Tina Kaidanow, the new U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and the former Soviet Union, met with opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian at the end of her first visit to Armenia on Wednesday.
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance said the two discussed “the ongoing developments in Turkish-Armenian relations” and the current state of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
“Special attention was paid to the state of democracy in Armenia and in particular issues relating to the release of political prisoners and the fight against corruption,” the opposition alliance said in a statement.
The political situation in Armenia was also on the agenda of Kaidanow’s talks on Tuesday with President Serzh Sarkisian. His office claimed that the U.S. official spoke of “considerable progress” in Armenia’s democratization and described a general amnesty declared by the authorities in June as a big step in that direction. The amnesty led to the release of dozens of opposition members arrested following last year’s post-election unrest in Yerevan.
The U.S. Embassy in Armenia provided on Wednesday what appeared to be a different account of Kaidanow’s remarks on the subject. “She stressed the importance of democratization efforts for Armenia's future and urged the government to take steps that will demonstrate Armenia's commitment to democratic progress,” the embassy said in a statement on her three-day trip to Yerevan.
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. The embassy statement cited Kaidanow as saying that the rest of the aid package will have been fully allocated by the end of next year.
Kaidanow also met on Wednesday Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian for talks which his press office said focused on the Armenian government’s response to the global economic crisis and its efforts to improve the country’s investment climate. A statement by the office said Kaidanow voiced support for Sarkisian’s reform agenda.