Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on Friday criticized the existing international proposals to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and said his Armenian National Congress (HAK) will seek “substantial” changes in them.
Ter-Petrosian described as “incompatible” simultaneous references to people’s self-determination and territorial integrity of states in the Basic Principles of the conflict’s resolution advanced by the United States, Russia and France. He claimed that is a “diplomatic ploy” designed to disguise Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani rule.
Speaking at an HAK rally in Yerevan, Ter-Petrosian said the opposition bloc will therefore strive to “substantially change” the document if it wins seats in Armenia’s new parliament to be elected on May 6. In particular, he said, Yerevan must demand a specific date for the holding of a referendum on Karabakh’s status and make sure that it allows the disputed territory’s predominantly Armenian population to formalize its de facto secession from Azerbaijan.
“If these issues are not solved, that referendum will simply be a trap, a ploy to dupe the Armenian people,” the former Armenian president said in a lengthy late-night speech.
Armenian officials have said before that under the proposed settlement the Karabakh Armenians would be able to vote for independence or reunification with Armenia in the would-be referendum. The Azerbaijani government insists, however, they would only be able to determine the extent of Karabakh’s autonomy within Azerbaijan.
The full text of the basic principles has still not been publicized by the three mediating powers as well as official Yerevan and Baku. The conflicting parties have for years disagreed on practical modalities of the Karabakh plebiscite.
Ter-Petrosian said the framework peace accord must also explicitly stipulate that the so-called Lachin corridor between Karabakh and Armenia would remain under Armenian control. In addition, he said, Yerevan must make clear that the document cannot take effect without being signed by Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership.
Ter-Petrosian spent a large part of his speech denouncing President Serzh Sarkisian’s and his predecessor Robert Kocharian’s policies on the Karabakh dispute. He again accused them of agreeing to disproportionate concessions to Azerbaijan in order to cling to power.
Ter-Petrosian himself was accused by Sarkisian, Kocharian and other senior officials of adopting a “defeatist” stance on Karabakh before being forced to resign as president in 1998.
Sarkisian has repeatedly portrayed the so-called Madrid Principles drafted by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group as a major achievement of his administration. The president and his loyalists say the proposed deal allows for continued Armenian control over the disputed territory.