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Opposition Not Satisfied With Security Briefing


Armenia - A session of the National Assembly, October 26, 2021

Opposition deputies complained that senior military officials shed little light on the situation along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan during a special session of the National Assembly held behind the closed doors on Tuesday.

The parliament’s two opposition factions demanded such a briefing immediately after Azerbaijani authorities began levying on September 12 hefty duties from Iranian vehicles passing through an Azerbaijani-controlled section of the main highway connecting Armenia and Iran. They said Defense Minister Arshak Karapetian and National Security Service (NSS) Director Armen Abazian must come to the National Assembly to answer their questions.

The parliament’s leadership took more than a month to organize the discussion. Deputies representing the Hayastan and Pativ Unem blocs as well as the ruling Civil Contract party were briefed by Kamo Kochunts, the first deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, and Arman Maralchian, the commander of Armenian border guards.

Pativ Unem’s Taguhi Tovmasian walked out of the chamber midway through the session. She said the generals refused to provide new information on the grounds that they cannot disclose “state secrets.”

“I am deeply disappointed,” Tovmasian told reporters. “I left the discussion because I didn’t want to keep listening to that buffoonery.”

Hayastan’s parliamentary leader, Seyran Ohanian, was also dissatisfied. Ohanian, who had served as defense minister from 2008-2016, suggested that more high-ranking security officials could have shared more information with the legislators.

Ohanian also said the briefing reinforced his belief that a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh did not require Armenian withdrawal from strategic areas along Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian ordered Armenian army units and local militias to pull out of those areas last December. Pashinian said that they are located on the Azerbaijani side of Armenia’s Soviet-era border with Azerbaijan, which had never been demarcated due to the Karabakh conflict.

The order, strongly condemned by the Armenian opposition and local government officials, left Azerbaijani forces in control of a 21-kilometer stretch of the main highway connecting Syunik’s capital Kapan to another provincial town, Goris.

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