- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 13, 2004

Stirring Words: Dashnak leader's criticisms spark controversy with ruling coalition partners

Explosive words

A leading member of the Armenia bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF/Dashnaksutiun) stirred controversy this week at the party's 29th general assembly.

Hrant Margaryan's speech to the assembly, which opened a week ago, became the subject of heated analyses and comment in political circles of Armenia. Afterwards, Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan and Speaker of the National Assembly Artur Baghdasaryan left the building refusing to answer reporters' questions about the views of their partner in the governing coalition.

This is only the second time in the history of the modern republic that the ARF has held its general assembly in Armenia. The country's entire political elite was present at the assembly including the Prime Minister, Speaker, head of President Kocharyan's administration, and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. All of them offered words of greeting.

Representatives of all the leading political parties in Armenia were also present. Only President Kocharyan and Minister of Defense Serzh Sargsyan were absent, although the President sent a message to participants. The Speaker of the National Assembly of Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR), Oleg Yesayan, read out a message from President Arkadi Ghoukasyan.

In his report to the assembly, Margaryan covered both internal and foreign policies of Armenia.

Hrant Margaryan

On Armenian-Georgian relations

“Javakhk, which became a victim of the policy of national discrimination conducted by the new authorities of Georgia, is like a barrel of gunpowder today, which has lots of reasons to explode. What we wish is not important as it itself can explode. And we wish to see Javakhk a strong and stable autonomous part of Georgia which will be favored with state tenderness.”

On Armenian-Turkish relations

“If the issue of recognition of the Genocide is the issue of our dignity then the issue of Western Armenia is a necessity for securing our right and existence. We are opposed to so-called “ Turkish - Armenian Reconciliation Commission”.

“Today's Turkey is the same Turkey that had planned and committed genocide and while Turkey denies the fact of the Genocide, Turkish-Armenian reconciliation together with the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border is a fake agenda.”

“We are against any Turkish-Armenian relations if these relations mean that we have to surrender some of our rights. We will continue to struggle, we will continue to place pressure on Turkey until the fact of the Genocide is internationally recognized and until United Armenia is created.”

A contingent of government leaders was on hand for the speech.

On the Nagorno Karabagh issue

“Today Karabakh de facto is ours. It is an extension of Armenia. However, the procession organized in 1988 must be continued towards liberation of our wonderful Shahumian and Getashen, towards the final victory with international recognition of the fact of Artsakh's unification. The liberated territories are the guarantee of security of Artsakh and Armenia and are part of NKR's integrity.”

Margaryan also criticized President Kocharyan, despite the ARF being a member of the ruling coalition. He said: “Dashnaktsutiun had assisted the President, however, it did not share the opinion of the President in all questions. Partially bound with the facts and partially by not displaying the necessary resolution, the President supported the victorious march of injustice and corruption that has begun in the country long ago.”

Margaryan also touched upon the conduct of the 2003 elections, criticizing both the coalition's supporters and indirectly the President.

“Since the beginning we were sure that the country and its people needed a president elected by means of just and convincing elections. A convincingly elected president must have been free of compulsory alliances and have unconstrained freedom of action. But some people didn't wish to have a free and strong president and that's why violations were committed.”

Oskanian spoke warmly of the ARF at the assembly, saying that “Dashnaktutiun symbolizes our unification”. After Margaryan's speech, however, the Foreign Minister released a statement setting out his disagreement with the comments on Armenia 's foreign policy.

Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hamlet Gasparyan pointed out that, although the ARF is part of the governing coalition, the conduct of foreign policy is reserved to the President under Armenia 's Constitution.

In his speech Margaryan also described globalization as a very dangerous phenomenon that was rapidly exerting a negative influence in numerous spheres. He claimed that there was no sense any more for the United Nations to exist.

Answering questions from reporters, Defense Minister Serzh Sargsyan said that the coalition was functioning normally. He reacted calmly to Margaryan's speech.

“I recommend all of the parties to look at the country openly and not through the prism of parties,” said the minister.

Some of those present during the speech, however, regarded it as a belligerent statement that signaled Dashnaktsutiun's desire to distance itself from its coalition partners, the Republican Party and Orinats Yerkir.

Vazgen Manukyan , Armenia 's first Prime Minister and president of the National Democratic Union, called Margaryan's comments unacceptable and dangerous.

“As a party Dashnaktutiun has a right to express opinions including even exotic ones,” said Manukyan. “But from the state point of view it is unacceptable. Three of four neighbors of our country were touched: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey . I don't think that such an approach will help Armenia to march ahead.”

Artashes Geghamyan, leader of the opposition National Unity party, commented: “It would be correct if the ARF looked at things through reality and joined the opposition's demand for the resignation of Vardan Oskanyan and Robert Kocharyan, as they have ruined the entire process of the foreign policy of Armenia .”

The Republican Party held a closed session of its council to discuss its reaction to Margaryan's speech. It decided to study the comments more closely once the Dashnaktsutiun's assembly is finished and a resolution is published. The council also decided to raise the speech for discussion at the next meeting of the coalition.

Orinats Yerkir has yet to express its opinion concerning the speech.

Stiopa Safaryan, an expert on domestic policy issues at the Armenian Center for National and Strategic Research, said the Dashnaktsutiun's approach was “adventurism” and an attempt to distract society's attention from other problems.

Armenians in Javakhk cannot win anything from statements like that. It is also possible that drawing society's attention towards Georgia , towards Javakhk, is a result of the fact that there is a great failure in the Karabagh issue. Such statements can lead towards a renewal of hostilities,” he says.

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