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Armenian Opposition Skeptical About Dialogue With Turkey


Armenia -- Levon Zurabian, undated

Armenia’s main opposition alliance has added its voice to growing skepticism in Yerevan about President Serzh Sarkisian’s continuing diplomatic overtures to Turkey.

Like some of the country’s leading politicians, Levon Zurabian, a top representative of the Armenian National Congress (HHK), said that the lack of tangible results in the almost year-long Turkish-Armenian negotiations could prove damaging for Armenia. “If Armenia’s positions weaken further in the absence of a result, I don’t know how one can consider this process to have been positive,” Zurabian told RFE/RL on Saturday.

Sarkisian asserted earlier this month that Armenia will “emerge stronger” from the talks even if they do not result in the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border. He said Yerevan has proved to the international community its commitment to an unconditional and quick normalization of relations with Ankara.

A senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), one of the four parties represented in Sarkisian’s coalition government, voiced reservations about the president’s line of reasoning last week. Giro Manoyan cited the possibility that Turkey will manage to dissuade U.S. President Barack Obama from describing the 1915 mass killings of Armenians as genocide without lifting its 16-year economic blockade of Armenia.

Similar concerns were voiced on Friday by former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. He said Yerevan should pull out of the Western-backed negotiations if Ankara refuses to open the Turkish-Armenian border in the coming months.

Zurabian, for his part, was concerned that one of the inter-governmental commissions which the two sides reportedly agreed to form during those talks would look into the World War One-era Armenian massacres. “By and large, we welcome Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and the possible opening of the border,” he said. “But there are some reports to the effect that Armenia will have to satisfy a number of conditions for the sake of that reconciliation. In particular, the establishment of the so-called commission of historians.”

The idea of forming such a body was floated by the Turkish government in 2005 and rejected by then President Robert Kocharian. Sarkisian indicated last year that he does not object to the proposed study in principle.

Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the HAK’s top leader known for his advocacy of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, has voiced strong opposition to the Turkish proposal. He believes that its acceptance by the Armenian side would call into question the very fact of what many scholars consider the first genocide of the 20th century.
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