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“Lebanonization” of Armenia: Serzh Sargsyan squeezes out politics from politics

Serzh Sargsyan and Jirair Sefilyan

The situation is growing tense in Armenia’s capital city, as public support to the armed group “Daredevils of Sasoun” that seized the Police Patrol Service Regiment in Yerevan keeps growing. Many thousands rallied in the evening and then marched along the central streets in Yerevan chanting “Join us!” Afterwards, several dozen protesters have gathered near the police cordon not to let the police storming the seized building of the Police Patrol Service Regiment at night.

The number of permanent protesters in Khorenatsi Street where the seized building is located has increased too. During the first days of the standoff, several hundreds gathered there. Now, several thousand do. In fact, the public support to the armed group members is much wider than several thousands of protesters. To find out the real scales of the public support to the group, one just needs to look into the heated debates in social media.

“It is a complete failure of the state, political system as a whole. There is no confidence in the political system as such. This reflects the political intolerance to that system,” analysts say adding that the public sentiments have radicalized dramatically in Armenia after the opposition and all the mechanisms on influence on policy were destroyed. “They squeezed out policy from policy in Armenia,” experts say.

On the other hand, the situation behind the police cordon is growing tense. Shots are often made by the sides in the area surrounded by the police. Several days have passed since the failed negotiations between the authorities and armed group moderated by General from Karabakh Vitaly Balasanyan. The armed group is in full isolation now and lacks food, communications and internet.

Earlier, they had free access to the web and mass media. They used up-to-date technologies to talk to the demonstrators directly and urge them to unite and attract more people to the process. Actually, they managed the processes outside the seized regiment. The situation is much more complicated now, as the members of the armed group have burnt several police cars. Skirmishes occurred between them and the police for the second time already and there are wounded on both sides. According to the police, several members of the group have surrendered to the police (while the armed group says they were kidnapped by the police) and some others were wounded and hospitalized.

Police report that the armed group holds hostage the medical workers that were sent to the area of the seized regiment to examine the wounded members of the armed group.

Experts say the behavior of the Armenian authorities shows that they are not planning any storm, but are likely to remove the members of the group stage by stage. “That is, they are going to starve out the guys,” political analyst Stepan Grigoryan told EADaily.

At present, all the sides to the crisis in Armenia repeat like a mantra: “The problem must be settled peacefully, through talks.”

Will it work?

“The process is uneasy. Within more than forty years, they have accumulated and summarized the experience of holding crisis talks. Specialists from U.S., Israel, UK, Russia and other countries have developed an algorithm of holding such talks,” Artur Martirosyan, Senior Consultant at CM&Partners, specialist in negotiations, told EADaily. He said the main mistakes in the negotiations brokered by Vitaly Balasanyan were in the communication strategy. “It was necessary to establish a full control over communication and manage the crisis with that component. From the viewpoint of searching negotiation solutions, the process should be developed so that the sides refrain from extreme steps with zero result when the victory of the one side requires the failure of the other,” the expert said adding that the public should learn news from the group of negotiators, not from the representatives of the armed group, such as, for instance, Alek Yenigomshyan.

All the crisis talks are held around extreme demands. The expert does not think it strange that the armed group’s demands resignation of President Serzh Sargsyan and release of its jailed leader, Karabakh War veteran Jirair Sefilyan. “The task of the negotiators is to change the game. It is practically impossible to change it when those extreme stances and ultimatums are made public permanently,” he said recalling the statement by Sefilyan’s lawyer who said that Sefilyan suddenly stopped demanding the president’s resignation.

Sefilyan’s lawyer Ara Zakaryan explained that during his meeting with General Vitaly Balasanyan in prison, his client said he “temporarily, not in general” stops demanding the president’s resignation, “since the sides are setting conditions in the negotiation process to achieve mutual concessions, eventually.” Zakaryan said Sefilyan will set certain conditions and if his conditions are fulfilled, he will stop demanding the president’s resignation at the given moment. However, when General Balasanyan said this and mass media reported only part of his words about Sefilyan’s refusal from his demands for resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, the armed group refused from the general’s moderation.

Meantime, Artur Martirosyan believes that General Balasanyan brilliantly implemented the tactical negotiation task and achieved a release of the high-ranking officers of the Interior Ministry. The armed group demanded another negotiator – Ashot Minasyan, who is also a Karabakh War veteran. However, no negotiations have been launched yet. “The armed group chose him as a conditional mediator. I call him a conditional mediator, as it is already clear how the group will be using his services - to make public their demands. It is very far from what is called mediation and search of mutually acceptable solutions.”

In response to the question if the sides are able to find the golden mean in the current situation and agree on the resignation of the government as a mutually acceptable option to settle the conflict – this option was circulated in media – the expert said much depends on the domestic policy situation and sentiments of various groups inside the ruling party.

“Anyway, I am a specialist in the process, not in the nisi of politics. The ruling party and not only it should think of the precedent of the pressure and use of force to achieve political goals. Unfortunately, the shortsightedness of the sides dominates over proper assessment of the importance and political consequences of the revolutionary principle ‘the end justifies the means.’ We are being forced ‘Lebanonization’ of political processes. What is the danger? Today, it is done by amateurish revolutionaries fed by some elements in Diaspora. Tomorrow, the external forces may feed these processes,” he said hinting that revolutionary euphoria often yields to depressive and painful ‘hangover’ like the one in Ukraine now.

By Arshaluys Mghdesyan for EADaily

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23.09.2016

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