A senior U.S. State Department official met with President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday at the end of a two-day visit to Armenia that reportedly focused on bilateral relations, regional security and the upcoming Armenian parliamentary elections.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rubin arrived in Yerevan Thursday on the final leg of a regional tour that also took him to neighboring Azerbaijan and Turkey. The U.S. Embassy in Armenia said earlier this week that the May elections will be among the issues on the agenda of his talks.
“In Armenia, Deputy Assistant Secretary Rubin will discuss U.S.-Armenian bilateral relations, the upcoming parliamentary elections, as well as our shared interests underlying cooperation in economic development and democratic reform,” the embassy said in a statement.
Rubin made no public statements in the Armenian capital, and the U.S. mission issued no further press releases on his visit.
The Armenian presidential press service did not mention the elections in a statement on Sarkisian’s meeting with the visiting U.S. official. It said the two discussed U.S.-Armenian ties and “regional problems.”
Sarkisian was quoted as reaffirming his desire to deepen those ties “in all areas.” Rubin, for his part, spoke of Washington’s unwavering commitment to “Armenia’s independence, prosperity and success,” according to the statement.
Making his first trip to Armenia in his current capacity, Rubin met late on Thursday with Levon Ter-Petrosian, the leader of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). A short HAK statement issued after the meeting said they discussed Turkish-Armenian relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict “in the context of current geopolitical developments.”
“They then addressed the internal political situation in Armenia, notably ways of ensuring the legitimacy and transparency of the elections,” read the statement. It said the HAK leader called for the deployment of a large number of international vote monitors.
Rubin sounded very positive about Armenian government pledges to make the vote free and fair when he spoke at a conference on the South Caucasus held in Washington in late November. “Going into this election, we’re encouraged by what we see,” he said. “We think the government is not just saying all the right things, but we believe is committed to an open, free and fair process and to a real contest in the elections.”
Rubin also suggested during the Washington forum, organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, that “things are much better [in Armenia] than they were a year ago.”
The HAK and other Armenian opposition groups dismiss the government assurances, saying that Sarkisian is ready to falsify the ballot to retain control over parliament and set the stage for his reelection next year. They have proposed a number of changes in electoral legislation which they say would complicate vote rigging.