YEREVAN — Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian says he scored his biggest victory yet against the government while announcing and strongly advocating the start of a “formal dialogue” with it, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports.
Addressing thousands of supporters in Yerevan on May 31, Ter-Petrossian portrayed a series of concessions made by President Serzh Sarkisian to his Armenian National Congress (HAK) as a “remarkable event that has no precedent in the Armenian reality.”
He also denied making any secret deals with Sarkisian’s administration and insisted that “regime change” and the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections remains the HAK’s main goal.
”Since we are ready for the dialogue, in the coming days we will decide the composition of our delegation…and present our agenda of the dialogue to the authorities. Naturally, the authorities have to do the same,” Ter-Petrossian said in a more than hour-long speech delivered at the latest HAK rally in Liberty Square.
”A new political situation has emerged in Armenia which allows us to solve even the most acute issues by legal means,” he declared. “We have a chance to show the world that we are civilized people with centuries-old traditions of statehood.”
The sanctioned rally took place just days after virtually all jailed HAK loyalists were set free in accordance with a general amnesty initiated by Sarkisian and approved by parliament. The most prominent of those detainees, Nikol Pashinian and Sasun Mikaelian, received a hero’s welcome from the crowd when they appeared at the rally.
Earlier, Sarkisian ordered a new criminal inquiry into the 2008 postelection unrest in Yerevan, while the city administration lifted a de facto ban on opposition rallies in Liberty Square. The authorities thus accepted the HAK’s three main preconditions for the long-awaited dialogue on ways of defusing lingering political tensions.
”This must be considered the biggest victory registered by the three-year popular struggle so far,” Ter-Petrossian told the crowd. “This is a victory not for the opposition, the Armenian National Congress, but, first of all, for Armenia’s new civil society and, if you like, the whole Armenian people and ultimately our country and state.”
The HAK leader, who served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-98, claimed the Sarkisian administration fulfilled the opposition demands not only because of the HAK pressure but also because of upcoming “serious developments” in the peace process over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the threat of social upheaval, and a new environment created by the popular uprisings in several Arab states.
”The authorities are forced to make serious concessions in order to woo the people and find even minimal support within the country,” Ter-Petrossian said. “The main reason is the deplorable socioeconomic situation in the country and their realization of not being able to find a way out of it.”

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