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Armenian Opposition Leader Calls For Renewed Protests After Talks Cancelled

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinian

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinian called on supporters to rally in the streets again on August 25 after negotiations he was scheduled to begin with the ruling Republican Party (HHK) were cancelled.

"The Republican Party is thinking about taking advantage of Serzh Sarksian's resignation and wants to keep power," Pashinian said in a video appeal posted on his Facebook page late on April 24.

"We can't agree on the appointment of this party's representative as prime minister, and we can't allow this corrupted system to continue to exist," he said, urging supporters "to come to the square and finish the velvet revolution."

Pashinian's call for renewed protests came as planned negotiations with acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian aimed at defusing tensions, originally scheduled for April 25, were called off, with Karapetian saying he rejected preconditions laid down by Pashinian.

Pashinian once again demanded that the HHK-led majority in the Armenian parliament appoint "a candidate of the people” as interim prime minister before calling fresh general elections. He offered to assume that role himself if the people want it.

“If we managed to achieve Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation, we are confident that we can also make the Republican Party obey the will of the people. If not, we will continue our actions on an even larger scale,” he told a news conference held for foreign media late on April 24.

Pashinian said this would be “the only theme” of his talks with Karapetian. He said Karapetian, who is the HHK’s first deputy chairman, must not retain his post even if he quits the ruling party.

“I am speaking on behalf of the Armenian people,” claimed the 42-year-old organizer of the massive demonstrations over 11 days that led to Sarkisian’s resignation on April 23.

Shortly after Pashinian laid down his demands, Karapetian announced that the planned meeting had been cancelled, saying "Nikol Pashinian has unilaterally put forward new demands relating to the format, agenda, and media coverage of the meeting."

“The latter has proposed a list of participants from our side and stated that he will be negotiating only over his agenda… Having some negotiating experience, I have never heard of negotiations held in such a format,” Karapetian said in a statement.

Karapetian added that he has asked President Armen Sarkissian to initiate alternative negotiations with a broad range of political forces, including those not represented in the parliament. They would explore various options, including the conduct of snap elections, he said.

In his Facebook video, Pashinian said among his demands were that negotiations with Karapetian include parliament speaker Ara Babloyan and the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), Vahram Baghdasarian.

He conceded that he insisted that the negotiations focus only on his demands for the appointment of an interim prime minister chosen by his movement and the holding of snap elections. And he said the talks should be held in the presence of journalists.

At renewed protests in Yerevan’s Republic Square early on April 25, Pashinian said he and his supporters would “discuss the situation and decide our further actions.”

The renewed standoff between opposition protesters and the ruling party came as the United States and the European Union called for political dialogue in Armenia.

“It remains imperative that the current situation is resolved swiftly and peacefully,” read a joint statement released by the EU Delegation and the embassies of EU member states in Yerevan. “A national dialogue involving all political stakeholders remains crucial.”

With reporting by Reuters