Levon Ter-Petrossian speech at the rally of 15.05.2009

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Armenia at the crossroads of geopolitical conflicts  (2009) 
by Levon Ter-Petrossian, translated by Armenian National Congress

Dear compatriots, It would seem that local elections, or in this case elections to the Council of Elders of Yerevan, should not be a reason to focus too much on foreign policy issues, but the unique situation of Armenia, which is characterized by unprecedented interconnectedness and interdependence of domestic politics and foreign policy, compels us to dwell on these issues over and over again. Presently its necessity is also dictated by disconcerting international developments around Armenia.

The Progression of Events[edit]

Even before the passions had calmed down following the failed attempts of the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and the renouncing of the genocide by Serge Sargsyan, during the weeks after the last rally we have become the witnesses of 3 unexpected notable events, which are impossible to ignore.

  1. Armenia, on its own initiative or under the pressure from member states of the Organization of the Treaty of Collective Security (OTCS), unexpectedly decided at the last minute to refuse to participate in the NATO exercises being held in Georgia.
  2. A seemingly serious movement to recognize NKR as a full party to the conflict, i.e. to restore its status determined at the Budapest summit of OSCE, was launched in Nagorno Karabakh at the highest level and undoubtedly with the approval of the Armenian authorities.
  3. On 7 May at the meeting with Azerbaijan ’s president in Prague, which was held in a very tense atmosphere, Serge Sargsyan hardened his position on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, which, the obligatory optimistic statements of the co-chairmen of the Minsk group notwithstanding, has been basically revealed by the Azerbaijai and Turkish media and even more clearly by the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kuchner ("Haykakan Zhamanak" 09.05.2009)

What Does This Mean?[edit]

Or how can one explain Armenia’s, or more accurately Serge Sargsyan’s, hasty steps, which do not leave the impression of actions based on careful calculations, but rather look like convulsions and political demarches. Apparently, the reason is Serge Sargsyan's feeling that he was taken advantage of by America and Turkey, since even in exchange for renouncing the genocide the Armenian-Turkish boarder was not opened, while Turkey, after having solved its immediate problem of preventing the recognition of the Armenian genocide in the USA, returned to its prior position of making the establishment of relations with Armenia dependent on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. Sargsyan feels cheated like a child. He was told to give the genocide, i.e. agree to the creation of a commission of Armenian and Turkish historians and we will open the boarder. They got the genocide but did not open the boarder. Now they are saying surrender Karabakh and we will open the boarder. No head of state has ever found himself in such a pitiful situation. Sargsyan’s frustration and anger are perfectly understandable human emotions. After risking his reputation and even earning the label of a traitor both in Armenia and especially in the Diaspora he did not improve his legitimacy or solidify his shaking rule. He was even unable to satisfy his expectation of solving the difficult economic problems facing the country through the opening of the Turkish-Armenian boarder, which, if implemented, could have at least partially justified his ill-fated policy toward Turkey. Frustration and anger are, of course, human emotions, but they are not psychological states fitting a head of state, because such emotions can cause disastrous consequences for the country and its people, an example of which we witnessed in August of last year in neighboring Georgia. The head of state must always keep his composure, not give in to the pressures of the moment, and have the ability to avoid hasty and miscalculated decisions. Frustration, anger and other similar emotional reactions not only do not contribute to the correction of the committed errors, they become the reason for new ones.

The west’s responses to Serge Sargsyan’s demarche[edit]

One would have to be naive to think that the West would have left Serge Sargsyan’s demarche unanswered. And the answer was not long in coming.

  1. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe unexpectedly decided to include the question of the fulfillment of Armenia’s commitments in the area of democracy and Human Rights in the agenda of its June session.
  2. It was revealed that the US government has reduced the financial aid to Armenia by 40% in the fiscal year 2010, decided to halt the humanitarian assistance to NKR, and, by contrast, to increase its military assistance to Azerbaijan (Haykakan Zhamanak, Chorrord Ishkhanutyun 09.05.2009).
  3. And finally, the Prime minister of Turkey Recep Erdogan threatened to make an effort to have Armenia recognized as an aggressor country at the UN, taking advantage of the fact that Turkey is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (Zhamanak 08.05.2009).

These steps do not necessarily mean that the West has decided to punish Serge Sargsyan. He is an extremely valuable and an appreciated partner for the West. It is no coincidence that Sargsyan himself has recently stated that the more he is being denounced in Armenia the more he is praised in Europe. The aforementioned steps, therefore, are directed not against Serge Sargsyan but against Armenia and its people. And as for Sargsyan’s frustration and hurt feelings, the West has the way to soothe them, which is to ignore the fact of his illegitimacy and to tolerate the violence he is committing in his own country.

No matter what, even if not for Serge Sargsyan personally, the West’s and Turkey’s reactions are a serious problem for the country, which obliges both the Armenian authorities and the Armenian society to be concerned and too look for adequate solutions.

What Is the Way Out?[edit]

Serge Sargsyan has two ways out of the deadlock our country has found itself in:

  1. To unite the nation, which requires the immediate release of all the political prisoners, the launch of a dialogue with the Armenian National Congress, as well as the other oppositional forces, and taking into account the current domestic political agenda, the insuring of the proper conduct of the elections to Yerevan’s Council of Elders.
  2. Admitting his inaptitude at the task of overcoming the problems facing the country, to resign with dignity and to leave politics, because as the nightmare of the past year has demonstrated, politics is not a responsibility for him, but a profitable occupation or a means of satisfying his lust for power.

The more he delays choosing between these two paths, the more he will contribute to the intensification of external pressures on Armenia and to the deterioration of the already dreadful situation of the country. Stubbornness and procrastination are going to force Serge Sargsyan to make new concessions under external pressure, which will come at the expense of our national interests, as he has done during the past year of his rule.

Now you tell me is there a link between foreign policy and domestic politics? Is it not obvious from what was said above that every single instance of falsified elections, political persecution, limits imposed on democracy, trampling of human rights, and corruption in the end inevitably results in defeats for the country on the diplomatic front? The foreign policy of the Kocharian-Sargsyan regime is thus a chain of diplomatic defeats and all of those defeats are explained only and only by the dictatorial behavior that regime has subscribed to in Armenia’s domestic life. Up to recently in response to criticism addressed to Robert Kocharian and Serge Sargsyan their supporters and defenders were saying that even though the elections are falsified, democracy is raped, human rights are trampled, laws are violated, and corruption is blossoming in Armenia, at least in national issues (the recognition of Genocide, Karabakh resolution, etc.), Kocharian and Sargsyan are uncompromising and that they would never betray the Armenian people’s interests. Life has shown that this myth also exploded and that the Kocharian-Sargsyan regime has been left without reason d'etre. The aforementioned supporters and those who have been dedicating odes to the regime are now trying to put an equality sign between my and Serge Sargsyan’s policies or even characterize them as identical, particularly on the issue of Armenian-Turkish relations in order to escape the awkward situation they have found themselves in. I consider responding to such absurd claims a waste of time. In a few days a compilation of my speeches dedicated to the Armenian-Turkish relations will be published and you will have the opportunity to compare and see to what degree my policies were identical to those of Serge Sargsyan.

Putting a heavy emphasis on foreign policy may create the impression that we are avoiding the discussion of issues related to the elections to Yerevan’s Council of Elders, as well as the problems related to the capital’s functioning and development. That is not justified at all, since those issues are reflected in the pre-election program of the Armenian National Congress in meticulous detail, 100,000 copies of which have been distributed. Besides we always raise these questions during the rallies in Yerevan’s communities. National rallies, like the one we are holding today, give an opportunity and at the same time demand that we put the questions at stake in an all-national context.

Consequently, the total dependence of Armenia’s foreign policy on its domestic politics automatically allows us to think that we should see the elections to Yerevan’s Council of Elders as not just as ordinary means of forming a body of local self-government, but also as an exceptional opportunity to pull the country out of a dangerous fix. These elections are going to decide not only, or even not so much, the fate of Yerevan, but also the fate of the Armenian statehood, Nagorno-Karabakh, the recognition of the Genocide, or the fate of the whole nation if you want. People, therefore, should take part in the elections with this realization. Those who will prefer to step aside and keep silent, those who will sell their votes, those who will vote for the regime’s candidates, and finally, those who will refrain from participating in the elections out of indifference, will not only deprive their children of the opportunity to live in a normal, civilized, and secure country, they will willingly or unwillingly become the accomplices of the wicked authorities, who on top of everything have embarked on a path of national treason.

The mayoral election is not an end in itself and our participation in it is not a manifestation of our lust for power. If nothing else, our victory will allow us to create a powerful counterweight to the current plutocratic regime, which in turn will make it possible to hold it in check and prevent it from committing evil deeds in the future, as well as watch over its treasonous intentions. In addition, it will contribute to the uniting and strengthening of the nation.

Who is finally going to catch the evildoer’s hand, if not you, if not every single one of you? If you have not learned your lesson and if by your passivity or indifference you allow the Kocharyan-Sargsyan regime to falsify the elections again, you cannot blame others for your misfortune anymore. I hope, however, that this admonition will not become a “voice in the wilderness,” and that you will fulfill your civic and patriotic duty as one person. But that is not enough. You, who have gathered here, are the most active population in the republic. Aside from fulfilling your duty, you have the duty of waking up the indifferent segments of the society and to make sure that they participate in the elections. Do all of that and you will attain your goal.


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