By Hrach Melkumian
A leading opposition party which has spearheaded the impeachment campaign against President Robert Kocharian said on Monday it is ready to cooperate with him for achieving a “pro-Armenian” solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party indicated that it does not trust Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev’s latest claims that Kocharian was ready last year to swap Armenian’s Meghri district for a land corridor with Karabakh -- an idea highly unpopular in Armenia.
Hanrapetutyun leaders had referred in the past to the so-called “Meghri variant” in their attacks on the president.
“We will never exploit the Karabakh issue to expedite a change of government or deal blows to the authorities,” the party’s chairman, Albert Bazeyan, told RFE/RL. “Karabakh is an issue of nationwide significance. We are ready to support and cooperate with the authorities for the sake of its pro-Armenian resolution.”
The unofficial leader of an alliance of 13 opposition parties, Hanrapetutyun has been at the forefront of the latest campaign to impeach Kocharian which has heightened political tensions in the country.
Some presidential allies suggested on Monday that Aliev’s sensational remarks were designed to stoke the tensions further. A spokesman for the pro-Kocharian Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), Giro Manoyan, said the veteran Azerbaijani leader may be trying to weaken Armenia’s negotiating position.
Kocharian had already been accused by his opponents of planning to “sell out” Meghri during the seven-month power struggle in the Armenian leadership which followed the parliament killings of October 1999. Aram Sarkisian, the then prime minister and now a leader of Hanrapetutyun, claimed credit at the time for burying the idea of a land swap. The fact that Sarkisian and his allies have not revived the issue this time around suggests that they treat Aliev’s statements with skepticism.
Aliev on Friday admitted for the first time the existence of the so-called “Paris principles” of a Karabakh settlement. But he claimed that under an agreement finalized by the two presidents in Paris last year the strategic Meghri area would be placed “under the sovereign control of Azerbaijan, while the Lachin corridor would be under Armenia’s control." He said Kocharian subsequently scrapped the deal.
A spokesman for Kocharian brushed aside the claims as a “nonsense,” saying that it is Aliev who had backtracked on the agreements. An Armenian source close to the negotiating process told RFE/RL that the Paris deal in fact would make Lachin an internationally recognized part of Armenia, while Baku would be guaranteed only unfettered communication with its Nakhichevan exclave via Meghri.
Dashnaktsutyun’s Manoyan, meanwhile, said the influential nationalist party which favors a tough line on Karabakh is not only against surrendering Meghri but also opposes the creation of any transport corridors on Armenian territory.