By Ruzanna Khachatrian
President Robert Kocharian voiced on Friday support for the resumption of crisis talks between his top political allies and the opposition but indicated through a spokesman that he will avoid personal involvement in the dialogue.
“According to the constitution of the Republic of Armenia, the president’s partner is the National Assembly, a state institution of which the opposition is also a part,” Ashot Kocharian, the presidential press secretary, told RFE/RL. “So the opposition needs to return to the parliament and to engage in dialogue with various political forces and do legislative work.”
The renewed “political consultations” between the three pro-Kocharian parties making up Armenia’s coalition government on one side and the Artarutyun bloc and the National Unity Party (AMK) on the other were also welcomed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. “He sees dialogue as the only way out of the situation provided that the opposition does not deliberately set unacceptable preconditions,” his spokeswoman, Meri Harutiunian, said.
Senior representatives of the two rival parties met on Thursday behind the closed doors for almost five hours before issuing a brief statement that called for a peaceful resolution of the serious political crisis in the country. They said they agreed on a 32-point agenda of their “dialogue.”
The content of the document was approved by the Artarutyun leadership and was due to be made public by parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian’s office on Friday. However, its publication was delayed for unknown reasons.
Opposition lawmakers say the agenda includes among other things the issue of the “legality” of a referendum of confidence in Kocharian suggested by the Constitutional Court in April 2003. The presidential loyalists agreed to discuss the idea despite being strongly opposed to its realization.
Artarutyun and the AMK declared on Tuesday a 10-day moratorium on their campaign of anti-Kocharian demonstrations, effectively issuing the authorities with an ultimatum to release all “political prisoners” and punish officials involved in human rights abuses reported during the government crackdown on the opposition.
“The consultations can not continue endlessly,” an Artarutyun spokeswoman told RFE/RL. “The several pressing issues raised by us must be immediately addressed within a very short period of time.”
Opposition leaders earlier expressed skepticism about the success of the talks with the coalition parties, arguing that it is Kocharian who wields real power in Armenia. But they now seem satisfied with the existing format of the dialogue.
“We have no problem with holding negotiations with persons authorized by Kocharian,” said Victor Dallakian, a senior member of Artarutyun.