An opposition party in Armenia has downplayed its failure to press for a vote in parliament on a bill formally obliging Yerevan to recognize the independence of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The Zharangutyun (Heritage) faction decided to postpone the vote on its drafted legislation until December following the announcement from the parliament’s political majority on Thursday that it would opt out of the procedure.
Stepan Safarian, the leader of Zharangutyun’s parliamentary faction, stated during press briefings in parliament on Friday that the move did not amount to a ‘retreat’, but was rather ‘a compromise in the name of the idea.’
“A compromise was reached for the sake of the cause and the idea and no political group suffered from it, because a solution was found that satisfied the interests of all,” said Safarian.
Armenia’s ruling Republican Party (HHK) and its junior coalition partners, Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir (Rule-of-Law Country) issued a joint statement on October 29 in which they said that “while supporting the efforts and initiatives aimed at achieving the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s international recognition, we are convinced that Nagorno-Karabakh’s unilateral recognition by the Republic of Armenia at this moment does not proceed from the constructive position assumed by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in the negotiations continuing within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.”
This was the second time Zharangutyun postponed the vote. The first time was before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe organized a field assessment mission in the Armenian-controlled territories around Nagorno-Karabakh in early October.
Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian has indicated that the party’s faction will no longer postpone the vote on the bill, which is now scheduled to take place on December 9.
“I hope that before that the political majority will essentially revise its position and a unanimous passage will become ripe,” Hovannisian said.
HHK parliamentary faction secretary Eduard Sharmazanov explained that the decision not to take part in the vote and effectively scuttle it was not a “political whim” and that the position of Armenia’s leadership on Karabakh’s recognition remains unchanged.
“The authorities of Armenia must do everything for the international recognition of the Artsakh republic. If there are steps that would be useful and would help to speed up Artsakh’s international recognition, then the HHK and the political majority will take that step,” said Sharmazanov.
Orinats Yerkir (Rule-of-Law Country) faction head Heghine Bisharian, meanwhile, spoke about the joint statement of the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia issued following talks in Astrakhan earlier this week, calling it “a step forward” in terms of settling the [Armenian-Azerbaijani] relations.
“We are for such meetings and appreciate the changes that have taken place, and I think that the upcoming meeting in Astana [on the sidelines of an OSCE summit in early December] will yield certain positive results,” she said.
Through Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s mediation in Astrakhan on Wednesday, Armenian President Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev agreed on the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies of soldiers killed in recent clashes as a confidence-building measure to continue further negotiations around a Karabakh settlement.
If held on Thursday, the vote on the Karabakh recognition bill in the Armenian parliament would have come on the heels of that agreement and would potentially prove damaging to the process given the repeated statements in Baku that such a move would increase the likelihood of renewed hostilities in the conflict zone.
Vahan Hovannisian, the leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) parliamentary faction, said setting deadlines for the Karabakh recognition bill, now expected to be put to a vote shortly after the Astana meeting, creates “an unpleasant situation.”
Dashnaktsutyun had also challenged the timing of bringing the bill to parliament, but said it would vote for it if the procedure had to take place.
“Suddenly it turns out that our whole society should be eagerly waiting for something to happen in Astana, but nothing will happen there,” said Hovannisian.
Zharangutyun’s Hovannisian said “December 9 is not an ultimate, but a deadline, and, in some sense, the beginning of a new all-national policy.”