Former Prime Minister Karen Karapetian said he disagrees with many policies of the current Armenian government but has no plans to return to active politics when he made a rare public appearance on Monday.
“I don’t want to engage in politics,” Karapetian said after testifying before an Armenian parliamentary commission investigating the April 2016 hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. He refused to give any details of his testimony, arguing that it included state secrets.
Karapetian said on Monday that he monitors political developments in Armenia “to a certain degree and not in a systematic fashion.”
When asked to assess the current government’s track record, he said: “Today I wish the government success so that we come out of this situation with minimal losses because the [coronavirus] problem is really serious. But I don’t agree with the government on many issues.”
He did not elaborate.
Karapetian was appointed as prime minister in September 2016 by then President Serzh Sarkisian. He ceded that post to Sarkisian and was named first deputy prime minister in April 2018 after Sarkisian engineered Armenia’s transition to a parliamentary system of government.
Karapetian became the country’s acting prime minister just one week later, after Sarkisian resigned amid nationwide street protests against his continued rule. But he too had to step down after the Armenian parliament reluctantly elected the protest leader, Nikol Pashinian, prime minister on May 8, 2018.
Karapetian has kept a very low profile and made no political statements since then. He resigned as first deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in June 2018 and left the HHK altogether December 2018.
Sarkisian’s dramatic resignation came one day after the arrest of Pashinian and his associates which only intensified the anti-government protests. Karapetian personally negotiated with Pashinian hours before the latter was set free on April 23, 2018.
The 56-year-old technocrat refused to shed light on their conversation. “Whatever we agreed on with Mr Pashinian was our internal agreement,” he said, adding that neither side has breached it.
Last week Karapetian and two other former Armenian prime ministers appeared before a Yerevan court to call for the release former President Robert Kocharian from custody pending the outcome of his ongoing trial.
Commenting on that move, Karapetian said: “I respect and appreciate Robert Kocharian’s contribution to the independence and development of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Armenia. This judicial process has been going on for almost two years and it may well last much longer. That is why I submitted a petition for his release.”
“I think that this process is quite agitated and politicized,” he said when asked whether he thinks the coup and corruption charges leveled against Kocharian are politically motivated.
Kocharian strongly denies the charges, having accused Pashinian of waging a “political vendetta.” Pashinian and prosecutors deny any political motives behind the high-profile case.
Last December, then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appointed Karapetian as a senior member of a body advising the Russian government on key economic and social policies. It emerged at the time that Karapetian now also works as an adviser to the chairman of Russia’s Gazprombank.
Karapetian already held senior positions in Gazprombank and other subsidiaries of Russia’s Gazprom energy giant when he lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016. He managed Armenia’s Gazprom-owned natural gas distribution network from 2001-2010.