(January 22, Saturday)
“Zhamanak” says that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s visit to Armenia is “interesting in the sense that it wasn’t announced beforehand.” “Furthermore, it was Russian media that first wrote about Saakashvili’s visit being scheduled for February,” writes the paper. It says that the timing and route of the visit are also “interesting.” “He is coming from the United States where he has just been on a visit,” it says. The paper goes on to speculate that there is a connection between the trip and what it says are U.S. attempts to use the political situation in Armenia for “relaying some messages to the authorities” in Yerevan. It points to U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s Friday meeting with opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that municipal authorities continue to enforce Mayor Karen Karapetian’s decision to ban street trade in Yerevan. The paper says officials were dismantling on Friday market stalls in the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district. “According to traders, another 150 families were deprived yesterday of their source of living,” it says. “Municipality representatives urged citizens owning kiosks to get into the [adjacent retail] market.” One of them is quoted as saying that this would lead them to financial ruin.
“Yerkir” says it remains to be seen whether Armenia will gain anything from the outgoing human rights ombudsman Armen Harutiunian’s appointment as United Nations human rights representative to Central Asia. “What is certain is that the country’s population neither knows nor wants to know what the Office of the Human Rights Defender is,” writes the paper. The main reason for that, it says, is that this institution has still not established itself and earned a good public reputation because of retaining close ties with the government. Also, Harutiunian has been notorious for using incoherent and complicated phrases understandable to ordinary people, according to the paper.
“Chorrord Inknishkhanutyun” attacks Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian over his calls for the enlargement of plots of agricultural land in Armenia. The paper claims that the plight of Armenian farmers has worsened in recent years because of government policies, rather than the small size of their farms. It points to a sizable increase in the cost of irrigation water, fertilizers and diesel fuel. “All this has been done under direct government supervision,” the opposition daily alleges, adding that had the authorities been genuinely concerned about the sector’s development they would have prevented the price rises.