Kocharian Believes Visit to Moscow a Successful One

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Speaking to reporters at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport upon his arrival from Russia–Armenians president Robert Kocharian described his visit to Moscow as successful.

Presenting briefly the outcome of his meetings with senior Russian officials–including president Putin–prime minister Kasyanov and parliament speaker Seleznev–Kocharian said that both Armenian and Russian leadership view the bilateral relations as those of strategic partners.

Kocharian said six inter-state agreemen’s had been signed during his visit–including the agreemen’s on exchange of information–the status of Russian journalists in Armenia and Armenian journalists in Russia–visa-free movement of citizens of Armenia and Russia–use of atomic energy and partnership in health and culture sectors.

The Armenia and Russian leaders also signed a declaration on allied interaction for the 21st century which is to become the basis of bilateral relations.

In a related matter–the Russian government agreed Thursday to a draft agreement with Armenia on visa-free travel. The agreement was signed by Russian prime minister Mikael Kaysanov.

The agreement provides for visa-free travel and immigration between Armenia and Russia. The agreement also states that Russian and Armenian citizens living in a third country may be allowed to travel and relocate to and from Armenia and Russia without a visa.

Responding to a question about parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian’s resignation–Kocharian said such development of events could have been foreseen. He said the dispute should be solved on the basis of Constitution.

Kocharian sought on Thursday to avoid taking sides in the ongoing standoff in the Armenian parliament–while making it clear that its embattled speaker–Armen Khachatrian–should not count on presidential support to keep his post.

Kocharian–who was absent from Armenia during this week’s stormy debates in the parliament–refused to back either of the two political camps locked in a fierce battle for the post of speaker. However–his remarks that Khachatrian should win over the majority of deputies may have predetermined the latter’s downfall.

The National Assembly has been in deadlock since last Tuesday when it remained unclear whether the speaker’s offer to resign can be deemed formally accepted. Khachatrian and his People’s Party of Armenia insist that an insufficient number of lawmakers voted for the resignation–a claim rejected by the Republican Party of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and several other parliamentary parties. They issued a joint statement on Thursday–condemning Khachatrian’s refusal to quit as an "attempt to usurp power."

Position taken by Kocharian will be extremely important for the outcome of the crisis. Speaking to reporters on his return from Russia–the Armenian president said he needs to look into the existing parliament regulations in greater detail and can not yet make judgmen’s about the legal side of the row. But he went on to dismiss Khachatrian’s calls for support from the head of state.

"I hope that the president will stand by me," the speaker told reporters on Wednesday. Asked to comment on the plea–Kocharian replied: "One should probably read the constitution more attentively. How can the president of the republic stand by the chairman of the National Assembly or anybody else? It is primarily the National Assembly majority that is supposed to stand by the speaker."

Kocharian said he still hopes for a "reconciliation" between the People’s Party and Republican Party–which formally make up the disintegrating Unity bloc–but added that such reconciliation must not be "artificial."I have made one attempt [to mediate between them]–but it didn’t seem to work. It appears that an agreement can only be achieved over certain principles," he said.

Relations between the two Unity members have steadily worsened since last May. The Republicans made a final decision to strip the People’s Party of all its posts in the government after a series of negotiations between the two parties yielded no results earlier this month. Several other parties represented in the parliament have since joined the campaign to remove the speaker.

Also on Thursday Kocharian was due to discuss the situation with premier Markarian as a flurry of inter-party consultations continued in the parliament. Vice-speaker Tigran Torosian–who is a senior Republican Party member–said that a new parliament majority which is coming into existence can pick up the Unity platform. According to Vazgen Manukian of the National Democratic Union–if such majority is eventually not formed the parliament must be dissolved and fresh elections must take place.

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