Presidential candidate Robert Kocharyan in the Zoom conference

Presidential Candidate Kocharyan Gives Press Conference for Diaspora

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YEREVAN — Former Armenian president and current presidential candidate for the Armenia Alliance [Hayastan Dashink] Robert Kocharyan held an online press conference via Zoom for various diasporan Armenian media and representatives on June 11, with the support of his electoral coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The conference lasted over one hour and there were 100 participants from various parts of the world at its peak.

The conference was run by public relations and marketing expert Hrachuhi Mirzoyan, herself a candidate in the parliamentary elections for the Armenia Alliance. It was the eighth such conference or meeting that Kocharyan had held that day, and he appeared tired. The ex-president preferred not to give an opening statement but rather to immediately begin to answer questions. Some 40 questions had been collected previously (the Mirror-Spectator did not have the chance to participate in this) and then grouped together into similar categories, which primarily dealt with the Armenian economy, relations with the diaspora, the future of Armenia and the way out of the current crisis for Armenia. Much of the former president’s comments were devoted to criticizing the present government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

President Kocharyan cast full blame for the current security crisis on the current regime. In response to a question as to whether it was possible to reject the November 2020 trilateral ceasefire agreement on the basis of the Armenian Constitution, he declared that from a practical point of view, not respecting this agreement will create more problems than accepting it. On the other hand, the questions of how he would deal with the Azerbaijani demand for access through southern Armenia to link with Nakhichevan, or other land and border issues were not discussed.

He stressed that it was necessary to quickly solve the socioeconomic issues of the refugees from Artsakh. In that connection, he mentioned the roughly $100 million collected during the wartime as part of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund campaign, and the lack of accounting for what has happened to that money. Nonetheless, further sums remain which could resolve many issues for the refugees, he said.

Kocharyan noted two other types of crises for which he stated the current government was responsible: the increase of political tension and polarization in Armenian society, and a downturn in the economy, including a decline in investments from abroad and an increase in emigration. He said that today’s situation, when everyone from 14 years old to the elderly, are preoccupied with politics, is not a normal or healthy state of affairs.

He declared that the current government does not understand economic policy and declared that if in power, he could assure economic growth and increase the amount of outside investments. He would encourage the use of new technologies, and stated that in a country like Armenian without gas or other great natural resources, there is no other choice.

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He said that in the last three years of his presidency, immigration to Armenia was greater than emigration, and said that an Armenia-centered policy should be followed in connection with the diaspora in order to create attractive conditions for repatriation or immigration. He said that restrictions for dual citizens should only be placed on service in the army or police and security bodies. In all other fields he said, Armenia can benefit from the experience and specializations of diasporan Armenians.

Kocharyan stated that the current government in Armenia has said it does not need diasporan institutions but can work directly with the diaspora. This is one of the causes of the diaspora’s losing confidence in the current government, he said. He, on the other hand, declared that Armenia’s relations must be with an organized diaspora and not with individuals, as having institutional structures in various communities will make it easier for Armenia to work with them.

When asked whether he would recreate a diaspora ministry or a new body for relations with Armenians abroad, he first carefully noted that he did not agree that Armenia must manage the diaspora. He said he did not think that would be possible either. He suggested two models, a diaspora ministry, or a strong structure in the foreign ministry with one of the deputy ministers responsible for the diaspora. He said while the first approach sounded better to him, and probably sounded better to the diaspora, on the other hand, diaspora relations in general are conducted through embassies and it could create problems if there were two bodies dealing with these relations.  He said it was necessary to avoid creating a purely bureaucratic structure.

Kocharyan was asked what measures could be taken to promote the Western Armenian language, literature and culture. He said this question would have to be examined by specialists. He added that he had appointed deliberately during his presidency, especially in the early period, members of the ARF as ministers of culture and education because that political party was particularly dedicated to the preservation of national culture. As the ARF is part of his current electoral coalition, he said that means that his team contains a force or element which will very actively deal with these issues.

Kocharyan, in response to a question about Iran, stated that he is always in favor of deepening relations with it, though Armenia has faced great pressure from other quarters, especially the United States, against this. He regretted that during his regime it was not possible to build a second gas pipeline.

When asked about the struggle against corruption and oligarchy, he proclaimed that there is no one on his electoral campaign’s list of candidates who is an oligarch. Instead, he pointed to the current regime, which though in 2018 declared war on oligarchy, now has in its list the most famous oligarch of Armenia (presumably he is referring to Khachatur Sukiasyan, number four in the Civil Contract list of candidates), and there are others. Kocharyan said that thus, the Pashinyan regime has betrayed all its slogans.

In another direct criticism of Pashinyan’s government, he stated that since 2018 it had tried to remove the “national” from Armenian education. He claimed that some Western-based NGOs, which he called “Sorosakan,” or connected to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, pursued such goals,  causing great damage, and their offices must be obstructed and not permitted to operate in Armenia. He posited that people who worked in those NGOs moved into government structures, including the Ministry of Education, after the Velvet Revolution and were able to introduce their ideas on a governmental level.

A variety of other topics were quickly covered in the conference. Occasionally suggestions were made by participants, who had a limited opportunity at the end of the conference to speak. For example, the idea of promoting news dissemination in non-Armenian languages like the Turks and Kurds do was suggested, and Kocharyan thought this was a good idea in principle. The moderator suggested that further suggestions could be forwarded electronically to the Armenia Alliance in the future.

Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau Chairman Hagop Der Khatchadurian in the Zoom conference

At the end of the event, Hagop Der Khatchadurian, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau chairman, thanked Kocharyan for making time for this conference and spoke briefly of the goals of the Armenia Alliance, including a return to a national ideology and establishing an honorable peace.

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