The Armenian authorities on Tuesday formally allowed the Armenian National Congress (HAK) to hold a rally in a key Yerevan square this Friday, fulfilling another demand voiced by the opposition alliance.
Reversing its own decision announced earlier this month, the Yerevan municipality said it has accepted the HAK’s written application to stage the demonstration in the city’s Liberty Square.
The municipality had rejected numerous such applications filed since the March 2008 break-up of anti-government protests staged there by HAK leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. The HAK defied the ban and rallied supporters in the square on March 17 and April 8.
As recently as on April 13, the municipal administration refused to allow Ter-Petrosian’s bloc to hold the next rally in the same location on the grounds that it had already planned to organize a “cultural event” there on the same day.
The Yerevan Mayor’s Office said on Tuesday that the event has been cancelled. The announcement came four days after President Serzh Sarkisian ordered law-enforcement authorities to conduct a “more meticulous” investigation of the March 2008 violence that left ten people dead.
Such a probe as well as opposition access to Liberty Square are among the three main demands voiced by Ter-Petrosian. He has also demanded that the authorities free by April 28 his loyalists remaining in prison or face a new opposition push for power.
“One of those demands was met a few days ago,” the HAK coordinator, Levon Zurabian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Namely, the official assurance on the readiness to solve the ten killings committed on March 1 [2008.]”
“Our second demand was an authorized status for our rallies in Liberty Square,” he said, adding that it has been met as well.
“We will gather in Liberty Square on April 28 and together with the people … we will decide how to evaluate the government steps and what we should do,” continued Zurabian. He said the HAK will be ready to start dialogue with the Sarkisian administration if the latter also frees all “political prisoners.”
Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, on Monday offered to mediate in such a dialogue. The offer was questioned by senior members of Sarkisian’s Republican Party and rejected by the HAK.
Still, Andreasian insisted on Tuesday that he is undaunted by these reactions and will go ahead with offering his services to both rival camps in writing. He said his initiative will put to the test their stated commitment to addressing the lingering fallout from the 2008 unrest.
“We just need to start from little things: identify the parties, their representatives, try to arrange their first meeting, have them sit at the same table,” Andreasian told a news conference. “That would be a big step in the eyes of the public and all of us.”
Meanwhile a deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), claimed that the latest government moves are not a response to the opposition demands. Razmik Zohrabian insisted that the authorities are not worried about HAK threats to topple them with non-stop protests similar to recent anti-government revolts in several Arab states.
Zohrabian said at the same time that recent political developments bode well for solutions acceptable to the government and the HAK. They both want to build a “civil society” in Armenia, he told journalists.