Armenia News & Current Events
The Death of Markarian Leads to Political Unrest
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian died suddenly in March 2007. He was replaced by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan.
Sarkisyan won almost 53% of the vote and former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan took 21.5% in February 2008 presidential elections. Ter-Petrosyan, who was Armenia's first president after it gained independence in 1991, claimed the vote was rigged. Tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets in Yerevan to protest the election. A 20-day state of emergency was declared on March 1 when the protests turned violent and eight people were killed. On March 22, the state of emergency ended and troops left the capital.
On April 9, 2008, Serzh Sarkisyan was sworn in as president and named Tigran Sarkisyan (no relation) as prime minister.
Rapprochement With Turkey Only Temporary
After nearly 100 years of hostility between Turkey and Armenia over the murder of between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I, the two countries agreed in Oct. 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border between them. However, both parliaments had to approve the agreement, which didn't happen, and the deal was never implemented. In February 2015 Armenian president Serzh Sarkisyan withdrew the agreement from parliament, citing Turkey's lack of commitment to the agreement.
Continuing trouble on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan resulted in the deaths of at least three Armenian and five Azerbaijani soldiers in early June 2012. The eruption of violence coincided with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the region; she made a statement imploring both sides to honor a ceasefire for the area that was first contested in the 1990s, Nagorno-Karabakh.
Safarov Pardon Increases Tension with Azerbaijan and Hungary
On August 31, 2012, Armenia ended diplomatic relations with Hungary over the return of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan. Safarov was convicted of killing Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan in 2004 in Hungary. The Hungarian government released Safarov to Azerbaijan on the assumption that he would serve at least 25 years of his life sentence. Upon his arrival in Azerbaijan, Safarov was pardoned. Once news of the pardon hit, protestors in Armenia burned Hungarian flags and threw eggs at the Hungarian Embassy. Demonstrations were also held in Budapest.
Safarov was welcomed back to Azerbaijan. A lieutenant at the time of the murder, Safarov was promoted to rank of major, given eight years of back pay, and treated as a national hero in September 2012. His pardon and warm welcome threatened to break up the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, a process that has kept the two countries from backsliding into violent feud over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
Sarkisyan Easily Wins Second Term
In February 2013, Serzh Sarkisyan was re-elected to a second five-year term as president. Preliminary returns showed that Sarkisyan received 59 percent of the vote, enough of a majority to avoid a runoff. Raffi Hovanessian, a former foreign minister, came in second, far behind at 37 percent.
Seen as a stable leader who had made economic improvements during his first term, Sarkisyan had been favored to win for months. The election wasn't without conflict. Paruir A. Airikyan, another candidate for president and former Soviet dissident, was shot in late January 2013, as the election approached. Authorities ruled it as an assassination attempt. Airikyan threatened to delay the election by using a provision in Armenia's constitution due to his injury, but decided against it.
Pope Francis Creates Firestorm Over Genocide Comment
In April 2015, Pope Francis called the 1915 murder of between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I the first genocide of the 20th century. He made the comment at a mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the massacre. Turkey responded by withdrawing its ambassador to the Vatican.