YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Armenia’s Defense Minister Vazgen Sargssian–during a press conference Friday–barred from broadcast on Armenian state television–expressed his support for Prime Minister Robert Kocharian and Interior Minister Serj Sarkissian–and harshly criticized the ruling Armenian National Movement party–with inferences of criticism directed toward Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghian.
Sargssian said that the political situation in Armenia was becoming further aggravated and that it was naturally conditioned with problems in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
Following are excerpts from Sargssian’s statemen’s:
"The Karabakh problem is a national problem and four–five or ten individuals have neither the right–nor the permission–I think–to resolve this problem.
"First of all–I am deeply concerned about one thing: by transmitting the problem into the social–personal or moral sphere–a wedge is driven between two groups of the Armenian people–the Armenia’s of Karabakh and Armenia.
"The so-called social outburst against Armenia’s dire economic condition which deemed a result of the Karabakh problem–is artificial.
"I must say that there is no state of social outburst in Armenia–this situation is being artificially created.
"The economic conditions of Armenia are harsh not because of the Karabakh problem–but because of poor manner in which we have operated.
"For about two years–from 1995 to 1997–the Armenian government–in fact–did not work. Naturally–we could not expect any economic progress. When they speak of economic profits and losses–I do not know why–but they do not speak of all the benefits Karabakh can yield to Armenia. That is not mentioned in any economic analysis.
"Another manner through which an attempt is made to drive a wedge between the Armenian people is by pointing the finger at Karabakh officials–namely–Serge Sargssian and Robert Kocharian.
"Robert Kocharian was unable to perform miracles in nine months. But in those nine months he managed to draft a 12-month budget–stabilize the economy–pay off all debts (salaries–pensions)–create a platform behind which the government will have serious successes unless there are political fluctuations.
"Robert Kocharian believes in his work. He works day and night. I cannot help but say this–since they–themselves cannot say it–because of recent blows which are below the waist. When he is accused of wrongdoing–for which other are to blame–then those people should be replaced. But it is wrong to blame Kocharian–the pro-Kocharian Karabakh–or to use Karabakh as a scapegoat. I appeal to the consciousness of our people. Robert Kocharian and Serge Sargssian did not come to Armenia as volunteers. They came to help–and–therefore–we should work together.
"Serge Sargssian came to Armenia in 1993 when no defense minister was found after Vazgen Manoukian. His contribution to the security of Karabakh and Armenia and to the organization of the internal affairs ministry’s activities are indisputable. He became Minister of the Interior and National Security–because when the twp ministries were merged–again a ministerial vacancy emerged and the position was offered to Serge Sargssian. No one else was available and he agreed to take the office.
"He fulfilled his duties with a deep sense of responsibility and honor.
"The saddest reality–however–are the recent events in Armenia–which I do not want to even call them assassination attempts,. since this country has seen plenty of assassinations in the past. I cannot–however–understand the bizzare commen’s [directed at the prime minister] which have been articulated following these events. Any serious political figure would wait until the investigation was complete before making accusations. Since they do not I entitle myself to make several clarifications," said Sargssian.
The defense minister then began reciting several names who had receives threats on their lives–as early as January 12. He also stated that certain circles were poisoning the public mind by saying that cars with Karabakh license plates were spotted around the area where this week’s attempts took place.
"I ask: who–why–how–why should it be? And I would always hear a the same name being mentioned [in relation to all those calls]. That person is not from this wing. It should be still verified whether the car "was shelled or they shelled the car." Rumors of cars carrying Karabakh numbers–Karabakh terrorists… this is all very dihonotest. It is immoral. We should not fear terror from Karabakh–Karabakh does not need any terror. We should be afraid of Karabakh only when 200,000 to 250,000 homeless–wounded and armed people come to Yerevan. I want to appeal to the consciousness of the people: everything is artificial–the worst thing to do is to lose our mutual trust and confidence.
"Do you understand what will happen–if our people do not combat these untruths? Any step from Karabakh–any armed soldier from Armenia will be considered a victim of Karabakh. The worm of doubtfulness will eat us from inside–and even worse it will eat the state.
"The second menace I detect is the following: Unfortunately–more and more organizations–individuals–figures are attempted to be involved in this game–first of all the ministry of national security and interior. I think you know who has been trying for 6 months or a year to become minister of national security–you know how and why he wants to–so the elections are in 1999. And those people are unable to become members of parliament unless the national security ministry interferes. That is the way: at first to disorganize–inflict some lack of confidence within the national security ministry in relation to its minister–then accuse him of not reacting to the shooting of its deputy. And what happened when Hambartsum Galtsian–their close friend was killed–why did not anybody demand the interior minister’s resignation? Vardges Petrossian was murdered–and why was not it considered a situation of a social outburst in at Armenia that time?
"These are questions which require simple answers. Unfortunately–an attempt is made to involve the defense ministry into that debt. A number of envoys met a number of commanders and got proper answers. Later on–it was spread in public that an attempt on Vahram Khorkhoruni’s life had been committed. Today–they are saying that Manvel Grigorian’s house was blown up and so on. They ask about what we will do in case of an emergency. I can once again assure you that we will do nothing. Armenia’s armed forces are meant to combat an outside enemy and they will not interfere in the political struggle. Nobody should hope that Armenia’s armed forces get involved in this game.
"The Yerkrapah forces are not preparing for anything either. There is no need for that. Nothing frightening has happened in Armenia. Yerkrapah volunteers will not participate in any extremist actions
"And finally the last threat: Unfortunately–by stressing the importance of international opinion– we take steps in creating a mind frame about Armenia which says that the Armenian people possesses neither economic–nor spiritual potential and cannot anything to anyone–but they only take. The second opinion would be that of Armenia’s being terrorists. To spread such a viewpoint for momentary political aims…how will we handle it later? The generations to come will not even be able to handle it?
"These are bad processes. I am personally against these processes and wanted to call on our people not to listen to these suppositions.
"Nothing horrible has happened in Armenia. We are getting well. For the first time–we are acting as a winner and must find the edges–the national unity–restore the style we used to have–enter the negotiations with firm ground and turn our military victories into political ones. All this requires belief–national unity.
If we have unity within the republic–the diaspora is ready to join that unity. We need to be able to increase our international resistance economically–politically–morally and we will surely succeed.