By Ruzanna Stepanian
A senior representative of Armenia’s opposition on Tuesday announced that the member parties of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) had received invitations from President Serzh Sarkisian to attend a discussion focusing on the Karabakh settlement later this week.
Levon Zurabian said the parties making up the opposition alliance are free either to accept or decline the invitation to the event scheduled for Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Samvel Farmanian explained to RFE/RL that still in his ‘state of the nation’ address in early October, President Sarkisian announced that he would initiate subject-matter consultations over issues of strategic importance for Armenia in the time to come as a step aimed at increasing the role of political parties.
As the first step in this direction, he said, Sarkisian invited the leaders of political parties registered in Armenia for upcoming discussions concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in order “to hear their viewpoints on the settlement.”
Former president and current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian did not receive such an invitation since he is not formally a political party leader.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the key parties participating in the HAK have said they will not accept the invitation.
Aram Sarkisian, the leader of the Hanrapetutyun party, told RFE/RL that he can’t accept an invitation from a person who accuses him of “attempting to usurp power”.
“Today’s de-facto head of state, Serzh Sarkisian, together with his prosecutors, is accusing me of attempting to stage a coup d’etat and also wants to know my opinion about the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. If I am a man who tried to stage a coup, my opinion needn’t be asked. Either Serzh Sarkisian is wrong in accusing me of an attempted coup d’etat, or I am right that Serzh Sarkisian wasn’t elected, and there was no attempt to stage a coup d’etat and it is him, Serzh Sarkisian, who usurped power,” Sarkisian (no relation to the president) said.
The Liberal Party, another member of the HAK, is also set to ignore the invitation.
The party’s leader Hovannes Hovannisian told RFE/RL that if Serzh Sarkisian desires an “all-national consensus”, he first must release the opposition members detained over the post-election unrest.
Lyudmila Sarkisian, who heads the Social-Democratic Hunchak Party, said she won’t participate in the discussion either as she thinks that the authorities are trying to make a show for international structures that everything is normal in the country. She also fears that with this move the authorities mean to draw the opposition into the discussion in order to lay the responsibility for a future decision on Karabakh upon the opposition.
Stepan Demirchian, the leader of the opposition People’s Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL that he will make his decision on Wednesday.
In the meantime, the HAK issued a statement in which it urged the authorities to take several steps for “improving Armenia’s positions in the Karabakh settlement process”.
In particular, the Ter-Petrosian-led alliance called on the Sarkisian administration “to drop the trumped-up charges or revoke illegal court verdicts against all 75 currently jailed political prisoners, stop the activities obstructing the normal work of the fact-finding group of experts set up for the purpose of looking into the March 1 events, immediately stop the politically motivated economic and administrative crackdown on pro-opposition businessmen and state-paid employees and take effective steps to stave off the impact of the global economic and financial crisis on the people of Armenia.”