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U.S. ‘Deeply Troubled’ By Armenian Standoff


Armenia -- Armenian opposition supporters shout and gesture in front of riot police blocking the streets to Erebuni police station seized by gunmen - supporters of fringe jailed opposition leader Zhirayr Sefilian - in Yerevan early, July 28, 2016

Armenia -- Armenian opposition supporters shout and gesture in front of riot police blocking the streets to Erebuni police station seized by gunmen - supporters of fringe jailed opposition leader Zhirayr Sefilian - in Yerevan early, July 28, 2016

The United States on Friday called for the immediate release of three Armenian medics held by armed members of a radical opposition group in a Yerevan police compound seized by them almost two weeks ago.

It also urged the Armenian authorities to seek a “peaceful resolution” of their standoff with the two dozen gunmen demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.

“We are deeply troubled by the ongoing hostage situation, and call for the immediate, safe, and unconditional release of medical personnel held captive since Wednesday, and any others who may wish to leave the police building in Erebuni,” read a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia.

“We reiterate that threats and violence are not acceptable means of achieving lasting political change in Armenia,” it said, apparently referring to what the Founding Parliament opposition group calls a “rebellion” against the Armenian government.

The U.S. State Department has strongly condemned the July 17 armed attack on the Erebuni police building which left one police officer dead and four others wounded.

The U.S. Embassy statement also said: “We urge the Armenian government and security forces to maintain order in a manner that upholds ALL Armenian citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly, and to ensure that all individuals detained by the police receive just treatment and are afforded due process under the law.”

It was a reference to mass detentions of organizers and participants of rallies held in Yerevan in support of the gunmen.

One of the protest leaders and a prominent civic activist, Levon Barseghian, was set free on Friday after spending two days in police custody. The U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Richard Mills, met with Barseghian later in the day. A U.S. Embassy said on Twitter that they had a “useful discussion.”

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