The negotiating teams formed by the three-party ruling coalition and the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) held their first talks on Monday. The HAK agreed to continue the dialogue in this format after receiving assurances that the coalition team headed by Davit Harutiunian, a senior pro-government parliamentarian, represents President Serzh Sarkisian.
Harutiunian and the five other members of his “working group” met on Monday to discuss their negotiating strategy. They refused to give any details of the meeting.
Levon Zurabian, head of the HAK’s five-member delegation, said Tuesday’s talks will mark the first “full-fledged negotiation” between the two rival camps. He insisted that HAK representatives will primarily push for the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.
Zurabian also reiterated that the opposition bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian will end the dialogue if it produces no concrete results by the beginning of September. “They have to ensure developments that can be presented to the people as a breakthrough that testifies to the seriousness of the authorities and their readiness to make concessions,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Zurabian said the authorities should specifically demonstrate that “a legitimate government will be formed in the country in the near future as a result of pre-term elections.”
Sarkisian and senior memberw of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of fresh elections. Still, Harutiunian said last week that the government negotiators are ready to discuss the main HAK demand.
Aram Sarkisian (no relation), the leader of a major opposition party affiliated with Ter-Petrosian’s bloc, claimed on Monday that the Armenian president will eventually agree to call snap elections. He pointed to recent government concessions to the HAK.
“I don’t consider these processes to be the government’s defeat,” Sarkisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “On the contrary, it’s a victory for the government. The government is finally starting to realize that failure to do that carries very big risks.”
“Therefore, I am convinced that in order to avoid those risks the authorities will opt for fresh elections, both presidential and parliamentary ones,” he said.
Sarkisian also claimed that the government’s refusal to give in would spark massive street protests in Yerevan. “The society has lost patience,” he said. “It may not listen even to us this fall.”