By Ruzanna Khachatrian
President Robert Kocharian on Friday rejected his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian’s claims that Armenia is paying dearly for failing to support his softer line on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Kocharian defended his Karabakh policy, implying that the former Armenian president will never admit that he was wrong in advocating more concessions to Azerbaijan in 1997.
“The approaches of the first and second presidents have not changed,” he told reporters, commenting on Ter-Petrosian’s rare conversation with journalists late on Wednesday. “Each of us stands by the position we had before. I find this natural.”
“If he accepts that there could be other types of solutions, it will mean that his 1998 resignation was not needed and one could have agreed and moved on [at the time]. This purely psychological factor can not fail to affect approaches,” Kocharian added.
Ter-Petrosian was forced to step down in February 1998 after key members of his government, including then Prime Minister Kocharian, refused to back an international peace plan that called for a gradual settlement of the Karabakh dispute. They rejected the plan as too risky, demanding a “package” deal that would simultaneously resolve all contentious issues, including Karabakh’s status.
The reclusive ex-president, making his first contact with media in more than five years, said the Kocharian administration’s Karabakh policy has led to “sad consequences” for his country. He did not specify what those consequences are, saying only that the Armenians will never get what they were offered back in 1997.
But Kocharian insisted that “everything is going well” for the Armenian side. He said he will make a more detailed analysis of the negotiating process in a televised interview “by the end of this year.”
Kocharian refused to comment on Ter-Petrosian’s remarks on other issues such as his possible return to active politics. But he did advise his predecessor to speak to journalists more frequently. “The breaks must not so long that you treat [every Ter-Petrosian interview] as an entertainment,” he said.