YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation on Monday announced that it is quitting Armenia’s ruling coalition and cited “insurmountable, fundamental disagreements” over the government’s approach toward normalizing relations with Turkey
In a written statement presented by ARF Supreme Council of Armenia chairman Armen Rustamian Monday, the party condemned and called unacceptable the joint statement issued on April 22–less than two days before Armenian Genocide commemoration day–by the foreign ministries of Turkey and Armenia, announcing an agreement on a “roadmap” for normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations. The party also cited serious disagreements on some of the issues that are under discussion between Turkish and Armenian officials.
“Henceforth, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation will work as a new opposition force in Armenia’s political landscape,” said the statement, underlining that the party will present alternatives to the current government’s policies, and will aim at “counterbalancing and restraining” the actions of the authorities.
Rustamian explained that all party members holding senior positions in the executive and legislative branches will tender their resignations. The ARF was represented in government with three ministerial and several vice-ministerial portfolios, as well as two governors. ARF leaders also continued to occupy one of the two posts of deputy speaker and to chair two standing committees of the National Assembly.
The ARF stressed that it will be dealing with Turkey-Armenia relations and the Karabakh issue based, exclusively, on national interests.
The decision to pull out of the coalition government followed a meeting Saturday between President Serzh Sarkisian and two ARF leaders, Rustamian and ARF Bureau chairman, Hrant Markarian.
Rustamian said Sarkisian briefed them on the essence of the still unpublicized “roadmap” agreement. “The president’s explanations did not satisfy us,” Rustamian said on Monday.
The ARF strongly condemned the roadmap agreement, which was announced by the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries on April 22 and 23. Earlier last week, Markarian criticized the Sarkisian-administration’s policies on Turkey, saying that Yerevan has made major concessions to Ankara while failing to secure the lifting of the Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.
Rustamian on Monday reiterated the criticism, saying that Armenia has effectively ended its long-standing insistence on an unconditional establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of the border between the two estranged nations. He said that Ankara continues to make that conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and an end to the campaign for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
“The Turks are now trying to turn those preconditions into conditions and include them into a package [deal with Armenia],” said Rustamian, “For them the key thing is to exploit the process of normalization and they are doing that very well. We must realize that.”
Rustamian said that the Turkish-Armenian agreement could deter more countries from officially recognizing the Armenian genocide.
“We must never allow the replacement of the process of international recognition by efforts to force Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide,” he said. “One process should not suspend the other.”
“Nobody here doubts that Turkey will do everything to avoid recognizing the Armenian genocide,” added Rustamian.
Armenia’s leadership on Wednesday asked the ARF to continue chairing the Parliamentary Committees on Defense and Foreign Affairs, two major posts in Armenia’s National Assembly. The offer was publicly voiced by parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian.
Speaking on behalf of the Sarkisian administration, Abrahamian urged the ARF to allow Rustamian and Artur Aghabekian to continue to serve as chairmen of the parliament committees on foreign affairs and defense respectively. He cited a 2008 legal amendment that entitles opposition lawmakers to head some of the National Assembly panels.
“True, this change will apply to the next parliament,” Abrahamian said during a parliament session. “Nevertheless, the political coalition is urging the Armenian Revolutionary Federation faction to withdraw, while being in opposition, Armen Rustamian’s and Artur Aghabekian’s resignations.”
Hovannisian, the ARF’s parliamentary leader, thanked the ruling coalition for the offer. “We will discuss the proposal and present our response to the National Assembly chairman,” he said.
The ARF’s Supreme Body in Armenia met to discuss the matter later on Wednesday and on Thursday Hovannesian announced the party would retain its positions in the two posts.
In making the announcement, Hovanessian said “A powerful opposition will strengthen Armenia’s statehood. It is because of this principle that we decided to accept the suggestion, in an effort to not shift the political landscape.”
Hovannesian said the party was “mindful of the fact that this step is aimed at making the political area healthier” noting that the ARF has for years “fought, both inside and outside the coalition, for expanding opposition rights in our country and creating a civilized environment for debate.”
“We will strive to ensure that the opposition has more mechanisms for counterbalancing and restraining the authorities while working with them,” he said. “A strong opposition strengthens the state.”
Aghabekian on Friday, however, said he does not want to serve as the chairman of the parliament’s committee on defense and security anymore despite the party’s decision to retain the post. “I have talked about that with my friends, bureau comrades, the leader of our faction and we arrived at the conclusion that I am making the right decision,” said Aghabekian.
Full Text of ARF Statement Announcing Exit from Coalition
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation announces the cessation of its participation in the governing coalition.
We deem it necessary to explain this step in view of its political significance and consequences, and the public’s interest.
First of all, the ARF joined the coalition in order to overcome, through uniting of forces, the crisis facing the country following the presidential elections and the threats to the independence and security of the two Armenian states, and with the aim of making coordinated reforms.
During this period there were certain achievements, but insurmountable disagreements on matters of principle emerged with respect to the direction of the foreign policy.
It has always been our conviction that one of the main directions of the state’s national security strategy is the universal recognition and condemnation, especially by Turkey, of the Armenian Genocide. This is seen not only in the context of the restoration of historical justice, but also as a way to improve the overall environment of mutual trust in the region, while also preventing similar crimes in the future. In this sense, as we have already announced, we find unacceptable and condemn the agreement by Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to join the April 22 joint statement with Turkey, on the eve of April 24 and when the leaders of Turkey are making anti-Armenian announcements and restating preconditions for the normalization of relations. We also have principled disagreements with the position of the authorities of Armenia on certain issues being discussed in the Armenia-Turkey negotiations. We will publicize our positions regarding those issues when they are discussed in public.
Henceforth, in the political landscape of Armenia the ARF will assume a new role, that of an opposition force. Our main priorities will be:
1. To become a full-fledged alternative to the authorities, proposing our own programs and solutions on all major issues.
2. As opposition to assume the role of effectively counterbalancing and restraining the authorities.
3. To take the necessary actions to heal and refine the political landscape, to form civilized relations between the authorities and the opposition, to establish social justice and to strengthen democracy.
4. To carry on comprehensive programs emanating from electoral promises, showcasing the ARF’s ideological and political convictions.
5. In the processes of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations and the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, to be guided exclusively by our state-national interests and goals.
We appreciate the work carried out jointly with our coalition partners and we wish them success in their endeavors in the interest of our state and people.
ARMENIAN REVOLUTIONARY FEDERATION
SUPREME BODY OF ARMENIA
April 27, 2009