By Ruzanna Stepanian
The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party has accepted President Serzh Sarkisian’s invitation to attend a consultation focusing on the Karabakh issue, the party’s board chairperson Anahit Bakhshian told RFE/RL on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, 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, the spokesman 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.”
The leaders of a number of political parties participating in the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), including Hanrapetutyun, the Liberal Party, the Social-Democratic Hunchak Party, have already declined the president’s invitation, mainly conditioning their refusal by the continuing ‘politically motivated’ imprisonment of numerous opposition activists.
Zharangutyun’s Bakhshian said in an RFE/RL interview on Wednesday that she shares her colleagues’ viewpoint, but added that the party’s Board meeting made a decision to participate in the meeting with the president also “taking into consideration the issue of political prisoners”. In particular, Bakhshian said she is going to address a question to President Sarkisian about Karabakh war veterans who are currently in jailed in connection with the March 1 post-election unrest.
“I am far from thinking that the Moscow declaration has ensured us against a military encroachment. And in the unfortunate event of a renewed hostilities, how will our society view the fact that some of the prominent Karabakh war veterans are in jail today for their political views?” Bakhshian said.
Bakhshian said she did not expect anything new to be said by the leaders of Armenian political parties about their approaches to the Karabakh settlement at the planned discussion. The only one who can say something new, according to her, is President Sarkisian himself.
Another opposition leader Stepan Demirchian told RFE/RL on Wednesday that his People’s Party of Armenia had decided to follow the example of a majority of opposition allies and decline Sarkisian’s invitation.
Former president and current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian was not invited to the meeting because formally he is not a political party leader.