ARF Leader Calls for Establishment of Institutionalized National Security Council

YEREVAN (Yerkir, Armenpress)–Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau member and the Vice Speaker of the parliament Vahan Hovanessian Wednesday called for the establishment of the an institutionalized national security council to tackle short-term and long-term security concerns. Hovanessian was referring to a draft guideline for Armenia’s national security, which was presented to parliament last week by Defense Minister Serge Sarkissian. The ARF leader commended the draft plan and the team of experts that formulated it, pointing out, however, that the plan did not provide comprehensive mechanisms for its implementation. "The ARF believes that an institutionalized national security council should be established, which we do not have, at the moment. There is a national security council that operates under the president, but it is not functional. The executive power solves only short-term issues and lacks any vision for the future. We have to have a special agency to tackle national security issues, since it is not sensible to place that responsibility on the government," explained Hovanessian. The ARF leader explained that his party sometimes turns a blind eye to certain shortcomings since there were external threats to the country’s security that could impact the country’s domestic stability "The country’s stability is the number one priority of the party," affirmed Hovanessian. He explained that is many instances the ARF does not share the views of its allies in the ruling coalition, "but when you try to weigh and understand the priorities, you realize that security concerns always outweigh all other matters." Hovanessian also discussed Sunday’s constitutional referendum in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic saying that the vote should not be compared to other referenda in other parts of the former Soviet Union. He explained that the referendum in Karabakh will further regulate relations between different branches of power and provide a rule of law for the country. The ARF leader downplayed the negative reaction of some international organizations that said they did not recognize the December 10 referendum and added that such reactions had no significant impact on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. He said the ARF had helped a monitoring team to travel to Karabakh to observe the referendum. "Their opinion means to us more than what Terry Davis (secretary General of the Council of Europe) says," Hovanessian said, referring to a statement made by Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis, who rejected the referendum. Almost 99 percent of Karabakh eligible voters took part in Sunday’s vote, which ratified a 142-article constitution and declared the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic "a sovereign, democratic, legal and social state." The constitution established a broad range of generally defined rights, from the direct election of the country’s president, parliament and local governmen’s, to the presumption of innocence and freedom of assembly, speech, and religion. "I am confident that the adopted constitution will strengthen Nagorno-Karabakh’s statehood and deepen the ongoing democratization processes," said Nagorno-Karabakh Republic president Arkady Ghoukasian after the vote Sunday. In discussing the Karabakh conflict resolution process, Hovanessian a lasting peace can be attained only through a compromised solution, stressing that Armenia had already made all the necessary compromises. "We did not incorporate Nagorno-Karabakh into the Republic of Armenia, Karabakh is a different sate, we did not raise the issue of Nakhichevan. We have made concessions and now the turn is for Azerbaijan," he said. Within this context, Hovanessian commented on the arrest Sunday of a the former leader of the Shoushi battalion and Karabakh war veteran Jirair Sefilian on charges of "violent change of constitutional order." Hovanessian said Sefilian was charged with anti-constitutional activity and there was no word that his arrest was prompted by his opposition to so-called Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The National Security Service said earlier in a statement that Sefilian was planning an armed uprising against the government during parliamentary elections due next spring and sentenced him to a pre-trial prison term. " I do not think that anyone in Armenia can be arrested for opposing the handing of Armenian-controlled regions around the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to Azerbaijan," Hovanessian said in reference to allegations that Sefilian’s actions were prompted by opposition to the government’s concessions to Azerbaijan.

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