YEREVAN -- The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has condemned as "irresponsible" President Serzh Sarkisian's decision to boycott the NATO summit in Lisbon in protest against the alliance's support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
"Instead of using the platform of one of the world's most authoritative and influential organizations to voice Armenia's and the [undeclared] Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's positions and, if possible, change the unfavorable formulations, Sarkisian adopted a hesitant and irresponsible stance which does not befit a sovereign state," the National Congress said in a statement.
The National Congress, led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, charged that the president "deprived Armenia of an opportunity to counter Azerbaijan's one-sided and distorted portrayal of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the NATO summit."
In announcing the boycott on November 19, Sarkisian said through a spokesman that the United States and some other NATO member states advocate a settlement of the conflict over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh based not only on territorial integrity but also two other internationally recognized principles: peoples' right to self-determination and the nonuse of force.
Sarkisian's spokesman said that as a result, NATO's endorsement of only the first principle would deal a blow to the Karabakh peace process.
The warning did not keep the leaders of NATO's 28 member states from effectively upholding Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh in a declaration approved at the summit.
The National Congress's statement noted that declarations adopted at previous NATO summits also contained such language. "The Armenian Foreign Ministry had never reacted to those documents, effectively agreeing with that unfair formulation with its silent stance," it said.
The National Congress has repeatedly harshly criticized the Sarkisian administration's broader Karabakh policy. "If things continue like this, they will definitely give [Karabakh] away," Ter-Petrossian claimed earlier this month.
The former president himself faced opposition allegations of a Karabakh "sellout" during his 1991-98 rule. He resigned in February 1998 after advocating a compromise peace deal with Azerbaijan strongly opposed by his key ministers, including Sarkisian, who at that time was the interior and national security minister.
Sarkisian, meanwhile, insisted on November 24 that the "international community" continues to stand by all three principles that are at the heart of a framework peace accord proposed by the U.S., Russian, and French mediators on the conflict.
"Only this approach can create the possibility of reaching a just and lasting solution," he said during an official visit to Turkmenistan.