Ter Petrosyan Sees No Progress On Karabakh Since His Resignation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan said on Friday the present Armenian authorities that forced him to resign one year ago have failed to achieve any progress in settling the long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ter-Petrosyan said he still believes that the Armenia’s must offer more concessions to Azerbaijan to end the decade-long territorial dispute.

Ter-Petrosyan–who served as Armenian head of state from 1990 to 1998–was speaking to reporters for the first time since his resignation at a congress of his Armenian National Movement.

The ex-president stepped down in February 1998 after failing to win the government’s support for a then existing plan on Karabakh–put forward by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. His key ministers–led by then Prime Minister and currently President Robert Kocharian–rejected that plan–which reportedly upheld Azeri sovereignty over the Armenian-populated disputed enclave.

"I haven’t changed my position," Ter-Petrosyan said. "I knew the way for a solution. If they (the authorities) delay with that solution we won’t get even half of what were offered in 1997."

The OSCE’s so-called Minsk Group last November unveiled a new plan based on the idea of a "common state" between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The proposals have been overall accepted by the Armenian and Karabakh authorities–who have called it a major improvement over the previous ones. Baku has firmly rejected the idea–saying that it does not guarantee Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

But Ter-Petrosyan played down the changes in the OSCE plan and said the absence of progress in the Karabakh peace process is what matters most. "Nothing has changed in Karabakh. The situation has remained the same," he said.

In a now famous discourse three months prior to his resignation–Ter-Petrosyan warned that the OSCE negotiators will impose the former Karabakh plan on the Armenian side if it refuses to accept it. Ter-Petrosyan also indicated that no improvement has occurred over the past year in other areas–either. "I quit to prevent things from deteriorating. I do not regret [my resignation]," he said.

The ex-president–known for his aloofness and avoidance of the press–has lived in seclusion since leaving office–making very few public appearances. He initially refused to answer any questions but then gave in–besieged by reporters.

Ter-Petrosyan showed up at the ANM congress as the former ruling party struggles to stay in the political arena following the flight of its chairman in the face of murder charges. Vano Siradeghian–who served as interior minister under Ter-Petrosyan–has been accused by prosecutors of organizing contract killings while in power. The ex-president repeated his condemnation of the authorities over the charges–describing them as "disgraceful."

Ter-Petrosyan said he continues to be a member of the ANM but will not seek any posts in the center-right party. Nor will he stand as a candidate in the May parliamentary elections. In his words–despite many "mistakes" during its eight-year rule–the ANM must try to restore its formerly strong positions in Armenia.

The first president of independent Armenia refused–however–to acknowledge as a mistake the 1994 ban on the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation–a move which many believe cast a shadow on his leadership’s once democratic image. "The ARF was engaged in terror," he claimed. "I thereby prevented further terror. You should be grateful because there were no acts of terror from 1994 to 1998. The ban has proved to be absolutely justified."

Dozens of ARF activists were charged with "terrorism" and coup plotting in what appeared to be politically motivated trials. Most of them were released from jail shortly after Kocharian came to power. The ARF has been one of Kocharian’s leading allies ever since. Asked about ongoing political developmen’s in Armenia and his possible to return to politics–Ter-Petrosyan gave mostly evasive answers. He rejected the argument that he is leading a quiet life–saying: "I hold meetings almost every day." But there have been no meetings with any of the current government officials–he said. Also according to Ter-Petrosyan–he now enjoys reading books on "social psychology" and American politics. "I’m learning," he said.

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