President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday insisted that he is committed to a meaningful dialogue with the Armenian National Congress (HAK) but again ruled out any formal negotiations between his administration and the opposition alliance led by Levon Ter-Petrosian.
In a written statement, Sarkisian also signaled greater flexibility on the format and agenda of that dialogue favored by the HAK. He at the same time warned the country’s largest opposition force against attempting to “corner” him.
“The essential principle is clear: ultimatums are unacceptable, and talking in ultimatums is a road which leads nowhere, and turning a dialogue into negotiations is simply unacceptable,” said Sarkisian.
Ter-Petrosian and his associates want the dialogue to take the form of negotiations conducted by special delegations representing the two rival parties. The HAK formed a five-member negotiating team earlier this month.
Sarkisian’s chief of staff, Karen Karapetian, and senior representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) made clear afterwards that no such teams will be formed by the government side. They also said that the dialogue can not center on the holding of fresh elections, the key opposition demand.
Sarkisian sounded less categorical on both issues. “If instead of negotiations, which are unacceptable, the Armenian National Congress is genuinely ready to continue the dialogue on the outline of the country’s development, essential issues of the country’s foreign and internal policies and desires to do so through the specially designated individuals, representatives of the [ruling] Coalition parties can sit down at the negotiation table with them,” read his statement.
The president also said, “If among the numerous problems facing our people and our country the HAK is interested exclusively in the elections, the Speaker of the National Assembly is ready to personally receive the representatives of that political body and hear them out.
“If, however, there are suggestions aimed at the rise of our economy and solution of the social problems existing in the country, then the Prime Minster personally will receive them and discuss these issues. If there are issues which command intervention by the President, the Head of the Presidential Staff will receive them and discuss all issues.”
The HHK’s parliamentary leader, Galust Sahakian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service earlier on Friday that the ruling party and its two junior coalition parties are ready to hear HAK demands for fresh elections. But he said they will remain adamant in rejecting those demands.
Sahakian said the Sarkisian administration would like to discuss with the HAK the proper conduct of regular parliamentary and presidential elections due in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Asked about the dialogue format, the Sahakian said, “If they call me one day and say ‘Mr. Sahakian, we want to meet with your parliamentary faction,’ no problem, we’ll meet. If they say they have issues to discuss with the government, the prime minister will receive them.”
The HAK’s immediate reaction to Sarkisian’s remarks was cautious. In a short statement, the bloc said it needs more time to pass judgment on them because of “certain ambiguities contained in the statement.”