By Gevorg Stamboltsian
Senior representatives of the Armenian government and the opposition held another meeting on Monday, avoiding substantive discussions of their deep divisions and agreeing instead on a new format of their talks.
The two sides seem to have scrapped a 30-point agenda of their “consultations” tentatively approved by their leaders last week. They decided to upgrade the status of their contacts to “negotiations” after the the parliamentary leaders of the three parties making up the ruling coalition informed the opposition that they have been authorized by President Robert Kocharian to discuss possible solutions to Armenia’s political crisis.
The negotiations between the coalition parties and the Artarutyun (Justice) and the National Unity Party (AMK) are due to formally get underway on Thursday, the day before the next opposition rally in Yerevan. The two sides have to finalize their agenda in the next two days.
They left no indications that they are now closer to overcoming their grave differences. In a joint statement preceding Monday’s meeting, Artarutyun and the AMK accused the authorities of failing to comply with the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe late last month. The PACE demanded that Yerevan release participants of the unsactioned opposition rallies and investigate “human rights abuses” reported during the government crackdown on the opposition.
Artarutyun and the AMK announced on Tuesday a 10-day suspension of their campain of street times to give the authorities time to address those demands. One of their leaders, Albert Bazeyan, expressed on Sunday skepticism about chances of ending the standoff through negotiations.
“The Council of Europe expected the opposition to freeze some processes so that we could organize discussions with government bodies on ways of bringing the country out of crisis,” Bazeyan told RFE/RL. “But we see no reciprocal steps by the authorities and our rallies and marches will most probably resume on May 14 with much greater vigor.”
(Photolur photo: Artarutyun lawmakers Shavarsh Kocharian, left, and Victor Dallakian heading for the talks.)