The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Monday reacted positively to the deepening of Armenia’s military ties with Russia but said that would be offset by the sale of sophisticated Russian air-defense missiles to Azerbaijan.
The alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian also signaled its readiness to cooperate with the authorities in confronting what it described as “new geopolitical realities” in the South Caucasus.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator, said Russia’s reported plans to sell S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Azerbaijan will increase the likelihood of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Nagorno-Karabakh. “The acquisition of S-300 systems will limit Armenian armed forces’ ability to repel a large-scale Azerbaijani attack,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“In this situation fraught with the resumption of hostilities, the strengthening of the Russian-Armenian security system established in the 1990s and the expansion of security guarantees has an important significance,” Zurabian said, referring to a new defense pact signed by Yerevan and Moscow late last week. “Especially considering the fact that the West does not consider the resolution of the Karabakh conflict to be among its priorities and is not prepared to take on an active role in … preventing a possible military confrontation.”
“However, efforts made in this direction are insufficient and, in essence, can only localize a military confrontation,” added Zurabian. Even such a war would be “devastating” for Karabakh and Armenia, he said.
Zurabian claimed that the 24-year extension of a lease on the Russian military base in Armenia ten years before its expiry demonstrated Moscow’s distrust in the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian and desire to hedge its bets. He said the Kremlin thus shares the HAK’s stated belief that snap presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia are inevitable.
While accusing Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian of “considerably weakening” Armenia in the Karabakh conflict, Zurabian stressed that both the Armenian authorities and opposition should adopt an “extremely responsible stance.” In particular, he said, they should take “resolute steps” to end their lingering standoff stemming from the 2008 post-election crisis. The HAK representative singled out the need for the release of over a dozen Ter-Petrosian loyalists remaining in prison and the democratization of the country’s political system.
Ter-Petrosian already expressed late last year his readiness to recognize Sarkisian’s legitimacy if the latter embarks on sweeping political reforms and frees all remaining “political prisoners.” The Armenian president never responded to the unprecedented overtures from his most influential political foe.