By Emil Danielyan
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington on Monday to discuss Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections, efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and other issues of mutual interest.
A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Oskanian and Rice agreed on the importance of the vote’s “conformity with international standards.” No details were reported.
The U.S. State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, made no statements on the meeting during a daily press briefing on Monday.
The U.S. administration is pressing the authorities in Yerevan to ensure that the elections scheduled for May 12 are more democratic than the ones held in the past. It has set aside $6 million for various projects aimed at enhancing the transparency and public oversight of the electoral process.
U.S. officials have warned that a repeat of electoral fraud would call into question the disbursement of $235 million in additional economic assistance to Armenia under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry statement, the promised aid was high on the agenda of Oskanian’s talks with Rice. “The minister presented preparations for the implementation of the program that have been made until now,” it said.
The two officials were also reported to have discussed international efforts to broker a solution to the Karabakh dispute which are spearheaded by the United States, Russia, and France. U.S. diplomats say Armenia and Azerbaijan are close to cutting a framework peace deal in the months following the Armenian elections. Oskanian is expected to hold another round of talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov next week.
The ministry statement said Oskanian and Rice also discussed U.S. efforts to help improve the strained Turkish-Armenian relations. It did not elaborate.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza told RFE/RL last month that Washington is pressing Ankara to use a rare opportunity to normalize relations with Yerevan that arose after the January 19 assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Bryza said Rice is personally “encouraging” a Turkish-Armenian “reconciliation process” that would address the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenian officials have sounded pessimistic about the success of those efforts, saying that the Turkish government is sticking to its preconditions for establishing diplomatic relations and reopening the border with Armenia.
In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Oskanian said he specifically spoke with Rice about a draft U.S. congressional resolution that recognizes the Armenian massacres as genocide. He expressed concern at high-level Turkish government efforts to scuttle its widely anticipated passage by the House of Representatives.
"Governments should stay away from meddling in these matters," he said. "But when
topics of interest for Armenia are being discussed, we cannot remain as a government indifferent, particularly in light of Turkish lobbying at a government level."
Visiting Washington last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned that the resolution, if passed, will harm Turkish-American relations.
(Armenian Foreign Ministry photo)