Talks in Armenia Break Down

A televised meeting between Armenia’s prime minister and an opposition leader lasted only a few minutes Sunday.

The meeting between Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and opposition activist Nikol Pashinyan was held with the aim of ending continuing anti-government protests. The demonstrations began last week when parliament elected Sargsyan prime minister after a decade serving as president.

Opponents of Sargsyan see the move as an attempt by him and his supporters to hold on to power.

Pashinyan told the prime minister, “I came here to discuss your resignation.”

The prime minister said, “This is blackmail,” and walked out.

Pashinyan has said he would like the demonstrations to be the “start of a peaceful velvet revolution,” a reference to the peaceful demonstrations in 1989 that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia.

Later Sunday, Armenian police said Pashinyan was “forcibly taken” from a protest rally. The police said in a statement, “Despite repeated calls to stop illegal rallies, Pashinyan continued leading a demonstration” in Yerevan, the capital. The statement said that two opposition lawmakers were also “forcibly” removed as riot police dispersed the rally.

About 15,000 people began the rallies Wednesday at Yerevan’s central Republic Square, with some holding posters that read “Make a step and reject Serzh.”