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Hovannisian Refuses To End Hunger Strike


Armenia - Raffi Hovannisian, opposition leader and former presidential candidate, at an open-air press-conference in Liberty Square in Yerevan,18Mar2013

Armenia - Raffi Hovannisian, opposition leader and former presidential candidate, at an open-air press-conference in Liberty Square in Yerevan,18Mar2013

Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has refused to discontinue his hunger strike, expressing readiness, however, to engage in a dialogue with President Serzh Sarkisian in person or by correspondence.

Sarkisian on Monday signaled his readiness for a dialogue with Hovannisian, who has been on a hunger strike in Yerevan’s Liberty Square since March 10 protesting the outcome of the February 18 presidential election that gave victory to the incumbent.

In a message addressed to his top challenger, who polled nearly 37 percent of the vote as opposed to his own election tally of over 58 percent in the February 18 ballot, the president urged Hovannisian to engage in talks after quitting his protest and recovering for “one or two days”.

Sarkisian’s message was in response to a letter from Hovannisian on March 22 in which the opposition leader offered recognition of Sarkisian’s election victory in exchange for a promise that parliamentary elections would be held by the end of the year. Hovannisian also demanded several key government posts for people to be handpicked by him.

Hovannisian’s reply to Sarkisian sent to the presidential palace was read out by a spokesman at an open-air press conference in Liberty Square on Tuesday.

Despite some “questionable arguments and biased convictions” noticed by the opposition leader in the general wordings of the letter, he still said he could consider as progress his opponent’s readiness to assume his document as a basis for negotiations.

“I reaffirm my readiness to meet you and discuss the all-national solution that is now on the table at any time and in any format in Liberty Square,” wrote Hovannisian.

“Thank you for your concern about my health, but there is no need to worry, as I am in quite good health and need no recovery, and we can hold our working meeting without delay for the sake of a new constitutional Armenia,” he added.

In his message Hovannisian allowed for a possibility of a continued dialogue by correspondence if Sarkisian found it inconvenient to visit him for a head-to-head meeting.

“If for some reason you do not regard Liberty Square as a venue convenient for a meeting, feel free to again present by a letter your concrete proposals based on my integral document that were absent from your previous message,” concluded Hovannisian.

Sarkisian and Hovannisian already were in talks early on during the current post-election crisis. Hovannisian walked to Sarkisian’s office on February 21 where during a meeting that lasted for more than an hour and was held behind closed doors urged him to call fresh legislative polls. The president, however, rejected the idea and, for his part, offered to appoint Hovannisian as head of a special state commission that would be tasked with drafting sweeping amendments to the Armenian Constitution, a proposal later dismissed by Hovannisian and his party.
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