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Armenian Opposition To Continue Talks With Government

Head of the opposition Armenian National Congress's negotiating team, Levon Zurabian
Head of the opposition Armenian National Congress's negotiating team, Levon Zurabian
YEREVAN -- The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has said it is ready to hold more talks with representatives of Armenia's political leadership in the current format, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In a statement, the HAK cited government assurances that a "working group" headed by Davit Harutiunian -- chairman of the parliament's legal affairs committee -- represents President Serzh Sarkisian and his three-party governing coalition.

Harutiunian gave those assurances on July 18 during the first meeting between his delegation and the HAK's negotiating team led by Levon Zurabian, who found the assurances convincing.

Zurabian said the ruling coalition representatives have a broad mandate in the talks and are ready to consider all HAK demands, including early elections.

"We wanted to understand who authorized them," Zurabian told RFE/RL on July 19. "We received a very clear and simple answer: the delegation [in the talks] represents the political coalition, which means the executive branch formed by that coalition -- the parliamentary majority and the current president."

"This was a new circumstance for us," he said. "It turned out that they have quite broad powers."

"Another circumstance that emerged is that there are no taboo subjects for them and they do not exclude the discussion of any issue, including preterm elections," Zurabian said, adding that these facts are "creating a new situation."

The HAK said on July 16 that it wants to negotiate with a "delegation made up of representatives of executive [government] bodies and authorized by Serzh Sarkisian."

Harutiunian's delegation consists of six members appointed by Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and its two junior coalition partners, the Orinats Yerkir and Prosperous Armenia parties.

The first round of government-HAK discussions yielded no concrete agreements. Nor did the two sides agree on the agenda of the dialogue or set a date for the next talks.

While agreeing to continue the talks, the HAK demanded that Armenian Public Television broadcast them live or give the opposition bloc at least 30 minutes of free air time after every meeting.

It said the authorities should also stop harassing HAK activists and restricting transport routes connecting Yerevan with the rest of the country ahead of HAK rallies in the capital.