“Haykakan Zhamanak” publishes the full text of Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s January 12 letter to the head of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation with which he tried to address U.S. concerns about the freedom and fairness of future Armenian elections. Oskanian said in the letter that the Armenian government “regrets” serious irregularities that were reported during the November 27 constitutional referendum.
“Aravot,” meanwhile, scorns, perceived post-election statements of repentance and overtures to the opposition made by Armenian officials. The paper says the authorities seem to be begging the opposition to “please hold back our hands and prevent us from releasing fraudulent figures.” It says they also seem to imply that they were tempted to rig the referendum by the opposition boycott of election commissions. Addressing the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg this week, Dashnaktsutyun leader Armen Rustamian went so far as to blame the opposition for “letting the authorities commit that crime,” according to “Aravot.”
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian tells “Aravot” that his office does not intend to prosecute anyone except three ordinary voters who allegedly cast three extra ballots on referendum day. Hovsepian argues that prosecutors lack the evidence to open more criminal cases. But as the paper points out, they can find concrete facts of vote rigging in Council of Europe observer’s referendum report. Hovsepian counters that his agency can use that information only if the observers “come to the prosecutor’s office and give testimony.”
“Ayb-Fe” is worried that the cut-off in Russian gas supplies could cause a serious energy crisis in Armenia. The paper likens the current situation to one existed in the winter of 1992-1993. “At first they blew up the Georgian pipeline leading to Armenia, and as it was repaired, we switched to energy rationing and reassured ourselves by the existence of gas reserves.”
“Armenia now resembles a country that has suffered a natural disaster and is neglected by everyone,” “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” notes grimly.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says the slow pace of repairs on the damaged section of the Russian pipeline “gives one reason to conclude that Russia is not quite interested in its speedy restoration.” “The existing situation once again proves that Armenia is simply obliged to have an alternative gas pipeline,” says the paper.
“I am convinced that the [Karabakh] problem will not be resolved in 2006,” former Foreign Minister Vahan Papazian tells “Ayb-Fe.” “That is not possible.” Papazian says the internal political situations in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh bode ill for a compromise settlement.