Azeri Parliament Speaker Condemns Kochairan Appointment

BAKU (Reuter)A senior Azeri politician condemned Saturday the naming Robert Kocharian as the new prime minister of Armenia.

"Armenia has chosen the wrong path. This is a bad sign. They want to legalize the regime in Karabakh–but this will not work. Armenia will achieve nothing," speaker of parliament Murtuz Aleskerov told reporters.

Levon Ter-Petrosyan Thursday announced Kocharian’s surprise appointment as his prime minister.

Diplomats said the move would harm regional peace efforts.

Aleskerov spoke to reporters at Baku airport before boarding a government plane to Islamabad–where he will represent Azerbaijan in Sunday’s meeting of leaders from countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

He was going as a replacement for President Gaidar Aliyev who called off his trip less than a day before he was to depart.

The presidential press service gave no reason for the abrupt cancellation but political observers speculated it was related to Kocharian’s appointment–which clearly caught Azeri leaders off guard.

Aleskerov’s commen’s were the first official reaction. Nonetheless–when asked if Kocharian’s appointment could threaten the truce–Aleskerov replied: "It cannot." Political observers in both Azerbaijan and Armenia’said the move seemed to indicate that Yerevan had decided to take a harder line on the Karabakh issue.

"I think that this was a surprise for the Azeri government and that it might influence peace negotiations very negatively. It will be much harder to make progress," said one diplomat in Baku on Friday.

He said he thought Ter-Petrosyan–who gave no explanation for his decision to appoint Kocharian–had acted to pacify nationalist and opposition groups at home.

"Ter-Petrosyan’s domestic position has been considerably weakened. He is under great pressure to find common ground with the opposition," said the diplomat.

On Friday Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Armenian officials in Yerevan as saying the appointment of Kocharian would not have a negative effect on peace talks–provided Azerbaijan did not try to exploit the move for its own benefit.

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