Armenian Opposition Parties Warn Against Karabakh 'Sellout'
June 23, 2011
YEREVAN -- Two major Armenian opposition parties have warned President Serzh Sarkisian against accepting a compromise solution to the conflict over the breakaway Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Heritage (Zharangutyun) party reaffirmed their position that the proposed basic principles of Karabakh peace envisage disproportionate Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan.
They also argued that those principles -- favored by international mediators -- have not been approved by Karabakh's ethnic-Armenian leadership.
Heritage spoke of a "criminal plot" against the Karabakh Armenians in a special statement on the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit that will take place in the Russian city of Kazan on June 24.
"We remind and caution the Armenian president who heads for Kazan that any meeting held without the presence of the legitimate representatives of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, or any document which is born from such a meeting, is legally null and void," read the statement.
Stepan Safarian, a senior Heritage member, said Sarkisian will face street protests if he formalizes Yerevan's acceptances of the basic principles at Kazan.
He told RFE/RL that "If the Republic of Armenia signs a document that came into existence as a result of an illegal process excluding Nagorno-Karabakh and under Azerbaijani threats, we will not put up with that. I am sure that the presidents of both countries would have serious trouble selling those decisions to their societies."
The Heritage statement likewise warned that Sarkisian's "formal participation in this conspiracy will entail his effective self-resignation from the homeland and his official duty. In the event of such unacceptable developments, he must be prepared to legalize such resignation through the conduct of preterm presidential elections."
Both parties, which are represented in parliament, claimed that the peace formula at the heart of the settlement, which was first formally proposed by the U.S., Russian, and French mediators in Madrid in 2007, cannot lead to a lasting peace.
"The Madrid principles carry a much greater danger of war than even the preservation of the status quo," Vahan Hovannisian, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's parliamentary leader, told RFE/RL. He would not say whether his party, which was represented in Sarkisian's government until 2009, is also ready to stage antigovernment demonstrations.
The peace proposals envisage a gradual resolution of the Karabakh conflict that would start with Armenian withdrawal from territories in Azerbaijan that surround Karabakh.
Karabakh's final status, the main sticking point, would be resolved in a future referendum.
Government officials and politicians loyal to Sarkisian say the referendum would enable the Karabakh Armenians to eventually win international recognition of their de facto secession from Azerbaijan. Heritage and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation dismiss this argument, saying that major territorial concessions to Baku would only jeopardize Karabakh's security.
"I think it would be naive to talk about surrendering territories, because life shows that the Azerbaijani side uses every opportunity to broaden possibilities of bellicose statements and especially hostilities," said Hrayr Karapetian, another senior Armenian Revolutionary Federation figure who chairs the parliament committee on defense and security.
Karapetian predicted that Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are unlikely to sign any major agreements in Kazan.
"I'm sorry to say this because no party -- even the most national party, which I think I represent -- wants war," he told journalists. "We want a peaceful settlement. But not at the expense of our people and our future."
The Armenian National Congress (HAK), a larger and more influential opposition force led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, has expressed concern about some details of the framework peace accord made public so far. But unlike Heritage and Armenian Revolutionary Federation, it has not rejected the document out of hand.
In a newspaper interview published today, Ter-Petrossian pointed out that the current peace plan is very similar to a settlement which he unsuccessfully advocated during the final months of his 1991-1998 presidency.
"There is only one element that makes it different from that draft: the idea of holding a referendum on Nagorno-Karabakh's status," Ter-Petrossian told the daily "Moskovskie novosti." "But it is not backed up by anything yet.... There has been no talk of legal consequences of that referendum."
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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