Kocharian Comes Face to face with University Students

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Yerkir)–University students from throughout Armenia gathered at Yerevan State University on Wednesday to meet President Robert Kocharian–and pose questions on issues of concern.

Asked about the process of settling the Karabagh conflict–Kocharian said during his term in office–Armenia has accepted several proposals put forth by mediators–while Azerbaijan has rejected them. "I have dedicated 15 years of my life to the Karabagh issue–and I will pursue it all the way through," Kocharian said.

Referring to Azerbaijan’s unapologetic and even defensive position on the murder of an Armenian officer by an Azeri counterpart–the president said it reinforces the fact that Armenophobia has reached its peak in that country. "We are–once again–convinced that Karabagh cannot–under any condition–be a part of Azerbaijan."

Asked about opposition claims that Armenia remains gripped by a political crisis–Kocharian explained that in 2003–Armenia registered record economic growth–accompanied by improving public services. He cited a 13.9 increase in GDP–which was the highest in the Commonwealth of Independent States. "To describe as crisis the situation in a country where economic growth has reached 13.9 percent and where all the indicators testify to quite interesting developmen’s–is at least–tantamount to not understanding what a crisis means."

It was the Armenian leader’s first visit to the country’s largest university since last month’s student protests against a controversial government bill on military service. The bill–which would have allowed the military to draft graduate and doctoral students–was eventually withdrawn from parliament. Kocharian acknowledged that the proposed legislation should have undergone a detailed public debate before being submitted to the National Assembly–and revealed his support for compulsory military service for all young men–including his two sons.

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