Former President Robert Kocharian signaled his satisfaction with the current state of affairs in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh as he made a rare public appearance on Wednesday.
Kocharian reluctantly agreed to talk to journalists as he attended official ceremonies in his hometown of Stepanakert marking the 18th anniversary of the declaration of Nagorno-Karabakh independence. His successor Serzh Sarkisian, also a native of Karabakh, and the disputed region’s leadership were also in attendance.
Kocharian, who appears to have had a hair transplant recently, seemed in unusually high spirits, joking with reporters and laughing off their questions throughout the brief conversation. “I didn’t expect the free life to be so good,” he said, chortling.
“My mood is good,” he added in remarks broadcast by Armenian TV channels. “Especially when I see that everything is moving in a quite encouraging direction.”
Kocharian refused to elaborate on that. It thus remained unclear whether he broadly agrees with Sarkisian’s policies and, in particular, efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict and normalize Armenia’s relations with Turkey. Those efforts have generated a lot of controversy in Yerevan, with critics, among them some former members of the Kocharian administration, accusing Sarkisian of making disproportionate concessions to the country’s two arch-foes.
Kocharian himself indicated his disapproval of the current Armenian government’s more conciliatory line on Turkey in July last year, three months after leaving office. He made clear that unlike Sarkisian, he would not have invited Turkish President Abdullah Gul to pay a historic visit to Yerevan in September 2008.
Kocharian has been rumored to be plotting a political comeback ever since he completed his second and final five-year term in office in April 2008. The Armenian pro-opposition press has been rife with speculation that he is keen to replace the Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and even win back the presidency.
Kocharian and his aides have repeatedly dismissed the speculation. The ex-president admitted on Wednesday that he follows political developments in the country. “But not actively,” he added.