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President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) dismissed on Friday opposition calls for the holding of a referendum on a controversial agreement to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations.

Armenian opposition parties have voiced strong objections to two draft protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of the border between the two neighboring states. One of them, Zharangutyun (Heritage), demanded on Thursday that the authorities put the documents on a referendum. The party said it will start collecting signatures in parliament in support of such a vote.

Galust Sahakian, the leader of the largest parliament faction controlled by the HHK, spoke out against the Zharangutyun initiative, all but predetermining its failure in the National Assembly. “Things have not reached a point where there is a need for the referendum,” he told a news conference.

“Secondly, it may be that Turkey will say after six weeks that it is not going to sign [the protocols,]” said Sahakian. “Should we then hold a referendum on why Turkey doesn’t want to sign?”

By law, Zharangutyun needs the backing of at least two-thirds of the 131 parliament deputies to force a referendum on the issue over the government’s objections. The opposition party holds only seven seats in the National Assembly dominated by government loyalists.

Sahakian also dismissed opposition criticism of Sarkisian’s acceptance of a Turkish proposal to form a commission of Armenian and Turkish historians. He claimed that the planned body will not seek to determine whether the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted a genocide and will instead will deal with less contentious issues such as preservation of Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey. “Armenia will never engage in historical discussions on the genocide,” he said.
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