In a televised interview aired late on Monday, Ter-Petrosian said the Armenian opposition should help Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian accept “painful solutions” backed by the international community.
“All solutions will be bad for us,” he told Armenian Public Television. “I believe the challenge is to choose the least painful of those solutions.”
“Pashinian is also afraid of signing such a document,” he went on. “Whatever document he signs they will brand him a traitor, a Turk or I don’t know what. In my view, we will give Pashinian a helping hand if we choose the least painful variant. We will thereby shoulder responsibility for that variant.”
Ter-Petrosian claimed that Armenia will have to make even greater concessions if it rejects such a settlement now. He said at the same time that he does not know the exact terms of peace accords currently offered by Azerbaijan or major foreign powers. Only Pashinian and some members of his inner circle possess such information, he said.
The remarks came almost a week after Ter-Petrosian and two other former presidents, Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian, met to discuss grave security challenges facing Armenia. The meeting was hosted by Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, at his headquarters in Echmiadzin. No concrete agreements were apparently reached by them.
Kocharian and Sarkisian lead the two opposition groups represented in the Armenian parliament. They staged virtually daily street protests in Yerevan in May and June after Pashinian signaled readiness to make major concessions to Azerbaijan.
“No [national] unity can be formed with the participation of Nikol Pashinian,” Armen Ashotian, a senior member of Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), said on Monday night, commenting on Ter-Petrosian’s remarks.
Ashotian warned that because of his “tough personal position or unbridled ambition” Ter-Petrosian risks dashing hopes raised by the rare dialogue of the three ex-presidents. The latter have long had uneasy relations with each other.
There was no immediate official reaction from Kocharian’s Hayastan alliance. Still, some of its parliamentarians rejected what they see as a defeatist agenda promoted by Ter-Petrosian.
“What Levon Ter-Petrosian is saying is ‘forget about Karabakh’ and ‘we capitulated, so let’s accept everything that the enemy wants,’” one of those lawmakers, Gegham Manukian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Tuesday. “Ter-Petrosian voiced no calls for public consolidation, self-organization and resistance.”
Manukian claimed that Ter-Petrosian’s chief preoccupation now is to “save Nikol” through the proposed dialogue.
Meanwhile, a senior lawmaker representing Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, Artur Hovannisian, hit out at the parliamentary opposition forces, saying that they have “served the interests of other countries.” He did not name those countries.
Hovannisian at the same time said: “I hope that the meetings of the former presidents and the Catholicos will be beneficial for our country.”
Hayastan and the HHK demanded a parliamentary vote of no confidence in Pashinian after he sparked on September 14 a spontaneous antigovernment demonstration in Yerevan on the second day of deadly border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.
Speaking in the parliament, the prime minister expressed readiness to sign an unpopular peace treaty with Azerbaijan “as a result of which many people will criticize, curse and declare us traitors.” He said he is ready to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity through such a treaty if Baku withdraws its troops from Armenian border regions occupied by it.
Pashinian’s statement fueled rumors that Yerevan will unconditionally accept Baku’s terms of the treaty, including recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands of angry people rallied outside the parliament building in Yerevan to demand Pashinian’s removal from power.