Senior members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) expressed concern about the ongoing Turkish-Armenian rapprochement at a meeting with President Serzh Sarkisian on Monday night, top party representatives said on Tuesday.
Sarkisian, who is the HHK’s chairman, met with members of the party’s board to discuss his conciliatory policy on Turkey that has earned him praise in the West but is criticized by many in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora.
According Samvel Nikoyan, a senior HHK member and deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, board members asked Sarkisian numerous questions about various aspects of that policy. “All kinds of questions were asked,” he told RFE/RL. “Including ones expressing concerns, asking for clarifications and making some points.”
“I don’t think that everyone in the Republican Party of Armenia, which has 150,000 members, can be fully informed about those protocols and fully support them,” said Nikoyan. “Of course, there are people who have concerns. Everyone, including myself has concerns.”
Sarkisian himself acknowledged that his fence-mending talks with Turkey are fraught with pitfalls for the Armenian side when he met with leaders of 52 Armenian parties on September 17. But he said Armenia should continue them and demonstrate to the outside world that it is genuinely committed to making peace with his historical foe.
Sarkisian will start on October 1 a tour of the United States, France, Russia and Lebanon aimed at explaining his policy to sizable Armenian communities existing in those countries. Many community leaders have strongly criticized the agreements and, in particular, the planned formation of a Turkish-Armenian “sub-commission” charged with studying the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Thousands of Armenians took to the streets of Los Angeles on Sunday to condemn the deal.
Razmik Zohrabian, the HHK’s deputy chairman, downplayed the Diaspora outcry. “I would be surprised if the Diaspora Armenians were silent or fully supported this policy,” he told RFE/RL.
Neither Zohrabian, nor Nikoyan elaborated on the concerns which fellow Republicans conveyed to Sarkisian the previous night. Their unease contrasted with unconditional support for the draft Turkish-Armenian agreements expressed by HHK leaders earlier. The party, which holds the majority of seats in the National Assembly, is still expected to ensure the documents’ ratification by the Armenian parliament.
The two opposition parties represented in parliament, Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun, said on Monday they are joining forces to try to block the ratification. They control only 23 of the 131 parliament seats.
A leader of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), a larger and more radical opposition force, dismissed on Tuesday the potential alliance between Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun, saying that none of them has demanded Sarkisian’s resignation yet. Levon Zurabian said that the two parties should take “more serious steps” if they are to force a policy change on Turkey.
“If Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun decide today to give up their parliament mandates in protest against the ongoing process, they will … generate an extremely serious political crisis,” Zurabian told journalists. “There would no longer be any opposition in the parliament.” That would send a strong message to the international community, he said.
Zharangutyun’s chairman, Armen Martirosian, and a senior Dashnaktsutyun member, Spartak Seyranian, rejected the call.