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Hardliner Vows to Oppose Armenian Concessions Over Karabakh


Armenia -- Founder of Miatsum movement Zhirair Sefilian at a press conference, 21 July, 2009

Armenia -- Founder of Miatsum movement Zhirair Sefilian at a press conference, 21 July, 2009

The leader of a group of Karabakh war veterans in Armenia has promised ‘non-standard’ methods to prevent Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan in the continuing talks around the disputed territory.

Zhirayr Sefilian, head of the Alliance of Armenian Volunteers (HKH) and member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) led by former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, did not open the brackets of his plan, however, as he talked to reporters on Tuesday.

“We will find ways to abort this campaign [for making concessions] and as a result will have a long list of betrayers who call themselves Armenians,” Sefilian charged. “This is not a personal matter. We think about our future, about a future for our children, about the future of our country. Therefore, a leadership change is badly needed in our country.”

Sefilian also heavily criticized the position of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a major nationalist party in Armenia, ridiculing its calls for the resignation of Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian over failed policies on Karabakh and effectively accusing it of “acting upon President Serzh Sarkisian’s instructions.”

Regarding the HAK’s position, Sefilian said: “I think it is possible to topple this regime only with opposition unity. But serious tactical changes are needed here. I want to inform you that these days fermentations are occurring [over Karabakh] inside the opposition… There is a search for a way-out, and I am sure that eventually we will find it.”

Sefilian also criticized Karabakh leader Bako Sahakian and for not following on his statements with concrete action. He said it is already late for Sahakian to say that Armenia has no right to negotiate on behalf of Stepanakert.

“If Bako Sahakian has something to do, in the coming days he must state that the policy of Yerevan is anti-Armenian, Serzh Sarkisian is in the treacherous process. And he, Sahakian, must urge the Armenian people to get rid of this regime as soon as possible. Sahakian does not do that, so he becomes part of this treacherous process.”

Lebanese-born Sefilian has lived in Armenia and Karabakh for nearly two decades, having played a major part in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. He retired from the Karabakh military in the rank of lieutenant-colonel and moved to Yerevan in the late 1990s. He has since actively campaigned against any territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.

In late 2007, Sefilian was arrested and subsequently sentenced to 18 months in prison on controversial charges of illegal arms possession. He and his Alliance supported opposition leader Ter-Petrosian in the February 2008 presidential election.

Sefilian applied to Armenian and Karabakh authorities to grant him citizenship, but his applications were denied by both.

Sefilian potentially faces deportation from Armenia after authorities refused to renew his residency permit in May.
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