The foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland and Bulgaria called for the proper conduct of Armenia’s presidential election on Friday during a joint visit to Yerevan aimed at promoting the country’s closer ties with the European Union.
The three men met with President Serzh Sarkisian, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and stressed the vote’s importance for further progress towards the signing of an Association Agreement between Armenia and the EU.
“The election process, we believe, must rule out even the slightest possibility of formulating any accusation,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told a joint news conference after the talks with Nalbandian.
“We will be very closely watching these elections to make sure that as your government has committed, there will be substantial improvements in the process,” his Bulgarian counterpart, Nikolay Mladenov, said for his part.
EU officials have stressed in recent months that a further deepening of Armenia’s ties with the 27-nation bloc within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership program is contingent on the election conduct. Sarkisian assured the visiting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso earlier this month that the election slated for February 18 will meet “the highest international standards.”
Official Armenian sources made no specific mention of the presidential ballot in their statements on Sikorski’s, Mladenov’s and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt’s meetings in Yerevan. Sarkisian’s press office said both sides hailed “good progress” made in ongoing negotiations on the Association Agreement envisaged by the Eastern Partnership.
Nalbandian reiterated Armenia’s hopes to finish the complex negotiations by the EU’s next Eastern Partnership summit due to take place in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius in November 2013. Sikorski, whose country initiated the Eastern Partnership along with Sweden in 2008, said Yerevan should work hard in that direction. “That would be a very good result for Armenia, for the Eastern Partnership and for the European Union,” he said.
Sikorski also announced that Armenia and the EU will sign on Monday an agreement on the facilitation of the EU’s stringent visa rules for Armenian nationals, a major element of the future Association Agreement. The visa deal was finalized in Brussels in mid-October.