05/03/2018, 09.14
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The Armenian Katolikos Karekin II calls for national reconciliation

Nikol Pashinian calls a halt to demonstrations after receiving assurances on his election as prime minister on May 8th. Yesterday the transport block was total.

Yerevan (AsiaNews) - The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Katolikos of all Armenia Karekin II, with an appeal released yesterday, has called on the authorities and opposition to act within the framework of legality, and seek ways to resolve the political crisis in the country through dialogue.

Almost in response to the appeal, yesterday evening opposition leader Nikol Pashinian asked all Armenians to stop demonstrations that blocked the country yesterday, because he received assurances from parliament that he could be elected prime minister on May 8 .

"At the moment - he said in front of tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Republic Square - all the parliamentary groups have declared that they will support my candidacy".

Karekin II’s appeal was issued by the chancellery of the Echmjadzin (the monastery near Yerevan, the center of the spiritual life of the Armenian Church).

The communique reads: "The situation in the country continues to be very tense and worrisome. We invite people to look for solutions in mutual understanding and agreement, excluding the possibility of further confrontations ".

"We invite all the parliamentary factions to start negotiations, to continue efforts to overcome this situation. Our appeal is for solidarity, prudence, without giving in to provocations and without allowing the spread of hatred ", remarked the Katolikos.

The day before, on May 1, the Armenian parliament failed to elect Pashinyan to the post of prime minister. His was the only candidacy, but it was voted down by the Republican Party, which holds the majority in parliament: 55 deputies voted against, and only 45 in favor.

The other opposition parties, including members of Tsarukyan (35 deputies), supported the candidacy en masse. The opposition, led by the Elk party, announced a "total strike" starting on May 2, led which was addressed  immediately by Pashinyan following his rejection in parliament. He stressed that it would be "a peaceful act of civil disobedience", calling for the "Zvartnots" airport to be blocked and the roads leading into the city.

The block became immediately effective. The Transport Ministry admitted that it could not guarantee the safety of passengers: "All railways have stopped working," said the press officer of the Vardan Alojan Railways. In the city it was impossible to move by car, and even the subway was blocked. Law enforcement agencies chose not to intervene. Airport passengers waiting for their flights were advised to get on the first morning flights, and from 7.00 all access to the airport were completely blocked by the inhabitants of the nearby village of Parakar. The residents of the village broadcast loud music at the airport, offering presents of sweets and pancakes.

In all areas of the capital, and on the streets of the city, the protest turned into a massive street party, but fears remain that it could turn into a tragic clash.

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