Armenian PM rules out talks with Opp on President’s Resignation

Armenian premier rules out talks with opposition on president’s resignation

Haykakan Zhamanak, Yerevan
20 Apr 04

If the opposition wants to change the authorities, it should wait for
the 2008 presidential elections, Armenian Prime Minister Andranik
Markaryan has said in an interview with Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper.
Commenting on possible dialogue with the opposition, the prime
minister said that their major demand was the president’s resignation,
which under no circumstances could be a subject of negotiations.
Markaryan did not rule out that opposition protests could be
orchestrated from abroad in order to weaken the Armenian government
and create a puppet state that would be easy to manipulate. The prime
minister also said that President Robert Kocharyan was not planning a
government reshuffle in order to relieve the tension. The following is
the text of Naira Zograbyan report by Armenian newspaper Haykakan
Zhamanak on 20 April headlined “Be ready for the 2008 elections”;
subheadings inserted editorially:

Arrests at opposition demo “technical fault”

[Haykakan Zhamanak correspondent] Mr Prime Minister, police carried out
an operation to round up demonstrators on Bagramyan Street on 13
April, which is forbidden by international conventions. Moreover, they
also used barbed wire that is not allowed either to be used against
peaceful demonstrators. Why was a corridor not provided for the
demonstrators to leave?

[Andranik Markaryan] Barbed wire is used in this kind of operations in
all countries. An area cannot be cordoned off with barbed wire, and
this was not applied. As for the operation to round up people, it was
only a technical fault. Simply, at that moment the police could not
strictly follow their orders. Of course, a corridor should have been
left for the people to leave. This problem was discussed, and as I
already said, it was not a well-considered step, but a technical
fault, and I am sorry for that.

As for the events of 13 April, the authorities did not keep their
actions in secret and informed opposition representatives of them at
different meetings. But the opposition did this in order to use this
in the future [sentence as received]. Today, the opposition is trying
to make not the reasons but the consequences of 13 April a subject of
talks with the coalition [government].

Incidentally, they will continue on this path to reach their political
ambitions, using discontent and feelings of a group of people to
settle their own problems. One must not use a group of people to
settle this kind of problems, when one knows very well from the very
beginning that this is a hopeless step. I would call on the people not
to allow them to use themselves to settle some people’s problems.

Protests orchestrated from abroad

[Correspondent] According to a pro-government force, today certain
forces from outside are implementing their business programmes, using
the opposition. Do you also think that the opposition actions are
being orchestrated from abroad?

[Markaryan] Yes, there are certain political forces which realize very
well that they cannot achieve results in this way, but nevertheless
are creating pre-conditions to disturb stability in the country and
damage Armenia’s authority in the world. The programme is clear: they
have an objective to make the authorities of Armenia less resistible
to the problems of the country. In particular, they can offer a
[settlement] package on the Karabakh issue, which we shall not agree
to, but we shall see how the opposition will immediately become active
in this case. They will immediately recall arrests, make speeches and
statements at the Council of Europe and different international
instances, up to demanding that Armenia’s membership of the Council of
Europe be revoked. Whereas all of us understand what expelling the
country from the Council of Europe means. That means putting the
country into a political blockade, threatening investment, closing
various programmes of international organizations. If not the [UN]
blue helmets, helmets of other colour or different international
organizations will then start acting against the authorities of
Armenia, because it will be then easier for them to have a puppet

Talks on president’s resignation ruled out

[Correspondent] Mr Prime Minister, nevertheless the current situation
needs to be settled. The opposition believes that the coalition’s
statement calling for a dialogue is not serious. It says that the
coalition does not decide anything and that they can negotiate only
with the president or [Defence Minister] Serzh Sarkisyan.

[Markaryan] If they want to negotiate with the coalition the
president’s resignation, then we have nothing to negotiate with
them. But I have a better opinion about our state and political field
in order to say that parties decide nothing and Serzh Sarkisyan and
the president decide everything. What does the opposition want? Does
it want Serzh and the president to decide if they will tender their
resignation or not? Does it want to negotiate with the president of
the country and the defence minister the handover of power to them?

By the way, during my talks with opposition leaders, one of their main
problems was how I should persuade the president to hand power over to
the opposition without shedding blood. And naturally, I did not accept
that. That is, according to their logic, I already agree to the change
of the authorities and the opposition asks me to persuade the
president to resign without a shock. However, today the position of
the Republican Party of Armenia [RPA] and my own position is as firm
as it was during the presidential elections of 2003.

[Correspondent] Nevertheless, today the opposition seems to be taking
a step back saying that it is ready to have a dialogue if all those
who were arrested are released and guarantees are given that there
will not be new arrests. Can you give such guarantees to the

[Markaryan] If they stop expressing their demands in the form of
demonstrations, which means there will be no new arrests, in that
case, yes, I can describe this as a change in the political situation
and will submit that problem to the president. That is, let us outline
the rules of the game: they stop acting in the same way, and we can
negotiate and find positive solutions to the consequences of the
previous actions.

[Correspondent] But the opposition will hardly stop demonstrations,
especially as [Anrapetutyun Party leader] Aram Zavenovich Sarkisyan
has resolutely announced that [President Robert] Kocharyan will not
live a comfortable life in this country.

[Markaryan] I do not think that Aram Sarkisyan’s bragging will have
many consequences for our state and that the authorities will be
frightened of my friend Aram’s words.

Opposition should wait for presidential polls

[Correspondent] What do you think is the way out of the current

[Markaryan] The opposition should strengthen its structures and be
prepared to the presidential elections of 2008. They will not gain
anything by means of demonstrations and making emotional demands. And
I think that the government which takes those demands into account
gives up on the future of the country.

Today we are solving not the problems of Kocharyan or the government
and the coalition or Aram Sarkisyan and [opposition Justice bloc
leader] Stepan Demirchyan, but the problem of our state’s future
development. Are we not going to make a coup a tradition because of
some displeased political forces? A coup is a coup, be it a
constitutional or armed one, and the state, the president, the
executive authorities and the parliament will all prevent a coup in
the country.

The opposition speaks of democracy, national interests and, at the
same time, ignores all these. How can democracy of a minority be
accepted while democracy of a majority is rejected, the interests of a
minority are accepted while the interests of a majority are not? We
have found ourselves in an absurd situation: 20-25 people tell 80
people that they will come to the parliament only if the majority
agrees to their demands. In what country can 20 people blackmail the

No government reshuffle planned

[Correspondent] The Russian press, as well as the Western press, says
that a change of the authorities is unavoidable in Armenia.

[Markaryan] This is not the first time the foreign press has published
this analysis. Naturally, I do not have to feel bad that Ivanov,
Sidorov or Jack wrote something about my country. Let them first deal
with the problems of their own country, sitting in Paris or Moscow,
they are not the persons to teach us how democracy should look like.

[Correspondent] Mr Prime Minister, some analysts say that in order to
ease tension, the president could replace the prime minister and the
government. The dissolution of the National Assembly is not ruled out
either. Do you think this is possible?

[Markaryan] I do not think that the president will take such actions
because these actions will not promote a solution to the problems
raised by the opposition. First, I should know and the president
should explain what problems could be settled by means of such
steps. If he says that a political problem will be settled and
sacrifices the RPA’s interests to the steps suggested by Pogos-Petros
[somebody else], in that case I shall say thank you and join the
opposition. Naturally, not because of the illegitimate president. We
can give relevant explanations of our steps and undertake certain
actions within the framework of the constitution. According to the
same logic, I rule out the dissolution of the National Assembly
because this will be the second step in the president’s resignation.