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Thousands March In Yerevan Against Turkish-Armenian Deal


Armenia -- Thousands of people march in Yerevan in protest against controversial Turkish-Armenian agreements.

Armenia -- Thousands of people march in Yerevan in protest against controversial Turkish-Armenian agreements.

Thousands of people demonstrated in Yerevan on Friday in the largest street protest yet against the controversial Turkish-Armenian agreements organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and other nationalist groups opposed to President Serzh Sarkisian.

The protesters, many of them carrying placards reading “No concessions to the Turks,” marched through the city center to the accompaniment of patriotic songs blaring from loudspeakers placed atop several trucks that followed the procession.

As the crowd briefly stopped outside the presidential palace in Yerevan Dashnaktsutyun leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of the deal and again warned Sarkisian against signing it. A relevant petition drafted by a Dashnaktsutyun-led coalition of a dozen opposition forces was handed to Karen Karapetian, the chief of the presidential staff.

“Not being against a policy of opening the border and establishing relations [with Turkey] without preconditions, we are saying our firm no to these protocols trampling the rights of generations, threatening the security and dignity of our state and people and are demanding that you do not sign them,” read the petition addressed to Sarkisian. “Or else, you will be responsible for unpredictable consequences of this process.”

Armenia -- Thousands of people march in Yerevan in protest against controversial Turkish-Armenian agreements.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders again threatened to campaign for Sarkisian’s resignation if he presses ahead with the signing and parliamentary ratification of the two protocols that envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey and reopening of their border. The nationalist party is particularly furious with their provisions that commit Armenia to recognizing its existing border with Turkey and agreeing to the formation of a joint panel that will study the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

“From now on, we are coming to the fore as an alternative to the authority,” Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s top governing body, told RFE/RL as he led the march. He did not specify just how his party will seek to topple Sarkisian “if they ratify this stupidity.”

Another party leader, Vahan Hovannisian, claimed that it is still possible to thwart the protocols’ ratification by Armenia’s parliament dominated by Sarkisian’s loyalists. “I am confident that if this popular wave rises at the current speed we will discuss in the National Assembly not just the issue of ratification but necessary amendments [to the agreements],” he said.

Meanwhile, official Yerevan remained in no rush to confirm reports that the agreements will be signed by the foreign ministers of the two countries in Zurich on Saturday. “If everything goes as planned, then the signing of the Turkish-Armenian protocols on October 10 will be likely,” Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said in a statement issued late on Friday. “An official statement to that effect will be made in Yerevan tomorrow.”
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