The escape from Syria
During the last days of the Government of Robert Kocharyan, and the most tragic events in Armenia, Armenian Foreign Minister (1998-2008), now-Chairman of the Board of the “Civilitas Foundation “, played a special role in the moral salvation of the Government and the elimination of traces of blood of Armenian citizens in downtown Yerevan.
The figure of V. Oskanian needs a deep understanding. That is why we need to start with his biography. He was born in 1955, on February 7th , in Syria. During 1973-1979 he studied at the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute. Meanwhile, it comes to light that his reasons for returning to the motherland were not just “patriotic”, there was one more fundamental reason, that is, not willing to do military service in Syria.What’s more, according to our sources, he was pursued by law for this reason. Later, before becoming a senior position in Armenian Government, Oskanian did not dare to return to Syria to spend a day in solitary confinement, in order to resolve the outstanding dispute with the Syrian law. After graduating from the Polytechnic Institute, Oskanian moved to the U.S. In the years 1982-1991 he studied in several American universities; later, along with Salbi Ghazarian, he founded the magazine AIM-Armenian International Magazine, in the early 90’s. During the rule of Raffi Hovhannisyan, first Armenian Foreign Minister, he entered the Foreign Ministry, while his partner, Salbi Ghazarian, made her way to Zhirayr Liparityan´s group. Oskanian worked in the Ministry, first as Head of the department of Middle Eastern countries, later as Head of the countries of North America, Canada and the U.S. Later, in 1994, he became Deputy Minister; since 1996 – First Deputy, and since April 1998-Foreign Minister of Armenia. Salbi Ghazarian remained his special assistant in the Ministry durng eight years.
Oskanian converted quickly
After the overturn of October 27th , 1999, carried out by terror, during which the most important political leaders were killed, that is, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and President of the National Assembly Karen Demirchyan, V. Oskanian became one of the few in the Government who oriented quickly and, in fact, became a faithful member and one of the key persons in the team of Robert Kocharyan. A few months after October 27th certain steps were carried out that would strengthen the Kocharyan’s positions in the government through constitutional violations; that is, passing over the Prime Minister, Vagharshak Harutyunyan was dismissed from the position of Defense Minister, after which the removal of the Prime Minister Aram Zaven Sargsyan was a solved issue. In 2000 Andranik Margaryan was appointed as the Prime Minister. After October 27th, during Kocharyan´s presidency, Serzh Sargsyan, who occupied the posts of president´s Chief of Staff, Secretary of National Security and Defense Minister of the Republic of Armenia, in turn, strengthened Kocharyan´s Government. On March 25th , 2007, Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan died suddenly of a heart attack. In fact, his death was a “gift” to Sargsyan, which provided him an opportunity to seize the political and administrative levers and become a presidential candidate for 2008 elections. It should be noted that before Sargsyan was appointed Prime Minister, Oskanian had already announced his candidacy for presidency, frankly thinking he would be lucky on this. Was his conviction based on his own ideas, or a double set of Kocharyan? We only have to guess. But the fact remains: when Sargsyan won by more points for the future presidential race, thus leaving behind Oskanian, the latter continued his service. Another fact is that he never lost the hope of occupying the Presidential post. During the last months of the Government of Kocharyan, Oskanian was sure that he would at least preserve his position as a Foreign Minister. This, therefore, may be the reason that forced him to justify the killings of March 1st and adopt the incriminating attitude against the demonstrators.
Oskanian’s mission before and after March 1st
After the Presidential Elections 2008 on January 9th , at a press conference, Foreign Minister Oskanian described the elections as one of the most important events of the year, noting that “if it were not possible to organize fair elections, or to go one step further after the Parliament elections, Armenia would have lost its authority in the international arena”, which was won, according to him, in the elections of May 12th , 2007. Oskanian considered dangerous this loss of authority and noted, that it would weaken the role of Armenia in the field of international relations. However, these words did not comply with actions, since starting from late 2007 Oskanian had proposed to cling to power at all costs, realizing that the Government could no longer legitimately and legally be reproduced. In particular, during his meeting with the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Ambassador Christian Strohal, Oskanian conditioned the issue of inviting the election observers with maximum possible calm and flexible assessment report. We witnessed this agreement in the post-election period. During the same press conference, Oskanian mentioned “powers that would like to destabilize Armenia”. Describing the internal political processes in a deliberate subjective way, Oskanian, in fact, violated his ministerial authority.
On February 20th , the day after the embarrassing Presidential Elections, Kocharyan made a cynical statement, to mark that “on February 19th 2008 Presidential Elections were held in Armenia. They were free and honest , under the laws of the Republic of Armenia and the spirit of the international commitments of Armenia”. On February 29th , Kocharyan presented his ideas on post-election events in Yerevan State University. He clearly stated considering two ways: “First, wait until they run out of the theatrical performance at the Theatre Square, and second, use police forces to clear the Square and hence provide an opportunity for the people who are lost and are in a very difficult psychological situation. Since these people are simply held there, by various means”. Through this and subsequent events, not only Kocharyan presented his final will to retain power at all costs after falsified elections, but the appeal and the orders to his faithful servants to carry out the plan he had developed. Largely, Oskanian took over the task of carrying out the illegitimate steps of the Government and later, to justify them. Taking advantage of his position of high office, and the experience of many years, he did not retain the strength to hide the crimes of March 1st and the real facts, as well as to prevent the possible steps of the international community. On the occasion of the Presidential Elections those days, Vice Foreign Minister Vahan Bayburdyan, Ambassador of Armenia to Italy Ruben Shugaryan , Ambassador of Armenia to Kazakhstan Levon Khachatryan and Armenia’s Deputy Ambassador to Ukraine Razmik Khumaryan called to remain faithful to democratic principles, which did not rest unpunished. The same day after being declared, not only they were removed from their posts, but, on the order of R. Kocharyan, unlawfully, their diplomatic titles were also removed. Later, there was the declaration of six more employees of the Ministry- Head of Press and Information Department Vladimir Karapetyan, Head of the Division of NATO Marta Ayvazyan, Head of the UN Division Varsenik Baghdasaryan, Councellor of the European Department Arakel Semirjyan, Head of Canada and U.S. Division Karine Afrikyan, as well as the third secretary of the Division of South America Elen Peteyan, expressed their concern about the situation in the Republic, marked by destructive factors, internal and external, and in particular, required to “take immediate action to implement the steps proposed by the iternational observers in their reports and those of other renowned international organizations”. These events took their toll, too. Oskanian, following the order of R. Kocharyan, dismissed them with the following rationale: “The “Law on Diplomatic Service” does not allow our diplomats to take a public political stance. Some of our employees violated the law. They must therefore be dismissed”. The real purpose of this step was only to prevent any action that could bring down the government pyramid, the Ministry and other institutions. Months later, after losing his job and the concern for the government system, Oskanian expressed another opinion, completely antipode, citing in particular his outrage at the fact that Armenian citizens are fired for having and expressing their viewpoints.
On March 1st , following superior orders, Oskanian called another press conference at the Presidential Palace, in breach of his competence. In the video placed on YouTube (/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v = Zkeahk5r 8rI & feature = related /) we see the effort made to save the reputation of the government. “I can convey what was said by the President on the situation, if it got worse, and if they continued with these endeavors, the President would be forced to declare a State of Emergency in Armenia, against his will. This is the ninth day of the meetings of various occurrences, people have been camping for the night in the Opera Square, and all this was received with considerable tolerance. Thus, such efforts charactered the situation in a different way, but its echo, its counterattack, which could occur at any time, is unpredictable, it is something that could only be rated by law enforcement. I conveyed the will of the president, not to use force, something he stated since the first day, but if the situation continues, I think, the legitimate steps will be needed to restore security in the country”.
The reason for calling a press conference at the Presidential Palace and sharing his concerns was clarified in the act: “When I was proposed to convene a press conference, I consented, just to express my political concerns. I have no police information, but I see the political moment, and that is why I am here, before the cameras, to say that this is a really critical time. We should be properly oriented now”.
After the “clean up” of the streets around Opera of peaceful protesters, opening fire on the defenseless crowd in the center of Yerevan, and the assassination of ten innocent people, a State of Emergency was proclaimed in Yerevan for a period of 20 days. Since that time, Oskanian, being fully conversant with the “cleaning” operation at the Opera Square, as well as with the rest of the events, had its role in justifying the unconstitutional actions of the government. We should also mention that during those days Kocharyan called a venue, which also involved Oskanian. Neither were surprising the “explanations” of his partner Salbi Ghazarian regarding March 1st. In an article found on the CNN website, uploaded March 1st (/ http://articles.cnn.com/2008-0301/world/armenia.protests_1_protesters-demonstrators-police-car?_s=PM:WORLD/ ), long before the law enforcement had had time to assess the situation and ensure its legitimate legal basis for further consideration, Salbi Ghazarian, assuming the duties of the law enforcement, provided an “explanation” on why the State of Emergency was proclaimed in Armenia. She said the government was sure that the demonstrators were armed and that “later it was proved it was absolutely right”. We should remember, nevertheless, that despite all efforts, none of the weapons “found” in the area of the Opera Square could be eventually adjudged to any protester.
On March 4th Oskanian calls a press conference at the Ministry. We can find the complete recording on the ministerial website. In his introductory speech, the Minister conveys the reporters his key message: “In the northeastern part of Martakert yesterday there was an attempt to crackdown on the Armenian forces. This time it’s different from the violations during the truce, which we are used to. It is different because of the use of armament and military equipment. It’s a pretty serious offense. At this point the shootings continue. There are victims. Azerbaijan has confirmed two victims of the Armenian side, of course, I cannot confirm that. At one point, we lost our position, however, we have recovered the earlier positions. We condemn the Azerbaijani offensive, which constitutes a serious handling, considering the current state of Armenia”. It should be kept in mind that a few days before these events there had been rumors at the Ministry about some possible clashes on the border, and later, after the appearance of Mikayel Harutyunyan´s famous unconstitutional order 0038, Armenia’s government made an attempt to condition and justify the order by the confrontation. These days, Serzh Sargsyan stated that the guilty would not go unpunished and condemned any attempts of a possible “color revolution”. Oskanian continued with the mission of defending the leader. In a press conference on March 13th , he stated: “At the moment, we are facing a dilemma, the country’s stability, national security, values, freedoms and rights of the society. The president faces this dilemma. It is a situation that he must balance, not an easy task. And the longer this process is, the worse it will be for the society, for Armenia”. On March 17th , during the discussion of the “Brussels Forum 2008”, Oskanian says: “The events that followed the Presidential Elections are not a setback to democracy, but a temporary diversion”.
On March 21st Oskanian meets the accredited diplomatic representatives in Armenia, as well as with Heads of various offices of international organizations. According to the Ministry’s Press Service, “the aim of the meeting was to present to foreign diplomats the steps of the government towards the recovery of social reconciliation and the re-establishment of government policy, carrying out the processes under the Law and the Constitution”.
On March 28th , in an exceptional interview to the radio “Liberty” in Moscow, Oskanian confirmed that the events of March 1st significantly changed the image of Armenia; to the question of whether he would remain in the new government, Oskanian replied: “Let us wait for the allocation of the Minister”. On April 11th , when Sargsyan had already assumed the office of the President, Oskanian called a farewell meeting with the employees of the Ministry: “My commitment to Armenia and its future did not begin with my assignment to the position of Minister, and neither will end now, when I am not; it will just change”. However, the events took a different lapse to Oskanian, he got out of the game in exchange for services rendered.
“The reward” – for being blindly loyal to Robert Kocharyan
It turns out that V. Oskanian, who had a “humble” image in the ten years of his service, earned an immense fortune form Kocharyan, being his faithful ally. He has lands on Ashtarak road, near “Hayfilm”, which are under construction for a district for foreigners. He also has an elite building at Monument (elite district in Yerevan). As we see, Oskanian, one of the key elements in the government of Kocharyan, has also had his piece of pie.
Today, he remains the ally of Kocharian. He is the Head of the “Civilitas Foundation” in the center of Yerevan, in Hyusisayin (Northern) Avenue. Being “concerned” about the future of the country, he offers several recipes using the “Civilitas” only to return again to the country’s political arena. The truth is that an average Syrian immigrant and U.S. resident Oskanian , who before he had heard the famous speech of Levon Ter-Petrossian, did not know the meaning of the phrase “Augean Stables”; he, who long ago could not even dream of being in the same room with U.S. officials; he, who came to unattainable heights for him and getting the ministerial post, easily bowed before the despotic power; and he, who stains his hands in the blood of the victims of March 1st , quickly oriented and overlapped personal interests of a group of criminals to the interests of Armenia, betraying, and thus, revealing his true “commitment” to the Armenian people.
“Zhamanak” Daily, 26. 01. 2011