, Orinats Yerkir, called Ter-Petrosian’s statement groundless and added that the current political team in Armenia is “capable of carrying out the most ambitious reforms.”
“This assertion of Ter-Petrosian as well as many others that he has made have nothing to do with the reality because Ter-Petrosian has only one motto in his ‘onward march’, which is evil, which is smearing people by all acceptable and unacceptable means,” Baghdasarian said. “The power system is as strong and united as ever in Armenia. But the dynamics of Ter-Petrosian rallies shows that the number of rally participants is shrinking all the time. This is a fact that these people should reckon with.”
“A careful study of the appeals made during the opposition rallies shows that these people do not offer anything new to the public,” the Orinats Yerkir leader continued.
At the same time, Baghdasarian, who was appointed secretary of the National Security Council in accordance with a power-sharing agreement reached with President Serzh Sarkisian following last February’s presidential election, heaped praise on the current head of state, describing him as a leader of ‘vast experience and equilibrium’.
“As a person who is in everyday contact with the president of the Republic of Armenia, I can say that Serzh Sarkisian is a vastly experienced and balanced head of state, a leader who appreciates teamwork and a very good friend in personal relations.”
Baghdasarian steered clear of assessing the use of force by security forces against opposition protesters on March 1, which resulted in ten deaths. To RFE/RL’s question the Security Council chief said that law-enforcers and the ongoing parliamentary probe are currently working to establish the circumstances in which the deaths occurred. But he expressed hope that the new fact-finding group will be able to gather all required evidence.
“The accumulated evil and hatred would by all means lead to undesirable developments and that was exactly what happened. Today, we continue to hear brazen lies and false statements. I would call it a sign of weakness,” Baghdasarian said.
Speaking at his first press conference in the capacity of the National Security Council’s secretary, Baghdasarian on Thursday also presented Armenia’s foreign-policy formula, stressing that Armenia will continue its strategic cooperation with Russia, good-neighborly relations with Georgia and deepened cooperation with the European Union and partnership with the United States and NATO.
As for relations with Turkey, Baghdasarian said that a new situation has emerged in the region following the visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Armenia at the invitation of President Sarkisian. Baghdasarian said that “our neighbors are not our opponents and Armenia should gradually establish normal relations with them.”
Regarding the opposition’s claims that Turkey is set to become a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, Baghdasarian said: “Turkey can never become a mediator, especially that no such issue has been raised. Armenia supported and continues to support a Karabakh settlement process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. It is another matter that Turkish President Gul expressed his desire to assist in the settlement of the problem. We are willing to accept any assistance. Assistance and mediation are two totally different missions.”
Regarding the possible reopening of the Armenian-Turkish border, Baghdasarian said: “Now we can say with confidence that the reopening of the border will give much more positive dividends to Armenia, to the development of our economic infrastructure than its certain possible negative trends.”
Baghdasarian also defended Armenia’s position during the Georgian-Russian conflict, saying that the Armenian authorities managed to show a balanced approach and despite the fact that as a result of the war in the neighboring republic Armenia incurred a damage estimated at $680 million, nevertheless, he said, Armenia’s authorities managed to save the country from shocks.
“In fact, the president of the Republic of Armenia, the Security Council worked in a very busy regime during the days of that conflict. We were in contact on a daily basis with the security councils of Russia, Georgia, with heads of corresponding structures.”
The Armenian opposition harshly criticized the leadership, in particular President Serzh Sarkisian, for not interrupting their stay in China on the occasion of the Olympic Games while the war in Georgia was unfolding and for returning to Armenia only six days after the start of hostilities.