Azeri Opposition Leader Says Baku Exaggerates Armenia’s Military Might

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The Karabakh government met Tuesday do review documen’s and applications for citizenship submitted by seven citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The seven are: Andranik Kamalian–Vartan Kamalian–Noyemik Pouladian–Narmenaz Patatanian–Serjik Amirkhanian–Yerjanik Movsisian and Vahik Ratousi.

The government decided to approve the requests of the aforementioned people and to petition to the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to grant them citizenship. BAKU (BBC)–An Azeri opposition leader–Zardusht Alizade–has said that if left-wing forces in Armenia manage to unite ahead of the Armenian parliamentary elections on May 30–the power of President Robert Kocharian–and with it the influence of the Karabakh elite on Armenian politics could come to an end.

Alizade–who is the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan–added that even if the Armenia’s occupy new territories in Azerbaijan they will have difficulty in controlling them because of the Azeri army’s technical superiority and because of international opinion. Alizade accused the Azeri authorities of playing up the idea of the militarization of Armenia in order to deflect public criticism from their failure to regain the lost territories.

The following is text of report by Zahid Safaroglu published by Azeri newspaper ‘Yeni Musavat’ entitled "Armenia is ruled by Kocharian-Sargsyan duo" If left-wing forces unite–the power of the Karabakh elite will come to an end

Against the background of the forthcoming parliamentary elections–the political situation in the neighboring republic is assessed as strained. The Kocharian government has taken a tough stance against the opposition. Recently–parliament finally agreed to institute criminal proceedings against member of parliament (and former interior minister–recently elected leader of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement–ANM) Vano Siradegyan–who was a close associate of (former President) Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Ruling circles attribute this move to actions committed by the Armenian Pan-National Movement (ANM) official while he was still in his post. Nevertheless–one cannot regard it as accidental that the arrest has only just been sanctioned. The point is that radical politicians–who took total control of the executive–are now trying to gain supremacy in parliament. From this point of view–a crackdown on political opponents is understandable.

At the same time–Kocharian is trying to present an image of himself under the slogan of "combating criminals". The reason for this lies in his failure–after a year–to move even one step closer than his predecessor Ter-Petrosyan to settling the key issue–the Nagorno Karabakh problem.

Popular discontent is increasing as the country’s socioeconomic situation worsens. Kocharian–who came to power under radical slogans–understands this and pays most attention to the power-wielding structures. Kocharian’s current main supporter is his fellow-countryman–Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan–who gave Kocharian a lot of assistance in his election as president. This aspect has accentuated mainly the regionalism factor in the country. The leader of the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan–Zardusht Alizade–says that Armenia consists of one military and police system and the Kocharian-Sarkisyan duo. They manage to keep the people under their thumb. "Relations between Armenia’s and the people of Karabakh are strained. The former regard Kocharian as a provincial politician and view him disparagingly."

Yet for the time being the president’s position appears strong. Apart from Sargsyan–Kocharian is supported by the very influential Dashnaks (Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun)–by the Union of Karabakh Veterans and the Yerkrapah Union of Volunteers. At the same time–these organizations have their own group interests. They want to maximize their presence in the power structures. If Kocharian’s supporters win the majority of seats in parliament–it is highly likely that a certain number of them will change to opposition-minded figures.

And who has the best chance of winning the elections?

Alizade says–"The Dashnaks will hardly win any seats in the elections. In the best case scenario–they could hold on to their current position. By contrast I think Yerkrapah will get stronger. But that is not Kocharian’s party. The ANM’s position will be weakened–but Ter-Petrosyan’s party will remain on the political scene." Alizade says that in general–Kocharian will be unable to control the new parliament because the opposition will become stronger.

There is another organization which also has major influence in Armenia–that of the former communist party boss (current People’s Party of Armenia leader)–Karen Demirchyan. During the last elections he won about 40 per cent of votes. It is not ruled out that the left- wing forces could get most votes in the forthcoming elections. They benefit tremendously from the feelings of nostalgia in society for the Soviet period. This influence of the left-wing forces also lies in the fact that–contrary to other Soviet republics–the party nomenclature was unable to return to power in Armenia. Evidently–"happy" days with Demirchyan lie ahead of the Armenia’s. Alizade says: "Obviously–the position of Demirchyan and the communists will get stronger. If the left-wing forces manage to unite–the power of the Karabakh elite will come to an end."

Analysis shows that there is a possibility of the legislative branch of power assuming a radial position too. Even if the new parliament is not under Kocharian’s control–its position towards the conflict settlement could be the same. And what about the cease-fire–could it be violated?

The press service of Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry has said that in the current year alone the Armenia’s violated the cease-fire over 30 times–mainly in the Kazakh and Akstafa Regions. Was this a coincidence?

"We don’t think so. The strategic oil pipeline will be laid precisely in these regions and–moreover–the route will be announced this year." But Zardusht bey (form of address) does not believe that the cease-fire will be seriously breached this year: "In my opinion–a decision on the strategic oil pipeline will not be adopted this year. Nobody is interested in this issue."

If the Armenia’s occupy new territories–it will be difficult for them to control them–both in the light of international public opinion and technical aspects. This is irrelevant–even if Sargsyan is talking about forming a strong army. Alizade says–"Actually–the Armenia’s do not have a strong army. They have just 30,000-35,000 men–plus a 13,000-strong Russian group which is deployed on their territory. This is nothing for Azerbaijan–and the latter is stronger than Armenia in terms of its military equipment. Simply–it is not in our authorities’ interests to say this because people will ask why our lands are not being liberated."

Zardusht bey says that the idea of the militarization of Armenia is necessary for our authorities in order to scare the people and it serves the enemy’s propaganda. "Armenia has no economic–military or human potential to continue the war successfully. More than 850,000 people out of its population of three million have left the country. The Armenia’s are happy with our political elite only because our authorities have brought Azerbaijan to its present difficult situation–which the Armenia’s could not have envisaged. But we are happy too because Armenia has scanty resources for development."

I remember what Ter-Petrosyan said before his resignation: "If today we do not take what is on offer–then tomorrow we will ask for it–because Azerbaijan will get stronger."

In saying this–Ter-Petrosyan obviously forgot that–besides Karabakh–Azerbaijan has an equally big problem–and that is the incumbent regime…

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