YEREVAN (A.W.)—At 10 a.m. in Yerevan, negotiations took place between Prime Minister (PM) Serge Sarkisian and opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan at the Marriott hotel in Yerevan’s Republic Square. Pashinyan had earlier made arrangements with President Armen Sarkissian, who traveled to Republic Square the day before to speak with him, to allow press to be present at the negotiations. “I can’t imagine how much we’re going to get done in front of all these journalists,” said PM Sarkisian at the beginning of the interview, “but I’ll be happy for anything we can negotiate.”
Pashinyan then announced that he had come to discuss terms of Sarkisian’s resignation and the “peaceful handover of the government.” The meeting, which lasted three minutes, ended with Sarkisian abruptly ending the conversation and walking out of the room. “You haven’t come here to negotiate,” he told Pashinyan, “you have given us an ultimatum. a blackmail toward the state and the legitimate authorities. You do not realize the level of responsibility. You haven’t learnt lessons from March 1 [referring to the tragic events of March 1, 2008] and if you are going to continue speaking with me in such a tone, I have nothing to do but advise you to come back to the field of law and order, in general, to the scope of logical actions. Otherwise, you will have to take all responsibility. You have to choose.” (paraphrased)
Before Sarkisian’s departure, Pashinyan told him that he was no longer in charge of the country, and that power had shifted into the hands of the people, to which Sarkisian responded that someone who received “six or seven percent of the vote” could not talk about having power of the country.
Just hours after Pashinyan’s conversation with Sarkisian, he was grabbed by security forces, and he is currently being held in detention with two other leaders of the protests—Ararat Mirzoyan and Sasun Mikaelyan (Yelk faction MPs)—in an undisclosed location. According to sources, they were charged with violations of the order established by Armenia’s Law on Freedom of Assembly.
Footage from Artsakh Street in Yerevan of the moment when opposition leader MP Nikol Pashinyan was arrested despite his immunity as a member of parliament. Video by John Lee. #RejectSerzh #YerevanProtests pic.twitter.com/4LOToL6pUd
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The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), in coalition with Sarkisian’s government, released a statement following these events. They expressed their continued hope to foster dialogue between the people and the governing political forces of the country, as they believe “there is no other option.”
“Unfortunately, due to opposing approaches, the ongoing process failed today,” the statement read, “but even after the recent events, we continue to believe that it is possible to find solutions even in deadlocked circumstances and to fix the situation. In this regard, it is important that all parties understand that there cannot be winners and losers. The interests of the people and the state are above everything. We urge everyone to soberly evaluate the situation, to avoid extremes, and to search for rational and realistic solutions.”
Meanwhile, chaos ensued on the streets of Yerevan following Pashinyan’s failed negotiations. Tens of thousands of people continued to protest, and some are placing estimates between 60,000 and 100,000 demonstrators. Hours ago, police issued a statement that the protests are considered unlawful and that police will use all means necessary to disperse people. The president of the National Assembly, Ara Babloyan, has also issued a statement calling for the need for political dialogue.
Follow RFE/RL’s Armenian service live stream of the demonstrations below.