U.S. President Barack Obama underscored Western powers’ largely positive reaction to President Serzh Sarkisian’s disputed reelection on Saturday with a congratulatory message that reaffirmed Washington’s stated desire to deepen relations with Armenia during his second term.
In the letter released by Sarkisian’s press office, Obama described his Armenian counterpart’s victory in the February 18 presidential election as an opportunity to bolster bilateral ties and “solidify” reforms in Armenia.
“I would like to congratulate you on your reelection as President of the Republic of Armenia,” Obama wrote. “I look forward to continuing our work together as we both begin our second terms.”
“As we move ahead, I would like to build on the strong ties between our countries and peoples, and to further expand our partnership,” he said. “We remain strongly committed to Armenia's development and look to your leadership to promote continued improvements in democracy and the economic reforms that will present opportunities to both the people of Armenia and the Americans looking to invest in a valued partner with significant potential.”
“Your reelection presents opportunities to advance the relationship between our two countries and to build your legacy as a leader who solidifies Armenia's reforms and furthers the cause of peace for your people and the people of your region,” added the U.S. president.
Obama wrote to Sarkisian five days after a similar message which was sent to the Armenian leader by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Unlike Kerry, he made no direct mention of the Armenian authorities’ handling of the presidential ballot.
Kerry endorsed the largely positive preliminary findings of Western election monitors but cautioned that “there is work that remains to be done” in reference to irregularities reported by them. He urged Yerevan to address “the outstanding electoral issues raised by the OSCE.”
In his letter, Obama also promised continued U.S. efforts to further a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
During his first term, Sarkisian earned accolades in Washington for his policy of rapprochement with Turkey that culminated in the signing in 2009 of U.S.-brokered Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols. The normalization process, which eventually ended in failure, topped the agenda of Obama’s first and, so far, only meeting with Sarkisian that took place in Washington in April 2010. The U.S. president praised Sarkisian’s “courageous” policy on Turkey at the time.
Sarkisian received no congratulatory message from Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, when he became president in even more disputed circumstances five years ago.
Bush wrote to Sarkisian’s predecessor Robert Kocharian in 2003 after the latter secured reelection in a vote marred by opposition allegations of fraud and strongly criticized by international monitors. However, that letter contained no congratulatory words and expressed instead the then U.S. president’s “disappointment” with the Armenian authorities' handling of the two-round poll.