By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) reaffirmed on Thursday its intention to fight any attempts by its coalition partners to establish cooperation between the parliaments of Armenia and Turkey.
“We will stand by and disseminate our views and try persuade others,” the spokesman for the nationalist party represented in the Armenian leadership, Gegham Manukian, told RFE/RL.
The remarks highlight the first disagreement inside Armenia’s coalition government formed last month by President Robert Kocharian and his three main allies: Dashnaktsutyun, the Republican Party (HHK) and the Orinats Yerkir Party. The row was sparked by Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian’s calls last month for direct contacts between the Armenian and Turkish legislatures which he said would facilitate the ongoing efforts to normalize the strained Turkish-Armenian ties.
Baghdasarian, who is also the speaker of Armenia’s recently elected parliament, specifically favored the creation of a “friendship group” of lawmakers from the two neighboring countries. He said the idea is backed by the European Union which has been pressing Ankara to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan.
Baghdasarian immediately came under fire from Dashnaktsutyun leaders, including one of his two deputies, Vahan Hovannisian. They believe that dialogue with Turkey will be fruitless as long as the latter refuses to recognize the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Manukian likewise pointed to continuing Turkish denial of the genocide, saying that the proposed inter-parliamentary links would create an “absurd situation.” “I think that such a group will not be formed in the parliament any time soon,” he said.
The Dashnaktsutyun attacks on Baghdasarian were brushed aside last week by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian who leads the HHK, the most influential of the three governing parties. He also criticized the Dashnaks for their strong opposition to the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border.
Kocharian and successive governments in Yerevan have long tried to get Turkey to lift its economic blockade of Armenia, admitting that the move would benefit the struggling Armenian economy. Dashnaktsutyun leaders, however, claim that an open border would only damage the economy by making dependent on Turkey.