Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has voiced support for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian while strongly denying giving him guidance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other challenges facing Armenia.
In a weekend article posted Ilur.am, Ter-Petrosian blasted what he described as a smear campaign waged against Pashinian by the country’s former rulers. He claimed that they want to restore “the kleptocratic regime” and “save from justice” individuals responsible for the 2008 post-election bloodshed in Yerevan.
“This is nothing but national treason,” he wrote. “The defeated regime has declared a war on the Armenian people and the government elected by them. It is therefore incumbent on the people to take up the gauntlet and strongly fight back against the anti-state forces.”
Ter-Petrosian, 74, shrugged off opposition claims that he remains Pashinian’s “godfather” and that the premier regularly asks him for policy advice. He said they last met in July 2018 and have had no direct or indirect contact since then.
The ex-president, who ruled Armenia from 1991-1998, also dismissed claims that Pashinian has embraced his conciliatory approach to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said that unlike himself and the two other former Armenian presidents, Pashinian has so far shed no light on his views about how to resolve the conflict.
“Whatever program on a Karabakh settlement Pashinian comes up with, it will be his own program,” he added.
Ter-Petrosian further downplayed the recent appointment of a senior member of his Armenian National Congress (HAK) party, Vladimir Karapetian, as Pashinian’s press secretary. He argued that Karapetian suspended his membership in the HAK before taking up the post.
Pashinian played a prominent role in Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement that nearly brought the latter back to power in a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. The former journalist was one of the most influential speakers at the ex-president’s anti-government rallies held at the time. He spent about two years in prison on charges stemming from a post-election government crackdown on the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition.
Pashinian fell out with Ter-Petrosian after being released from prison in 2011. As recently as in February 2018, the HAK’s deputy chairman, Levon Zurabian, scoffed at Pashinian’s plans to try to stop then President Serzh Sarkisian from extending his decade-long rule.
Even so, the HAK welcomed the subsequent Pashinian-led protests that led to Sarkisian’s resignation. Ter-Petrosian and Pashinian met in July for the first time in years.
Senior HAK representatives also hailed criminal charges that were brought against former President Robert Kocharian and other former Armenian officials shortly after the “velvet revolution.” The charges stem from the March 2008 breakup of the post-election protests in Yerevan which left eight protesters and two policemen dead.
Last week, the HAK added its voice to Pashinian’s calls for Armenians to join him in marking the 11th anniversary of the violence on March 1.