YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday praised the Armenian National Congress and indicated his desire to cooperate with the opposition alliance led by Levon Ter-Petrosian.
He also hinted at the impending release of more Ter-Petrosian loyalists remaining in prison.
“I attach importance to positive trends observed in the activities of the extraparliamentary opposition,” Sarkisian told journalists. “There are ongoing rallies, speeches that are not aimed at splitting the society, that are not aimed at developing the notions of smashing or destroying, that are aimed at shifting the political struggle to certain podiums.”
“Splits have never brought any people, any country anything good,” he said. “Development issues have not been solved anywhere with malice and we all must be able to defeat malice.
“Only strong individuals can defeat malice. 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 Armenian National Congress’ recent rallies in Yerevan and speeches delivered by Ter-Petrosian and his supporters. While reaffirming his commitment to “regime change” in Armenia, Ter-Petrosian 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 anti-government rallies in the city’s Liberty Square.
Sarkisian last week ordered law-enforcement authorities to investigate the deadly unrest in a “more meticulous” way. Four days later Yerevan’s municipal administration formally allowed the Armenian National Congress to hold its next rally in the square on Thursday. HAK representatives say the authorities have thus met two of the three opposition demands.
“In this endeavor, we are ready to be the first; we are ready to take steps to defuse [tensions.] I have already instructed the minister of justice to submit proposals,” said Sarkisian.
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 Armenian National Congress rally held on April 8, Ter-Petrosian declared that April 28 will be “either a day of the beginning of dialogue or a 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 met in full by Thursday.