“I’ll Never Turn My Back Against Robert Kocharian ” Says Defense Minister

Last weekend–during the general meeting of the newly formed Armenian Republican Party–Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan addressed the meeting–pledging his support to President Robert Kocharian and dismissing rumors that he is eyeing the primiership or the presidency in Armenia. Below are excerpts from that speech.

"I congratulate all the political forces of the Republic of Armenia.

"I congratulate you because this party–this movement has not been created against you–it will not act against you–it will act with you. If our will and patience allow–if God wishes–we will try to create a superparty movement which will estimate for all of your merits–fully answered from the historic viewpoint for all the good and bad.

"The people have lost belief in their potential. Denial of the negation ruins or may be ruinous for us. As a matter of fact we are much better than we present ourselves to the world. Let’s put another nation in our place and watch it simply from the point of view of the past centenary. The World War I in the absence of statehood–genocide–revolution–World War II–Artsakh War–earthquake and after all these we enter the 21st century with a positive balance: independent Armenian statehood–Armenia–which became Armenian–with liberated Artsakh–military victories–which we haven’t had for centuries–with an established strong army.

"If there hadn’t been the first Armenian Republic–probably–Armenia wouldn’t have a status of the republic during Soviet times. It’s difficult to imagine whether it would have been possible to save this small part of Armenia today–if there had not been the political will during those times of troubles. Those people could win the Sardarabat battle–create a republic which became a basis for all our future republics.

"And since all our republics were affiliated with one or another party–the First republic is considered to be the ARF one. One can’t but emphasize the great role the ARF played in the matter of preservation of Diaspora.

"For 70 years the founders of the Soviet Armenia have created a powerful economy and culture which we have never had before.

"Let’s pay tribute to the founders of a new statehood. Each belligerent state is judged according to results of a war. And if we judge from this viewpoint–we should say that we have attained great results.

"No nation likes war–and no nation feels contempt toward the wars they have won.

"This movement intends to take in all positive elemen’s which have been created for centuries.

"Forthcoming elections to the National Assembly. I want to state that those elections are not going to be a top objective for the Republican Party and the movement. We call everybody for their consent for truce: stop and just begin everything from the position of kindness. We assume a big responsibility for the purity of elections–the rest is a matter of your conscience and political will. Let’s sit and talk. We suggest rallying around ideas and programs in the centrist wing–we are ready to form an alliance with any public and political force. We also suggest uniting in the right and left wings.

"We emerged on the political arena after the tragedy during the 1996 presidential elections. It is only after those events that the army entered the city. Yet the cause of that is me–and not ‘Yerkrapah’ or the republicans.

"About myself. It’s not right to exaggerate my role in political developmen’s. I did not participate in the economic policy during the rule of Levon Ter-Petrosyan–nor during the rule of Robert Kocharian. I did not participate in the staff policy unless somebody asked me to do so. I worked with seven prime-ministers and did not have conflicts with any of them. I did not beat anyone–nor did I drive anyone out of the country. I did not participate in the privatization processes. I did not form clans–since I believe them to be one of the major dangers for our country.

"The defense minister of a belligerent country cannot participate in political developmen’s. If a minister had not participated–the army would have done it. If you want I can quit the politics–but in that case you should beware of the mentioned option. "My relations with Robert Kocharian. We are close friends–friends-in-arms. I will never put myself against Robert Kocharian. Don not even hope for this. Quitting the politics–Levon Ter-Petrosyan gave a responsibility to us. We are confident that we were right–but we still need to prove it to the nation. Just throw the idea of early presidential elections out of your heads. The dissatisfaction connected with the expectation of decisive measures from the president is premature. Decisive measures will be taken when the time is right–I am sure of this and I want you to be sure too.

"My relations with Levon Ter-Petrosyan. We respected–appreciated and still respect Levon Ter-Petrosyan–a man and a figure of wisdom and high morals. He stepped down–taking with him his convictions–leaving a place for us. Nobody could have ousted him–if it hadn’t been his own decision. If he had dismissed me as a defense minister–I would have left. But in that case the responsibility would have been laid on him. Now he has quitted–laying all responsibility on us. I was not speaking against Levon Ter-Petrosyan–I was defending the idea. Our differences were mainly caused by the Artsakh problem and a number of people from his surroundings.

"My relations with Vano Siradeghian. Vano is my friend like Levon (Ter-Petrosyan)–Robert (Kocharian)–Serge (Sarkissian)–Samvel (Babayan)–Babken (Ararktsian) and others. Together we traveled a terrible way. There were days when the fate of our country and our fates hung by a thread. We have overcome those difficulties and it is impossible to forget it. If you want to know the truth–my personal opinion about the latest developmen’s is as follows: the question is that it is not the arrest–but the institution of criminal proceedings that should have been proposed to the court and the court was to decide where the truth is.

"The category of "bread and salt" is–of course–not a political category–but–I beg your pardon–the kinship is not a political category either. Do you suggest that I become Pavlik Morozov (a boy who betrayed his father during Stalin’s collectivization program). I do not support a principle which states that there are no morals in the politics. At least morals exist in domestic policy.

"As to political order–I want to say–that there are no links to political order since I would not have allowed that to happen. Simply Robert Kocharian could not–but raise this question at the National Assembly–he could not ignore allegations which have been circulating in the city for 4-5 months.

"I do not want to become president–chairman of the National Assembly or prime minister. I want to remain defense minister. But I am also a soldier. If president of the republic believes that he needs me in that position–I am ready–like a soldier–to fulfill my duty."

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