The Armenian National Congress (HAK), a major opposition party headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, has spoken out against attempts to overthrow Armenia’s government through armed revolt, saying that they could only result in a “civil war.”
In that regard, the HAK reaffirmed over the weekend its strong disapproval of last month’s deadly attack on a police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district that was carried out by armed members of a smaller and more radical opposition group, Founding Parliament.
The gunmen demanded President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation immediately after seizing the compound on July 17. They laid down their arms following a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead.
“There is no place for weapons in domestic political struggle,” Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Zurabian said that unlike other mainstream opposition groups, the HAK did not seek to exploit the Erebuni standoff for political purposes because it saw a risk of “destruction of the state” and because believes that the ruling regime should be toppled as result of a peaceful “velvet revolution.”
“I do realize that many people simply see no alternative [to armed struggle,]” he said. “But going down that path would mean foisting two things on Armenia: a humiliating defeat by Azerbaijan and a danger of civil war.”
Ter-Petrosian similarly cited the recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict when he effectively urged the gunmen to surrender to law-enforcement authorities on July 22. He argued that the unprecedented crisis is only aggravating Armenia’s grave national security challenges.
Ter-Petrosian also reaffirmed his view that opposition forces should put aside their differences with the government in the face of the increased military threat from Azerbaijan. He first voiced that belief shortly after the Azerbaijani army went on offensive around Karabakh in April.
The 71-year-old ex-president had been a bitter critic of Sarkisian ever since returning to active politics in 2007.
Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, supported Ter-Petrosian’s failed 2008 presidential bid but subsequently fell out with the HAK leader. Unlike Ter-Petrosian, Sefilian and his associates are fiercely opposed to any major Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan.