Stepanakert Rally Marks Karabakh Anniversary

STEPANAKERT–The 10th anniversary of the Karabakh liberation movement–organized by the ARF "Arthur Mgrdichian" Gomideh–was officially celebrated on February 19.

Those present at the celebrations included members from the ARF Bureau–the ARF Executive Council of Armenia–and the ARF Central Committee of Karabakh. Also present were representatives from the Armenian Apostolic Church–Holy See of Cilicia–Karabakh ARF organizations–Karabakh governmental officials–"Yerkrapah" Battalion leaders from Armenia and Karabakh–Karabakh army soldiers–journalists and many attendants.

Among a number of official guests present at the festivities were Vahan Hovanessian and Hrand Markarian.

ARF "Arthur Mgrdichian" Gomideh representative Serge Amirkhanian made the opening remarks–while ARF Karabakh Central Committee representative Vachagan Zakarian addressed the attendees with a congratulatory speech in regard to the celebration.

The program included appearances by ARF Bureau chairman Beno Tontian–ARF Executive Council of Armenia member Vahan Hovanessian–Armenian National Committee of Karabakh chairman Kevorki Bedrossian–Hrand Markarian–Edward Hovanessian–Kim Balayan–Armenia’s "Yerkrapah" Battalion leader Albert Bazeyan and Karabakh’s "Yerkrapah" Battalion leader Arkady Karapetyan and others.

During the program–appearances were made by the Karabakh Cultural Minister Armen Sargssian and Karabakh News–Press and Information Department head Zhanna Krikorova. There was also a cultural program. Earlier that same day–Karabakh president Arkady Ghoukassian met with journalists and said–"we are ready to have balanced relations with Azerbaijan. We can hold talks and make negotiations with them as long as we are guaranteed our independence."

Karabakh Minister of Defense Samvel Babayan reiterated in his speech Ghoukassian’s words that Karabakh’s sovereignty is well-protected.

The ten-year struggle of the Armenian people is going through a crucial stage of self-purification–Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau Chairman Beno Tontian said Monday addressing a meeting held on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the liberation struggle of Karabakh.

"The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutiun is a National Party" meeting sponsored by the ARF was attended by Acting President and Prime Minister Robert Kocharian.

Tontian stated that even though Armenia has won its own place in the world community over the past years–the Armenia’s of Karabakh have removed a hostile yoke and the Armenian army has been established–there have been serious deviations from the path of strengthening the unity of the Armenian people that was highlighted in 1988 as the basis of national values.

According to Tontian–the national unification process has been hindered in the past several years as national wealth was plundered–and dialogue between the authorities and the opposition became impossible.

Tontian felt that the past two years could be regarded as a serious trial for Armenia. "By suspending the ARF’s activities–arresting and convicting freedom fighters–the policies of the authorities reached their climax and quickly led to self-isolation–a deviation from the path of national values–which not only jeopardized national accord but also negatively affected our country’s international prestige," he said.

The Bureau Chairman expressed his confidence in the continuos struggle toward national principles and values declared ten years ago.

Tontian suggested that the national strategy should encompass modern systems to prevent Armenia from being hostaged and challenged by regional forces. According to him–the Armenian national struggle will progress if national unity is strengthened; law and democracy are deemed supreme; the process of regulation and management of the socio-economic life of the country are based on the principles of accord and justice; and–if human rights–political freedom and the principle of balance-of-power are respected.

"Our long-standing national liberation struggle shows that the guarantee of protection of the rights of Armenia’s and their country is in the unification of our forces," Tontian emphasized–hailing the solidarity of different political forces in the effort to restore national unity–which offers the nation an opportunity to hold free and fair elections.

"I am sure that from now on people in Armenia will not be imprisoned for political purposes and that we have created a truly democratic state," representative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia Vahan Hovanessian said at a February 23 rally.

Hovanessian said that the ARF’s goal is not to come to power–but to achieve moral influence on the population. We have managed to keep ARF’s name untarnished–and we’re going to proceed with our struggle," Hovanessian said.

Hovanessian reproached all those who claim that Robert Kocharian’s nomination for president is illegitimate–stressing that the same people who once renounced the Constitution are using it as reference.

"It is time to stop alluding to our weaknesses. We must use the power of the Armenian people. I do not imply military power. We’re living in this region and no question can be resolved without taking into consideration Armenia’s or Karabakh’s viewpoint. We must have respect in the region," Hovanessian concluded.

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