YEREVAN — Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has ended a 21-day hunger strike to attend an Easter Service at the Holy Echmiadzin Cathedral together with his family.
Hovannisian thanked his supporters for being next to him during the last three weeks as well as the police for being nice and kind to him “despite certain contradictions”.
Before heading for Echmiadzin Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that he was going there together with his family as an ordinary Christian and follower of the Armenian Apostolic Church and did not pursue political goals or seek a meeting with President Serzh Sarkisian, who with top Armenian leadership, was also attending the mass.
To the question afterwards whether such a meeting was still possible, Hovannisian answered affirmatively. But he ruled out going to the presidential office as Sarkisian insisted through his spokesperson earlier this week.
Hovannisian, who demands that Sarkisian admit that his reelection was due to vote riggings and other major violations and refuse to be sworn in for a second five-year presidential term next month, or else make major concession to the opposition to continue as ‘de-facto’ president, earlier also indicated that he was not going to cease his anti-government protests.
In a statement earlier he promised to continue his struggle for ‘a new Armenia’, announcing plans to make trips to major cities and towns across Armenia over the next five days before gathering his supporters in the capital again on April 5.
Hovannisian said it will be at that rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square that, after “consulting the people”, he will decide on his further actions ahead of Sarkisian’s inauguration scheduled for April 9.
Sarkisian and Hovannisian have exchanged letters over the past week regarding prospects of starting a dialogue to resolve the continuing standoff.
Sarksiain, in particular, urged his challenger to end his hunger strike, recover ‘for a day or two’ and engage in a political dialogue.
The incumbent president said that while he believed Hovannisian’s demands were in conflict with “the ideas of state governance” and the Constitution, he was still ready to open negotiations around them.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Sunday, Hovannisian said: “He [Sarkisian] can still provide a substantive answer to my offer of a complex solution. But if he wants to initiate a meeting without replying to my proposals first, I am open to it to. I am ready to listen to any proposal from him,” said Hovannisian.