Ishkhan Saghatelyan addresses the rally on Satu

Armenian Opposition Stages Rally ‘In Support Of’ Karabakh

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By Narine Ghalechian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenian opposition groups gathered thousands of supporters for a rally in Yerevan on Saturday, November 7,  that they said was a demonstration of support for Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination.

The rally in Yerevan’s France Square came days after thousands of Karabakh Armenians rallied in the central square of Stepanakert on October 31 at the urging of local political groups to support their joint statement saying that the Armenian government must not unequivocally recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity through a bilateral peace treaty.

Speakers at the Yerevan rally organized by the Resistance Movement, a coalition of political parties and groups, including two opposition parliamentary blocs — Hayastan and Pativ Unem led by former presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, respectively, — again accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of planning major concessions to Azerbaijan in a planned peace treaty as a result of which, they claimed, Yerevan will formally recognize Baku’s full control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

They charged that Pashinyan and his government have no mandate to make this or other major concessions to Azerbaijan that would jeopardize Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination and Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Member of the Hayastan parliamentary faction Ishkhan Saghatelyan, who has led street protests by the Resistance Movement, warned Armenian authorities against signing any document that would pave the way for Nagorno-Karabakh’s being formally recognized by Armenia as part of Azerbaijan.

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He suggested that in order to preclude this and other major concessions, Armenia needs to change its “top negotiator” at the talks with Azerbaijan, meaning Prime Minister Pashinyan.

“With this rally we are saying that Armenia welcomes the efforts of mediators towards establishing lasting peace in the region. Armenia is ready to discuss all complex issues. Armenia is ready for hard and meaningful negotiations and solutions. But this cannot come at the price of national humiliation and loss of our homeland. No document that would limit Artsakh’s [Nagorno-Karabakh’s] right to self-determination can be signed and ratified. Such a document would be torn by our people and immediately after a regime change it will be declared null and void,” Saghatelyan said.

Armenian authorities do not conceal that a version of the future peace treaty with Azerbaijan that is currently being discussed does not mention the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, but they dismiss accusations of the opposition that the current government ignores the rights and freedoms of ethnic Armenians living in the region.

Official Yerevan insists that these issues should be discussed directly between representatives of Baku and Stepanakert in a dialogue ensured by an international mechanism to be set up for the purpose.

Saghatelyan claimed, however, that the Pashinyan government “does not express the collective will of the Armenian people.” He said that in order to “achieve victory” the opposition movement needs “an overwhelming number of people in the streets.”

“We are not fighting for someone from among us to become a prime minister, we are fighting for Armenia to have a prime minister. Therefore, we will not step back or give up, we will go till the end,” he said before opposition supporters staged a march through central streets of Yerevan.

Former President Kocharyan also attended the rally, but did not address it from the stage or talk to the media. The former leader believed to be behind the Resistance Movement also participated in the march.

The Armenian Apostolic Church authorized one of its senior clergymen to address the rally. Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan delivered a speech at the Yerevan rally “with the blessing” of Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

A vocal critic of Pashinyan, Galstanyan heads the church diocese in Armenia’s northern Tavush province.

“This is a supra-partisan rally,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. ”Even if it was partisan, it’s a reaction to our Artsakh compatriot’s cry for help. That cry cannot go unanswered.”

“Artsakh’s right to self-determination is not a limited right, it’s about the dignity, honor and survival of all Armenians,” the outspoken bishop said.

The Armenian Church’s Supreme Spiritual Council headed by Karekin II also signaled concerns about the government’s Karabakh policy in a statement issued on Friday, November 4, after a four-day session in Echmiadzin. It said that “the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination is non-negotiable.”

The statement urged the government to “eliminate the dividing lines in our national life, stop discriminatory approaches motivated by political beliefs, overcome the atmosphere of hatred and hostility and initiate a meaningful and healthy dialogue” in the country. This would pave the way for a “national consolidation” needed for confronting grave security challenges facing Karabakh and Armenia, it said.

The opposition movement has staged several campaigns of sustained street protests demanding the resignation of Pashinyan and his government since the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh in which Armenians suffered a defeat.

All of those street protests, including the latest one last spring, fizzled out within weeks.

Representatives of the current government have attributed it to the lack of popular support for the opposition’s demand for Pashinyan’s resignation or policy change.

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