"The least painful solution" or "the path of struggle"? Choice of former presidents of Armenia
Discussion of Armenia’s future by former presidents
“The differences are quite serious,” former President Robert Kocharian said during a September 28 press conference about Armenia’s future as envisioned by its former leaders. He was referring to a meeting of all ex-presidents of Armenia and the unrecognized NKR which took place on the initiative of the Catholicos of all Armenians. After the meeting, it was reported that the discussion was constructive and “a decision was made to continue the meetings.”
The meeting was followed by an interview with the first president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, on public television, and a press conference with Robert Kocharyan. Both believe the country is in a difficult situation, but their opinions on possible solutions differ.
Levon Ter-Petrosyan is convinced that difficult negotiations should be expected, after which agreements with Turkey and Azerbaijan will be signed. He suggested that the opposition and government discuss the situation and choose the least painful solutions.
Robert Kocharyan believes that “doors open to those who fight” for their rights. What he proposes according to the main points of his press conference.
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“Surrender does not need consolidation”
According to Kocharyan, the consolidation of society in the current situation is a necessary condition, but “in order to lead the people to victory, not capitulation.”
Kocharyan is convinced that if the authorities wanted to achieve the consolidation of society, they would take practical steps toward this.
“Where is the initiative? What is it expressed in? Why did you decide that [Prime Minister Pashinyan] needs this? He is not ready to unite people for lofty goals,” the ex-president said.
“The situation is difficult, but we must not give up”
Kocharyan does not agree with Ter-Petrosyan’s opinion that “it is necessary to sign a document on surrender,” because he says,“there are no hopeless situations”:
“I strongly disagree with his assessments. Yes, the situation is difficult; yes, there are many problems. But this does not mean that we should simply give up and accept the demands that are put before Armenia.”
Levon Ter-Petrosyan stated in his interview that all decisions would be “bad for Armenia”: “I was the first to say that Armenia capitulated… Japan was not humiliated in its time, did not capitulate, what’s wrong with that? This was not our desire, circumstances led to this.”
“Ready to meet with Pashinyan”
Despite tense relations with the Prime Minister of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan stated that he is ready to meet with him to discuss a way out of the situation.
“People have high hopes that former presidents and Catholicos will find a way out of the situation. But it is up to the government to find a way out. The country will be pulled out of the crisis not by former presidents, who today do not have the appropriate levers, but by the government,” he said.
According to Kocharyan, the opposition can overcome the crisis only if it achieves a change of power.
He says there are people among the opposition who can act as candidates for the post of prime minister. However, he did not name names, as he believes that the authorities may initiate criminal cases against them.”
He did not say whether he sees himself as possible head of state, but he said that he was ready to support anyone who “could unite the people.”
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“Levers of influence on Baku and Ankara are limited”
Kocharyan believes that Armenia has lost its position in the region, the role of Baku and Ankara has increased, and Russia and the United States’ influence on Turkey and Azerbaijan is limited.
“At a time like this, ignoring the issue of security to the best of our ability is criminal inaction. The Prime Minister’s UN speech was a memorial service for the era of peace he had declared. This meant that there were no such expectations. We need to turn this page,” Kocharyan said.
He believes the situation in the country is explosive:
“On the one hand, there is a compulsion to make some decisions; on the other hand, there is a danger that these decisions could cause Armenia to implode.”
“Involve Iran in Armenia’s new security architecture”
Robert Kocharyan proposes that military cooperation with Iran be deepened. In his view this is the only country, except for Armenia, for which the inviolability of the Syunik border region is important. “Virtually nothing has been done in this direction” over the past two years, the ex-president maintains:
“We had to conduct military exercises with Iran in Syunik at least twice. During this time it was necessary to prepare a certain contractual framework with Iran. And all this would be a deterrent for Azerbaijan.”
According to Kocharyan, there are other opportunities for cooperation, in particular the purchase of attack drones from Iran.
At the same time, he says that cooperation with Iran does not pose a threat to Russia’s interests.
“The topic of Karabakh is not in the negotiation process”
During the press conference, Kocharyan also drew attention to the fact that the topic of Nagorno-Karabakh is absent from the negotiation processes, while it is about the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations:
“The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict arose because of Karabakh. I can imagine the resolution of these relations without certainty and a common understanding on the Karabakh issue.”
Discussion of Armenia’s future by former presidents