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U.S. Ambassador Visits Hovannisian


Armenia - U.S. Ambassador John Heffern (L) visits opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian in Liberty Square in Yerevan, 22Mar2013.

Armenia - U.S. Ambassador John Heffern (L) visits opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian in Liberty Square in Yerevan, 22Mar2013.

John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, met with opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Friday to discuss lingering post-election tensions in the country.

Heffern, who was accompanied by his wife Libby, spoke with Hovannisian in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, the scene of the U.S.-born oppositionist’s continuing hunger strike against the official results of the February 18 presidential election.

“The two discussed post-election issues and the Ambassador asked about Hovannisian’s health,” the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan wrote on its Twitter page.

Heffern and Hovannisian already discussed the Armenian presidential election and the fallout from it on February 21. No details of that meeting were made public.

Like other Western powers, the United States has reacted rather positively to the Armenian authorities’ handling of the ballot, with President Barack Obama congratulating his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, on winning a second term.

Sarkisian also received a congratulatory letter from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. In that letter, Kerry urged Yerevan to address “the outstanding electoral issues” raised by Western observers.

Heffern visited Hovannisian the day after meeting with an Armenian-American young woman who claims to have witnessed serious fraud at a polling station in Artashat, a town 30 kilometers south of Yerevan. The woman, Narine Esmaeli, and an Armenian observer say they were assaulted by a large group of men that stuffed hundreds of ballots. Esmaeli has also accused local police officers of bullying her after the incident.

The Armenian police are currently investigating the incident. The official election results in the Artashat precinct were invalidated by the Constitutional Court last week.

“The Ambassador will continue to monitor [Esmaeli’s] case very closely, as well as other post-election developments,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement on Thursday. “The welfare of United States citizens abroad remains the highest priority for the United States government.”

“The United States remains committed to continue working with the Government of Armenia and the Armenian people to help strengthen democratic processes that will guarantee the freedom of all individuals to express their views and opinions, without fear of harassment or persecution,” added the statement.

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