Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● President Sargsyan’s Interview
● Appointment of Acting Governors and Mayors during Martial Law [CAA]
● Opposition Protests on Feb 20
● Govsagan, in the end
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Asbed Kotchikian, who is an associate professor of political science and international relations at the American University of Armenia.
Marine Manucharyan (no relation), president of the Civic Forum NGO. Her areas of focus include Artsakh, the Armenian Armed Forces, National Security and Foreign Policy.
Emil Sanamyan, a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in politics in the Caucasus, with a special focus on Azerbaijan.
Earlier this week, former president Serzh Sargsyan gave a lengthy interview to Armnews (it was aired in 2, 90-minute segments) covering events from the previous 3 years. A number of major points were made ranging from details around the events of April-May 2018, criticism of Nikol Pashinyan’s handling of the Karabakh Conflict negotiations and the war, as well as post-war developments in Armenia.
What were some of the key, noteworthy points?
What kind of a response did the interview get from various political forces in Armenia?
Major issues from the interview (in case no one bring them up):
● Transfer of Power: Rejected the idea that he “handed power to Pashinyan” and clarified that he resigned with the expectation that Karen Karapetyan was going to be nominated as PM candidate from HHK. As we know, before the parliamentary vote for prime minister, Karepetyan declared his intention not to seek the nomination. A number of RPA leaders have since clarified that they do not blame Karapetyan, although several of them (including Vahram Baghdasaryan) admitted that Karapetyan’s decision was a surprise to them.
● Kazan+: He talked in detail about the Kazan document of 2011 and a modified version of that plan (commonly referred to as Lavrov Plan) specifically refuting Nikol Pashinyan’s assertion that the entire negotiations process was constructed around Armenia ceding territories without anything that Armenia would get in return.
● Multi billion-dollar cash offers and secret negotiations: He essentially confirmed the veracity of the recording between Lukashenko and himself in 2016 where Lukashenko mentioned about a $5B offer from Azerbaijan in exchange for ceding territories. He also expressed suspicion that Pashinyan had entered into direct bilateral negotiations with Azerbaijan (bypassing the Minsk Group process) and could not rule out that as part of that a similar offer may have been made to Pashinyan.
● Recognition of Artsakh: He criticized Pashinyan for not recognizing Artsakh, which he feels should have been done on the 4th or 5th day of the war. He further explained that Armenia’s threat of recognition of Artsakh is what stopped the 2016 4-day war.
● Lead-up to war: Alleged that Pashinyan did everything possible to spark war, including:
○ Flip-flopping on negotiations
○ July adventurism
○ Improper military spending, increasing the gap in balance of power
○ Disrespecting the OSCE MG co-chairs and their countries
● Handling of the War: Major issues included:
○ Cancellation of draft on the 4th day of the war (“not even half of the army participated in the war”)
○ Not using armenia’s arsenal of ballistic missile systems to attack Azerbaijani infrastructure including oil and gas resources
○ Potential corruption during the war in procurement process
○ Mishandling the defense of Shushi
● Political ambitions: He clarified that he doesn’t intend to seek any major political position in Armenia in the future but did indicate his intention to be involved in politics as leader of the Republican Party of Armenia.
This past week a bill was circulated by the Office of the Prosecutor-General that criminalizes defamation through mass media or other public channels and imposes heavy fines and up to two years of imprisonment.
In 2010, in a move commended by the Council of Europe, Serge Sargsyan’s government decriminalized all forms of defamation in Armenia. If 2010 could be regarded as a step toward freer speech and democratization in Armenia, could this bill be seen as a step backwards?
Last week the government passed a law regulating reliance on anonymous sources in the media. Who is the principal target of this past week’s bill?
In the past year we’ve seen a particular focus from the My Step controlled parliament on introducing limits to press freedoms, as well as individual expression. Previously you talked about Pashinyan's desire to control the media and public opinion and we expressed doubts on whether this can even be effective. What potential blowback can Armenia expect internationally from this?
● Erdogan: Defamation in the name of freedom of speech should stop - [MidEastMonitor]
During most of the past year Armenia has been in a state of martial law. In Armenia elections are not held in a state of emergency or martial law, so as a result, when the terms of various elected regional leaders have expired, their acting replacements have been appointed by the Prime Minister or his political circle, without due elections.
What are the short- and long-term repercussions of these appointments and delayed elections?
Is there any good reason not to lift the martial law?
The Homeland Salvation Movement held a mass demonstration in Freedom Square on February 20, calling for the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan. It’s worth noting that the weather was not very favorable for an outdoor gathering, with heavy snowfall and temperatures near freezing. Estimates of the crowd size ranged from 20 thousand to 40 thousand people. Participants included the Dashnaktsutyun, Hanrapetakan Party, Gagik Tsarukyan’s Bargavach Hayastan, Artur Vanetsyan’s Hayrenik, and a number of smaller political parties, politicians, and public figures.
This was the first large demonstration in two months. The movement has announced the next rally on Monday at 6pm. Can the opposition build momentum and exert sufficient pressure from the street to force Pashinyan to resign?
During his speech at the rally, Vazgen Manukyan made a noteworthy announcement. He said that they cannot immediately make changes to most of the November 9 agreement, but one of the points needs to be addressed right away and that was concerning the road through Syunik. Manukyan specifically stated that no other country should be allowed to monitor that road and that the road should be exclusively under the supervision of Armenia. What do we make of these statements?
That concludes our program for This Week in Review episode. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the previous week. We look forward to your feedback, and your suggestions for issues to cover in greater depth. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channels, Like our pages and follow us on social media. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Serzh Sargsyan, Nikol Pashinyan, Asbed Kotchikian, Emil Sanamyan, Marine Manucharyan, Artsakh, Negotiations, Karabakh, Sargsyan Interview, Ruben Rubinian, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Govsagan, Zangelan, Jebrail, Gubatli, Robert Kocharyan, Syunik, Borders, Meghri, Kapan