New National Council Formed

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–A group of more than 500 representatives of public-political organizations–academicians and intellectuals gathered at Yerevan’s Cinema House–where a National Council was formed to combat the current state of affairs in Armenia.

The National Council is comprised of academicians Raphael Ghazarian–Lendroush Khourshoudian and Vladimir Khodjabegian; writers Silva Kaputikian and Razmig Davoyan; painter Sarkis Mouradian; artist Henrik Hovanessian; writer/commentator Berdj Zeytountsian and Hratchik Simonian.

In his remarks Ghazarian noted that the National Council did not aspire to acquire any political office–and as such–will forfeit its rights immediately after new elections are held.

He also announced that prior to the gathering–the group visited Armenia’s Defense Minister Vazgen Sargssian who welcomed and encouraged their efforts.

The council pledged to take steps in restoring order and rule of law in the country–and professed a peaceful change in leadership through the union of all national forces and the public.

Those gathered at the Cinema House called for the immediate resignation of Levon Ter-Petrosyan and urged for early elections.

The creation of the national council was welcomed by representatives of the Democratic Party of Armenia–the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–Intellectual Armenia organization–as well as representatives of other political organizations in Armenia.

Also present was Karabakh activist Janna Galoustian who referred to the motto of the rally–the words of freedom fighter Leonid Azgaldian "Karabakh is Armenia and that’s all." She said that it will no longer be allowed to use Karabakh "to satisfy personal ambitions." According to her–the people of Karabakh have made their choice and ultimately freed their country from foreign tyranny–and–therefore–they will never return to Azeri rule.

Academician Khourshoudian said although Levon Ter-Petrosyan is conducting consistent defeatist policies–he still remains in charge–something which is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for a man who deems false the national ideology to be a leader of the country.

Chairperson of the Armenian Democratic Party–Aram Sargsian–condemned the official policy on Karabakh and said that by claiming to not be a party to the conflict–Armenia is essentially lying to the world–since it seems as though Armenia is always being conferred in settlement issues. Sargsian said that it is crucial to hold early and fair elections where the national should be allowed to choose its leaders.

Remarks by the deputy commander of the Yerkrapah battalion–troops once loyal to the government–Albert Bazeyan–were notable in that he stated that the battalion and its soldiers were forced to take a political stand on the situation in Armenia.

Bazeyan outlined that the battalion was formed to serve the Armenian nation and remained true to the liberation struggle in Karabakh–however–"it has become evident that high ranking political officials in this country does not reflect the true will of the people."

"The Yerkrapahs have believed in the nation’s leader and his `victory–stability and progress,’ pledge–and as such have protected him. But–now–they see that the commander in chief of the armed forces (the president) is working against the collective will of its people," stressed Bazeyan.

With a call for new and free elections–Bazeyan called for all Yerkrapah forces who are still members of the ANM to immediately leave the embattled party.

ARF Executive Council member Vartan Petrosian stressed that the ARF has always called for Ter-Petrosyan’s resignation and "currently it advocates the same position and thus completely supports the National Council."

Petrosian added that "the self-sacrifice of the Karabakh freedom fighters and the imprisonment of Vahan Hovanessian and Hrand Markarian have now served their purpose."

Vazgen Safarian of the Communist Party of Armenia–Rafael Hambartzumian of the National Unity Alliance also delivered speeches offering their support for the National Council and urging "all healthy political forces of Armenia to unite."

At the conclusion of the gathering–Ghazarian read the following statement on behalf of the National Council:

"Armenia has been going through a heavy moral and socio-economic crisis for several years now. The issue of legitimacy in all the branches of power–which arose in 1995–contributed to the crisis which initially resulted from the authorities’ failure to solve the Karabakh issue–a situation threatening to national security–the potential confrontation between the upper echelons of power and society itself.

It is necessary to make a clear statement that both populations of the Armenian nation–in Armenia and Karabakh–hold no contradicting and differing views regarding Karabakh.

We expect foreign states to demonstrate understanding and exercise restraint in this situation–because any act in support of criminal elemen’s existing within government structures of Armenia may cause considerable damage to the friendly relations between our peoples and challenge the hope of the world community to establish peace and stability in the region.

The aspirations of some activists and groups which have ultimately compromised themselves by forcibly seizing power–should be resolutely stopped by the people–as it is only the people who have the right to establish the norms of real democracy–law and order in their country. After revealing facts confirming the criminal nature of the activities of the current authorities–the political forces that support them will also be revealed.

At the conclusion of the gathering–Ghazarian read a statement on behalf of the National Council.

"We are convinced–that in light of the current situation in Armenia–the government–under the leadership of the prime minister and with the assistance of the public–must–not only continue to fulfill its obligation–but also to utilize all possible means to avoid any threat and to immediately restore order and rule of law in the country. After the immediate removal of all corrupt government officials–[the council] should work toward calling new parliamentary and presidential elections," the announcement read.

We demand that all healthy political forces and structures not obey authorities who are undeserving of the people’s trust.

The National Council will make every effort to rally all healthy forces–which maintain the objective to prevent destabilization and encourage peaceful removal of anti-national leaders from power–creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and accord–holding fair and democratic elections–which will eventually return our people to justice–dignity–creativity and to the path leading to the victory."

Meanwhile former prime minister Hrant Bagratian joined in the criticism of the Ter-Petrosyan administration–saying–in an Aravot interview–that "Those who call for pragmatism must remember the people who shed their blood."

He disagreed that Armenia would suffer if it supported Karabakh in the conflict resolution process–adding that "even if Karabakh prevents us from developing–we have no right to abandon it."

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