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No Calm After the Storm Armenian News Network / Groong December 18, 1999 By Onnik Krikorian Representatives from the OSCE met with the Foreign Minister and President of Armenia last Saturday to discuss the future of Nagorno Karabagh. The delegation also visited the enclave and are said to be optimistic after their meetings with the Karabagh leadership. The Foreign Minister of Armenia, Vardan Oskanian however, is reported to be concerned that tensions between the United States and Russia over Chechnya may adversely affect their cooperation as members of the Minsk Group, and all sides are aware that the discussions are just that - `discussions' - and not concrete steps towards a final peace settlement. But, even if the OSCE may be satisfied in its relationship with the current administration in Nagorno Karabagh, the recently ousted Karabagh Defense Minister is not. This week, General Samvel Babayan attacked the new Prime Minister Anushavan Danielyan outside of the Karabagh Parliament in what an official statement called `an encroachment against the statehood and the entire executive branch of government.' The continuing dispute between the President of the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh and its former Defense Minister has become tense in recent days. Following the attack on the Prime Minister, Babayan has been dismissed from his position as commander of the Nagorno Karabagh Armed Forces in a presidential decree signed on Friday. An official statement from the Karabagh government accused `certain forces' of threatening the socio-economic development of the country, and declared that such an action was necessary in order to counter the `atmosphere of fear and terror that has reigned in Karabagh for a long time.' The communiqué also went on to state that `clan forces, proceeding from their personal interests have resorted to every possible effort to prevent the declared course of the government.' Simply put, the administration of President Arkhady Ghukasyan believed that the forces represented by Babayan were attempting to create an atmosphere of political instability in order to protect their own economic interests. With many lucrative enterprises inside the self-declared republic, Babayan represents the unfortunate reality that after the upsurge of nationalism and self-determination that resulted in war with Azerbaijan, the ceasefire agreement signed in May 1994 has left many of its central figures without roles in a changing post-war environment. Survival is now simply through corruption, theft and, as many allege, the violation of human rights. While Babayan may have had a past that many Armenians would consider glorious, he is now neither liked nor respected in either Armenia or Karabagh. There may be rumors surrounding the recent past of the Prime Minister, but those surrounding the activities of Babayan have been enough to suggest his `elimination.' Some even suggested that those orders might come from the former Defense Minister and Prime Minister of Armenia, Vazgen Sarkisyan. Somewhat ironically however, it was Sarkisyan that was murdered and not Babayan - leading to minor speculation among a few people that a possible `force' behind the October 27 events in the Armenian National Assembly could have been the Karabagh general. However, such an eventuality is unlikely, although not impossible. The reasons given by Hunanyan for his actions on 27 October were enough. As in Karabagh, the self-interest of a tiny minority has adversely affected the entire population at a time when the economy is in enough trouble. There is no doubt however, that without Sarkisyan to keep Babayan in check, Ghukasyan is not as strong as he might have been, and the general has even alluded to this in a recent statement to reporters in the Karabagh capital, Stepanakert. `Now that Vazgen Sarkisyan is no more, I have no moral right to quit, and my resignation will only be playing into the hands of the enemies of our state,' he is reported as saying. Who the enemies of the state are in Babayan's mind, is unclear. What is certain though, is that if Ghukasyan's actions can be seen as necessary in order to remove what is seen as an embarrassment and an obstruction to the development of Karabagh, he is taking a great risk. While many believe that he has the support of the Armenian President - himself a former head of state of the republic - Babayan is by no means weak, and even if the military blames both parties for the present situation, they have also called for new presidential elections. It may also prove to be no coincidence that similar events are occurring in the Armenian Republic. With calls for Kocharian to resign, and the new Prime Minister and the Armenian military continuing the relationship that brother Vazgen represented, the necessity for Kocharian to maintain a real position of leadership is under threat at a time when the country desperately needs such a figure. Ironically, before Sarkisyan's death Kocharian was never really liked or respected in the republic. Many saw him as a Karabaghtsi who was appointed as a puppet after the resignation of Levon Ter-Petrossian, but the former president of Karabagh has since faired well under great pressure. In television interviews and public events he appears more presidential than ever, and well aware of the serious situation that the country now finds itself in. However, with Aleksan Harutiunian having resigned from his position as a foreign policy adviser to the president pending the outcome of investigations examining his possible links with Hunanyan, the inquiry into the bloody events in the National Assembly have come at a bad time for the Armenian President when the initial calm after Hunanyan's arrest is now very obviously subsiding. With both presidents under pressure from more extreme elements in the two republics, the eventual outcome will surely have some impact on Armenia's standing in the international community, and - as a side effect - the progress made in negotiations over Nagorno Karabagh and its relationship with the large Armenian Diaspora. After Sarkisyan's death, with the public face of the army now gone, it may turn out that the Armenian military has decided to openly involve itself with matters of state, illustrating to the international community and Armenians throughout the world the true nature of the democracy that is being `developed' in a post-Soviet and post-war era. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Onnik Krikorian is a journalist specialising in Kurdish affairs. His photographs and analysis of the Kurdish situation in Turkey and Armenia can be found online at: http://www.freespeech.org/oneworld/photo/