Armenian protest leader will only discuss PM's 'departure'

Police stop opposition demonstrators as they march to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, on April 16, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Armenian protest leader will only discuss PM's 'departure'

  • Demonstrators waved Armenian flags and blocked streets, disrupting traffic in the capital.
  • "The whole world can see this is a people's velvet revolution, which very soon will be victorious," Pashinyan said.
YEREVAN: Armenia's political crisis deepened Saturday on the ninth day of anti-government demonstrations, with protest leader Nikol Pashinyan insisting he would only discuss the exit of the country's newly elected prime minister.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to Republic Square in the capital Yerevan to protest against new premier Serzh Sarkissian's rule, according to AFP journalists at the scene.
"We are only ready to discuss the conditions of his departure," news agencies quoted Pashinyan as saying, rejecting Sarkissian's appeal for "political dialogue".
"Serzh Sarkissian doesn't understand the new situation that has emerged in the recent days... the Armenia and Yerevan he knows does not exist anymore," he told protestors.
Opposition supporters are angry over Sarkissian's efforts to remain in power, after he became prime minister last week, following a decade serving as president.
Demonstrators waved Armenian flags and blocked streets, disrupting traffic in the capital. Police said they made 84 arrests on Saturday afternoon, and more than 230 people were arrested on Friday.
Rallies were also planned in other cities such as Gyumri, Ararat and Artashat.
President Armen Sarkissian -- no relation to Serzh -- on Saturday afternoon met Pashinyan at the demonstration, an AFP journalist said.
Flanked by bodyguards President Sarkissian shook hands with the opposition leader and the pair spoke for around ten minutes.
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkissian had earlier sought discussions with the protest leader.
"I am deeply concerned about the unfolding internal political events. In order to avoid irreversible consequences, I call on deputy Nikol Pashinyan to sit at the table of political dialogue and negotiation," the 63-year-old leader said in a statement.
At a 30,000 strong rally in Yerevan on Friday evening, Pashinyan laid out his demands for the authorities.
"First, Sarkissian resigns. Second, parliament elects a new prime minister that represents the people.
"Third, it forms a temporary government. Fourth, they schedule parliamentary elections. We will enter negotiations around these demands," he said, calling Serzh Sarkissian a "political corpse".
"The whole world can see this is a people's velvet revolution, which very soon will be victorious," Pashinyan told the rally.
Demonstrators on Saturday held up placards reading "Sarkissian is a dictator".
"I believe we will win this time because when the youth is on the street the police can do nothing," Hovik Haranyan, a 25-year-old protester blocking traffic, told AFP.
"Our generation has the right to live in a functioning country," he added.
Opposition supporters have criticised the 63-year-old leader over poverty, corruption and the influence of powerful oligarchs.
A former military officer, Serzh Sarkissian has been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million people for a decade.
Under a new parliamentary system of government, lawmakers elected Serzh Sarkissian as prime minister last week after he served a decade as president from 2008.
Constitutional amendments approved in 2015 have transferred power from the presidency to the premier.
After he was first elected in 2008, 10 people died and hundreds were injured in bloody clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.


Mongolia invites North Korea’s Kim to visit

Updated 16 October 2018
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Mongolia invites North Korea’s Kim to visit

  • The invitation was sent to Kim Jong Un on October 10, though no specific date was proposed
  • The two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties this year

ULAANBAATAR: Mongolia has invited Kim Jong Un to visit the nation’s capital, which once hoped to host the historic summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump, an official said Tuesday.
The invitation comes amid expectations that Kim and Trump, who met in Singapore in June, will hold a second summit — a time and location for which have yet to be determined.
According to Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga’s office, the invitation was sent to Kim on October 10, though no specific date was proposed.
The North Korean leader can visit “whenever he feels convenient,” an official from the president’s office said, confirming a report published Monday by North Korea’s KCNA state news service.
Mongolia had offered to host Trump and Kim for their landmark summit in June, but they ended up picking Singapore, where they agreed to a vaguely-worded statement on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Trump said last week that three or four unspecified locations have been short-listed for their next meeting, but it would “probably” not be in Singapore again, and he did not give a date.
Kim’s only other known foreign trips since taking power in 2011 was three visits to China this year.
He has also met South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone separating their countries, where he momentarily crossed into Pyongyang’s southern neighbor.
Mongolia, a democratic nation wedged between China and Russia, is one of the few countries that has normal relations with the authoritarian regime in North Korea.
The two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties this year.
Kim’s grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, visited Mongolia when it was still a Soviet state in 1988.
In October 2013, Mongolia’s then-president Tsakhia Elbegdorj visited Pyongyang and was the first head of state to meet with Kim since the North Korean leader succeed his late father, Kim Jong Il, two years prior.
Almost 1,200 North Koreans were living and working in Mongolia at the end of last year, before UN sanctions against Pyongyang required them to leave.