By Astghik Bedevian
A nationalist party leader on Wednesday countered the opposition claims that Armenia’s leadership is under massive international pressure to make concessions in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Hrant Markarian, of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), discarded the lingering allegations that Serzh Sarkisian’s position in the internationally mediated talks is particularly vulnerable because of his domestically questioned legitimacy as elected president.
“Of course, generally there are pressures, but not anything like specific or targeted pressure,” Markarian said. “I have not noticed that the president is in any way subject to any such pressures.”
“I do not agree that the president lacks legitimacy. The opposition must be speaking from its own experience when in 1994 they seized power in a bluntly illegal manner and which later became the reason for their failure,” the Dashnak leader said.
Ex-president and current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian announced last month a temporary halt to his year-long campaign of anti-government demonstrations, citing the need to stave off greater Armenian concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh.
He said the pause would not be long-lasting because a denouement in the Karabakh conflict was a matter of “just two or three months.”
At the same time, Ter-Petrosian charged that Sarkisian was ready to go as far as to “put Karabakh up for sale” to legitimize his rule in the eyes of the international community.
Following talks in Moscow earlier this month, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a joint declaration pledging to step up the prolonged search for a peaceful political resolution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly Armenian-populated region of Soviet Azerbaijan that broke free of Baku’s control simultaneously with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The presidents, in particular, referred to the principles drafted last year by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international format advancing settlement, in the context of further efforts towards reaching a negotiated peace.
Markarian told RFE/RL that some of the provisions of the so-called Madrid principles were unacceptable for the party and that Dashnaktsutyun, currently a governing coalition member party, presented its concerns to the president on this account still last year.
In particular, Dashnaktsutyun deems unacceptable an Armenian withdrawal from five of the seven districts currently fully or partially controlled by Karabakh’s defense forces and deployment of a peacekeeping contingent in the remaining two districts that border on Armenia.
“We discussed it once and fixed our standpoint back then. This standpoint has not changed today. I hope that the Karabakh side will again show the same attitude in an active and direct manner,” Markarian said. “The Madrid principles are mentioned in the Moscow declaration as a possible basis for negotiations, but definitely the declaration does not set these principles in stone. This makes me hope that the Armenian side will do its utmost to remove the main flaws present in these principles.”
Markarian also implied that if serious differences emerged between the party and its coalition partners, Dashnaktsutyun would pull out of the government in which it currently has three ministers.
“Our remaining in the governing coalition is not an end in itself,” the Dashnak representative explained.