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Armenian Government, Opposition To Intensify Talks

Levon Zurabian, the chief HAK negotiator

Levon Zurabian, the chief HAK negotiator

YEREVAN -- Representatives of Armenia's governing coalition and the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) have agreed to intensify their meetings, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

They said after a third round of negotiations on August 4 that they will begin meeting twice a week to continue the ongoing dialogue between the two sides. They said the latest meeting focused on procedural issues.

Levon Zurabian, the chief HAK negotiator, told journalists that the next talks, due next week, will mark the start of substantive discussions on early national elections that are demanded by the opposition alliance.

"At the next round of negotiations the Armenian National Congress will officially present its proposals and substantiate them," he said.

Zurabian said coalition representatives asked opposition negotiators to elaborate on the HAK's September deadline for authorities to call a fresh presidential election or face a new wave of antigovernment protests.

HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrossian reaffirmed that deadline at a rally in Yerevan on August 2.

"We reiterated what we said at the first meeting," said Zurabian. "That is, we will consider the possibilities for dialogue exhausted if there are no results by September, except a case where there are agreements that we can present to the a sign that negotiations are on the right track and will eventually yield a solution desired by us."

Davit Harutiunian, the head of the government coalition delegation in the talks, said, "We have no deadlines, but we are inclined to work intensively."

The coalition team agreed late last month to discuss the key opposition demand despite repeated statements by President Serzh Sarkisian and his political allies ruling out the possibility of fresh elections. It proposed that the talks with the HAK also focus on "the formulation of rules ensuring civilized competition aimed at the proper conduct of elections."

Harutiunian and members of his team representing Armenia's three governing parties presented the HAK representatives on August 4 with a set of policy measures which they say will boost the legitimacy of future elections.

In a statement drawn up ahead of the meeting, the HAK accused the authorities of continuing to harass its young activists and blocking transport communication between Yerevan and the rest of the country ahead of its rallies. It said this may be an indication that the ruling coalition is engaged in an "imitation of dialogue."

Zurabian warned that his team could refuse further talks with the coalition if the authorities fail to stop their alleged illegal actions.

Harutiunian said in this regard that the police are now investigating the harassment claims. He added that his delegation will also look into purported evidence of public-transport obstruction submitted by the HAK.

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