Opposition No show for Negotiations

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Scheduled dialogue between Armenia’s ruling coalition representatives and the opposition was halted–when the opposition was a no-show for negotiations that were to take place Thursday.

The opposition canceled the planned crisis talks with the governing coalition–saying that President Robert Kocharian has not stopped the month-long crackdown on his opponents.

Opposition representatives were scheduled to meet on Thursday with leaders of the three ruling coalition parties. The meeting was supposed to be the first official "negotiation" between the two sides that have held a series of unofficial consultations over the past week.

According to Artarutyun’s Victor Dallakian–the opposition will resume the contacts only after the authorities take "practical steps" stemming from the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). "We have nothing to discuss with the coalition now," he said.

Parliament majority leaders said the decision to pull out of the talks was not immediately communicated to them as they waited for opposition representatives inside the parliament building in the evening.

The boycott followed Artarutyun’s and the National Unity Party’s (AMK) decision to resume their joint rallies in Yerevan on Friday. The opposition says it is only prepared to discuss with the authorities ways of ensuring Kocharian’s resignation "without upheavals," suggesting in particular a referendum of confidence in the Armenian leader.

The international community has strongly encouraged both sides to try to bridge their differences through negotiations–with the PACE resolution calling for a "dialogue without preconditions." The head of the Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–Vladimir Pryakhin–echoed the calls on Wednesday.

"I encourage both sides to engage in a meaningful and genuine dialogue in order to resolve–within the constitutional framework–the continuing difficulties," Pryakhin said in a statement.

Pryakhin also urged the Armenian authorities to "review the cases" of all those detained during recent opposition demonstrations and end the controversial "administrative detentions" repeatedly condemned by the Council of Europe and other human rights organizations. "This practice is incompatible with European human rights standards," the Russian diplomat said.

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