Sunday, 22 April 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... ongoing civil unrest in Armenia

[the ongoing civil unrest in Armenia is a main headline in today's BBC World and UK News]
BBC News
Talks between Armenian leaders break down amid protests
22 April 2018

Talks between Armenia's PM and an opposition leader aimed at ending anti-government protests have broken down.
[radio program said meeting broke down after only 5 minutes]

Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan walked out of a televised meeting with Nikol Pashinyan in the capital, denouncing the opposition's "blackmail".
There are reports that Mr Pashinyan was later detained, amid clashes between his supporters and riot police.

The opposition leader wants Mr Sargsyan to resign over a constitutional change he says is an effort to retain power.

The change transferred significant power to the prime minister, a role Mr Sargsyan only took on last week.

He stepped down as president after reaching his two-term limit.
Armenia country profile 

On Saturday, after days of protests, Mr Pashinyan told thousands of opposition supporters in the capital Yerevan that Mr Sargsyan did not understand the "new reality" in Armenia.

He said he was prepared to discuss only the details of a transfer of power. The country's new president then suggested that the two men should hold talks. 
But the televised meeting at a hotel in Yerevan on Sunday was brief. Mr Pashinyan told the prime minister: "I came here to discuss your resignation."
In response, Mr Sargsyan said that "this is not a dialogue, this is blackmail", and walked out.

Many Armenians want to see genuine change in their country but they feel that they are being deprived of that opportunity because the leadership remains the same, the BBC's Rayhan Demytrie reports.

Media captionNew President Armen Sargsyan tries to defuse protests
Why is there such anger at Serzh Sargsyan?
Mr Pashinyan recently described the action he leads as a "velvet revolution", referring to the peaceful protests in 1989 that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia (which later split into two states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia).
The veteran opposition activist, who was jailed over his part in violent protests against Mr Sargsyan in 2008, called on supporters to "paralyse the entire state system" because "power should pass to the people".
April 20 2018
Office ain’t no enjoyment for me, says Sargsyan amid ongoing protests

“I treat obsequiousness very negatively, but I also treat negatively people who are unfairly chanting, defaming and distorting what others have said”, Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan said in an interview to SHANT TV.

“I am sure there is nobody in the country who likes obsequiousness, but is it really obsequiousness when a party or executive bodies of a party unanimously decide to nominate someone – in this given case me – as a candidate for Prime Minister? In this case I have to say the following – then how should governance be implemented?”

The interviewer argued that there were no other politicians other than Sargsyan among the ruling Republican Party who were fit for office of PM, to which the Prime Minister responded by saying that in this specific case the HHK (Republican Party) decided to nominate his candidacy, and didn’t rule out that there can be others within the party who are suitable for the job.

“Ask the participants of all these consultations whether there have been other opinions, whether there has been any compulsion. Certainly not, it was [the party’s] decision. And it is not understandable why our party can’t have this right. Is this a violation of any law? Is there a breach on any law here? No, there isn’t. Those who think so could have garnered more votes during the elections and nominate their preferred candidate”, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan said.

Mr. Sargsyan stressed that after any election, a group of people stands up and begins to disapprove the elected politicians and demand new elections.

“Will the country develop this way? Whoever doesn’t like, my advice is to patiently wait and see how the country is developing, then make conclusions, and if these conclusions don’t satisfy them let them cast their ballots during elections for someone else. And let them come and, as they themselves claim “enjoy” this office. Office isn’t an enjoyment for me. It [falsely] seems to them that it is”, Serzh Sargsyan said.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Protest Leader Demands Snap Elections
April 20, 2018
Emil Danielyan
Karlen Aslanian

Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian stepped up the pressure on the Armenian 
authorities on Friday, saying that he would only discuss with them the terms of 
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and demanding snap parliamentary 

Pashinian responded to government offers of “dialogue” as he held what appeared to be his largest rally yet, which followed spontaneous protests staged by his supporters in various parts of Yerevan throughout the day.

Addressing thousands of supporters in the city’s central Republic Square late 
in the evening, Pashinian labelled Sarkisian a “political corpse” who has 
effectively lost power.

“It doesn’t mean that we are not prepared to have any discussion [with the 
authorities,]” he said. “We are certainly ready to discuss time frames and 
certain conditions for Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.”

“I think you will agree with me in that we don’t want any vendettas or 
revenge,” he said. “And if Serzh Sarkisian opens his eyes and steps down as 
soon as possible that will only be good for him and Armenia.”

After Sarkisian’s resignation, Pashinian went on, the Armenian parliament must 
appoint a “candidate of the people” as prime minister, form an interim 
government and then call fresh general elections that would have to be “100 
percent clean, free and fair.”

The 42-year-old admitted his willingness to be interim premier. “If the people 
think I should shoulder such responsibility, I will shoulder such responsibility,” he told reporters.

Sarkisian, who has governed Armenia for the past ten years, has sought to reach out to Pashinian through his Republican Party (HHK) and his junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). 
Dashnaktsutyun’s leadership proposed on Thursday a “forum for political 
consultations” between the country’s leading political groups which would be 
mediated by President Armen Sarkissian.

First Deputy Prime Minister Karen Karapetian also made a case for dialogue on 
Friday, saying that he is “very worried” about the weeklong wave of protests 
that has swept through not only Yerevan but also several other cities and towns.

“Even warring countries negotiate and find logical solutions,” Karapetian told 
the Armenia TV channel. “We, Armenians, must sit down in hour own home, 
rationally negotiate and find logical ways out of this situation. In case of 
instability, all of us will suffer, our country will suffer.”

Karapetian, who was replaced by Sarkisian as prime minister on April 9, would 
not be drawn on possible government concessions to the Pashinian-led 
opposition. “Let us listen to concerns, make proposals, raise all contentious 
issues and audaciously talk about them,” he said, speaking before Pashinian’s 
latest speech.

An HHK spokesman insisted on Thursday that Sarkisian’s resignation is out of 
the question. The ruling party did not immediately react to Pashinian’s 
preconditions for the proposed dialogue.

Pashinian, his Civil Contract party and other opposition and civic groups 
launched the daily protests on April 13 in a bid to prevent Sarkisian from 
extending his rule. The campaign showed no signs of abating on Friday as more 
young Armenians, including high school students, took to the streets and tried 
to stop traffic ahead of the Republic Square rally. More than 230 of them were 
detained by the police.

The police continued to threaten to forcibly break up the “illegal” gatherings. 
A police statement released on Friday evening warned that security forces are 
allowed to use “special means,” presumably including stun grenades and tear 
gas, against protesters defying their orders.

Joined by and hundeds of his supporters, Pashinian marched through Yerevan’s northern and western districts in the morning and afternoon. He said he will take his campaign to other city suburbs on Saturday morning.

ARKA, Armenia
April 21 2018
Armenian opposition leader will negotiate only prime minister’s resignation

The only topic of a political dialogue between the opposition and the authorities is the resignation of prime minister Serzh Sargsyan, a parliament member Nikol Pashinyan said in response to Serzh Sargsyan’s call for immediate talks to end street protests, caused by Sargsyan’s election as prime minister.

The anti-government protests in Armenia began on April 13 after Armenia's ruling Republican Party nominated former president Serzh Sargsyan for the prime minister’s post. Serzh Sargsyan resigned as president on April 9 and was elected as prime minister during a special session of parliament on April 17 by a vote of 77 to 17.

According to  Armenia’s amended its constitution, approved in a national referendum in 2015, Armenia has switched  the government from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system making the presidency largely ceremonial and strengthening the office of the prime minister.

The protests are led by Nikol Pashinyan, the head of the opposition Yelk parliamentary faction, who declared April 17 the beginning of popular, non-violent "velvet revolution" urging  demonstrators to keep besieging ministries, the prosecutor's office, the central bank and other governmental buildings.

In a statement posted on the government’s official webpage Sargsyan said he was deeply concerned about political developments in the country, urging Nikol Pashinyan to sit at the political dialogue and negotiations table in order to avoid irreparable losses. 

"The only issue we can discuss with the authorities is Sargsyan's resignation, after which we will discuss the other terms, which should be acceptable not for me, but for the people," Pashinyan said, adding that Sargsyan does not control the situation any longer. "I think that he does not have a clear idea of what is happening across the country today," Pashinyan said.

He noted that his words are not an ultimatum, but only a statement of the situation, and called upon the citizens of Armenia, in case of his arrest, to block all roads.

"If I am arrested, I call upon all the citizens of the country to take to the streets and block roads, block all police stations and state institutions," Pashinyan said. 

Earlier the United States has urged both the authorities and protesters to exercise restraint and avoid violence. Russia said that the stalemate should be overcome without breaking laws. Also the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE PA chairman urged the Armenian authorities to protect and ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in the country.

In the meantime dozens of Yerevan streets and several major roads connecting regional cities to the capital have been blocked by crowds of protesters. -0-

Panorama, Armenia
April 21 2018
Artsakh president warns against mistakes that may have fatal consequences

On 21 April Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan made a statement in connection with the internal political situation in Armenia. As the Information department at the President's Office reports, the statement runs as follows:
"These days the attention of the entire Armenian nation is focused on the events taking place in Yerevan and a number of towns in the Republic of Armenian. Artsakh cannot be indifferent towards the developments going on in Mother Armenia and is thoroughly following them too.

For our Fatherland located in a complicated geopolitical surrounding and threatened by the insidious enemy every minute, any attempt to destabilize, undermine internal cohesion is dangerous and pregnant with the worst consequences that will affect the security, defense capacity and the current situation along the borders.

Every citizen of the Republic of Armenia has the right to express his opinion and vision on the country's present and future. It is an indivisible right enshrined in the Constitution.

However, this right should only be exercised within the law, never forgetting that inner stability has been the most important factor of the security of the two Armenian states.

Dear compatriots,
I call all of you to unconditionally follow the letter and spirit of the law, to settle disputable issues through dialogue, to show restraint and high level of responsibility.
We must not make mistakes that may have fatal consequences for our people and for the free and independent Armenian statehood, which is a priceless and precious asset for every Armenian in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora".

[neighbourly advice and support with Azeri forces coincidentally firing at Armenian positions on the line of contact !!!!]

April 21 2018
Azerbaijan comes out in favor of Yerevan protests

The charm offensive appears to be an ill-conceived effort on Baku's part to co-opt popular discontent with the leadership of Serzh Sargsyan. 
Joshua Kucera Apr 21, 2018

A protest rally in Yerevan on April 19. The Azerbaijani government is trying to take advantage of the anti-government sentiment in Armenia. 

The Azerbaijani government and media have come out in support of the street protests agitating against Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, an out-of-character endorsement of people power from the deeply authoritarian leadership in Baku.

“It was expected that the Armenian society, wishing to get rid of the so-called Karabakh clan headed by Sargsyan, will begin to act,” Azerbaijani MP Tahir Karimli told the Trend News Agency. He noted with concern that people had been detained and injured in the protests, and predicted that “participation of 100,000 people in the rally is enough to decide the fate of the government.” 

(The most recent rally, on the evening of April 20, had about 40,000 participants, the Associated Press estimated.)

Another MP, Elman Nasirov, suggested that people were protesting in favor of making concessions on Nagorno Karabakh, the territory controlled by Armenian forces but internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. "People in Armenia think that as long as Armenia continues the occupation of Azerbaijani lands, they will not have future and their situation will aggravate," Nasirov told Trend. “This way of thinking is gradually spreading in Armenia and the culprit of this situation is Serzh Sargsyan.”

The protests in Armenia have been going on for more than a week, seeking to force the deeply unpopular leader Sargsyan to step down. Protesters interviewed by Eurasianet have in fact often brought up the topic of Azerbaijan, but usually in terms of wanting their country not to emulate the stagnant politics of their eastern neighbor, where President Ilham Aliyev was recently reelected to a fourth term in office and who shows no sign of stepping down in the foreseeable future.

Protesters also have raised concerns that Azerbaijan, possibly in concert with Russia, will contrive an escalation of tensions on the line of contact with Armenian military forces in order to take advantage of the political crisis in Yerevan.

But Azerbaijani officials nevertheless saw a potential opening in the protests.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmet Hajiyev tweeted an article from The Economist, “Armenia’s unpopular president makes himself prime minister.”
“That is exactly what we said for many years,” Hajiyev wrote. “Enemy of #Armenia/n people is the military dictatorship of Sargysian.” He also suggested that the protests represented a softening of attitudes toward Azerbaijan. “Finally #Armenia/n people understood who their real enemy.”
This is not the first time that Baku has tried to drive a wedge in between Armenian people and the Sargsyan-led government. In 2016 it set up an ill-fated “Peace Platform” of Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Baku, ostensibly working on a peaceful settlement of the conflict on the theory that Armenian people were much more interested in peace than the Armenian government.
But while Sargsyan is in fact deeply unpopular, hardline stances on Karabakh are virtually unanimous in Armenia. The Armenians involved in the Peace Platform were unknowns who advocated positions nearly unheard of in Armenia itself, and the effort collapsed. One Armenian participant who broke with the group denounced it as an invention of the Azerbaijani government.
One concerned Azerbaijan analyst recognized that Armenians may not quite see eye-to-eye with Baku, and worried that the hopes of the Armenian protesters will come to naught unless they compromise on Karabakh. “Until Armenia does not stop occupation of others’ lands and establish normal relations with its neighbors, no development should be expected in that country,” the commentator, Azer Ahmadbayli, wrote. “However, nobody dares to voice this publicly at today’s street rallies, because it is very hard for the Armenian people to admit this.”

Ahmadbayli concluded on a sympathetic note: “Azerbaijan does not gloat over problems the Armenian people face, for at least one reason – they are our closest neighbors but… they should finally open their eyes.”
It remains to be seen whether the Armenian protesters take to heart this neighborly advice.

RFE/RL Report 
Armenian Police Struggle To Contain Continuing Protests
April 20, 2018
Karlen Aslanian
Narine Ghalechian
Tatev Danielian
Hovannes Movsisian

At least 169 people were detained in Yerevan on Friday as the Armenian police 
tried to stop opposition supporters from again blocking streets in protest 
against Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.

The protests mainly involving young people resumed in various parts of the 
Armenian capital in the morning following opposition leader Nikol Pashinian’s 
calls for a “total blockade” of streets as well as roads leading to the city.

Hundreds of protesters led by Pashinian marched through Yerevan’s northern and 
western districts, urging Armenians to “reject Serzh” and again rally in 
central Republic Square in the evening. They were greeted by many bystanders 
and car drivers honking their horns in response to Pashinian’s appeal to “beep 
if you are against Serzh.” Many car horns reverberated throughout the city.

One of the city’s main bridges was blocked by three heavy trucks when the crowd reached early in the afternoon. The truck drivers left their vehicles parked there and joined the Pashinian-led march.

“We want to stand with our young people,” one of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service ( “We want a good life for our children.”

Meanwhile, smaller groups of Pashinian supporters tried to shut down traffic in several other parts of Yerevan. They were confronted by riot police keen to 
keep the roads open. Dozens of protesters were detained as a result.

Several hundred employees one of the country’s largest information technology firms, Synopsys Armenia, went on strike and blocked a major street adjacent to heir company’s offices. Police intervened to reopen Arshakuniats Avenue to traffic 30 minutes later.

Synopsys engineers were joined by other protesters later in the afternoon. More than two hundred students marched unimpeded through downtown Yerevan in the meantime.

According to the police, the total number of detainees stood at 169 as of 2 
p.m. local time. RFE/RL correspondents witnessed two dozen people bundled into police vans, personal cars and even public buses used by the police. 
Plainclothes policemen were also involved in the operation.

The police defended the detentions, saying that the protesters are not legally 
allowed to block streets and law-enforcement officers have to restore “public 
order.” A police statement warned that failure to obey officers’ orders will 
lead to “negative legal consequences.”

More than a hundred protesters were detained and kept in police custody for 
several hours on Wednesday.

While president, Serzh Sargsyan said he had no intention of becoming prime minister at the end of his second five-year term.

However, on Tuesday he was chosen by parliament to serve as prime minister.
In 2008, when Mr Sargsyan was first elected president, demonstrations erupted, with protesters alleging vote-rigging. At least eight people died in clashes with the authorities.

His supporters argue that the tough veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan in the late 1980s has provided the national security Armenia needs but he has been accused of failing to address continuing tensions with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Closer to home, critics have identified his rule with widespread poverty and over-dependence on Russia.

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