Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has expressed hope that former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian will stand in Armenia’s forthcoming parliamentary elections in an alliance with his party and other opposition groups.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) late on Tuesday, Oskanian also mentioned Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the Zharangutyun party, among other potential members of an opposition bloc which he is trying to form ahead of the elections slated for April.
“I certainly have a great deal of respect for Seyran Ohanian,” he said. “We have worked together [in the past.] I will react very positively if he decides to enter politics and participate in the parliamentary elections. I do see cooperation with him.”
“I think that if that troika, which you just mentioned, if such an alliance is created, it will be a quite good alliance. But there are no agreements to that effect yet, and only time will tell whether or not there will be such developments.”
Oskanian revealed that he met with Ohanian after the latter was sacked as defense minister in October. “Seyran Ohanian has not yet made a final decision [on the elections,]” he said.
Oskanian, who is highly critical of President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration, also cautioned: “I had a purely personal and friendly meeting with Seyran Ohanian, and I don’t want it to be seen as being part of discussions on the formation of alliances.”
Ohanian was replaced by the chief of the presidential staff, Vigen Sargsian, as part of a government reshuffle initiated by President Sarkisian. He had served as defense minister since 2008. He has made no public statements since his sacking.
A retired army general, Ohanian commanded Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed armed forces from 1999 until being appointed in 2007 by then President Robert Kocharian as chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff. Oskanian was Armenia’s foreign minister throughout Kocharian’s 1998-2008 rule.
Oskanian and his political associates set up a new opposition party called Hamakhmbum (Consolidation) in June after splitting from the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). The Syrian-born ex-minister declared last month that Hamakhmbum is ready to form an electoral alliance with other opposition parties. He described the April 2017 vote as a “unique opportunity” to achieve regime change in the country.
“We are holding negotiations with various political forces,” Oskanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I hope that we too will form an alliance. But it’s still too early to make statements about that.”
Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), seemed to downplay the prospect of Ohanian joining the Armenian opposition. “As regards the possible alliance of two former foreign ministers and one former defense minister, it’s their business,” said Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman. “I see no need to welcome, disapprove or comment on that otherwise.”
Another senior HHK figure, Gagik Melikian, said he hopes that Ohanian will not challenge the government in the upcoming elections. Melikian also revealed that Ohanian turned down Sarkisian’s offer to again become chief of the army staff shortly before he was relieved of his ministerial duties.