Armenian Opposition Boycotts Further Talks With Coalition

Armenian Opposition Boycotts Further Talks With Coalition
By Karine Kalantarian

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep.
May 14 2004

Dialogue between Armenia’s main political groups foundered before
starting in earnest on Thursday as the opposition cancelled planned
crisis talks with the governing coalition, saying that President Robert
Kocharian’s has not stopped the month-long crackdown on his opponents.

The leaders of the Artarutyun bloc and the National Unity Party
(AMK) accused the authorities of failing to comply with a Council of
Europe resolution that called for the release of arrested opposition
activists, an end to “administrative detentions” of participants
of anti-government protests and punishment of government officials
guilty of “human rights abuses.” The two groups declared on May 4 a
ten-day moratorium on unsactioned demonstrations in Yerevan to give
the authorities time to meet the demands.

Opposition representatives were scheduled to meet on Thursday with
leaders of the three pro-Kocharian parties that hold the majority of
seats in parliament and are represented in Prime Minister Andranik
Markarian’s cabinet. The meeting was supposed to be the first official
“negotiation” between the two sides that have held a series of
unofficial consultations over the past week.

According to Artarutyun’s Victor Dallakian, the opposition will
resume the contacts only after the authorities take “practical steps”
stemming from the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe (PACE). “We have nothing to discuss with
the coalition now,” he said.

“They were obliged to immediately comply with the resolution of the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,” AMK leader Artashes
Geghamian told a separate news conference. “Namely, to immediately
release the political prisoners, to ensure people’s freedom of
movement, to put an end to the continuing repressions.”

“They are now trying to hold us as hostages so that we adopt what they
are obliged to unconditionally do as our main cause,” Geghamian added.

Parliament majority leaders said the decision to pull out of the talks
was not immediately communicated to them as they waited for opposition
representatives inside the parliament building in the evening. “It will
be unfortunate but it won’t have serious consequences for the country,”
Galust Sahakian of Markarian’s Republican Party told reporters.

“That the opposition is not prepared for a dialogue is a fact,”
Sahakian said, adding that the PACE issued “recommendations,” rather
than demands.

The boycott followed Artarutyun’s and the AMK’s decision to resume
their joint rallies in Yerevan on Friday. The opposition says it
is only prepared to discuss with the authorities ways of ensuring
Kocharian’s resignation “without upheavals,” suggesting in particular
a referendum of confidence in the Armenian leader.

However, the coalition parties remain united in their support of
Kocharian and strongly oppose regime change in the country. They say
that they can instead give the opposition more of a say in government

The international community has strongly encouraged both sides to
try to bridge their differences through negotiations, with the PACE
resolution calling for a “dialogue without preconditions.” The head
of the Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe, Vladimir Pryakhin, echoed the calls on Wednesday.

“I encourage both sides to engage in a meaningful and genuine
dialogue in order to resolve, within the constitutional framework,
the continuing difficulties,” Pryakhin said in a statement.

Pryakhin also urged the Armenian authorities to “review the cases”
of all those detained during recent opposition demonstrations and end
the controversial “administrative detentions” repeatedly condemned
by the Council of Europe and other human rights organizations. “This
practice is incompatible with European human rights standards,”
the Russian diplomat said.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS