By Astghik BedevianA top army general confirmed on Thursday reports that he will resign as Armenia’s deputy defense minister to run for parliament on the ticket of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
“I will soon submit a written application to the minister,” Lieutenant-General Artur Aghabekian told reporters. “I have already made a verbal request and it was granted. The minister will then ask the president of the republic to demobilize me from the armed forces.”
Aghabekian, who is widely regarded as Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s right-hand man, admitted that he will rejoin Dashnaktsutyun, a junior partner in Armenia’s ruling coalition. “I am returning to the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation for the time being,” he said. “The party will then decide whether or not I should run for parliament.”
A top Dashnaktsutyun leader, Hrant Markarian, said his party welcomes Aghabekian’s decision and will include him on its list of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Aghabekian has been close to Sarkisian despite the latter’s uneasy relationship with Dashnaktsutyun. Both men are natives of Nagorno-Karabakh and played major roles during the 1992-1994 war with Azerbaijan. Reports in the Armenian press have suggested that Sarkisian could appoint Aghabekian as defense minister in the event of his victory in the 2008 presidential election.
Aghabekian declined to comment on the speculation. “This is a provocative question,” he said. “I have no such goal. My goal is to try to distinguish myself in politics as well. Rest assured that I will succeed in that.”
Markarian and other Dashnaktsutyun leaders indicated earlier that the nationalist party will not endorse Sarkisian for the presidency. But some commentators say the prospect of Dashnaktsutyun control of the Defense Ministry may cause them to reconsider their stance.