YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Hundreds of thousands of Armenia’s joined high-ranking foreign officials and heads of foreign diplomatic missions in paying final tribute to slain Armenian leaders–during funeral ceremonies for the victims of Wednesday’s shoot-out in parliament. President Robert Kocharian on Monday summoned an extraordinary session of parliament to start the process of forming a new government after the murder of the country’s prime minister.
Among those who had arrived in Armenia to bid farewell to the leaders of the Armenian government and parliament and offer condolences to President Robert Kocharian and the Armenian people were high-ranking officials from Russia–Iran–Georgia–Turkey–Syria–Lebanon–China and many other countries of the world. President of Armenia Robert Kocharian addressed a farewell speech to his companions.
In his remarks Kocharian said–"A cruel fate has cut short the life of individuals who were entirely committed to the forging of their homeland and the sacred cause of building a statehood. Deep is the pain–sustained by Armenia and the entire nation–an irreparable loss. The independent Republic of Armenia is going through its most crucial days in history. The encroachment on the reputation of the nation has been made–the foundation of national statehood has been undermined–the human values have been disregarded. The monsters who committed the atrocities will be held responsible not only by law–but also will be tried by history and future generations."
Kocharian praised the slain prime minister–National Assembly speaker and other officials–saying–"History will provide its assessment of Vazgen Sargsyan as a politician who stood at the birth of the Armenian state. His role in the creation of the national army is beyond appraisal. By his life and commitment Vazgen Sargsyan has made an immense contribution to the establishment of a powerful country."
"We are bidding farewell to Karen Demirchian–one of the wisest political leaders of Armenia–whose life is an example of commitment to the nation. His 45-year work will not be wiped out from the memories of the generation to come. Let’s recall what each of the deceased politicians has done. Let’s learn lessons from this tragedy–unite and thus strengthen the Republic of Armenia and the entire Armenian nation. Respectful compatriots–today the entire world is mourning with us. Heads of almost all countries extended their condolences to our people. Numerous delegations arrived in Armenia to share our grief. I am greatly thankful to all of them," Kocharian added.
Following the ceremony the funeral procession divided into three parts. A great many people accompanying Vazgen Sargsyan’s coffin headed for the Yerablur National Cemetery for the heroes of the Karabakh liberation struggle.
"I am committing to earth my second brother today–a man with whom we shared the hardship of war and state building over the last decade and who was always on the most difficult positions," President Kocharian said during Sargsyan’s burial.
Kocharian also said that Sargsyan had always dreamt of delivering the ashes of Commander Andranik to Armenia to be buried at Yerablur–all organizational matters had already been settled and the ashes of Andranik were to be delivered to Armenia a month later. "Unfortunately–Vazgen Sargsyan has come here before Andranik," said the president.
The funeral procession accompanying the coffin of Karen Demirchian began at Liberty square reaching the crossroads of Abovian and Tumanian streets–from where it was to proceed in cars. However–the organizers of the funeral procession had to comply with the people’s demand to accompany Demirchian on foot. The coffin with the body of Karen Demirchian was delivered to the Komitas Cemetery on hands. The service for the dead was performed by Archbishop Nerses Bozabalian.
Nikolay Ryzhkov–expressing his deep condolences to the family of the dead–declared that what happened was a disaster that could be compared–if at all–to the dire earthquake in Spitak that shook the Armenian land. "One thing is clear – this is a political assassination–the assassination of those whom the people of Armenia pinned their hopes on," he said.
The bodies of National Assembly Vice-Speaker Yuri Bakhshian–Minister of Urgent Affairs–former prime minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Leonard Petrossian–Deputy of the National Assembly–Academician Mikael Kotanian were committed to earth in the Yerevan City Pantheon.
Kocharian met Friday with the heads of diplomatic missions and international organizations accredited to Armenia.
Expressing his gratitude for the condolences and moral support–the president of Armenia expressed his belief that Armenia–with the support of the world community–will be able to stabilize the situation quickly and overcome the consequences of the crisis.
Kocharian reportedly outlined the current situation following the tragic events at the National Assembly and explained the steps being taken by the Armenian authorities to solve problems.
Noting possible causes of the terrorist act–the president said that it had no connection to the Karabakh settlement or the related negotiating process. According to him–there is no evidence of any serious contacts of the terrorists with political forces. A criminal case has been initiated and investigations are underway–the president added.
After a meeting with Kocharian–Putin said that the political leadership of Russia’supported the president of Armenia.
Putin said that if the Armenian side asks–Russia is ready to assist it in investigating the crime. But–he immediately expressed the opinion that there was no such necessity for the time being as Armenian specialists are managing well alone.
During the talk the sides also addressed the Karabakh problem. "We are very glad that there is a political will–that the Armenian and Azeri leaders are showing a desire to reach an agreement and to resolve the vital problem," the Russian leader emphasized.
Putin said that Russian President Boris Yeltsin expects a meeting with President Kocharian.
Kocharian’s press office said by telephone Monday that the leader had signed a decree calling for the extraordinary session to take place on Tuesday–apparently resolving a constitutional impasse which prevented parliament from meeting.
Deputies are to vote for a new speaker and two vice-speakers of parliament.
Officials had earlier said parliament could not meet ahead of a regularly scheduled session next week because only the speaker was empowered to convene an extraordinary session–if sought by a third of members.
Meanwhile in Ankara–President Suleyman Demirel assured visiting Azeri President Haydar Aliyev on Monday that Turkey wants Azerbaijan’s interests protected in any settlement with Armenia at this month’s European security conference.
"The conflict should be resolved–without losing time–but truly protecting the interests of Azerbaijan," Demirel told Aliyev at a ceremony in Ankara.
Aliyev said on Sunday the murder of the Armenian prime minister and several other officials last week–when gunmen’stormed parliament–would not hamper talks on the disputed region.
The two presidents expressed solidarity on a visit to Turkey’s quake-stricken northwest–amid hopes that a multi-billion-dollar oil pipeline deal could be in the offing ahead of the OSCE summit.
Aliyev said the deal for the construction of an oil pipeline from Baku to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan would be signed at the summit.
Following funeral services Sunday–Armenian foreign minister Vardan Oskanian met with Turkish state minister Ali Irtemcelik who extended his condolences for the tragic events of last week and added that Turkey is willing to establish better relations with Armenia.
He said Ankara was not against normalization of relations–adding "if certain positive steps are taken–the sides will meet on other occasions and in a more constructive atmosphere." Oskanian agreed with his guest.
The Turkish state minister said that Turkey is prepared to welcome president of Armenia Robert Kocharian for the OSCE summit scheduled in Istanbul for November. Vardan Oskanian–for his part–confirmed Kocharian’s participation in the summit.
At a meeting with Turkish journalists–Irtemcelik said that the participation of the Turkish delegation in the funerals of Armenia’s high-ranking officials was welcomed in Armenia. According to him–a number of prominent Turks had fallen victim to terrorist acts.
He said that he understands the pain Armenia is experiencing quite well and wants the consequences of the tragedy to be overcome as soon as possible. "Ankara wants to see stable and peaceful Caucasus," Irtemcelik noted.
Turning to the Karabakh problem–he noted that the latest meetings and shifts inspire with optimism. "The last events in Armenia may slow down the process of reconciliation–but the will of Armenia will not change," he said–voicing hope that the OSCE summit will live up to expectations.
After leaving Yerevan–the Turkish state minister gave an interview to the Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper Jamanak. He said that he had visited Armenia "to express sincere condolences." As to the Armenia-Turkey relations–he noted that they cannot be viewed separately from the situation and stability in the Caucasus. Turkey believes that Armenia is one of the main actors in the region and "feels no negative emotions toward Armenia."
"Armenia’should solve this problem within the logical limits," whereas in relations with Turkey–Armenia’should manifest an attitude similar to that of Turkey–which provides for "relations looking into future," the state minister told Jamanak.