Rallying thousands of supporters in Yerevan, Ter-Petrosian acknowledged that his Armenian National Congress (HAK) can not effect leadership change in the country without building a more broad-based anti-government coalition. He also claimed that Turkey will not ratify its fence-mending agreements with Armenia without a breakthrough in the Karabakh negotiating process.
“Even in exchange for Serzh Sarkisian’s sacrifice of the [international recognition of the Armenian] genocide, Turkey will not ratify those protocols and will not open its border with Armenia until the Karabakh conflict is resolved,” he said, referring to the documents envisaging the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
While reiterating his earlier allegations that Sarkisian was “fooled” into making concessions to the Turks, Ter-Petrosian, unlike most of his close associates, stopped short of explicitly denouncing the draft protocols made public on August 31. He stood by the HAK’s September 1 statement that said the deal marked “substantial progress” towards the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states and reopening of their border.
Armenia -- Thousands of opposition supporters rally in Yerevan on September 19, 2009.
The former Armenian president, who had championed Turkish-Armenian reconciliation during his 1991-1998 rule, then blasted unnamed critics of the statement. “Who needs this belated hysteria when it is no longer possible to influence the process?” he said.
In his more than hour-long speech, Ter-Petrosian spent much more time discussing the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the U.S., Russian and French mediators. “When a compromise is not balanced, it’s not a compromise,” he said. “The analysis of the above-mentioned facts shows that the existing settlement plan violates that principle. Azerbaijan is getting much more than Armenia and Karabakh are.”
“In other words, Serzh Sarkisian, for unacceptable considerations, is opting for a solution which, to put it mildly, is not favorable to the Armenian side and, speaking more strictly, jeopardizes the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh,” he added.
The HAK leader based his critique on key elements of the proposed deal that were revealed by the U.S., Russian and French presidents a joint statement last July. He said the statement was too vague on international security guarantees offered to Karabakh and an overland link between the disputed enclave and Armenia proper.
Ter-Petrosian also cited another key point of that statement whereby Nagorno-Karabakh’s status would be determined through “a legally binding expression of will.” This, he said, does not necessarily mean a referendum of self-determination in the Armenian-populated territory.
The proposed phased settlement has a lot in common with another Karabakh peace plan which was proposed by the mediators in 1997 and was strongly advocated by Ter-Petrosian. That plan contained no mechanisms for determining Karabakh’s status, the main bone of contention. Allies of Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian argue that the existing basic principles offer the Armenian side a better deal as they uphold the Karabakh Armenians’ “right to self-determination.”
Armenia -- Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian leads a march of supporters through central Yerevan on September 18, 2009.
Ter-Petrosian claimed the opposite on Friday. “The phased variant of 1997 was much more favorable for the Armenian side than the existing solution just because it clearly guaranteed the deployment of international peacekeeping forces [around Karabakh] and said nothing about the return of Azerbaijani refugees to Karabakh proper,” he said.
The ex-president stressed that the only way to avert “undue concessions” to Azerbaijan is to force Sarkisian to resign with a “powerful and sustained wave of popular indignation.” “As I tried to substantiate with a detailed examination in my December 21, 2008 speech, the Armenian National Congress is unable to solve that issue single-handedly, no matter how unpleasant that may sound,” he told the crowd.
Without naming anyone, Ter-Petrosian went on to appeal to other major political forces to join in his fight against the country’s “kleptocratic” leadership. To that, he said, he is ready to pledge not to stand in a snap presidential that would follow Sarkisian’s resignation and would not feature Kocharian as a candidate.
“Waiting for the activation of other Armenian political forces and even temporarily ceding the arena to them, the Congress is not announcing today the date of its next rally. Depending on the reaction of those forces, we will decide our further actions together with you,” Ter-Petrosian said before the crowd marched through the city center, chanting “Levon! Levon!” and other opposition slogans.