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Main Opposition Spurns ‘Nationalist’ Protest Against Turkey Deal


Armenia -- Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, undated

Armenia -- Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, undated

Armenia’s main opposition alliance on Wednesday has pointedly refused to join the protest planned by a number of nationalist groups on Friday, on the eve of the expected signing of the Armenia-Turkey protocols envisaging normalization of bilateral relations between the two historical foes.

A senior member of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian’s opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has dismissed this action as an “imitation”.

The initiators of the October 9 march towards President Serzh Sarkisian’s office in a show of protest against the signing of the documents are the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and ex-foreign minister Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. Both parties consider the protocols to be flawed and damaging to Armenia’s state and national interests. They also argue that the protocols force Armenia to agree to a set of preconditions for opening the border and establishing diplomatic ties and point out the clauses that commit Armenia to recognizing the existing Turkish-Armenian border and call for the establishment of a panel of historians to review historical discrepancies between the two peoples that primarily include the 1915-1918 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

“Unfortunately, we do not treat seriously the actions of Dashnaktsutyun and other groups that have joined it,” HAK coordinator Levon Zurabian told RFE/RL on Wednesday. “There is a very simple test. The moment Dashnaktsutyun or the forces that have grouped around it start demanding the resignation of Sarkisian rather than his foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandian, they will send a serious message that they are departing from their imitational behavior and manner of action and moving towards serious political struggle. We have not seen that until now. Naturally, we cannot support imitational actions.”

Dashnaktsutyun and recently Zharangutyun have pointedly emphasized their reluctance yet to seek President Sarkisian’s resignation over what both view as his conciliatory position in the matter of Armenian-Turkish normalization. This stance has been criticized by the HAK, which has been seeking Sarkisian’s resignation despite largely endorsing his dramatic thaw with Turkey.

Nearly a dozen political parties of Armenia joined Dashnaktsutyun’s statement on Tuesday pledging joint action against the draft protocols. Dashnaktsutyun’s representative Rustamian said at a press conference the same day that while offering several HAK member parties to join the initiative, they had not approached the HAK as a whole with this offer.

Zurabian contended that Dashnaktsutyun had intended to sow discord within the ranks of the opposition alliance with this move.

“There were attempts to negotiate with parties that are part of the HAK, which shows that they have been more preoccupied with splitting the existing opposition than with waging serious struggle against the government,” said Zurabian.
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