ARF Has Never Refrained From Criticizing President

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Gegham Manoukian–a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia–refuted the rumors recently spread in the Armenian press about the ARF’s readiness to oppose President Robert Kocharian.

Manoukian stressed that he did not feel obliged to comment on these publications–but–nevertheless–pointed out that these articles do not correspond to the ARF’s position.

At the same time–Manoukian said that they never hesitate to chide the president for his actions whenever they find it appropriate. According to him–"since 1998–when Robert Kocharian was elected President of Armenia–we–as a party–have reserved the right to express our position on any political–economic–social and foreign policy issue no matter if it corresponds to Kocharian’s position or not."

"I can bring numerous examples when we had quite clear–hard and opposite positions on various issues–especially on social and economic ones," said Manoukian. Today–he underlined–the ARF feels entitled to have its own free viewpoint.

"One cannot describe what happened in the parliament even using political terms," Manoukian said–commenting on the failure of the latest spring three-day sessions of the National Assembly.

However–he did not deny the right of different political forces. According to Manoukian–when "the matter reaches transgression of the law–when it is allowed to slip each other in the face–when it is allowed to throw away a mandate received due to popular vote–when the parliament speaker is forced to warn law-defending and law-writing deputies that they must not come armed tomorrow–it has nothing to do with impeachment–laws–position or opposition."

Manoukian said the issue of impeachment does not in any way proceed from the conclusions of the parliament’s interim commission. "When this commission was formed a few months ago–we had to say that the issues raised before the commission were not clear–and it was not logical to set up a commission for those issues. But later–after several months–we forgot what the commission was formed for," the ARF representative noted.

"Unfortunately–the matter does not concern either the investigation of the whole work of national security bodies during the October 27 events–or the president’s stance and activities in that matter," said Manoukian. Pointing out that the opposition did not initiate this last attempt of impeachment–rather individual parliament deputies–Manoukian expressed confidence that all these are secondary issues in the initiative that is submitted to parliament today. According to him–many political figures–in particular Artashes Geghamian and Alexan Karapetian–for a certain period after the October 27 events wholly backed President Kocharian.

"However–when because of political changes these people left Kocharian–they assumed a harder line towards Kocharian and now demand his impeachment invoking Oct. 27 as an occasion," said Manoukian.

In Manoukian’s opinion–if the issue was brought up for discussion and subsequent vote–it would be proposed to the initiators that the vote be postponed–because–according to him–it is one of banners with political slogans needed for a certain period of political struggle.

"I am sure that these few months will become a stage under the motto of "impeachment." But it goes without saying that no vote will be taken–or even if they take the vote it will not work," said the ARF leader.

Presenting the ARF position on the current situation in the Karabakh settlement process–Manoukian said–"The Karabakh problem has been solved–and the Armenian side has attained its goal. We have no problems–but Azerbaijan does. The ball is now on Azerbaijan’s side. Let Azerbaijan ponder over ways of solving the problem." According to him–Karabakh acts as a viable state system; it is an independent state with its concrete economic possibilities and numerous shortcomings: both economic and social.

As for the negotiating process–ARF’s position is that Karabakh must participate in the negotiations as a separate party. Manoukian says that not only Karabakh–but the international circle deman’s it as well. And therefore–it is time Karabakh joined the negotiations as a full party.

"There is also another important point in the Karabakh problem: to modernize the state and public-political system of Karabakh and fully put it on a democratic basis. From the point of view of solving the Karabakh problem it will be a very important argument for our diplomacy and both Armenian sides," said Manoukian.

According to him–the Karabakh issue is often speculated as an internal political struggle.

"There may be different opinions–and one can argue about the Karabakh talks. But when they try to make the Karabakh issue an issue of the Motherland–and land an object for speculation in the internal political struggle–it does not do credit to any political figure," he said. Thus–according to him–the issue of Meghri–issues of the return of liberated territories and intentions to leave Karabakh within Azerbaijan have become objects of speculations.

According to Manoukian–"every time after the appearance of regular misinformation on the Karabakh issue and speculations on this matter–attempts to voice opinions that the ARF has deviated from its political positions and sold itself to the authorities are made. It was the case with the Meghri issue–in connection with the notorious ‘occupied territories’ wording used by Oskanian–after which in certain circles of Armenia and the Diaspora attempts were made to launch a large-scale campaign against the ARF."

However–as Manoukian said–there is a statement of the ARF Bureau on these issues–as well as a statement of the forum of ARF bodies that was held in March 2001–which speaks about liberated territories and the status of Karabakh.

The ARF had clear positions during the whole negotiating process: Karabakh is an independent territory and must not be part of Azerbaijan by any means–either de jure or de facto.

Karabakh should have a security zone–and in this aspect the ARF regards the issue of liberated territories as a vitally important issue for the Armenian people and Karabakh.

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