The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on Thursday dismissed Levon Ter-Petrosian’s harsh criticism of its hard line on Turkey and said he ceased to be Armenia’s top opposition leader after making far-reaching overtures to President Serzh Sarkisian.
In a landmark speech on Wednesday, Ter-Petrosian implied that he and his Armenian National Congress (HAK) are ready, in principle, to recognize Sarkisian’s legitimacy if he agreed to cooperate with the opposition alliance on major challenges facing the country. He also defended some key aspects of Sarkisian’s policy on Turkey against attacks by Dashnaktsutyun and other “extreme nationalists.”
Top HAK representatives confirmed on Thursday that the remarks were a cooperation offer addressed to the current Armenian leadership. One of them, Vahagn Khachatrian, summed up the former Armenian president’s message as follows: “If you are ready to strive for a big idea, we are ready to talk to you about that.” The HAK was “always ready” to collaborate with the authorities under certain circumstances, he said.
“The Armenian National Congress has never made secret of that,” agreed Aram Sarkisian, another leader of the bloc. He said Ter-Petrosian gave the president “a definitely good piece of advice.”
“He is offering the authorities a deal,” scoffed Giro Manoyan, Dashnaktsutyun’s foreign policy spokesman. He said Ter-Petrosian and his allies are now ready to stop challenging Sarkisian’s legitimacy “in return for something” which should be a “subject of haggling.”
“I think he is resorting to that for two reasons,” said Manoyan. “First, because he is a supporter of the defeatist Armenia-Turkey policy. Second, he acknowledged that he doesn’t have much to do as an opposition anymore and is keen to cut a deal with the authorities to ensure his survival.”
Manoyan said Ter-Petrosian’s extraordinary statements also heralded the end of the HAK’s “monopoly on opposition.” “His statements show that they have not only lost that monopoly but no longer lead the opposition,” he told RFE/RL. “There is now another opposition that is doing the job.”
Manoyan referred to a Dashnaktsutyun-led coalition of a dozen mostly small opposition groups that have strongly condemned the Turkish-Armenian agreements to normalize bilateral relations which were signed last month. They were the main target of Ter-Petrosian’s hour-long speech.
The ex-president was particularly scathing about that their insistence on future Armenian territorial claims to Turkey which seem to be precluded by the agreements. He said that has only earned Sarkisian more credibility in the international arena and overshadowed what he sees as the only “unacceptable” point of the deal: the creation of a Turkish-Armenian “sub-commission” of history experts.
Manoyan said Ter-Petrosian “distorted” the Dashnaktsutyun’s position on Turkish-Armenian relations because he is “jealous” about the nationalist party’s rising profile.
Also alleging “jealousy” was Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of President Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Zohrabian refrained from commenting on the HAK leader’s overtures to the government, focusing instead on other parts of his speech that were critical of the Sarkisian administration.
“Levon Ter-Petrosian wishes he had been elected president and managed this policy on Turkish-Armenian relations,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL. “But naturally, he wasn’t elected and can’t manage [that policy] and that’s why keeps repeating scenes of jealousy.”