Former President Robert Kocharian met with Washington’s top Nagorno-Karabakh negotiator in Yerevan at the weekend to discuss the current status of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, his spokesman said on Thursday.
Viktor Soghomonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Kocharian and Robert Bradtke, the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, spoke about “issues related to the current phase” of the Karabakh peace process. He did not elaborate.
The meeting took place during the latest visit to Armenia and Karabakh by Bradtke and fellow Minsk Group co-chairs from Russia and France. The mediating troika held talks with President Serzh Sarkisian on Monday.
The meeting came amid signs of Kocharian’s growing interest in domestic and external political developments. The former president has recently criticized the Armenian government’s economic policies and defended his decisions regarding the Karabakh dispute. That has fuelled more speculation about his desire to return to government.
But Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), dismissed talk of possible friction between Kocharian and Sarkisian. “We must understand that Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian are different faces of the same regime,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“Today the international community perceives them as a single team that gave promises in the past, initiated concrete processes and now must take care of those processes,” he claimed.
But a senior representative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an opposition party that supported Kocharian throughout his decade-long rule, disagreed. “I think the American co-chair wanted to get first-hand information from the second president on the course and format [of negotiations,]” Giro Manoyan told RFE/RL. Kocharian is not actively involved in the Karabakh peace process, he said.
Zurabian insisted on HAK claims that Sarkisian is facing mounting international pressure to accept a Karabakh settlement which he said is “much worse” for the Armenian side than what the mediators proposed in 1997. The HAK’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, was Armenia’s president at the time. He was forced to step down in early 1998 after strongly advocating those proposals.
Sarkisian’s and Kocharian’s allies say the mediators’ existing “basic principles” of Karabakh peace are in fact far more favorable for the Armenians as they call for a referendum in Karabakh that would almost certainly legitimize its secession from Azerbaijan. They argue that the 1997 plan did not envisage any mechanisms for determining Karabakh’s status.