By Ruzanna StepanianA top Armenian army general who leads the influential Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans indicated on Monday his strong opposition to any peace accord that would result in the liberation of Armenian-occupied territories in Azerbaijan proper.
Under a deal reportedly discussed by the conflicting parties, the Armenian side would have to gradually pull out of all but one of the seven Azerbaijani districts around Karabakh which it occupied during the 1991-1994. Official Yerevan has repeatedly implied that it will agree to a return of the occupied lands only in exchange for international recognition of Armenian control over Karabakh.
“There is no such thing. I don’t understand and accept such a thing,” Deputy Defense Minister Manvel Grigorian told reporters, commenting on the reported peace formula.
Asked whether that means he rules out any Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan, he replied: “Yes, I do.”
Grigorian, who was a prominent field commander during the Karabakh, spoke as he and other Yerkrapah leaders visited the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan as part of events marking a public holiday dedicated to his organization.
The mustachioed general reaffirmed his hardline stance, which seems to contradict the official Armenian position on the conflict, in a speech delivered to hundreds of war veterans, army officers and politicians later in the day. “Today people in Artsakh (Karabakh) raise kids and build homes,” he said. “But they keep hearing from many newspapers and TV stations that lands are going to be surrendered. There is nothing like that.”
Grigorian added that the Armenians “have no lands to give away” and must therefore be “ready for any development.” “And in order to be ready, we must understand and stand by each other,” he said without elaborating.
Also addressing the Yerkrapah gathering were two of President Robert Kocharian’s most bitter political foes, Aram Sarkisian and Raffi Hovannisian. Sarkisian, whose late brother Vazgen founded Yerkrapah more than a decade ago and is still revered by its members, drew rapturous applause when he attacked the Armenian government and urged the war veterans to become “the masters of this country.” “Guys, we don’t take proper care of this country,” he said.
Hovannisian similarly urged Yerkrapah to cast off its popular image of a government support base. “Yerkrapah must be not a government defender but a defender of citizens’ freedom and rights,” he said.
(Photolur photo: Manvel Grigorian.)