By Emil Danielyan
The United States and Armenia have strengthened their relationship this year and are on course to continue their “strong tradition of friendship” in 2006, U.S. Ambassador John Evans said on Wednesday in his New Year’s message to Armenians.
“During the past year, the United States and Armenia deepened their cooperation in the areas of business development, law enforcement, border security, and agriculture, to name just a few,” read the message released by the U.S. embassy in Yerevan. “Through U.S. assistance programs, which have totaled over 1.6 billion dollars since 1992, the United States is working to strengthen democratic institutions, provide for a more stable and secure South Caucasus, and build the economies of all three countries of the region.”
But Evans went on to indicate that closer ties with America, declared by Yerevan a top foreign policy priority, require a democratization of Armenia’s flawed political system. “The forthcoming year will serve as an opportunity for Armenia to establish itself as a thriving democracy and a country where the benefits of economic growth are shared broadly. The United States is committed to helping Armenia on this path,” he said.
The Armenian government’s commitment to democracy was questioned by the United States and the European Union following a recent constitutional referendum tainted with fraud allegations. Its handling of the vote led Washington to make the provision of $235.65 million in additional economic assistance to Yerevan conditional on “corrective steps” that would enable Armenians to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed human and civil rights.
But despite the caveat, the Armenian authorities appear well placed to secure the extra aid under the Millennium Challenge Account program launched by President George W. Bush in 2004. The conditional approval of the five-year aid program was announced last week by a U.S. government agency administering the scheme. Evans’s deputy, Anthony Godfrey, called the announcement “a big step forward in our relationship.”
(Photolur photo: John Evans.)