By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s government and opposition are both responsible for the deadly post-election violence in Yerevan and should resolve their bitter standoff through dialogue, an aide to President Serzh Sarkisian said on Tuesday.
Garnik Isagulian, the presidential adviser on national security, described as a “great tragedy” the March 1 clashes between security forces and supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in which at least ten people were killed and more than 160 others wounded.
“I don’t think it appropriate to look for the guilty,” Isagulian said. “As a state official, I believe that I am also to blame for all that. Nobody can say that his share of guilt is smaller than someone else’s.”
“The opposition and the authority should have done everything to prevent what happened on March 1,” he told a news conference. “Nobody is innocent on this issue.”
Isagulian, who also advised former President Robert Kocharian on national security, was until now known for his tough stance on political opponents of Armenia’s leadership. A former senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), he had been in opposition to the Ter-Petrosian administration.
Isagulian said the deadly clashes underscored the need for a dialogue between the authorities and the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition. He said that dialogue will be facilitated by Sarkisian’s impending decision to set up a consultative “public chamber” that will bring together prominent public figures and politicians, including those opposed to the government.
In an extensive speech last week, Ter-Petrosian reiterated that he is ready to negotiate with the Sarkisian administration if the latter complies with a resolution on the post-election turmoil in Armenia that was adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) last month. The resolution demanded the restoration of all civil liberties, an independent investigation into the March 1 violence and the release of all Ter-Petrosian supporters arrested for political reasons.
While reaffirming the government’s pledge to address the PACE concerns, Isagulian insisted that there are no political prisoners in Armenia. “There was no need to make politically motivated arrests,” he said. But this, he added, does not necessarily mean that all of more than 100 oppositionists arrested following the February 19 presidential election committed crimes.