Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   17 December

PM Sargsyan, Armenian Catholicoi discuss ongoing demonstrations in Yerevan

YEREVAN, APRIL 20, ARMENPRESS. Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan held a meeting Friday with Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I in Yerevan, the PM’s office said.

In the first meeting with Sargsyan after taking office, the Catholicoi first congratulated the Prime Minister wishing strength, patience, ability and endurance.

The Catholicoi and the PM also touched upon the ongoing demonstrations in the country and expressed their concern over the situation. The spiritual leaders found it natural that in any country there can be demands, concerns and complaints and attached importance to the exclusively civilized expression of protest by respecting the constitutional order and laws of the state.

At the same time, the Catholicoi expressed their satisfaction and appreciation that the ongoing processes do not contain use of force and clashes.

“We pray for this situation to gradually calm down, and that people take up the inmost work of homeland building and the security of our country. Yes, we have difficulties in our lives, but also numerous challenges. And we can stand before these challenges and withstand them only through national unity and solidarity,” Catholicos Garegin II said in part.

“We have Artsakh, we have young sons serving on the borders of our country, the security of whom, we know Mr. Prime Minister, is your constant concern”.

Catholicos Garegin II also mentioned the sacrament of the upcoming commemoration day of the Armenian Genocide -  April 24 – which is to live righteously in order to refrain the country from tragedies and losses.

Catholicos Aram I said he completely shares the concerns of Catholicos Garegin II and emphasized that the creation of an atmosphere of uncertainty and tension with inflammatory expressions during the ongoing events involving the youth is harmful to both the people and the perception of the country abroad.

“After all, overcoming the consequences of these demonstrations or the damages will require months. Meaning – the country can be harmed. We must tell the demonstrators that this is the country of all of us, we are all the children of this fatherland, we are one family. Difficulties and questions will happen, but we should sit down and discuss questions at the table under mutual understanding, not out in the street. Continuing this way in this atmosphere is harmful, harmful to the country, to our people. Therefore, I am happy that you, Mr. Prime Minister, made this call for the forces to come together and sit at a table and talk. That talk, headed by the President and you, must take place, because the continuation of this will greatly harm our fatherland, our people, especially Artsakh. It is time for us to unite, because we are blockaded by unfriendly powers. There are questions, naturally, but these questions must be talked about in conditions of mutual love and respect. This is what I wanted to convey to you Mr. Prime Minister,” Catholicos Aram I said.

Opposition protests began in the Armenian capital of Yerevan a week ago.
The rallies are led by opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan, who has called on his supporters to launch civil disobedience. 
The rallies began with a sit-in at France Square in downtown Yerevan, followed by sporadic marches in the city streets. The protesters even began blocking intersections and shutting down traffic. The situation escalated when the crowd of protesters and MP Pashinyan himself breached into the headquarters of Public Radio of Armenia, demanding airtime on April 14. 
Then on April 16, protesters and riot police clashed in a brief incident on Baghramyan Avenue – one of the main city streets housing the parliament, Constitutional Court and the Prime Minister’s residence. The Yerevan Police Department (YPD) has called on the opposition crowd to refrain from illegal actions and to maintain public order. 

YPD said they are entitled to detain protesters who are violating public order and to cease the illegal rally, because the demonstrations are violating the rights of others and endangering public safety.
The protesters largely ignored the YPD demands and continued the rally, initiating sit-ins outside governmental buildings, blocking traffic, obstructing public service staff from entering their offices, even deflating tires of official vehicles parked outside ministries. 
About 100 demonstrators were detained for misdemeanors on April 19. Several others have been placed under arrest for causing a brief riot earlier in central Yerevan. 107 people have been detained in about 6 hours Friday.

Police said they will continue lawfully detaining those who are violating public order.

English –translator/editor: Stepan Kocharyan

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