By Heghine Buniatian in Prague
The foreign minister of the Czech Republic, current holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency, urged Armenia’s leadership on Wednesday to engage in an “intensive dialogue” with the domestic position to defuse lingering political tensions in the country.
“We believe that the best way out of the situation is dialogue,” Karel Schwarzenberg said after talks with his visiting Armenian counterpart, Eduard Nalbandian. “We won’t push, we are recommending Armenia to overcome the situation by means of an intensive dialogue with the opposition.”
Schwarzenberg said such a dialogue is essential for Armenia’s inclusion in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program that offers six former Soviet republics much closer ties with the bloc in return for political and economic reforms. “Of course we know that Armenia has already taken some steps to improve the situation but those efforts should continue,” he said, referring to the continuing imprisonment of dozens of opposition members arrested following the 2008 presidential election.
Nalbandian reiterated his government’s assertions that none of those oppositionists is a political prisoner. Still, he said Yerevan is committed to fully complying with Council of Europe resolutions that demand the release of all individuals arrested on “seemingly artificial or politically motivated charges.”
Speaking at a joint news conference with Schwarzenberg, Nalbandian also said the Armenian government is prepared to negotiate with the opposition. The opposition has so far failed to display such readiness, he said.
Schwarzenberg indicated that Armenia should also improve its relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey if it is to qualify for Eastern Partnership. He said there could soon be “very positive developments” in Turkish-Armenian ties and described as “promising” the current state of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
The EU is due to formally launch Eastern Partnership at a summit of its member states that will take place in Prague in May. President Serzh Sarkisian is expected to attend the summit.