Speech by Levon Ter-Petrosyan at the meeting in September 17, 2010

Dear compatriots,

Although I do not have the habit of commenting on thoughts I have expressed previously, I have to make some additional clarifications regarding the claims made in my speech at the ANM congress (07.17.2010), because it has become subject to certain controversies, misunderstandings, and distortions.  All I did in that speech was to make three unrelated assertions stemming from the objective reality.

            First: “Armenia does not have prospects for a secure existence, economic growth and improvement of demographic conditions without resolving the Karabagh conflict and normalizing the Armenian-Turkish relations.”  On par with its intellectual capacity, the official propaganda has interpreted this fairly straightforward assertion as a call to cede Karabagh in order to ensure Armenia’s development. Meanwhile, there is no need to prove that what I have stressed is the need to resolve the Karabagh conflict (and consequently to normalize the Armenia-Turkish relations).  To resolve is one thing, and to cede is another.  Who is telling you to cede anything or to return territories?  If you are opposed to making concessions or compromises, find a resolution without them.  Who wouldn’t be happy about it?  Only whatever route you choose, you have to realize that you have to resolve the conflict – I repeat, resolve the conflict, not concede Karabagh – because…

            Because it is impossible not to see that the unsettled conflict in Karabagh and the failure to normalize the relations with Turkey are creating insurmountable obstacles on the path of regional cooperation, full utilization of the transit routes, attracting foreign investment, Armenia’s economic development, the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the population, the eradication of the factors that encourage emigration, and at the same time, they serve as an ideal tool for justifying the constraints on democratic freedoms, violations of human rig hts, political persecution, and the unrestrained plunder of the country.  The best articulation of this mentality, which our authorities subscribe to, has come from a nationalist public intellectual – Rouben Gevorgyants – who has approximately said the following: “Armenia first has to solve its national problems, and only then worry about democracy and the rule of law.”  And since our national problems are endless, which means that after Karabagh we will have to solve the problems of Nakhichevan, Javakhq, Kars-Ardahan, Western Armenia, and Cilicia in succession, there will be no democracy, no rule of law, no free and fair elections, and the country will continue to be plundered for another hundred years, provided of course there is still a country by then.

            Second: “As long as the conflict has not been resolved, we cannot rule out the possibility that a war will break out again.  The claim ‘the alternative to compromise is war’ has not lost and will never lose its urgency, regardless of how much time we will need to be convinced in its correctness.” It is difficult for me to understand why the propaganda machine of the government is getting so nervous about this claim and is trying so hard to find proof of my willingness to make unilateral concessions, shamelessly neglecting the fact that I am talking not about unilateral concessions, but mutual concessions, about a compromise settlement.  It is also difficult to understand why that machine is not trying to prove the opposite, namely that the alternative to compromise is not war, but, say, the international recognition of Karabagh or Azerbaijan’s unconditional capitulation.  Although, we should not worry about the prospect of war too much, because one of the outstanding representatives of the government propaganda machine recently made the very brave statement that in case of the resumption of war the glorious Armenian army will reconquer all the territories of historic Armenia up to the banks of the river Kur.  Naturally, we have no reason to doubt the veracity of the statement the members of our honorable government make.  We should just not forget to mention that Yerevan’s Freedom Square has been the only territory the Kocharyan/Serge regime has conquered since 1998, which, however, will soon be returned to its rightful owner – the people.

            Third: “Afghanistan, Israel, Iran, and the economic crisis are such a heavy burden for the West that they make it very difficult for the West to think about Karabagh or about the South Caucasus more generally…  By contrast, the South Caucasus remains an area of vital interests for Russia, and it would be naïve to think that Russia is ever going to abandon the policy of defending those interests….  This means that the key to resolving the Karabagh conflict, and even to normalizing the Armenian-Turkish relations, is in Russia’s hands.  Therefore, any government in Armenia must look for the solution of these vital problems in that geopolitical context, regardless of its preferences.” Undoubtedly, the prolongation of the period of operation of the Russian military base in Armenia and the deal to sell S-300 systems to Azerbaijan further solidify Russia’s positions in the South Caucasus and infinitely expand Russia’s role in the process of resolving the Karabagh conflict.  It becomes abundantly clear in the light of the most recent developments that no matter how much Russia agrees with the plans and the proposals worked out by the Minsk Group, it is under no circumstances going to allow the stationing of international peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone, and it is most certainly not going to reconcile itself to NATO’s presence in the South Caucasus in any shape or form.  These observations cannot be characterized as pro-Russian or anti-Western, as they were perceived by or presented by some, but only as a statement of fact, which is unrelated to ones preferences and political orientations.    According to the information I have, instead of drawing the correct conclusions, the Armenian authorities are unfortunately trying to make temporary gains by linking everything to orientations, turning it into a matter of personal preferences.  In particular, they whisper in the Americans’ ears that Ter-Petrosyan is pro-Russian, and in the Russians’ ears that he is pro-American.  They hope to discredit me and the Armenian National Congress in this manner, relying on the following stereotypes: according to the dominant view in Russia, if any movement is democratic, then it is “orange,” while in the West they think that if a movement is not anti-Russian, then it is not democratic.  This pitiful behavior of the Armenian authorities shows that they have pinned their hopes exclusively on external forces not only for solving external, but also the country’s internal problems.

            I also cannot fail to talk about the following significant development, which transpired in Baku two weeks ago, and which was left unnoticed by our political commentators.  I am referring to the unequivocal statement made both by Aliyev and Medvedev that Russia and Azerbaijan are strategic partners from now on.  Such words have been uttered in the past as well, but for the first time they are backed up by real content.  In other words, we are witnessing what I had predicted as far back as on January 8, 1998 in my speech at the meeting of the National Security Council, where I made the following statement: “I don’t rule out, actually I think it is quite natural and probable, that taking into account the issues related to the extraction of Caspian oil and the construction of oil pipelines, Russia is going to make serious efforts toward normalizing the relations with Azerbaijan in the near future, which means that Armenia is going to lose its advantage of being Russia’s only ally or strategic partner in the South Caucasus.”  (LTP, Select Speeches, p. 658.)  What consequences the strategic partnership between Russia and Azerbaijan can have for Armenia and Karabagh alike, should not be difficult to imagine. 

            Thus there are all the indications for concluding that the new Russian-Turkish-Azerbaijani format for the Karabagh negotiations is becoming a reality.  It is not to say that this new format is coming to replace the Minsk Group, which I think will be maintained even if it will be if only for coordinating the international efforts and for not irritating the West unnecessarily.  The main processes, however, will be taking place in this new format, which is what had given me cause to compare the current state of affairs with the situation in 1920.  As political commentators and journalists have noted, Serge Sargsyan has lost all his maneuver space.   If up to this point he has been able to give certain promises and to make certain concessions to the West at the expense of our national interests, and get absolution for his unlawful acts – election fraud, political persecution, and the extreme levels of corruption – now with the extension of the period of operation of the Russian military base and the new geopolitical situation emerging in the South Caucasus as a result of the Russian-Turkish-Azerbaijani cooperation, the limits of that forgiving attitude have been reached.   In this regard, we should not forget that the government of the United States of America so far has been the only one that has expressed most serious doubts regarding Serge Sargsyan’s legitimacy.  More than the absence of a congratulatory message from the president of the USA, that claim is evidenced by the report on Armenia prepared in that country’s State Department, where the last presidential elections are characterized as no less than “significantly flawed,” and where concern is expressed regarding the extremely high voter turnout.  Taking into account the fact that even according to the official tally Serge Sargsyan received only 2.5 percent more than the minimum necessary for victory, “significantly flawed” and “extremely high voter turnout” should be seen as characterizations that openly call into question the outcome of the election, because in order to earn such characterizations, the fraud must have affected not 1 or 2, but at least 10 to 20 percent.  Moreover, the government of the United States is well aware not only of the fact of Serge Sargsyan’s illegitimacy, but also of the intolerable fact that his administration does not make determined efforts to combat the wide-spread corruption in Armenia (Corruption remained widespread, and authorities did not make determined efforts to combat it). This means that just like us, the US government considers the current Armenian administration to be a kleptocracy, because there is no other name for an authority, which does not make determined efforts to combat widespread corruption in its own country. In other words, if it does not fight corruption, it is either fully behind it or, at the very least, encourages it.  Being well aware of these facts and stating them officially, the US government, as we have noted repeatedly, has nevertheless been giving full support to Serge Sargsyan over the last two and a half years, turning a blind eye to his blatant crimes and the endless torment of Armenia’s citizens.  I think it is unnecessary to comment on the motives behind this behavior. It is only worth emphasizing that in the illegitimacy and corruption of the current Armenian authorities the West found powerful leverage. In exchange for its absolute support, the West has up to now been able to extract the desired promises and concessions from Serge Sargsyan, both with regard to the Nagorno-Karabagh settlement and the Armenian-Turkish relations. However, if these promises remain unfulfilled and the concessions are not made, the aforementioned leverage will definitely be used in the opposite direction, the time for which seems to be approaching. 

All Serge Sargsyan can do now is resign to his fate, looking for luck in Moscow and Ankara, or to be more precise, in the high court of the Russian-Turkish-Azerbaijani triangle. However, since he was quite late to jump onto that bandwagon, only disappointments are in store for him there.  But Serge Sargssian’s psychological upheavals should be the least of our concerns. In these troubling circumstances the Armenians’ total focus must be on the imminent dangers facing Karabagh and Armenia, because just like in 1920 we are now facing the threat of imposed solutions. Trying to quench their thirst for power at all costs, our state officials are taking the country to the brink of collapse or, at the very least, a national disaster. Some of the Dashnak leaders retrospectively confessed that had they handed the power to the Bolsheviks in May, 1920, Armenia would have not lost the regions of Kars, Ardahan, Sumanlu and Nakhichevan, and in that case the solution of the Karabagh issue could have also been different. Yet, instead of doing that, they remorselessly slaughtered the leaders of the May Uprising and threw hundreds of the participant in prisons, unwisely triggering Russia’s wrath and hostility, to put things mildly, and imposing a bitter price for it on our homeland.

It goes without saying that the only clear conclusion to be drawn from what was said is that the only way to meet the threats facing Karabagh and Armenia is the change of power and the establishment of a new administration through legitimate elections, which will not be forced to make unnecessary concessions to compensate for its illegitimacy and corruption, and which, to put it more bluntly, will not be forced to commit treason. Despite the ongoing rumors, change of power has been and remains the main goal of the Armenian National Congress, which we are going to pursue persistently and relentlessly, no matter how fierce the resistance of the kleptocracy may be, or how much help we will get from other political forces concerned with the destiny of our country, or to what extent the international community will continue to support Armenia’s criminal authorities.  At the same time, the delay in the change of power does not mean that we should stop thinking about finding a way to at least partially improve the situation now.  We repeatedly stated and remain of the same opinion today that two bold steps can dramatically change the course of unfavorable developments in the Karabagh resolution process:

1.      Liberalization of Armenia’s political life – elimination of restrictions on democracy, release of political prisoners, and the establishment of national accord and solidarity.

2.      Restoration of Nagorno-Karabagh’s status as a full party to the conflict granted by the decision of the OSCE Summit in Budapest.

Serge Sargssian does neither one, nor the other, which is akin to national treason given that the present circumstances demand maximum responsibility. Therefore, on behalf of the Armenian National Congress I take full responsibility in stating:

1.      Although we are for the speedy resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict, we are going to oppose categorically any settlement plan, where the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic will not be represented as a party to the conflict, as well as any document, which will not have the signature of its representative.

2.      With the same determination we will not accept the ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols, until the provision on the establishment of the intergovernmental commission comprised of Turkish and Armenian historians has been removed from them.

3.      We will also demand that the final agreement on the Nagorno-Karabagh settlement be put on national referendum both in Karabagh and Armenia, which must not be considered something out of the ordinary, since a similar idea was once included in the proposals of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

First, Sargsyan has never received any popular mandate to make concessions, as there is no single point in his election campaign program, which would inform the public at large about the establishment of the joint commission of Turkish and Armenian historians, about leaving out the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic from the negotiating process, or which would make a promise to opening foreign-language schools in Armenia, and secondly, he is simply not the elected president. Therefore, he has no right whatsoever to make any decisions, issue decrees, ratify laws or sign any agreements. All the resolutions, decrees, laws and agreements that have been signed by him to date lack any legal force.

Does this mean that we should consider our readiness to start a dialogue with the authorities null and void? Not yet, as we should take into account the national interest. However, to make such a dialogue possible, in addition to insisting on our old precondition regarding the release of the political prisoners, we now demand that the circumstances of all ten killings, which happened on 1 March, 2008 be disclosed and those responsible be brought to justice. And the dialogue can only be held around one issue - the peaceful, constitutional transfer of power to the people, which is possible to accomplish through pre-term elections, first presidential and then only parliamentary. As Stepan Demirchyan has put it insightfully, since the present crisis in Armenia was the result of elections, it should also be overcome by elections.

The change of power is not an end in itself for us, but first and foremost a matter of principle, because first, the power stolen from the people should be returned to them, and, secondly, because this is the historical necessity prompted by the current challenges facing Karabagh and Armenia, which cannot be dealt with in any other way.

I have no doubt that Serge Sargssian will not finish his term. He can leave office either having earned the complete hostility of the people, or more or less reconciled with them. It is obvious that the second option should be more preferable both for him and the people. Otherwise, the already countless losses suffered by our country, can become irreversible.

Today we are moving into a new, more committed phase of our struggle, which will guarantee the final victory. The next nation-wide public rally of the Congress will take place on October 15. A good portion of my speech will focus on one of the most dangerous and scandalous phenomena of Armenia’s current reality – corruption – which, without any exaggeration, is destroying our country and is condemning our people to hopeless misery.  The Armenian National Congress plans to organize several other acts of mass protest during the month of October, about which Levon Zourabian will inform you. 

I would like to conclude my remarks by referring to the passionate appeal our beloved maestro Ohan Durian made when he addressed the people in the interview given on the occasion of his 88th birthday: “There is a kleptocracy and there is the people combating it. There is no need for a third, a fourth or a tenth force. It only has the aim of dividing and misleading the people.  …Let’s all together move toward the new Armenia - a real democracy, without cheaters, corrupt officials, and murderers. Don’t stay home, hiding in your kitchens and backyards. Come out united - all those who are oppressed, insulted, robbed, and forced to leave the homeland.” (Haykakan Zhamanak, 08.09.2010) Had everybody been imbued with the civil wisdom of the world-famous conductor, we would have built the real democracy and new Armenia a long time ago.

Let’s now join the march and see you at the next rally.

17 September 2010

2010-11-09Speech by Levon Ter-Petrossian at the November 9, 2010 public rally

Dear Compatriots,

MHM52402-copy.jpgSince today's rally has been convened on the occasion of the seminar on human rights, which is taking place in Yerevan as part of the "EU-Armenia dialogue," the problem of political prisoners is naturally going again to be the main subject of my speech today. It is perhaps the most appropriate occasion to lay out the position of the Armenian National Congress on this issue comprehensively and conclusively. 

2010-10-20Լեւոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանի ելույթը 2010 թ. հոկտեմբերի 19-ի հանրահավաքում
2010-10-15Speech by Levon Ter-Petrossian at the October 15, 2010 public rally

Dear Compatriots,

I promised at the last rally that my speech today would be dedicated primarily to one of the most dangerous and disgraceful problems that plagues Armenia - the incredible depth of the corruption. But before I get on to the core subject, I would like to deal with one absurdity, which is being fed to our people day and night for more than a year already. We are accused of focusing on the foreign policy issues at the expense of the problems of domestic politics, and what is more, statements have been made that the authorities have succeeded in imposing their agenda on the opposition, diverting the latter from the goals of effecting change in the country's domestic life. These nicely formulated and at first convincing-sounding statements, however, have nothing to do either with reality or with the elementary tenets of the study of politics. Putting aside the trivial cliché about international politics being the extension of domestic politics, we should just point out that the separation of domestic and international politics is simply done for reasons of methodological convenience. Any state's foreign and domestic policies form a united whole, and they inform the agendas of both the government and the opposition as such. Domestic politics depends on foreign policy as much as foreign policy depends on domestic politics. No thinking person could raise or has raised objections against the claim that the continued foreign policy failures of the Armenian government are the definite result of the unhealthy internal atmosphere in the country, and in particular the corrupt and illegitimate nature of the authorities. It is equally obvious that many of the negative aspects of the country's domestic life are the consequence of external circumstances. Is it not clear that we would not have political prisoners, fraudulent elections, limitations on democracy, blatant violations of human rights, or corruption that is so widespread, had it not been for the tolerant attitude of the outside world, and had the great powers not regarded all these things as convenient tools in the service of their geopolitical goals? So the activities of the Armenian National Congress are anchored in the realization of the organic interconnectedness of the external and internal problems, and let nobody search for a black cat in a dark room, because there is no cat.

2010-07-20Speech by Levon Ter-Petrosyan at the 16th congress of ANM, 17 July 2010

Dear comrades and guests,

LevonTer-Petrossian_ANMIt is obvious that the Congress of the ANM is taking place amidst a supersensitive situation in Armenia both internally and externally and in a situation characterized by serious challenges facing the country. I am not going to provide a detailed analysis of the situation, nor am I going to evaluate the actions of the authorities or those of the opposition stemming from it, and I certainly do not want to criticize or accuse anybody. All possible criticisms and mutual accusations have been aired many times over, and it is hardly possible to add something new to them. As far as the analyses and assessments are concerned, they are available in abundance as well. The question is whether that abundance helps shed light on the vital problems of the state.
Not denying the usefulness of analyses and assessments, from the perspective of practical politics it is more important to calmly uncover and identify those basic realities, which any judicious political force must take into account, be it a force in power or in opposition. Ignoring those realities and allowing oneself to be guided by wishful thinking is equivalent to criminal naiveté or political derangement. If a policy is not based on realities, it can be called anything, but policy.

2010-04-06Լեւոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանի ելույթը 2010 թ. ապրիլի 6-ի հանրահավաքում
2010-03-01Լեւոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանի ելույթը 2010 թ. մարտի 1-ի հանրահավաքում