Armen Sarkissian

Armen Vardani Sarkissian (Armenian: Արմեն Վարդանի Սարգսյան[a]; also written as Sarksyan and Sargsyan[b]) (born 23 June 1952) is a British Armenian[1][2][3] politician, physicist and computer scientist who served as the 4th president of Armenia from 9 April 2018 to 1 February 2022.[4] He served as Prime Minister of Armenia from 4 November 1996 to 20 March 1997 and was the country's longest-serving ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1998 to 2018. Sarkissian was elected on 2 March 2018 and assumed the presidency on 9 April 2018.[5]

Armen Sarkissian
Արմեն Սարգսյան
President of the Republic of Armenia Armen Sarkissian (cropped).jpg
4th President of Armenia
In office
9 April 2018 – 1 February 2022
Prime MinisterSerzh Sargsyan
Nikol Pashinyan
Preceded bySerzh Sargsyan
Succeeded byAlen Simonyan (Acting)
5th Prime Minister of Armenia
In office
4 November 1996 – 20 March 1997
PresidentLevon Ter-Petrosyan
Preceded byHrant Bagratyan
Succeeded byRobert Kocharyan
Personal details
Born (1952-06-23) 23 June 1952 (age 70)
Yerevan, Armenian SSR, Soviet Union
Political partyIndependent
Spouse(s)Nouneh Sarkissian
Children2
EducationYerevan State University
Signature

He announced his resignation on 23 January 2022.[6]

Sarkissian gave a reason for his resignation saying that the country’s constitution does not give the president sufficient powers to influence events.[7][8]

Early career and educationEdit

Sarkissian graduated from the Yerevan State University Department of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia and the National Competitiveness Council of Armenia. From 1976 to 1984, he was assistant then associate professor of Physics at Yerevan State University. In 1982, he became a visiting research fellow and eventually a professor at the University of Cambridge.[9][10] In 1988 he established and subsequently became the Head of the Department of Computer Modeling of Complex Physical Phenomena at the same university's Department of Theoretical Physics. Sarkissian was one of the co-creators of the 1991 Tetris spinoff game Wordtris.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

Political and diplomatic careerEdit

In October 1991, Sarkissian established the Armenian Embassy in London, the first Armenian diplomatic mission in the West. In addition to his diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom, he went on to become Senior Ambassador of Armenia to the European Union, to Belgium and the Netherlands, Luxembourg and The Vatican. In 1995–1996, he was the Head of Mission of Armenia to the European Union.

Sarkissian was appointed Prime Minister of Armenia by President Levon Ter-Petrosyan in November 1996, serving for 4 months until resigning on 20 March 1997, being succeeded by Robert Kocharyan. The official reason for his resignation states that he resigned due to the need to get treatment for a serious illness, however there is some speculation that a dispute with Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan was the real reason for Sarkissian's resignation.[18] After serving as Armenian Prime Minister between 1996 and 1997, he was appointed as Special Advisor to the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and as a Governor of EBRD from 1998 to 2000.

Armen Sarkissian was also one of the directors of Eurasia House.[19] and Vice Chairman of the EastWest Institute. He held many honorary and executive positions in a number of international organizations including Member of Dean's Advisory Board at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Dean's Advisory Board at Harris School of Public Policy Studies at University of Chicago, Board member of International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), the International Economic Alliance and Global Leadership Foundation. He was an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary and Westfield College (now Queen Mary University of London).

He was a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law.

Since 2013 he has served on the board of trustees of the International School in Dilijan. In January 2018, he received Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan's offer to be the ruling Republican Party's nominee in the country's first presidential election since the 2015 constitutional reforms.[20]

President of ArmeniaEdit

ElectionEdit

President Serzh Sargsyan on 19 January 2018 recommended the candidacy of Sarkissian for President to be supported by the ruling Republican Party during the 2018 Armenian presidential election. He also enjoyed additional support from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation bloc as well as from the Tsarukian Parliamentary bloc.

He was elected president by a majority of the National Assembly on 2 March 2018 with 90 votes in a 105-member House.[21] Sarkissian was the only candidate in the election.

InaugurationEdit

Sarkissian was inaugurated on 9 April 2018. The inauguration ceremony took place at the Karen Demirchyan Complex in Yerevan.[22][23][24] After the ceremony, he visited the Yerablur military pantheon, and laid a wreath at the monument with Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan.[25]

PresidencyEdit

 
Sarkissian meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2018.
 
Sarkissian and Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong on 29 September 2019

On inauguration day, the government led by Karen Karapetyan resigned and parties in the National Assembly had a week to put forward their proposals for prime minister.[26] Former president Serzh Sargsyan was unanimously nominated by the members of ruling parties in the National Assembly on 16 April, and was confirmed as prime minister on 17 April.[27] However, Sarkissian's election as prime minister was met by large-scale protests, and he resigned six days after taking the office.[28] Karapetyan was subsequently appointed to serve as acting prime minister.[29] On 8 May 2018, Nikol Pashinyan was elected prime minister by the National Assembly in a 59–42 vote.

Sarkissian visited Tbilisi on 26 May 2018 in his first official foreign visit to participate in the centennial celebrations of the founding of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.[30] During his visit, he held talks with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili as well as held meetings with Bidzina Ivanishvili and Sauli Niinistö.[31][32]

In June 2018, Sarkissian proposed changes to the constitution to balance the President's power with the Prime Minister's power.[33] On the eve of the centennial anniversary of the end to First World War, Sarkissian told the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen in an interview said that he would say the following to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in regards to the Armenian genocide:[34]

"First, I would tell him good morning Mr. President, I think we have an issue to discuss together. You are the President of Turkey and I am the President of Armenia. My family, my grandparents are from Erzrum, Van and Bitlis and there is a history behind my own family. Why not start talking about the relations between Turkey and Armenia? Why not speak about our individual stories?"

 
Sarkissian and Kazakhstan's First President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 3 June 2021
 
Sarkissian and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference on 2 November 2021

While visiting the Kazakhstani city of Almaty in May 2019, he said that his country could become an "international financial center" and can become a "cooperation bridge between Eurasia and EU". He said his remarks at the 15th annual Eurasian Media Forum, of which he is a co-founder.[35][36]

A 2022 investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project found that Sarkissian had obtained a St. Kitts and Nevis passport at 2014 at the latest. Shortly after the OCCRP sent a letter to Sarkissian, he resigned as President and the Armenian National Security Services started an investigation in Sarkissian. Under Armenian law, a president is not allowed to hold dual citizenship. According to Sarkissian, he was given the passport after investing $500,000 in a luxury hotel in St. Kitts and Nevis. He said he had requested in 2013 to return and renunciate the passport.[37]

Role after the Karabakh conflictEdit

In the early stages of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Sarkissian gave numerous interviews to international news organizations during which he appealed for action against the Government of Turkey and the actions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, telling CNBC’s Hadley Gamble to “Imagine Caucasus becoming another Syria?”[38] In another interview to the German Bild tabloid, he compared the situation in Stepanakert to German towns during World War II.[39] After the ceasefire agreement was signed in early November, Sarkissian held a meeting with Karekin II, where they both made a call to declare 22 November as the Day of Remembrance of the Heroes who fell for the Defense of the Motherland in the Artsakh Liberation War.[40] On 16 November, in an address to the nation, he concluded that snap parliamentary elections and Pashinyan's resignation were inevitable in light of the protests, proposing that a process be overseen and managed by an interim "National Accord Government".[41] In early 2021, he called for the creation of a "Fourth Republic".[42]

Official visits hosted by SarkissianEdit

Country Dates Leader Notes
  Italy 30 July 2018 President Sergio Mattarella He awarded Sarkissian with the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic[43]
  Germany 24 August 2018 Chancellor Angela Merkel [44]
  Georgia 13 March 2019 President Salome Zurabishvili [45]
  Greece 5 November 2019 President Prokopis Pavlopoulos [46]
  Jordan 11–13 February 2020 King Abdullah II [47]
  France October 2020 President Emmanuel Macron [48]
  Italy October 2020 President Sergio Mattarella

Personal lifeEdit

He married Nouneh Sarkissian (born 1954), a researcher at the Matenadaran, in 1978. Together, they have two adult children. Besides Armenian and Russian, two languages that Sarkissian grew up speaking, he also is fluent in English as a results of his time spent in the United Kingdom. Until December 2011, Sarkissian held British citizenship.[citation needed] As of April 2019, Sarkissian has a net worth of over 3 million Euros (over 1,600,000,000 in Armenian Drams).[citation needed] He was a personal friend of Soviet intelligence officer Gevork Vartanian.[49]

On 5 January 2021, the presidential office of Armenia announced that he underwent a leg surgery on 3 January in London, and that he tested positive for the COVID-19.[50][51][52][53][54] He began his treatment in London and only returned to Yerevan on 20 February.[55]

AwardsEdit

Domestic

  • Order of Merit for the Fatherland 1st degree - (15 September 2017)[56]
  • St. Gregory the Great Award (1997) - bestowed by Pope John Paul II.
  • St. Gregory the Illuminator medal (2008) - the highest honour of the Armenian Apostolic Church - by Karekin II, Catholicos Patriarch of All Armenians of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Foreign

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Classical spelling: Արմէն Վարդանի Սարգսեան
  2. ^ As director of Eurasia House, he uses the spelling Armen Sargsyan, which is the French transcription of his name in Russian (Армен Саркисян). On former Soviet passports, the Russian names were usually romanized using a transcription system to French, common language in diplomacy.

ReferencesEdit

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  3. ^ "Armen Sargsyan used to have a British passport". 8 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Armenian president resigns". National Post. 23 January 2022.
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  34. ^ [1][dead link]
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External linksEdit

  Media related to Armen Sarkissian at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Armenia
1996–1997
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Armenia
2018–2022
Succeeded by