Մատչելիության հղումներ

Oppositionist Slams Armenian Government Over Costly ‘March 1 Cover-Up’


Aleksandr Arzumanian, former Armenian FM, speaking at a press conference, Yerevan, 09July, 2009

A senior member of the Armenian opposition has described as ‘disgraceful’ the concentrated effort by the state authorities to avoid embarrassing international sanctions over the post-election crackdown, while paying less attention to other issues of importance in the foreign-policy domain, including the settlement of the longstanding conflict with Azerbaijan over Karabakh.

Aleksandr Arzumanian, Armenia’s foreign minister in 1996-98, was among several dozen loyalists of former president and current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian released from jail under the amnesty bill initiated by President Serzh Sarkisian and approved by the Armenian parliament on June 19. He and several of his fellow oppositionists in separate trials were found guilty of organizing the deadly post-election violence in the Armenian capital on March 1-2, 2008, but were amnestied and walked free from the courtroom on June 22, after spending nearly 16 months in custody.

Arzumanian and other defendants in the notorious ‘Case of Seven’ have vehemently denied the charges and claimed they have been prosecuted for their political views.

“During the past year and a half the authorities of Armenia have had only one issue on their foreign policy agenda – to avoid international sanctions,” Arzumanian said at a press conference on Thursday. “All other major issues have been discussed in this context.”

“This is a disgraceful situation,” he added.

At its summer session late last month, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) welcomed as a positive development the general amnesty in Armenia that resulted in the release of about 30 members of the opposition. Its resolution described the move as a “clear indication of the willingness of the authorities to overcome the political crisis and its consequences and to turn to a new page in Armenia’s democratic development.”

The Armenian opposition, however, has doubted the ‘goodwill of the authorities’, as the amnesty has been described by pro-establishment political circles, calling for the release of all “political prisoners”, including about two dozen people still remaining in jail in connection with the post-election unrest.

“There is a lot of talk that the government has made an attempt to close the March 1 page by declaring the so-called amnesty. The March 1 page, in fact, has not even been opened. A massacre took place and the efforts of the authorities in the past year and a half have been aimed at providing a cover-up and placing responsibility on certain people,” said Arzumanian, underlining that the decision to declare amnesty was the result of pressure from international structures rather than the authorities’ ‘goodwill’.

At the press conference, Armenia’s former foreign minister also voiced concerns over the recent developments in the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks over the Karabakh conflict settlement.

In particular, Arzumanian criticized the Armenian authorities for supplanting Karabakh as a party to the negotiations and, furthermore, “ceasing to be a negotiating party” themselves.

“The impression is that there is no Armenian party to the negotiations as such. The [OSCE Minsk Group] cochairmen decide what the solution should be, Azerbaijan voices this solution and Armenia quietly waits for the international community to come to agreement whether to foist this solution on us or not, or else for Azerbaijan to attempt to foist this solution on us at the point of the bayonet,” charged Arzumanian. “This is dangerous. Karabakh is not a party to the talks today after Armenia replaced it and, furthermore, no one reckons with the views of Armenia.”
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