James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, assures “Zhamanak” that the December 19 meeting in Bern of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents was useful even if it did not yield a breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. He says that both Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev expressed concern at the latest escalation of fighting in the conflict zone. “The presidents agreed that it is important to talk to each other. That is why the co-chairs hope that they can organize another meeting between them next year.”
Asked why truce violations often intensify ahead of Armenian-Azerbaijani summits, Warlick replies: “It is unfortunate if the parties use tension as a tool ahead of the presidents’ meetings … At Bern the two presidents expressed concern at the rise in tension and reaffirmed their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the problem.” The parties should therefore respect the ceasefire, adds the U.S. diplomat.
“Zhoghovurd” laughs off Azerbaijani threats to take retaliatory measures against the United States if the U.S. Congress imposes sanctions on senior Azerbaijani officials responsible for grave human rights abuses. The paper finds particularly amusing Baku’s allegations that the U.S. authorities themselves restrict freedom of speech and rig elections. “The fact that Baku has decided to blackmail the U.S. will hardly be ignored by the White House,” it says. “It is important to understand what Azerbaijan is pinning its hopes on in impudently challenging Washington. Is Baku’s position on this issue backed by Ankara?”
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” attacks President Serzh Sarkisian for putting an optimistic spin on the economic situation in Armenia at a meeting with the country’s leading entrepreneurs. The paper says that hardly any Armenia is now better off than a year ago. “But the important thing for Serzh Sarkisian is that people are better off on paper,” it claims.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” accuses Armenia’s State Revenue Committee subordinate to the Finance Minister of stepping up its harassment of local businesses. The paper believes that its heavy-handed methods of tax collection are severely undermining tax collection in the country.