Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has expressed his readiness to hold a meeting with one of his top critics, Levon Ter-Petrosian, after the former president published a critical article and offered to meet on the subject of a pan-Armenian declaration adopted ahead of the approaching Genocide Centennial.
Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia’s president in 1991-1998 and unsuccessfully ran against Sarkisian in the 2008 presidential election becoming an institutionalized opposition to him ever after, first published an article on February 11 voicing criticism regarding some aspects of the declaration that was recently adopted by a high-level commission planning and coordinating upcoming commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
He, in particular, criticized Sarkisian, who heads the commission, as well as leaders of Armenian Diaspora organizations for adopting a document that effectively commits official Yerevan to laying territorial claims to Turkey. The ex-president specifically pointed to a declaration passage which says that Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora will strive to not only get more countries to condemn the slaughter of 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians but also “overcome consequences of the genocide.” In that context, it refers to the 1920 Treaty of Sevres that envisaged Armenian control over much of what is now eastern Turkey.
Opposition Armenian National Congress leader Levon Ter-Petrosian
In a follow-up ‘open letter’ to Sarkisian that Ter-Petrosian said was originally planned for publication on February 13 but appeared in media only four days later – because of the standoff that began last week between Sarkisian and Ter-Petrosian’s key opposition ally, Gagik Tsarukian – the ex-president offered a “tete-a-tete meeting” with the current head of state to discuss the mentioned aspects of the declaration as well as other related issues. He also proposed the establishment of a separate commission that would “finalize the position of the Republic of Armenia in the Genocide issue.”
In an addition to the original text of the article that Ter-Petrosian said had been written before the inception of the internal political standoff he regretted that it was impossible to realize his idea “in conditions of the political revenge and fierce violence unleashed against Gagik Tsarukian, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the opposition in general.”
In a reply open letter made available to the media on Friday President Sarkisian categorically rejected Ter-Petrosian’s evaluations of the pan-Armenian declaration, in particular, his claim that it contradicts the Constitution of Armenia and international legal documents. Still, he said, considering that “there will be numerous proposals” to the commission before and after April 24, when the centenary of the Genocide is to be marked, Ter-Petrosian’s proposals should also be discussed.
“You say that there is a need for a tete-a-tete meeting for that purpose. I see no problem,” Sarkisian said, stressing that the internal political reasons cited by Ter-Petrosian for the impossibility of the meeting were “inappropriate”.
“When you find that there is a necessity and desire to discuss events on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, I am ready to send you a corresponding invitation,” President Sarkisian concluded.
Since its published on February 17, Ter-Petrosian’s open letter to Sarkisian has been construed differently by different political parties. While representatives of Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party mainly welcomed the initiative, some in the opposition camp called it “a stab in the back” against Tsarukian and his Prosperous Armenia Party.
But Ter-Petrosian’s right-hand man Levon Zurabian argued in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on Thursday that the HAK leader’s letter was, on the contrary, an attempt to put pressure on Sarkisian to end the crackdown against Tsarukian and his political team.