Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has called the arrest of the country’s former president Robert Kocharyan “the biggest achievement” of the past year. The former president is accused of “overthrowing the constitutional order” in March 2008 when 10 people died after police clashed with anti-government protesters.
During a marathon press conference which ran for more than five and a half hours, Mr Pashinyan outlined the changes which have taken place since in the country since he took office following the so-called Velvet revolution 12 months ago.
Discussing the economy, Mr Pashinyan pointed out that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio dropped to 51.4 per cent in 2018 as a result of the government’s debt reduction programme, adding that Armenia is now ranked 41st of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business report, and that it was named Country of the Year by British business newspaper The Economist. He said that the economy had added 51,000 jobs in 2018, with business transparency increasing.
Mr Pashinyan also said that “Armenia’s press is freer than ever before” after the country climbed up 19 spots on the World Press Freedom Index.
Turning to foreign relations, Mr Pashinyan said that talks to reach an agreement on gas prices with Russia are underway and a draft agreement will be submitted by July. In April, the Armenian government proposed a five-year gas plan to Russia and earlier this year the Armenian press reported that the negotiations also included a potential scheme until 2030.
At the same time, the PM said that Armenia was trying to establish a “new level of relations” with the US after the first session of the Armenian-American Strategic Dialogue meeting on May 7, when the two sides signed a 16 million US dollars assistance agreement for Armenia to promote economic growth and good governance.
The prime minister added that the agreement on the roadmap for the implementation of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the EU is in its final stage. “The European Union has appreciated the draft roadmap as a good start for the implementation of the agreement,” he said, noting that two bilateral agreements on strengthening democracy and territorial development – worth 36 million Euros – were signed in 2018 and the two sides are now discussing a new programme worth 20 million euros.
Referring to what he called a “semi-war” with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Mr Pashinyan said: “On certain days over the past two months, tensions have been observed, but on the whole, stability and calm have been preserved,” adding that he is in contact with Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev.