President Serzh Sarkisian has invited his two predecessors to participate in official ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, it emerged on Friday.
The focal point of the ongoing celebrations will be a military parade in Yerevan. It will be held next Wednesday exactly 20 years after Armenians overwhelmingly voted for independence in a nationwide referendum.
Sarkisian’s press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that former Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosian and Robert Kocharian have been invited to attend the parade and related events organized by the presidential administration. Those include an official dinner and an open-air concert in Yerevan’s main Republic Square.
Spokesmen for Ter-Petrosian and Kocharian confirmed the information. But they could not immediately say whether the invitations will be accepted.
“These invitations by the president of the republic show that the country is governed by a president and a political force that prioritize only state and national ideas,” Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We are going down the path of the nation’s consolidation and believe that national holidays … are an opportunity for such unity.”
Ter-Petrosian, who has been Sarkisian’s and Kocharian’s most bitter political opponent since 2007, snubbed a similar invitation that was extended by the current president in September last year. He chose to celebrate Armenia’s Independence Day with supporters.
A spokesman for Ter-Petrosian said at the time that Armenia’s first president does not want to mark the holiday with “people whose every day in office causes substantial damage to Armenia.”
Kocharian also did not attend the 2010 ceremonies, ostensibly because of his absence from the country.
Kocharian’s relationship with Sarkisian, his longtime political partner, is thought to have become uneasy since he completed his second and final term in office in 2008.
Earlier this month, the two men attended celebrations in Stepanakert of the 20th anniversary of Nagorno-Karabakh’s declaration of independence from Azerbaijan. They avoided any contact in public.