By Emil Danielyan
The further development of U.S.-Armenian relations hinges on the freedom and fairness of Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections, a senior U.S. administration official was reported to tell Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Tuesday.
Daniel Fried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, spoke with Oskanian in Brussels on the sidelines of an annual ministerial conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the meeting discussed “issues relating to the development of democracy and the forthcoming elections in Armenia.” “The parties agreed that the proper conduct of the parliamentary elections would contribute to the strengthening of cooperation between Armenia and the USA and the implementation of bilateral programs,” read a ministry statement.
Julie Finley, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE headquarters in Vienna, also attended the meeting along with Fried’s deputy Matthew Bryza. Finley visited Yerevan in October to discuss with senior Armenian officials preparations for the elections slated for next spring. She expressed concern about the Armenian authorities’ failure so far to formally ask the OSCE to monitor the entire electoral process.
President Robert Kocharian assured European diplomats afterwards that his administration will extend such an invitation in time for the polls.
OSCE observers have strongly criticized just about every national election held in Armenia over the past decade. Oskanian, who has had to personally deal with the international fallout from those polls, has warned that a repeat of serious vote irregularities would have extremely negative consequences for Armenia.
U.S. officials have made it clear, in particular, that a clean vote is a necessary condition for the release of $236.5 million in additional economic assistance to Armenia promised by the Bush administration under its Millennium Challenge Account program.
(Photolur photo: Daniel Fried.)