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Armenia: ‘Bloggers’ call for foreign minister's resignation

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

"These people will surrendur us to orcs", Freedom Fighter says

Following the release of a July 10, 2009 statement in Aquila by the U.S., Russian, and French presidents calling for Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the longstanding conflict over Nagorno Karabakh, some bloggers in Armenia have launched a campaign demanding the resignation of the country's foreign minister, Edward Nalbandian.

“We believe these principles are pernicious to the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian people,” the statement reads on Real Armenia, a nationalist blog which openly declares itself as such. The blog claims “more than 150 bloggers” have signed the statement although neglected to name any.

However, it does go on to make demands from Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian:

- Immediate dismissal of RA foreign minister Edward Nalbandyan
– Cessation of participation in negotiations that are destructive for the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh
– Forbearance from signing evidently anti-Armenian documents
– Acting henceforth only for the interests of the Armenian statehood and with valor typical to the Armenian people.

On his own blog, Pigh [RU], one of the highest rated nationalist bloggers in the Armenian LiveJournal community and who also runs Real Armenia, posts a list of 47 out of the 150 Armenian blogs reportedly supporting the action.

Of course, the blogosphere is not united in such demands, with the vast majority remaining silent on the matter. However, Unzipped is instead critical of the target of the said statement as well as attempts to politically hijack the issue.

Do they [Armenian bloggers] actually think that it’s a Minister of Foreign Affairs who formulate and lead Armenian foreign policy? Of course, they do not. No need to re-state that Armenian foreign policy is being directed by a president. FM Nalbandyan is simply an employee who is conducting work based on instructions and approvals by his boss. It’s just plain easy and does not require courage to target consequences but not the roots. It’s much more convenient to find a scapegoat and fight him.

[…]

I also disagree with the opposition Armenian National Congress statement and stance re Karabakh. While they were right stating at the beginning that to formulate a final opinion more details are needed, their subsequent outright rejection of it and talks of treachery etc are not productive. In fact, Serj Sargsyan’s policy regarding Karabakh (and Turkey) is effectively a continuation of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s policy. Will the opposition pursue anything substantially different if they come to power? I do not think so.

Commenting on the post, Global Voices Online's Caucasus editor also responds:

[…T]he statement is a nationalist one and also, does it really represent the view of “Armenian bloggers?” These guys have just gotten a little carried away with their self-importance since disrupting events staged at Yerevan schools and on International Women's Day. Anyway, one name signed up is, of course, Pigh. His right, of course, although who in the blogosphere was asked about the wording of this statement is suspect. Pigh says 150 bloggers have signed btw, but no names are listed.

[…]

Anyway, the Madrid Principles are quite clear and there's going to be no other solution to the NK conflict except for stalemate and total isolation or another war. Both options are not to be welcomed.

[…]

Meanwhile, it's worth pointing out that nationalist Azeris see the Madrid Principles as unacceptable because of mention of the referendum in Karabakh.

In response, Pigh responds with what might be considered veiled threats and certainly homophobic remarks.

Onnik, sometimes you better to keep silence.

Mika,I respect you, cause you accept that you are gay, but for some people it's so difficult to do the same.

Isn't it Onnik? :)

Narjan [AM], however, concurs with Unzipped.

“I'm sure that most of the people criticizing Nalbandian do it on purpose – to divert public frustration from the real guilty. At any rate, I'm sure, that such actions do a lot of damage, and I urge everyone, who cares for the future of this country to abstain from cursing Nalbandian. There is only one person responsible. Nalbandian is a middle-range operative, who is just slightly different from a driver or head of stables.

Meanwhile, the RadioVan blog says it's pointless to blame Nalbandian and also suggests going directly after the president. “Why don't you reveal what a hell are you doing for 20 years not with your negotiations,” the blog asks rhetorically.

The blog speculates that such an approach could be a more effective strategy to change something in Armenia's position on a Karabakh resolution. Gago from Berlin, however, says the action is pointless and blames Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev as well as the U.S., French and Russian presidents.

Writing in the comments section of Unzipped, others such as Քաղաքացի are more critical of the nationalist bloggers making the demand when they remained notably silent on human rights abuses and the lack of democracy at home.

Where were nearly all these bloggers when Serzh and Robert were assassinating our fellow Armenians downtown Yerevan and thus making a big room for pressure by “superpowers” so that the latter states can get their desired results in terms of NKR issue?

One comment on The Armenian Observer represents how deep the division might be with regards to the demands.

This is just a bullshit. “Vstavay Iran … vstavay …” my ass… you dumbasses. Can’t you invent somthing more catchy and credible. What the hell is this banner about ?

Of those Armenian bloggers who have commented on the so-called Madrid Principles, however, many are opposed to them for different reasons. Nevertheless, the bloggers themselves are not necessarily representative of the entire blogosphere or Armenian society.

It therefore remains to be seen what this backlash means for any hopes of finally resolving the 20-year old conflict. For now, nobody knows, and the bloggers are attempting to use online media to influence public opinion ahead of any possible deal.

With additional editing and reporting from Global Voices Online Caucasus editor Onnik Krikorian. An original version of this post is available here.

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

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