President Serzh Sarkisian has signaled his intention to meet all of the key demands voiced by opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, a senior representative of his Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Thursday.
Ter-Petrosian has given the Armenian government until April 28 to free all HAK members remaining in prison, guarantee opposition access to Yerevan’s Liberty Square and promise a more objective inquiry into the 2008 post-election violence. Speaking at the last HAK rally held earlier this month, he said fulfillment of these demands would pave the way for a “dialogue” between the government and the country’s largest opposition force.
Late on Wednesday, Sarkisian ordered Armenian law-enforcement authorities to investigate the unrest “more meticulously.” He said they should, in particular, try to find “new ways” of solving the deaths of ten people in vicious street clashes in central Yerevan that broke out on March 1, 2008.
“Our demand for an official assurance on the readiness to solve the ten killings of March 1 can be considered to have been satisfied,” Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Zurabian said Sarkisian’s order was also “a signal that perhaps the authorities are ready to satisfy all our demands after all.” That means all six HAK members remaining in prison may be set free soon, he said. “We realize that this is a matter of political decision,” added Zurabian.
A state commission on Wednesday formally recommended an Armenian court to grant parole to Aram Bareghamian, an opposition figure who was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison in 2008. Bareghamian is expected to be set free in the next few days.
Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), insisted on Thursday that the other jailed oppositionists will also be freed soon. He did not deny that the Armenian president has begun addressing the opposition demands.
“Nobody can influence Serzh Sarkisian as he is the president of the republic,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But I think that the opposition proposals as well as the [political] environment existing three years [after the unrest] have played a role in that.”
Zohrabian also spoke of “a new situation in the government-opposition relations.” “Maybe the ice will now thaw a bit faster,” he said.
Zurabian made clear, however, that the HAK will agree to negotiate with the authorities only if its three demands are met in full.