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By Emil Danielyan

The outgoing US Ambassador Michael Lemmon said on Tuesday he has witnessed major improvements in Armenia during his three-year work in the former Soviet republic. Lemmon said the country is now “physically quite different” from what it was in October 1998 when he took up the top US diplomatic post in Yerevan. But he said the change has not been fast enough and urged the Armenian authorities to speed up the political and economic reforms.

“My assessment of the last three years is that trendlines for Armenia have been positive,” the envoy told Armenian reporters at a farewell news conference. “Not fast enough, not far enough. But when you consider that the trendlines for many other countries of the former Soviet Union have been down, that is a solid achievement.”

“That said,” he went on, “the country, its government has got to follow through with the full implementation of those democratic and economic reforms already undertaken. I think they can do it, but it’s a tough, tough struggle.”

Lemmon said the US remains committed to helping Armenia become a “secure, prosperous, democratic country living at peace with its neighbors,” and will carry on with its substantial economic assistance, which has totalled $1.4 billion since 1992. He also praised as “wise and successful” Yerevan’s so-called “complementary” foreign policy aimed at maintaining simultaneously close ties with the West and Russia.

Lemmon is due to be replaced next month by Ambassador John Ordway, currently the number two figure at the US embassy in Russia.

The outgoing ambassador denied that the peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh are now in impasse. “The Nagorno-Karabakh peace process is not deadlocked, it’s in a normal period of consolidation, reflection and assessment after a great of solid work and progress over the last year.”
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