OPPOSITION, ESPECIALLY, 'DASHNAKTSUTIUN', ENHANCES PRESSURE ON ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT: DIRECTOR OF ARMENIAN CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

Trend News Agency
Sept 1 2009
Azerbaijan

Opposition, especially, the "Dashnaktsutiun" opposition party standing
against two major pillars of current Armenian foreign policy,
clearly enhances pressure on the Armenian government, Director,
Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS),
Richard Giragosian, said.

"Since the April decision by the leadership of the "Armenian
Revolutionary Federation" (ARF) party, or "Dashnaktsutiun" party, to
leave the pro-government ruling coalition, the Dashnaktsutiun party has
become very critical of two specific areas of Armenian foreign policy:
the Nagorno Karabagh issue and the diplomatic process of engagement
between Armenia and Turkey," Giragosian told Trend News via E-mail.

The Dashnaks intend to present their claim at the opposition meeting in
Yerevan on September 2. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Armenian-Turkish
relations will be discussed there, Head of the Ay Data Central Office
and the ARF Political Affairs Bureau, Kiro Manoyan, ARKA agency said.

The "Dashnaktsutiun" Armenian party continues to insist on the
resignation of Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian.

The ARF said that events occurring around Armenia and Karabakh have
extremely dangerous tendencies in the context of national state
interests.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988
when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan
lost all of Nagorno-Karabakh except for Shusha and Khojali in December
1991. In 1992-93, Armenian armed forces occupied Shusha, Khojali and 7
districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed
a ceasefire in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia,
France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Giragosian said that opposition, especially, the "Dashnaktsutiun"
standing against two major pillars of current Armenian foreign policy,
clearly enhances pressure on the Armenian government.

First, the Dashnaktsutiun has already exerted pressure that has limited
the policy options available to the Armenian authorities, which are
already under pressure from the country's opposition. In fact the
authorities are already weakened by such pressure from the opposition,
demonstrated by both former President Levon Ter Petrosian's political
activities form outside the political system and by former Foreign
Minister Raffi Hovannisian, as the founder of the only opposition
party within the parliament, the Heritage party. This means that
there are new limits on how far the Armenian government can go in
negotiating with either Turkey or Azerbaijan, Giragosian said.

"And, second, in the face of such renewed pressure, there is a new
attitude that may see any new "deals" or agreements with Turkey or
Azerbaijan as an "act of treason" potentially," expert said.

But the more significant factor is not the Dashnaktsutiun, but stems
from one crucial difference: this Armenian government is much more
unpopular and has much less political legitimacy than any previous
Armenian government. And that is the real pressure on Armenian foreign
policy, he said.

It is quite possible now that the Dashnaktsutiun will exert even
greater pressure on Armenian foreign policy within the Armenian
diaspora, especially on relations between Yerevan and Ankara.

"We may even see a sudden halt to Armenian attempts to negotiate
with Turkey, which not only reflects the political pressure from the
opposition, but that is also rooted in a growing level of frustration
and impatience in Armenia over what seems to be Turkey's failure to
make good on earlier promises and expectations of opening the closed
Turkish-Armenian border and extending normal diplomatic relations,"
Giragosian said.

The upcoming 14 October football match, which Armenian President
Serzh Sarkisian is most likely to attend, may be the "last chance"
for Turkey to fulfill expectations for new relations with Armenia,
Giragosian said.

Armenia and Turkey try to normalize relations, which have been severed
since 1993.

'Football diplomacy' term appeared a year ago when Turkish President
Abdullah Gul arrived in Yerevan. Formal cause was a football match
between teams of both countries.

It gave cause to consider that the border between Turkey and
Armenia will be opened, and the countries will begin the process
of reconciliation. However, Yerevan has recently accused Ankara of
freezing the process.

A football match will be held in Turkey in mid-October. The Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan is likely to attend the match.

Armenian-Turkish diplomatic ties have been severed and the their
borders have been closed since 1993 due to Armenia's claims of an
alleged genocide, and the country's occupation of 20 percent of
Azerbaijani lands, as well as its claims for Turkish Anatolia.