The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Tuesday denounced President Serzh Sarkisian’s policy on Turkey, saying that it has given Ankara a say in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and left Armenia under “unprecedented” international pressure to make more concessions to Azerbaijan.
“What was supposed to be a Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process has effectively turned into a Turkish-Armenian conflict,” said Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the alliance headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
“Instead of having normalized relations, we have even more hostile relations,” he told journalists, referring to the latest accusations traded by Armenian and Turkish leaders.
Zurabian repeated HAK claims that Sarkisian willingly agreed to forego a greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide when embarking on a far-reaching rapprochement with Turkey in 2008. He said the Armenian leader hoped that an open border with Turkey would earn him stronger international support in the Karabakh conflict.
“Sarkisian’s regime also calculated that that support will help it to crush with impunity the opposition struggle for democratic freedoms and the formation of a legitimate government in the country,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the HAK, Zurabian claimed that by making the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a Karabakh settlement Turkey has become an important player in the peace process and managed to get the mediating powers to step up pressure on Armenia. He said Sarkisian has now no choice but to make sweeping concessions to Azerbaijan or face a worsening of the socioeconomic situation in the country “fraught with economic revolts.”
Ter-Petrosian and other HAK figures have repeatedly stated before that a Karabakh accord favoring Azerbaijan is imminent. Speaking at an October 2008 rally in Yerevan, Ter-Petrosian charged that Sarkisian is ready to “put Karabakh up for sale” and renounce Armenia’s political and military alliance with Russia in return for legitimizing his rule in the eyes of the West.
The HAK leader similarly accused the Armenian leadership of “jeopardizing the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh” when he addressed thousands of supporters in September 2009. He stressed that the only way to avert “undue concessions” to Azerbaijan is to force Sarkisian to resign with a “powerful and sustained wave of popular indignation.”
But in another speech delivered to HAK members less than two months later, Ter-Petrosian toned down these allegations and signaled his readiness to recognize Sarkisian’s legitimacy. He also lambasted nationalist critics of the president’s conciliatory line on Turkey.
The Sarkisian administration has still not responded to the surprise overtures. It insists that Yerevan will never agree to any settlement placing Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control. Armenian leaders have also indicated that no Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements will likely be signed in the coming months.
They have clearly been buoyed by statements by U.S. and especially Russian officials urging Ankara to unconditionally normalize ties with Yerevan. Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), described those statements on Tuesday as a “political slap” in Ankara’s face.
Addressing the Armenian parliament, Sharmazanov also lashed out at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for saying that the United Nations denounced Armenia as an “occupier” in four resolutions on Karabakh adopted in the early 1990s. “I am asking Mr. Erdogan to show those four resolutions declaring Armenia an occupier,” he said, likening the Turkish premier to “political adventurers.”