Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian appealed on Friday to the jailed leader of a hardline opposition group to help end the continuing hostage situation in Yerevan provoked by the latter’s armed loyalists.
In a written statement, Ter-Petrosian said Zhirayr Sefilian of the Founding Parliament movement is capable of making “sensible decisions” despite his views seen as “extremist” by some Armenians.
“I want to express hope that he will make use of that ability this time as well and place the fate of Armenia and Karabakh above everything else,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian thus seemed to imply that Sefilian should tell the two dozen Founding Parliament gunmen who seized a Yerevan police station on July 17 to lay down their arms. He argued that the unprecedented hostage crisis is only aggravating Armenia’s grave national security challenges emanating from the recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In that regard, Ter-Petrosian reaffirmed his view that opposition forces should put aside their differences with the government in the face of a military threat from Azerbaijan. He first voiced that belief shortly after the Azerbaijani army went on offensive around Karabakh on April 2.
Karabakh’s security “overshadows all other issues preoccupying the Armenian people,” Ter-Petrosian said on Friday.
The 71-year-old ex-president, who leads the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) party, had been a bitter critic of the government ever since returning to active politics in 2007.
Sefilian supported Ter-Petrosian’s failed 2008 presidential bid but subsequently fell out with the HAK leader.
Sefilian spent 18 months in prison in 2006-2008 on controversial charges of illegal arms possession widely attributed to his attempts to topple then President Robert Kocharian. He was again arrested last month for allegedly plotting an armed revolt against the current President Serzh Sarkisian.
The gunmen occupying the police station are demanding Sefilian’s release from prison and Sarkisian’s resignation.