John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, discussed the internal political situation and Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey during his first meeting with opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on Monday.
In a statement, Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) said Armenia’s first president spoke about “systemic corruption, the absence of democratic freedoms, rigged elections and restrictions on press freedom” in the country.
“President Ter-Petrosian emphasized the holding of legal elections and the formation of a legitimate government as the key to addressing problems facing Armenia,” read the statement.
It said the HAK leader also presented his opposition bloc’s position on Turkish-Armenian relations and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. No further details were reported.
Ter-Petrosian has repeatedly accused the West and the United States in particular of turning a blind eye to vote rigging and human rights abuses in Armenia in hopes of clinching more Armenian concessions to Turkey and Azerbaijan from President Serzh Sarkisian. U.S. officials have rejected those claims.
Heffern, who was appointed as ambassador this summer, stressed the importance of the proper conduct of the next Armenian elections in his first public remarks in Yerevan on October 17. He said Washington expects the Sarkisian administration to follow up on its “favorable decisions” taken earlier this year.
The diplomat appeared to refer to a series of concessions made by Sarkisian to the HAK last spring. Those included the release of the last opposition members remaining in jail.
Incidentally, Heffern also visited earlier on Monday the Yerevan headquarters of the opposition Free Democrats party that was set up recently by former prominent members of the HAK. Among them is former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian who managed Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 presidential election campaign.
A short statement by the Free Democrats said the party leaders discussed with the U.S. envoy “the state of democracy, foreign relations and social-political processes in Armenia.”