President Serzh Sarkisian began a dialogue with the Armenian National Congress (HAK) “a long time ago” and will therefore not form a special negotiating team expected by the opposition grouping, his chief of staff said on Tuesday.
Karen Karapetian also made clear that the conduct of fresh national elections, the key HAK demand, is non-negotiable for the head of state.
“It is not difficult to notice that that dialogue started a long time ago, is proceeding quite productively and has already led to a number of positive changes. That is so obvious that talk of starting a dialogue is at least bewildering,” Karapetian said in written comments to the Novosti-Armenia news agency released by the presidential press office.
“As for the [HAK] proposal to form delegations and negotiate over pre-term elections, both the proposed format and the issue raised are simply ends in themselves and, as one can guess, unacceptable,” he said.
The head of the presidential administration thus reaffirmed statements that were made by senior representatives of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Monday.
They came in response to the HAK’s decision late last week to form a five-member team tasked with negotiating with the Armenian government. The opposition bloc led by Levon Ter-Petrosian expected Sarkisian and his governing coalition to appoint a similar delegation.
The HAK on Monday refused to comment on what the HHK representatives stated, saying that only statements made by Sarkisian and his aides should be taken seriously. Its spokesman, Arman Musinian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service the next day that the HAK will not respond to Karapetian either.
Ter-Petrosian announced the impending start of a “formal dialogue” with the authorities on May 31 following the release of his loyalists remaining in prison and a renewed investigation into the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. He portrayed these government concessions as the biggest “victory” yet scored by his opposition movement. He said the HAK will now press the authorities to call fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.
“The phrase ‘negotiations of delegations’ is presented in such an exaggerated and dazzling way as if we are talking about inter-state negotiations, rather than a government-opposition partnership,” scoffed Karapetian.
He said the authorities are simply prepared for “targeted discussions regarding numerous problems existing in our country.” They are ready to put into practice only “feasible and constructive proposals” coming from the HAK, added the official.