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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

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:

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