(Saturday, October 21)
“What we are negotiating on today is a package approach with a phased application,” Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian says in the second part of an interview with “Haykakan Zhamanak,” referring to Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks. “That means once you start the phases, you will know what will happen next.” Oskanian says this is what makes the current Karabakh peace plan radically different from the phased solution that was suggested by international mediators in 1997 and would indefinitely keep the situation uncertain.
“Mr. Oskanian does not deny rumors about the nomination of his candidacy in the presidential elections of 2008,” writes “168 Zham.” “And this is worrisome. For Vartan Oskanian, Armenia is less important than the USA of which his wife and children are citizens. Armenian people do everything for their children, and Vartan Oskanian is no exception to this rule.” Therefore, claims the paper, Oskanian will place U.S. interests above Armenia’s interests should he become president.
Political expert Aleksandr Iskandarian is quoted by “Hayots Ashkhar” as warning a growing number of Armenian politicians against advocating a radical rethink of Armenia’s strategic alliance with Russia. “Before talking about a change of foreign policy orientation, one should weigh up the price [of a pro-Western policy shift],” he says. “Karabakh? Maybe a part of Karabakh and half of [the Armenian region of] Zangezur? Or maybe Armenia’s energy independence? Or the sense of being protected against external aggression that people have just because the Russian flag flies somewhere in Gyumri? Are we ready to sacrifice this in return for some uncertain opportunities stemming from Western support?”
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” disagrees with this line of reasoning, ridiculing the authorities in Yerevan for their perceived pro-Russian policies. The paper suggests mockingly that they enact a “law on Russia.” It says the law should stipulate that Russia is Armenia’s number one “strategic partner” and that Armenia can not have other strategic partners without Moscow’s “written consent.”
“Zhamanak Yerevan” casts doubt on the sincerity of Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian’s assurances that he will not be seeking a third term in office next year. A recent opinion conducted in Karabakh found that Ashot Ghulian, the speaker of the Karabakh parliament close to Ghukasian, is the disputed region’s most popular politician. But another poll conducted among local and Yerevan-based experts shows that it is Masis Mayilian, Karabakh’s deputy foreign minister, who is seen as having the best chances to succeed Ghukasian. Incidentally, the latter was third in the rankings of potential presidential hopefuls. This is construed by the paper as an indication that analysts think that Ghukasian may well take part in the Karabakh presidential election due in 2008.