By Nane Atshemian
A close associate of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian claimed on Wednesday that international mediators have issued Armenia with an ultimatum to accept a Nagorno-Karabakh peace plan favoring Azerbaijan or face condemnation by the United Nations.
Babken Artarktsian, the parliament speaker during Ter-Petrosian’s eight-year presidency, said that was the reason why the United States, Russia and France, which co-chair the OSCE’s Minsk Group, forced the UN General Assembly last week to put off the vote on a resolution drafted by Azerbaijan. He said the existence of the new peace proposal was revealed by U.S. envoy Susan Moore in her speech at the assembly.
“We regard the postponement of the UN vote as an ultimatum to Armenia,” Ararktsian told a news conference. “It appears that either Armenia accepts proposals that are kept secret or the UN General Assmebly will pass the resolution which could have very bad consequences for Armenia.”
The resolution in question reaffirms Baku’s sovereignty over Karabakh and expresses “grave concern” at the continuing Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands around Karabakh. The vote on it was postponed indefinitely without an explanation. The Armenian government portrayed that as a success, saying that the Minsk Group co-chairs opposed the document’s passage.
Azerbaijani officials, meanwhile, continue to state that the conflicting parties are discussing a peace deal that would require a gradual Armenian withdrawal from the occupied lands before an agreement on Karabakh’s status. Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov indicated over the weekend that Baku is awaiting Yerevan’s final response to the idea.
President Robert Kocharian’s administration has until recently insisted on a single peace accord that will resolve all contentious issues. Ter-Petrosian and his allies, by contrast, favor a phased settlement.
Araraktsian’s comments, reflecting the position of his Armat faction of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), came just a week after Ter-Petrosian gave a rare interview to journalists on his return from the U.S. The ex-president ended his five-year silence to reaffirm his more conciliatory approach to the dispute with Azerbaijan and claim that Kocharian’s Karabakh policy has had “sad consequences” for the Armenian side.
The moved fueled speculation about his imminent return to active politics. Ter-Petrosian spoke with President George W. Bush and several of his predecessors during his U.S. trip. He reportedly met on Tuesday in Yerevan with a senior official from the Italian government. The meeting underlined the West’s continuing interest in Ter-Petrosian.
Ararktsian did not deny that the 59-year-old ex-president is contemplating a political comeback. “I don’t think Levon Ter-Petrosian ever quit politics,” he said. “Public politics is a different thing. He has always been informed about everything. And I am convinced that such decisive moments concerning Nagorno-Karabakh can not leave him indifferent.”
(Photolur photo: Babken Ararktsian.)