ARF to Defy Ban on Friday Rally in Yerevan

Protesters marching in the streets of Yerevan on Oct. 9 chanting "No" to the Turkey-Armenia Protocols. Photo by Arsineh Khachikian.

Protesters marching in the streets of Yerevan on Oct. 9 chanting "No" to the Turkey-Armenia Protocols. Photo by Arsineh Khachikian.

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation said on Wednesday that it will defy a government ban and again rally supporters in Yerevan this week in protest against the controversial Turkish-Armenian agreements penned in Switzerland on October 10 and scheduled to be ratified by the Armenian Parliament.

In accordance with Armenia’s law on public gatherings, the ARF notified the municipal authorities last week about its intention to hold the rally in Charles Aznavour square in downtown Yerevan on Friday. The municipality said on Tuesday that it cannot be authorized because another event has already been scheduled to take place in the same place and on the same day.

ARF Bureau member and head of the party’s parliamentary bloc, Vahan Hovannesian, rejected the explanation and said the authorities failed to offer an alternative venue for the protest, as is required by the law. “They only verbally informed us that some other, children’s event is to take place there at the same time,” he said. “And when we said that we can hold it elsewhere, they said, ‘We will organize an event there too.’”

Hovannesian claimed that the authorities are thus keen to prevent the ARF rally at any cost. “We cannot reckon with such a desire,” he told a news conference.

More than 60,000 people marched through the city center last Friday to condemn the two Turkish-Armenian protocols that were signed the next day.

Hovannesian also criticized Sarkisian for accepting Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s invitation to visit Turkey for Wednesday’s soccer game between the two countries’ national teams. He said the Turkish side has failed to meet Sarkisian’s earlier conditions for the trip.

The Armenian president said throughout this summer that he will accept travel to Turkey if Ankara lifts its 16-year economic blockade of Armenia or is at least “on the verge” of doing that.

The ARF leader insisted that the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border, envisaged by one of the signed protocols, is still not on the cards, citing statements to that effect made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders.

“If [the Armenian authorities] are ready to make other concessions to make border opening imminent and inevitable, then this is the subject of a separate conversation,” said Hovannesian. “But I think the conditions set by the president were not satisfied.”

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