The Armenian National Congress (HAK) is ready in principle for mutual concessions in its upcoming negotiations with President Serzh Sarkisian’s government, a leading representative of the opposition alliance said on Friday.
“Talking about concessions before the start of negotiations would be the biggest stupidity on the part of any negotiating party,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator. “We will look for mutual concessions at the negotiating table.”
“It is always possible to agree to logical concessions and we are ready listen to their proposals,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We don’t want to rule out or brush aside anything beforehand.”
He declined to elaborate on possible HAK concessions, saying only that the bloc led by Levon Ter-Petrosian will stand by its key demand: the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.
Zurabian spoke the day after he and four other senior HAK members were named to represent the bloc in the planned dialogue with the Sarkisian administration. He said the formation of the negotiating team reflects the HAK’s desire to start the dialogue “as soon as possible.”
“Now it’s the government’s turn to take a step,” he said. “When they make their move, it will be possible to immediately start negotiations.”
The government side has yet to respond to that development. “We haven’t held discussions yet on forming a [negotiating] delegation,” Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. Sharmazanov again ruled out the possibility of snap elections in Armenia.
“The key to overcoming the political crisis in Armenia is the formation of a legitimate government,” argued Zurabian. “If the authorities have their own ideas on solving this issue, nobody prevents them from presenting that during the negotiations,”
“We will discuss that, including with the people, and it will then be clear what can be accepted and what cannot be accepted,” said the HAK coordinator.
But he also added, “I can’t imagine any alternative to the idea of holding pre-term elections that would be convincing to our public.”
HAK critics affiliated with other opposition groups claim that Ter-Petrosian hopes to use the idea of snap polls as a bargaining chip in the planned talks. They say he would in fact settle for far more modest government concessions. Ter-Petrosian dismissed these “malevolent gossips” at the last HAK rally held on Tuesday.
In Zurabian’s words, several rounds of negotiations should be enough to see whether any major agreement between the two sides is possible.
Zurabian also did not rule out the possibility of face-to-face meetings between Ter-Petrosian and Sarkisian. “Nobody excludes that there may also be a need for a summit meeting, but it is too early to talk about that,” he said.