Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, May 2, 2022.
This week Hovik Manucharyan and I will talk about the following major topics:
Here are this week’s major topics:
● “Peace Agenda” in Motion
● It’s not the Crime, it’s the Cover-Up
● Opposition Initiates Civil Disobedience
● What a Nice PM Armenia Has! 🤥
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Tevan Poghosyan, who is president of the International Center for Human Development. Mr. Poghosyan was an MP in the National Assembly between 2012 and 2017 from the Heritage party. From 1997 to 1999 he served as the Nagorno-Karabakh Public Affairs Office Director in Washington, D.C.
Hello and welcome back to our show Tevan
This week the opposition to Nikol Pashinyan moved their struggle to the streets, commencing a series of actions that included student walkouts, strikes, as well as other types of civil disobedience. The news is replete with instances of police brutality against the protesters, which we’ll cover later in the show. For now, let’s begin with the issues that are the cause for the opposition’s revolt.
After the trilateral meeting in Moscow in November of 2021, by Putin, Pashinyan and Aliyev, and later in April ‘22 by Charles Michel, Pashinyan and Aliyev, a commitment was made to establish a border demarcation commission and sign a peace agreement. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov is now planning to host a meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs in Mid-May, on the sidelines of a EAEU summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Over the past month, the outlines of the so-called “peace agreement” are beginning to emerge as PM Pashinyan’s speech in parliament hinted at signing an agreement that recognizes Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, leaving Artsakh within it. The EU, NATO, Turkey and Azerbaijan have been raising the pressure on Armenia to accept this solution, with the EU promising to talk with Azerbaijan about undefined accommodations for the Armenians of Artsakh to remain in their homeland, only AFTER the agreement is signed.
Aliyev has been saying that he wants Maps of 1918 or before to be used for border demarcation. According to him, Syunik and Yerevan were Azerbaijani lands back then. FM Mirzoyan has asked why we should limit ourselves with 20th century maps, Armenians would be OK using maps of the 5th Century, or 1st Century BC, or even 2nd Century AD…
● What considerations are floating around in the Armenian Azerbaijani negotiations?
● NSC chair Armen Grigoryan will meet Hikmet Hajiyev today. What will be discussed?
Turkey has been dangling the carrot of opening the border and establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia, but it’s clearly delaying, to see Armenia sign a full capitulation to Azerbaijan. And the US has been lobbying Azerbaijan to not cause border escalations, in order for Armenia to feel safe enough to sign the agreements. Meanwhile, Russia’s approach has been more nuanced; while outwardly supporting the process, yet hinting for Armenia to conduct a more thorough process that achieves a more balanced agreement, including keeping Russian forces in Artsakh indefinitely.
After Pashinyan’s return from Moscow to Yerevan, on April 28, Maria Zakharova said in a press conference that there are “principled disagreements” between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the status of Artsakh.
● This seems to be the first time that such a disagreement was highlighted by Russia. Last week, on our podcast Benyamin Poghosyan said that the EU & the West are interested in pressuring Armenia to sign a so-called peace deal with Azerbaijan, while Russia is not interested in an urgent signing. Do you agree with Benyamin and is this another manifestation of Russia’s policy?
● What are these “principled disagreements”?
This past week Pashinyan also met with Arayik Harutyunyan, the president of Artsakh Republic, to explain that his “peace agenda” is actually good for the people of Artsakh. This was probably necessitated by the strong rebuke Pashinyan’s parliamentary speech received earlier in April from the legislature of Artsakh.
After the meeting Harutyunyan stated that he supported the “peace agenda”, but that Artsakh would not deviate from the path of self-determination.
● What does this mean?
In conjunction with negotiating with Aliyev, the Pashinyan administration seems to be inching closer to a warming of relations with Turkey. Today, Turkey’s FM Cavusoglu said that an agreement with Armenia has been reached on the demarcation of the Armenia-Turkish border, without specifying details.
While Armenia has not openly challenged the mutual border with Turkey and there is a Turkey-USSR officially recognized border, Turkey has in the past called for the Republic of Armenia to officially recognize and sign the Treaty of Kars as a precondition to establishing diplomatic relations. And, if we are to believe the words of Cavusoglu, Armenia is set to accept yet another precondition, meanwhile loudly proclaiming that there are no preconditions.
On Wednesday, April 27th, PM Pashinyan’s motorcade left his residence and made its way in a giant, police-facilitated hurry towards the National Assembly. Only a few hundred meters later, near the corner of Leo-Baronyan and Broshyan streets, one of the cars in his motorcade hit a woman, Sona Mnatsakanyan, who was crossing the street with the right of way.
None of the cars in the motorcade stopped. 28-year-old Sona Mnatsakanyan was shortly rushed to the hospital, which was only half a kilometer away, but died of her injuries. She was married, and pregnant with her first child. She was one of the founders of the charity organization “Support Our Heroes” and was managing projects being implemented in Artsakh.
How did the Prime Minister react?
First, the motorcade made no effort to stop, they sped away to the PM’s meeting. Reportedly the meeting was later interrupted with news of the death from the hospital. Armenian law requires everyone involved in such an accident to stop and deal with it. Ironically, Pashinyan has claimed as one of his achievements that his motorcade observes Armenian traffic laws! Not a single car in the motorcade stopped to help the dying victim.
Second, the PM’s office made excuses why they didn’t stop. The PM’s deputy chief of staff, Taron Chakhoyan said that the PM didn’t know at the moment what had happened, but later gave appropriate instructions. About why the car involved in the accident didn’t stop to deal with the situation, it was apparently because it would have stopped the entire motorcade, obstructed traffic and delayed the ambulance.
This administration is notorious for consistently pointing blame away from itself and for its complete disregard for the pain it has inflicted on the people. In the case of this accident, ridiculous and unimportant concerns like causing a traffic jam may have taken precedence over the crucial first response minutes that might have saved Sona Mnatsakanyan’s life.
This case is exemplary of the bad decision-making endemic to this Pashinyan government, who hasn’t felt the pain or taken responsibility for the 5000 Armenians who perished in the war a year and a half ago and has not resigned for losing the war.
One wonders: could Pashinyan stand in the middle of Broshyan Ave and shoot somebody, and not lose voters?
Terrible and tragic accidents happen, and they take wonderful people away. We grieve for the loss of this bright young lady, with her family.
Meanwhile, the opposition protests seem to be gathering steam now going on to their 7th or 8th day of street demonstrations demanding the resignation of the government. Needless to say the behavior of the government has further incensed and fired up the opposition groups. Armenian police report that more than 200 people have been detained just today.
● What is your take on this event?
● How would you evaluate the ruling party’s response?
On Tuesday, parents and relatives of the fallen soldiers in the war in 2020 were out on the streets of Yerevan, protesting Pashinyan’s statements in parliament in April. He had said that Armenia could have averted the war, “as a result of which we would have had the same situation, but of course without the casualties.”
Note: We didn’t have time to get to this topic during the show. However, Hovik discussed it with Ruben Melikyan, during an ANN/Groong Twitter Space conversation after the show, Live from France Square in Yerevan.
This week the constitutional court upheld a 2021 law that made it illegal to “insult” Armenia officials and public figures. The former HR Ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, asked the court to review the law, and the appeal was rejected.
Dozens of people have been arrested, most of them for insulting PM Pashinyan. Since most of them are not journalists, the prosecutors have argued that the law is not infringing on the free press.
● What is the effect that this law is having on society? The Press?
● How has the international community reacted to this law?
● How does this compare to Turkey’s Article 300, “Insulting Turkishness” law?
That was our Week in Review show, and we hope it helped you catch up with some of the issues in and around Armenia from this past week. As always, we invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Like our pages and follow us on social media. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Tevan Poghosyan, Ruben Melikyan, Sona Mnatsakanyan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Yerevan, Protests, Civil Disobedience, Russia, Borders, Border Demarcation, Peace Agenda, Agenda of Peace, Peace Agreement, Rearming, Military reform, Press Freedoms, EU, European Union, Criminalization of Insults, Freedom of Speech, Motorcade,