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U.S. Envoy Discusses Turkey, Democracy On Armenia Trip


Armenia -- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tina Kaidanow in Yerevan on October 20, 2009.

Armenia -- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tina Kaidanow in Yerevan on October 20, 2009.

The United States will continue to press for a speedy and unconditional implementation of the landmark Turkish-Armenian agreements, a top U.S. diplomat was reported to say during her first visit to Yerevan on Tuesday.

According to Serzh Sarkisian’s office, Tina Kaidanow, the recently appointed deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, also spoke of “considerable progress” in Armenia’s democratization at her meeting with the Armenian president.

A statement by the presidential press service said Kaidanow pointed to a general amnesty that was declared by the Armenian authorities in June and resulted in the release of dozens of opposition members arrested following last year’s post-election unrest in Yerevan. She was cited as describing the move as a “big positive indicator in terms of democratization processes.”

Kaidanow was not available for comment, and it was not clear whether she thinks Armenia has democratized its political system of late. The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said it will issue a statement on her trip on Wednesday.

Both the current and previous U.S. administrations have been critical of the Armenian authorities’ human rights records and in particular their crackdown on the opposition that followed the disputed presidential election of February 2009. Citing the crackdown, Washington slashed last June about one third of $235.6 in additional economic assistance promised to Yerevan. Kaidanow’s predecessor, Matthew Bryza, called in July for the release of Armenian opposition members remaining in jail despite the amnesty.

Official Armenian sources indicated that Turkish-Armenian relations topped the agenda of Kaidanow’s’ talks with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian. Sarkisian’s press service said she and the president agreed that the normalization of those relations should move forward “without preconditions and within reasonable timeframes.”

“Tina Kaidanow pointed out that the United States has repeatedly expressed, at various level, this position and will continue to adhere to it in the next phases of the process of normalizing [Turkish-Armenian] relations,” read its statement.

In a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this month, Sarkisian thanked Washington for its active involvement in the process. “I am convinced that without the decisive help of the United States it would have been impossible to make effective efforts in this direction,” he wrote.

According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian conveyed a similar message to Kaidanow. The ministry said the two also discussed “the latest developments” in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. It gave no details.
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