By Ruzanna Stepanian
Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian will be offered to name a representative to a new consultative body to be formed by President Serzh Sarkisian, a presidential aide said on Friday.
Sarkisian announced earlier this week that he will set up a “public council” of representatives of leading political and non-governmental organizations, including those opposed to his administration, as well as prominent public figures that will discuss key internal and external challenges facing Armenia. He presented the move as a further indication of his eagerness to ease post-election tensions in Armenia through a dialogue with the opposition.
The presidential administration said on Thursday that it was instructed by the head of state to “initiate ten-day discussions with all interested individuals and organizations” which will focus on details and practical modalities of the Public Council’s activities. It encouraged anyone interested in joining the body to contact Sarkisian’s office.
Garnik Isagulian, the presidential adviser on national security coordinating those discussions, expressed hope that Ter-Petrosian and his broad-based opposition coalition will agree to take part in the work of the body. “I will call the office [of Ter-Petrosian] today and try to agree terms with them,” he told RFE/RL. “If they don’t refuse, I will also visit them and make the offer in person.”
However, a close associate of Ter-Petrosian made it clear that the opposition leader will not cooperate or negotiate with the authorities as long as dozens of his supporters remain in prison. “If we sit at the negotiation table with our comrades remaining in jail that would mean that the authorities have drawn us into hostage trade,” Levon Zurabian told RFE/RL. “They would seek to clinch a concession from us in exchange for the release of every hostage. So naturally, we will not engage in such immoral trade.”
“Armenia and its people won’t calm down as long as there are political prisoners here,” said Zurabian.
The authorities deny the existence of political prisoners in Armenia.