Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian accused Armenia’s leadership of agreeing to put Nagorno-Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control as he continued his nationwide meetings with supporters on Tuesday.
“They abandoned [international recognition of] the genocide [of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey] and they will abandon Karabakh as well,” Ter-Petrosian told reporters in the northern town of Ijevan.
He did not elaborate on the allegation, saying only that President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation is the only way of preventing the loss of the Armenian-controlled territory. “This man should go as soon as possible,” said the former Armenian president.
Sarkisian is understood have largely accepted the U.S., Russian and French mediators’ existing basic principles of resolving the Karabakh dispute which were formally presented to the conflicting parties in Madrid in November 2007. Those would allow Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population to determine the disputed enclave’s status in a referendum to be held years after the liberation of virtually all Armenian-occupied territories in Azerbaijan proper.
The return of those territories was also a key element of a peace plan put forward by the mediators in 1997. Ter-Petrosian was forced to resign in 1998 as first president of Armenia because of his strong support for the proposed settlement.
Some of Ter-Petrosian’s associates now say that the 1997 plan was more beneficial for the Armenian side than the so-called Madrid principles, even though it contained no mechanisms for determining Karabakh’s internationally recognized status. They have also claimed that changes which the mediators made in those proposals last month call for even greater Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan.
Washington’s top Karabakh negotiator, Matthew Bryza, dismissed those claims as “ridiculous” on August 8. Bryza and his fellow OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs from Russia and France hope that Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev will achieve a breakthrough during their next meeting due in early October.
Visiting another Armenian town, Hrazdan, on August 5, Ter-Petrosian predicted a major change of the political situation in the country “this fall.” That was construed by as some local commentators as an indication that the ex-president and his Armenian National Congress (HAK) would use the possible signing of an unpopular Armenian-Azerbaijani accord in their ongoing standoff with the Sarkisian administration. The HAK has pledged to launch “a new wave” of anti-government protests in Yerevan next month.
Speaking in Ijevan, Ter-Petrosian said that Armenian politics has changed irreversibly since his return to active politics in late 2007 and that his broad-based opposition movement has not run out of steam. “With my return a powerful civil society was created,” he said. “A lot has changed.”
Ter-Petrosian met with local supporters of the HAK and made a point of visiting the Ijevan-based parents of Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken newspaper editor who is currently under arrest pending trial on charges stemming from last year’s post-election unrest in Yerevan.