Thousands Attend Prime Ministers Funeral

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Thousands of people joined Armenia’s top government officials and politicians Wednesday to take part in the state funeral of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who died Sunday of a heart attack at 55. Markarian was buried in the national Komitas Pantheon after a lengthy funeral service that began from his Yerevan apartment in the morning. Hundreds of cars and buses slowly moved behind his coffin, placed on an artillery caisson and surrounded by honor guard, towards the city center. The procession briefly stopped outside the headquarters of Markarians Republican Party and the nearby main government building before the body was taken to Yerevans State Opera House where it lay in state for three hours. Big crowds that gathered outside the building then filed past the open coffin as President Robert Kocharian and top government officials and prominent politicians took turns to stand guard over it. The ceremony was broadcast live by state television. The coffin carrying Markarians body was taken from his home to the central office of his Republican Party and then to the lobby of the Opera and Ballet Theatre, where it laid in state for thousands of Armenia’s and representatives from many countries to pay their last respects. Markarians body was carried through the city center to the Pantheon after a prayer service led by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenia’s. In a eulogy read out at the burial site, parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, who is also a senior member of the Republican Party, paid tribute to his longtime associate. For our state and our people, the loss of is immense and sorrow infinitely deep, Torosian said. But today we can also see that there is a lot we can draw comfort from. Andranik Markarian will be remembered as a remarkable statesman who distinguished himself with a unique style and pronounced personality, he added. Torosian was speaking on behalf of the state commission set up to organize the Markarians Sometimes he jokingly would say that they will remember what I have not done. But the people remember his love and on these days they return it both to him, and to us, Torosian said, adding that he was a person with unlimited kindness, attentive, tolerant and patience. Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau member and deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament Vahan Hovanessian praised the late prime minister for his efforts in stabilizing the political situation in Armenia and for furthering economic growth and balancing the budget. Hovanessian also added that the prime ministers death posed no threat to Armenia’s stability, saying that the Republican Party will have to make changes to its election campaign. He repeated that this unexpected death will not have any impact on the positioning of political forces because internally Armenia enjoys political stability. The funeral service was also attended by foreign dignitaries representing over a dozen states and international organizations. Armenia has lost its great son, and I have lost a friend, one of them, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, told reporters. He felt bad for Armenia’s isolation and was confident that Armenia will be a free and democratic country, said Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin. The US government was represented by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza. Prime Minister Markarian was a very good and constructive partner, he said. I had the honor to know him personally. Wednesday was an official day of mourning in Armenia, with flags on government buildings and Armenian diplomatic missions abroad flying at half-mast and television channels broadcasting mainly somber music. It is a big loss for the Armenian people, and also for the Greek people. Andranik Markarian was a great friend to Greece, Greek deputy foreign minister Theodor Kasimis told Armenian journalists. Lithuanias environment protection minister Arunos Kunorotos said Markarians untimely death was a big loss to Armenia and its people. We appreciate all the important things we implemented together with the Armenian government headed by Markarian and hope to continue our effective cooperation, he said. Robert Simmons, NATO special representative for Central Asia and the South Caucasus, said he was mourning alongside the people of Armenia. Armenia lost its great son and I lost a good friend, Georgias Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said. Vladimir Rushailo, executive secretary of the CIS, representatives from France, Canada, and Turkish ambassador to Georgia and many other foreign dignitaries visited the theaters lobby to pay their last respect to Andranik Margarian. In Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov visited the embassy of Armenia to convey his condolences. Markarian was appointed Prime Minister in 2000 to bring a degree of stability to the country after a terrorist raid on its parliament on October 27, 1999 in which its prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and several other top government members were killed. In the aftermath of the gunmen’s surrender president Robert Kocharian appointed Aram Sargsyan prime minister. But Kocharian replaced him with Markarian several months later. Since then Markarian had been the head of the government, being the longest serving Armenian prime minister and leader of the Republican Party, the largest grouping in the Armenian Parliament. He was born in 1951 in Yerevan to a family of refugees from Western Armenia, and educated at the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, where he qualified as a computer engineer. In 1968 he joined the illegal National United Party, which agitated against Soviet domination of Armenia. In 1974 he was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for disseminating anti-Soviet ideas. When Armenia declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 he became a member of the new Republican Party, and became a deputy of the national assembly in 1995 The government press office said messages of condolences were sent also to president Robert Kocharian by French president Jacques Chirac, Belgian prime minister Guy Werhoffstad, NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Tajikistans president Emomali Rakhmon, Armenian American Cultural Association, Belgian foreign minister Karel de Gucht, Estonian defense minister Jurgen Lig, Romanian economy minister Varuzhan Voskanian, heads of Armenian organizations in South African and many others. Armenian Foreign Ministry press service told Armenpress that U.S. President George Bush, Brazilian President Luis Inasio Lula da Silva, Sheikh of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Khalifa ben Zayid al Nahyan, Deputy President, Prime Minister of UAE, Governor of Dubai Emirates Sheikh Muhammad ben Rashid Al Mactumi, Lebanese President, General Emil Lahoud, Foreign Minister of Poland Anna Fotyga, Chairman of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Potering conveyed their condolences. Romanian Prime Minister Kalin Popesku-Tarichianu, Prime Minister of Tajikistan Akil Akilov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Masimov, Korean Prime Minister Pak Bon Joon, Brazilian Foreign Minister Selso Amorim, Lebanese Foreign Minister Fauzi Salukh, and Chairman of the Asian Development Bank Haruhiko Kuroda expressed their condolences.

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