President Serzh Sarkisian will agree to embark on an unprecedented dialogue with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) to ease political tension in the country, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian said on Wednesday.
Abrahamian said Sarkisian and his three-party governing coalition are ready to consider “reasonable” opposition proposals. He could not say when fence-mending negotiations between the two side will start or specify their likely format.
“That is up to the president of the republic to decide. We haven’t discussed that format yet. But that will probably be decided soon,” Abrahamian told journalists.
Sarkisian has paved the way for such dialogue by initiating a general amnesty that has led to the release of virtually all HAK members remaining in prison. He has also ordered a “more meticulous” investigation into the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian declared late on Tuesday that he and his opposition alliance are already preparing for “formal” discussions with the Sarkisian administration. He said the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections will be their key demand.
The Armenian government and Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of snap elections, saying that the president and parliament will complete their five-year terms in 2013 and 2012 respectively. Razmik Zohrabian, an HHK deputy chairman, reaffirmed this position on Wednesday.
“There is no way Serzh Sarkisian will agree to the holding of the presidential elections not in 2013 … but in a few months’ time,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I exclude that.”
“We see the presidential elections happening in 2013,” he said. “We see the next parliamentary elections happening as planned in 2012.”
“If they insist that the dialogue should be over that issue, that’s not going to happen,” warned Zohrabian.
Speaking at an HAK rally, Ter-Petrosian claimed that the Armenian authorities may well cave in and agree to call snap elections during the upcoming dialogue. He said the HAK will continue to hold “periodical” demonstrations in Yerevan to keep up the pressure on them. But Ter-Petrosian rejected the idea of non-stop street protests advocated by more radical opposition elements.