A major Armenian opposition party on Thursday rejected as sellout the newly publicized agreements between Armenia and Turkey and demanded a nationwide referendum on them.
In a written statement, the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party brushed aside government assurances that the two draft protocols unveiled by Ankara and Yerevan this week provide for an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. It argued that Armenia has explicitly recognized its existing border with Turkey and accepted a Turkish proposal to jointly study the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
The statement charged that the study would undermine Armenian efforts at broader international recognition of the mass killings as genocide. Echoing statements by other government critics, it also claimed that as part of the Western-backed deal with the Turks President Serzh Sarkisian agreed to make more concessions to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“This does not stem from the national interests of the Republic of Armenia,” Armen Martirosian, the leader of Zharangutyun’s parliamentary faction, told RFE/RL. “Instead, it stems from Turkey’s interests. In essence, Turkey has managed to include all the preconditions, which it has had right from the beginning, in the protocols.”
The Zharangutyun statement said that the party will soon start collecting signatures in the National Assembly in support of its referendum demand. Under Armenian law, Zharangutyun needs the backing of at least two-thirds of the assembly members to force such a vote. It holds only seven seats in the 131-member parliament dominated by President Serzh Sarkisian’s supporters.
The statement warned that in case of the failure of the signature collection the party led by former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian will stage anti-government protests and join forces with other political parties opposed to Sarkisian’s Turkish policy. One of those parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), has also strongly condemned the Turkish-Armenian agreements.
Dashnaktsutyun holds 16 parliament seats and was a member of Sarkisian’s governing coalition until recently. Martirosian did not rule out the possibility of Zharangutyun’s close cooperation with Dashnaktsutyun on one of the most sensitive issues in Armenian politics.
The country’s largest opposition force, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), has responded more positively to the latest developments in the more than yearlong Turkish-Armenian negotiations. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the HAK said the disclosed draft protocols mark “substantial progress” towards Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. It at the same time denounced the planned creation of a Turkish-Armenian body tasked with examining the World War One-era massacres.
The HAK’s largely positive official reaction to the deal, which apparently reflects the views of its top leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, contrasted with sharp criticism of the government voiced by some top representatives of the alliance uniting about two dozen opposition groups. One of them, the Social Democratic Hnchakian Party, on Thursday disavowed the HAK statement and effectively sided with Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun on the matter.