Armenian leaders face crunch talks after protests | 2018-04-22 |

Armenian leaders face crunch talks after protests

BBC     22nd April, 2018 11:38:05 printer

Armenian leaders face crunch talks after protests


The organiser of anti-government protests in Armenia says he will hold talks with Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan early on Sunday.


Nikol Pashinyan has been leading calls for Mr Sargsyan to resign over a constitutional change that opponents say is an attempt 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.


Mr Pashinyan says he is only prepared to discuss the details of the prime minister's resignation and the logistics of transferring power.


On Saturday, he told thousands of protesters gathered on Republic Square in the capital Yerevan that Mr Sargsyan didn't understand the new reality in Armenia.


But Mr Sargsyan has called for dialogue to avoid what he termed "irreversible consequences".


Riot police have been facing off with crowds of demonstrators for days and scuffles have broken out, with a number of arrests.


Armen Sargsyan - who is not related to Serzh Sargsyan - walked through crowds of protesters to shake hands with Mr Pashinyan and reportedly to propose formal talks.


They talked for about 10 minutes, reporters say, with Mr Sargsyan suggesting they move to a hotel to hold proper negotiations.


Mr Pashinyan declined the offer of immediate talks but asked for a guarantee that force would not be used against the demonstrators.


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".


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.