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Armenian President Signals More Overtures To Opposition

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (file photo)
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (file photo)
YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has praised the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and indicated he may make overtures to the opposition alliance led by his main rival, Levon Ter-Petrossian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian specifically hinted on April 27 at the impending release of more jailed supporters of Ter-Petrossian.

"I consider important positive trends observed in the activities of the extraparliamentary opposition," Sarkisian told journalists. "There are ongoing rallies [and] speeches that are not aimed at splitting society, that are not aimed at developing the notions of smashing or destroying, [and] are aimed at shifting the political struggle to certain podiums."

He said that "splits have never brought any people or any country anything good. Development issues have not been solved anywhere with malice and we all must be able to defeat malice."

"Only strong individuals can defeat malice," Sarkisian continued. "Today we have a strong government; today we have an opposition that doesn't let the authorities ease their vigilance. Through cooperation, we can really earn our country serious successes."

Sarkisian referred to the HAK's recent rallies in Yerevan and speeches delivered by Ter-Petrossian and his associates to thousands of opposition supporters.

While reaffirming his commitment to "regime change," Ter-Petrossian said his alliance is ready to start a dialogue with the authorities if they free all "political prisoners," promise a more objective probe of the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan, and do not impede antigovernment rallies in the city's Liberty Square.

Sarkisian last week ordered law enforcement officials to investigate the deadly unrest in a "more meticulous" way. Four days later, Yerevan's city administration formally allowed the HAK to hold its next rally in the square on April 28.

HAK representatives say the authorities have therefore met two of the opposition's three demands.

"In this endeavor we are ready to be the first; we are ready to take steps to defuse [tensions with the opposition]. I have already instructed the justice minister to submit proposals," Sarkisian said.

Asked whether that means the jailed oppositionists will be set free very soon, he said, "I think I have made everything very clear. If you want to specify and accelerate things, I see no point in doing that."

Speaking at the last HAK rally held on April 8, Ter-Petrossian declared that April 28 would be "either a day of the beginning of dialogue or the day of the final watershed between the authorities and the public."

It is not yet clear what the opposition bloc will do if its demands are not fully met by this date.