60,000 protest Armenia-Turkey protocols in Yerevan

by Maria Titizian

Published: Friday October 09, 2009

Tens of thousands of people marched and rallied against the terms of an agreement negotiated between Turkey and Armenia, Yerevan, October 9, 2009. Photolure

Yerevan - One day before the anticipated signing of the Armenia-Turkey protocols, an estimated 60,000 Armenians marched through the streets of Yerevan in protest.

The rally began in Yerevan's Republic Square and moved to the vicinity of the Presidential Palace, where Armen Rustamian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation read out a statement on behalf of the protesters, signed by 12 political parties and over 60 local organizations. The statement was then passed on to Karen Karapetian, the president's chief of staff.

The statement said the participants did not object to the normalization of relations with Turkey without preconditions, but opposed concessions to Turkey so it might end the illegal blockade it begn 16 years ago.

The protesters proceeded to Tzitzernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide memorial; by the time they arrived, the crowd had swelled to over 60,000 people chanting "No" to the protocols and calling for President Serge Sargsyan's administration to refrain from signing the documents. The protesters, holding signs and banners, continually chanted "Struggle, Unity, Victory."

Under the shadow of the monument to the memory of 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered 94 years ago, speakers representing different political parties took the stage to voice their discontent with the terms of the agreement between Armenia and Turkey.

Among the parties represented at the rally were the ARF and the Heritage Party, which hold seats in parliament, and the New Times party. With these groups cooperating, Mr. Rustamian, in a speech, was able to herald the establishment of a long-awaited "national front" in Armenia.

The foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey are expected to sign the protocols on October 10 in Switzerland. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner are expected to witness the signing.

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