By Karine Kalantarian
Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian urged Armenia’s leadership and main opposition alliance on Monday to embark on a “national dialogue” which he believes is indispensable for meeting challenges that face the country.
“We must come out of trenches and move forward by means of mutual forgiveness,” he said. “Everyone deserves forgiveness and everyone bears his share of responsibility [for the existing situation.] Let nobody think that they have a monopoly on the truth.”
Hovannisian’s appeal was specifically addressed to President Serzh Sarkisian and the latter’s main challenger, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. “I hope that my partners, the presidents of our country and … all political forces will end these boastful illusions and obsession with their own victory,” he said.
Sarkisian and the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition have regularly faced such calls at home and abroad since the dramatic aftermath of the February 2008 presidential election. Ter-Petrosian has stated that he is ready to engage in a “sincere dialogue” with the authorities if they release dozens of his arrested supporters. The government camp’s position on the matter is more ambiguous.
Hovannisian, whose Zharangutyun party is the only opposition group represented in Armenia’s parliament, said the proposed dialogue would facilitate the authorities’ compliance with resolutions adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). The release of the jailed oppositionists is a key demand of those resolutions.
The PACE said last week that the authorities in Yerevan have still not fully complied with them. But the assembly again declined to impose sanctions, extending its compliance deadline for three more months.
Hovannisian, who is the only opposition member of the Armenian parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg, has boycotted PACE sessions since June in protest against what he sees as a leniency towards the Armenian government. He said on Monday that he may attend the next session due in late April.