According to the president’s press office, during their meeting Sarkissian and Pashinian discussed “the situation in the country, ways of resolving it and overcoming the internal political crisis.”
“In this context, they discussed holding early parliamentary elections as a solution,” the report disseminated by the president’s press office said.
The Pashinian government has been under pressure to resign after Armenia suffered a defeat in a six-week war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh last fall.
Opposition parties and groups demanding Pashinian’s resignation renewed their street protests in late February.
Earlier this week President Sarkissian offered to host talks between Pashinian and opposition leaders aimed at ending the political crisis in Armenia.
The leaders of the pro-government My Step parliamentary faction and one of the two opposition factions, Bright Armenia, accepted the invitation to the talks set for March 13 and their meetings with President Sarkissian were held later today.
In a statement disseminated late on Friday, the president’s office said that the two other sides invited to the talks – the parliamentary opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Homeland Salvation Movement, an alliance of about a dozen political parties and groups, including the BHK, demanding Prime Minister Pashinian’s resignation in the street – had proposed their own agendas and set conditions for the meeting, which made the format of talks in which all invited parties would meet at one table “unfeasible.”
As Pashinian visited the presidential compound in a heavily guarded motorcade, supporters of the Homeland Salvation Movement staged more protests in the adjacent boulevard that they have been blocking since late February.
The opposition movement continues to insist that Pashinian must step down and a provisional government led by its leader Vazgen Manukian should be formed before snap parliamentary elections can be held in a year.
Ishkhan Saghatelian, one of the leaders of the movement, said that in order to be able to discuss their possible participation in snap elections, first Pashinian must step down and then the parliament must be dissolved.
“The prime minister’s resignation and dissolution of parliament should take place before snap elections can be held. If these two processes are completed and we will have snap elections ahead, we will express our position on whether we take part in these elections, and if we do, then in what format. But [Pashinian’s] resignation should come first,” he said, talking to media.
Talking to several media on Friday, the leader of the BHK, Gagik Tsarukian, announced his upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Pashinian. He said that Pashinian must resign and snap parliamentary elections must be held in the country as early as possible to end the current political crisis.
Unlike it was before, Tsarukian did not appear to insist on electing a new prime minister in parliament and forming any provisional government before holding preterm elections at some point in the future.
Earlier, Edmon Marukian, the leader of the other opposition Bright Armenia faction in parliament, said his faction was ready not to field any candidate if Pashinian resigned to clear the way for snap elections.
Pashinian enjoys a comfortable majority in the Armenian parliament and practically does not need any assurance on the part of the opposition to resign and ensure that the parliament twice fails to elect a new prime minister for snap elections to be appointed. He and his political team, however, have sought such assurances from the two opposition factions to exclude any risks of political upheavals in the country.