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Sarkissian Offers To Host Talks Between Government, Opposition


Armenia -- Riot police are seen outside the Armenian parliament building in Yerevan during opposition protests, March 10, 2021.

President Armen Sarkissian offered on Wednesday to host talks between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and opposition leaders aimed at ending the political crisis in Armenia.

Sarkissian said that the continuing crisis triggered by the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh is fraught with “unpredictable and irreversible consequences” for the country and requires an urgent solution.

In a statement, Sarkissian invited Pashinian, representatives of the three political forces represented in the Armenian parliament as well as the leaders of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement to meet at the presidential palace in Yerevan for that purpose on Saturday. They should try to find “mutually acceptable ways of overcoming the crisis, he said.

“I reaffirm my belief that negotiations and dialogue are the only way to settle differences,” added the president.

The offer came one day after Sarkissian paved the way for the sacking of Onik Gasparian, Armenia’s top army general who has demanded, along with 40 other high-ranking officers, Pashinian’s resignation. The president pointedly declined to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality on Pashinian’s decision to fire Gasparian.

The Homeland Salvation Movement reacted furiously to Sarkissian’s stance, accusing him of acting on the embattled prime minister’s orders. One of the leaders of the opposition alliance, Vazgen Manukian, branded the president a “rich tourist” who does not care about Armenia’s future.

Another opposition leader, Ishkhan Saghatelian, scoffed at Sarkissian’s offer of crisis talks. “They [Sarkissian and Pashinian] did their dirty deed and are now asking for some meetings?” he told reporters.

Saghatelian said that the alliance uniting more than a dozen opposition parties should only discuss a “roadmap for Pashinian’s resignation.”

The alliance has been trying to unseat Pashinian with street protests launched after the Armenian side’s defeat in the war with Azerbaijan stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.

Its supporters continued to blockade the parliament building in Yerevan on Wednesday. They again marched through the city center to reiterate the opposition demands for Pashinian’s resignation.

Sarkissian too urged Pashinian to resign and hand over power to an interim government late last year. The premier has rejected such calls.

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