A major Diaspora branch of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has reversed its decision to boycott an upcoming banquet in Los Angeles to be attended by President Serzh Sarkisian.
The September 25 event is organized by the Armenian Consulate there and dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. Sarkisian will attend it as part of a visit to the United States that will involve meetings with representatives of the influential Armenian-American community.
The Dashnaktsutyun chapter in the western U.S. said on August 18 that its leaders will boycott the banquet in protest against Sarkisian’s track record in office. It said his presence there will “cast a shadow on the idea of independence and denigrate the struggle of our people for the restoration of justice.”
Dashnaktsutyun’s supreme decision-making body based in Yerevan, the Bureau, was quick to criticize the extraordinary move.
In another statement circulated over the weekend, Dashnaktsutyun’s Western U.S. Central Committee claimed that the “nature” of the celebration has been changed and that it is no longer be aimed at honoring Sarkisian.
“As such, the reason for us to not participate has been rectified,” read the statement reported by Dashnaktsutyun’s Los Angeles-based newspaper “Asbarez.” “Once again we salute the 20th anniversary of the re-establishment of Armenia’s independence and congratulation our people on the occasion.”
Armenian government sources on Monday denied any changes in the format of the event. “It was always meant to be a banquet devoted to Armenia’s independence and attended by President Serzh Sarkisian,” one of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The initial announcement of the boycott was a rare manifestation of differences within the influential pan-Armenian party. Despite being in opposition to the Yerevan government, the Dashnaktsutyun leadership in Armenia has been quite cautious in criticizing Sarkisian.
By contrast, the party’s main U.S. branch described the Armenian president on August 18 as a “discredited” individual who “tramples democracy and democratic values underfoot” in order to ensure “the reproduction of the criminal regime.”
In a Friday interview with “Asbarez,” the branch chairman, Avedik Izmirlian, downplayed the significance of the harsh verbal attacks on Sarkisian. Izmirlian also slammed unnamed forces that he said are trying to “sow the seeds of division” in the party.