Karabakh Human Rights Group Slams Armenian President

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A Nagorno-Karabakh human rights group today strongly condemned Levon Ter-Petrosyan over his conciliatory views on settling the conflict with Azerbaijan. A statement released in Stepanakert by the Nagorno-Karabakh Committee–"Helsinki Initiative 92," says Ter-Petrosyan’s recent remarks "damage a just solution" to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and "demoralize the entire Armenian people."

Last fall–Ter-Petrosyan said "unilateral deman’s" for Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan are unrealistic and will not be tolerated by the international community. He said Armenia’s economic development is impossible without the conflict’s settlement. Ter-Petrosyan has since reiterated his point in an article printed by the Armenian press and during several public speeches.

The strongly-worded statement accuses Ter-Petrosyan of "intimidating his own people with the prospect of a bleak future" and managing "to exclude Armenia from the list of democratic states" through his handling of the controversial September 1996 presidential elections.

The statement says the people of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are still ready to suffer deprivation for the sake of their ultimate goal and are "strong and consolidated than ever before." According to the Committee–"the Armenian people know well their history–rich in triumphs–humiliations and treason by their leaders."

The statement came a week after Ter-Petrosyan reportedly again failed to persuade the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh to accept the most recent internationally-brokered peace plan. A senior Nagorno-Karabakh official said Friday differences between Yerevan and Stepanakert deepened after the January 7-8 session of Armenia’s Security Council.

Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharian–Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and Interior and National Security Minister Serj Sarkisian reportedly backed Stepanakert’s position that rules out any "vertical subordination" to Baku.

The Committee–which is believed to have close ties with the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities–demanded that Ter-Petrosyan "respect the Karabakh people’s right of self-determination–given by God rather than a president."

"Stepanakert’s political circles" increasingly believe that not only the international community but also Armenia are now effectively encouraging Azerbaijan to toughen its position on resolving the conflict. According to them–the phased approach favored by the OSCE Minsk Group and "three or four senior Armenian officials led by Levon Ter-Petrosyan–is destructive for the aspirations of Artsakh and–therefore–the entire Armenian nation," reported Azg newspaper.

Murad Petrosian–the chairman of the committee on defense–security and state affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament–was quoted as saying that "the OSCE’s initiatives could have been taken seriously if our states had been situated in the center of Europe. Yet in our case–support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity means destruction of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The position of the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities and people derives from this fact… except Levon Ter-Petrosyan and the leadership of the Armenian parliament–this view is shared by all Armenian political forces and a number of the Armenian leaders."

"Ter-Petrosyan’s position took shape in the early 90s. All of his colleagues–except the Jirair Libaridians and a couple of Bleyans–were uninformed and blindly believed the leaders." The situation–according to the lawmaker–changed when the time to make a crucial decision came.

"Nobody from Armenia’s ruling circles openly backed the president. Having found himself alone–the president asked the people for help. Yet Levon Ter-Petrosyan has not received the traditional understanding because he has…underestimated their moral and psychological qualities." So there is now "only one option" for the president–which is "to form a new government composed of ruling Armenian Armenian-National Movement opportunists. But the opposite will happen. The whole unified Armenian nation will demand his resignation.

And there is no other way out," Petrosian concluded.

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