Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian hit out on Wednesday at critics of his recent calls for a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would lead to Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.
He stood by his view that such a settlement sought by the United States, Russia and France is vital for Armenia.
Addressing a conference of his opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on December 17, Ter-Petrosian expressed readiness to help President Serzh Sarkisian cut a corresponding peace deal with Baku. Peace with Azerbaijan is “the main prerequisite for Armenia’s and Karabakh’s security, economic development and improved demographic situation,” he said.
The speech drew criticism from other opposition groups and Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). In particular, HHK representatives said that the Azerbaijani leadership is currently not prepared to reciprocate Armenian concessions and that Ter-Petrosian’s renewed peace discourse is therefore not timely. Groups favoring a more hardline stance on Karabakh went further, accusing the HAK leader of seeking a Karabakh “sellout.”
Ter-Petrosian, who ruled Armenia from 1991-1998, rejected the criticism as “ridiculous” in comments on posted on Ilur.am. He argued that Sarkisian administration itself has repeatedly called the U.S., Russian and French mediators’ peace proposals largely acceptable to the Armenian side. He also said that those proposals are essentially identical with a peace plan which he strongly advocated in 1997-1998.
“It means that those who regard mutual concessions and surrender of territories as defeatism and treason are debating among themselves, rather than with us,” he said.
The 1997 plan called for the liberation of virtually all seven districts around Karabakh that are fully or partly controlled by Karabakh Armenian forces. It would indefinitely postpone agreement on Karabakh’ status, the main bone of contention.
The mediators’ current Basic Principles of a Karabakh peace, which were first put forward in 2007, also envisage Armenian withdrawal from those lands. But unlike the 1997 document, they also mandate a legally binding referendum in which Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would determine the disputed territory’s internationally recognized status.
Ter-Petrosian on Wednesday reaffirmed his support for the Basic Principles, saying that “Armenia and Karabakh will weaken further in case of delaying” the acceptance of this framework accord.
Ter-Petrosian also stood by his December 17 assertions that Russia “holds the key” to the conflict’s resolution and that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is a “rational statesman who is capable of taking an adequate step towards peace.” He said he did not mean to praise Aliyev because he believes that “rational thinking is not a supernatural trait.”
Artak Zakarian, a senior HHK lawmaker, claimed on December 19 that “there are no signs of rationalism in Aliyev’s policy.” He said Aliyev not only publicly opposes the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination but also refers to Yerevan and other parts of Armenia as “historic Azerbaijani lands” that will eventually return under Azerbaijani control.