|Name in Armenian||Վարդան Օսկանյան|
|Birth date||7 February 1955|
|Education||Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy|
|Positions||Foreign Minister of Armenia|
|Dialects||Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian|
|Children||Ara Oskanian, ? Oskanian|
Former RoA Minister of Foreign Affairs
Date and Place of Birth
- 1973-1979 Yerevan Polytechnic Institute after K. Marx
- 1982-1984 Tufts University
- 1985-1989 Harvard University
- 1988-1991 Fletcher School of Diplomacy
Primary Job, Post
- RoA Minister of Foreign Affairs
- 1990-1992 Editor of "AIM" Armenian International Magazine
- 1992-1998 RoA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Head of Middle East Division, Head of Northern America Division, Head of USA and Canada Department, Deputy Minister, and First Deputy Minister
- From April 1998-2008 Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RoA
- 1996 Rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary awarded
- Married, two children
Grosso d'Oro Veneziano
The Grosso d'Oro Veneziano award was bestowed on Armenia's Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian by the Masi Foundation of Italy's Veneto Region, on September 24, 2005. It was conferred on Minister Oskanian for his contribution to Armenia's integration into European structures, to the deepening of Armenia-Italy ties, and for his active involvement in peace talks. The prize is a special award on an international level for people who have contributed to the cause of peace and brotherhood among nations.
Armenia’s Oskanian Signals Political Comeback, Urges Clean Vote
Emil Danielyan 30.01.2012
Vartan Oskanian, Armenia’s former longtime foreign minister, on Monday hinted at the possibility of running for parliament on the Prosperous Armenia Party’s ticket and called for a broad-based “civic movement” for the freedom and fairness of the May elections.
“Talk about my involvement with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) is not without basis,” Oskanian said in a written statement circulated by his Civilitas Foundation think-tank. “I have had such discussions with the Prosperous Armenia party as well as with other political forces.”
“At this time, I have still not made a decision, and believe there is still time to do so. Political processes, however, may accelerate my decision,” he added.
The BHK is a junior partner in Armenia’s governing coalition. It is led by Gagik Tsarukian, a millionaire businessman believed to be close to former President Robert Kocharian.
Relations between the BHK and President Serzh Sarkisian appear to have deteriorated since Kocharian gave last September the strongest indication yet that he would like to return to active politics. Political commentators have speculated that Kocharian might rely not only on the BHK but also former government figures such as Oskanian, who served as foreign minister throughout his 1998-2008 presidency.
Unlike Tsarukian, Oskanian has made no public statements in support of a Kocharian comeback, however. He has also distanced himself from some controversial episodes of the ex-president’s decade-long rule. “As foreign minister, I often disagreed with many internal political developments, phenomena,” Oskanian said in a 2009 interview.
The Syrian-born former U.S. national has been far more critical of the Sarkisian administration. In particular, he has strongly disapproved of Sarkisian’s Western-backed policy of rapprochement with Turkey.
Oskanian spoke on Monday of “politically motivated pressures” exerted on Tsarukian’s party and, in a clear reference to Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), “the utilization of administrative resources this early in the pre-electoral period.” He also said the proper conduct of the upcoming vote will be of “utmost importance” to Armenia.
“Reforms and change can only happen when there is a new political configuration in the National Assembly. And such political balance can only be assured through free and fair elections,” said Oskanian.
In that regard, the former minister backed opposition calls for the elections to be held only on the party-list basis. The ruling HHK has rejected those calls, saying that the Armenian authorities are committed to making the contest the most democratic in the country’s history under the existing electoral system.
Oskanian said that Armenia’s three main opposition forces as well as the BHK should step up the pressure on the authorities by launching a “civic movement” that would strive to prevent electoral fraud. They should also “think about the possibility of deeper cooperation during the May parliamentary election,” he said.
The opposition has already pledged to close ranks on the voting reform openly backed by some senior BHK figures. But Tsarukian’s party has not yet formulated an official position on the issue.
Oskanian Again Questioned In ‘Money Laundering’ Probe
13.06.2012 Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) on Wednesday again summoned former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian for questioning in a criminal investigation which he considers baseless and politically motivated.
Oskanian, who was already interrogated last week, spent about 90 minutes inside the NSS headquarters in downtown Yerevan together with his lawyer, Tigran Atanesian. He refused to give further testimony on alleged money laundering by himself and his Civilitas Foundation.
Oskanian refused to comment on the interrogation, referring all corresponding questions to Atanesian. The latter told reporters that his client exercised his “right to silence” guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Atanesian also said that Oskanian is still being formally treated by the NSS as a witness and that the security agency lacks the legal grounds to charge him. “The statements made by the NSS and the facts known to us testify to a blatant error, and we think it’s a deliberate error,” he said.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the NSS claimed that Civilitas has failed to report to tax authorities a $2 million donation which it received from two U.S. companies last year. Its spokesman, Artsvin Baghramian, said Wednesday that the NSS has nothing to add to that statement yet. “If new facts emerge we will inform the public,” Baghramian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Oskanian has strongly denied the NSS allegations, saying that they are not supported by any factual evidence and have nothing to do with money laundering.
The former minister, who has strongly criticized the Armenian government in recent months, insisted on Wednesday that the case is politically motivated. He said the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), of which he is a senior member, might issue a strongly worded statement to that effect soon.
With both Oskanian and BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian thought to have cordial ties with former President Robert Kocharian, media commentators have linked the controversial case with Kocharian’s alleged plans to return to active politics.
The ex-president has not yet reacted to the launch of criminal proceedings against a key member of his 1998-2008 administration. His press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Kocharian is currently not in Armenia and that he therefore cannot comment on the development.
Asked whether he has discussed the matter with Kocharian, Oskanian said, “It’s my problem, it’s not any other person’s problem. I consider this to be part of a political struggle chosen by the authorities and I will wage this struggle even on my own.”
Tax Audit At Oskanian Think-Tank Suspended
Sargis Harutyunyan 31.07.2012
The Armenian tax authorities have suspended a financial inspection of a Yerevan think-tank that began last month as part of controversial criminal proceedings launched against its founder, former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
The State Revenue Committee (SRC) began examining financial documents of the Civilitas Foundation on June 23 in connection with the money laundering case brought by the National Security Service (NSS).
The NSS claims that Civilitas failed to declare to tax authorities a nearly $2 million donation which Oskanian received from two U.S. companies last year. Oskanian strongly denies the allegations as government retribution for his strong criticism of President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration voiced in recent months.
The criminal case was opened on May 25, the day after the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), of which Oskanian is a senior member, announced its decision to pull out of Sarkisian’s coalition government.
The SRC’s tax audit was supposed to end on August 3. However, the head of the tax collection agency, Gagik Khachatrian, last week ordered SRC inspectors to suspend it for 30 days.
Salpi Ghazarian, Civilitas’s executive director, said on Tuesday that the SRC gave no reasons for the move. She said she has therefore written a letter to Khachatrian asking for an explanation.
Ghazarian suggested that SRC officials simply failed to find any evidence of tax evasion by the foundation. “I think they were issued with a very difficult [government] order,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I think that at the beginning they didn’t expect us to be as vocal and transparent as we have been on this matter.”
“They just don’t know how to proceed,” she said. “I can’t imagine that they found [compromising] facts and didn’t tell us anything about them. At the same time they can’t say they were wrong.” This is further proof that the NSS claims are unfounded, added Ghazarian.
The SRC refused to comment on the suspension on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Oskanian, who resigned as Civilitas chairman after joining the BHK in February, asked a Yerevan court to order the NSS to end the inquiry. A district court in the Armenian capital rejected the petition last week. Oskanian’s lawyers appealed the decision on Monday.
The NSS and the Armenian government have denied political motives behind the investigation.
Fraud Case Against Oskanian Dropped
In what amounted to an out-of-court settlement, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) dropped on Wednesday controversial accusations of financial impropriety leveled against Vartan Oskanian, a former foreign minister highly critical of the government.
The NSS closed the criminal case after a more than yearlong criminal investigation that was launched shortly after Oskanian returned to active politics and began openly challenging President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration.
The case stems from a nearly $2 million donation that was made by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman in 2010 to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan-based think-tank founded by Oskanian. The NSS has claimed all along that Oskanian misappropriated a portion of the sum. He was formally charged with embezzlement and money laundering immediately after the Armenian parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution last October.
Oskanian, who is a senior member of the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), has strongly denied the accusations, calling them a government retribution for his strong criticism of Sarkisian and the BHK’s decision to pull out of Armenia’s ruling coalition in May 2012. The authorities, for their part, deny any political motives behind the case also condemned by the BHK leadership.
In a statement, the NSS said the case was dropped because Oskanian last week admitted using almost $251,000 of Huntsman’s donation for “personal purposes.” The feared security agency, which is the Armenian successor to the Soviet KGB, said the ex-minister paid on Tuesday 20 million drams ($49,000) in taxes levied from that income.
Oskanian insisted, however, that he “made no confessions.” A written statement issued by him said NSS investigators failed to prove the fraud accusations and opted for “other ways of closing the case.”
Oskanian also publicized a letter which he sent to a top NSS investigator last week. In that letter, the Syrian-born former U.S. citizen, who served as Armenia’s foreign minister from 1998-2008, admitted “ accounting errors” in his handling of the lavish donation that was transferred to his personal bank account.
“My biggest mistake was that I considered the money, donated to Civilitas and deposited with me, and my personal savings at the time to be a single sum,” Oskanian wrote. “There were really moments when I unconsciously used the Civilitas money for my personal needs. There was also a moment when a sum was transferred from my personal account to the Civilitas Foundation.”
Oskanian added that if this violated Armenian laws he is ready to acknowledge the $251,000 shortfall as his personal gain and pay all resulting taxes. He said he therefore hopes that the NSS will discontinue the criminal proceedings in return.
The NSS investigation, which has involved a tax audit of Civlitas and repeated interrogations of its staff, has prompted concern from U.S. and European diplomats. The Yerevan-based ambassadors of the United States and several European nations made a point of jointly visiting the Civilitas offices and praising the foundation’s activities in March. The U.S. envoy, John Heffern, said they are “critically important to Armenia’s democracy.”
Oskanian, Allies Set Up New Party
Vartan Oskanian, a former foreign minister highly critical of Armenia’s current leadership, officially announced on Wednesday the establishment of his new political party that will challenge President Serzh Sarkisian.
Oskanian and 13 other well-known individuals said their party named Hamakhmbum (Consolidation) will fight for “profound changes” in the country.
“The society has long been disappointed with the existing political system that has taken shape over the years and made it impossible to create fair political and economic relationships,” they declared a joint statement.
“We are making a bid to become a pivotal, rather than just another, political force,” they said.
Oskanian and three other signatories are parliament deputies that were affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) until its founding leader, Gagik Tsarukian, was forced into political retirement after capitulating in a standoff with President Sarkisian a year ago. They are regarded by some observers as loyalists of former President Robert Kocharian.
Oskanian, who served as foreign minister throughout Kocharian’s 1998-2008 rule, insisted that his party has “no connection whatsoever” with the ex-president. He said it plans to mount a serious challenge against Sarkisian and the ruling Republican Party (HHK) in next year’s “fateful” parliamentary elections.
In that regard, Oskanian ruled out the possibility of any power-sharing deals with the HHK as a result of the elections due in May 2017. “Our positions and approaches are substantially different,” he told reporters. “It is evident that the ruling force has had no major successes during all these years and that the people are looking for an alternative.”
In their manifesto, Oskanian and the other founders of the party said they will strive to eradicate Armenia’s culture of electoral fraud and create a level playing field for all businesses. They also called for changes in Armenian foreign policy but did not go into details, saying only that Armenia should simultaneously deepen its ties with Russia, the European Union, the United States, Iran and Georgia.