By Ruzanna Stepanian
Opposition leaders dismissed on Wednesday a renewed offer of dialogue with Armenia’s three ruling parties, insisting on an immediate end to government reprisals against their supporters. They reiterated that the authorities must first release all “political prisoners” and stop preventing their supporters from attending unsanctioned rallies in Yerevan and arresting their participants.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the governing Dashnaktsutyun, Orinats Yerkir and Republican parties said it is still possible to defuse the two-month political crisis in the country through negotiations. They also accused the opposition of deepening the tensions by continuing to hold rallies aimed at forcing President Robert Kocharian’s resignation.
“Having adopted a tactics of demonstrations instead of a dialogue, [the opposition leaders] effectively ignore the Council of Europe’s calls for solving problems by political means and without preconditions,” the statement said.
The leaders of Armenia’s biggest opposition group, the Artarutyun alliance, scoffed at the statement. One of them, Aram Sarkisian, called it a “lie.” “In my opinion the regime has really depleted itself,” he told RFE/RL. “It can not even issue a normal document containing 15 sentences. They must understand this and quit.”
Artarutyun’s most popular leader, Stepan Demirchian, also dismissed the dialogue offer. “They are just creating a smokescreen for the Council of Europe about their readiness for dialogue,” he said, adding that the authorities are continuing their “illegalities.”
Speaking to RFE/RL, both Demirchian and Sarkisian downplayed the release of two senior members of the alliance the previous night. “This must not be interpreted as a favor to us,” Demirchian said. “And one should talk not only about the release [of detainees]. We must also talk about accountability [of government officials]. Nobody has been held accountable to date.”
Artarutyun and its principal ally, the National Unity Party (AMK) of Artashes Geghamian, announced on Friday a two-week suspension of their anti-Kocharian rallies, saying they need to prepare for another “decisive” onslaught against the regime which is expected to begin on June 4. The authorities maintain that their campaign, stemming from last year’s disputed presidential and parliamentary elections, is unconstitutional.
(RFE/RL photo: Aram Sarkisian.)