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The European Union’s two top officials have congratulated Serzh Sarkisian on becoming Armenia’s prime minister while urging him not to crack down on citizens peacefully protesting against his continued rule.

“We would like to congratulate you on your election as Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission chief, said in a joint message posted on Sarkisian’s official website on Saturday.

Tusk and Juncker noted that the European Union’s relations with Armenia have been “strengthened” with the signing last November of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). “We look forward to continued cooperation with you in your new position, particularly on the implementation of the new Agreement, including with a view to further consolidating democracy, strengthening rule of law and protecting human rights,” they said.

“In this context, we trust that Armenian authorities will do everything to respect the right of citizens to exercise freedom of assembly in a peaceful manner and in accordance with the law,” they added in a clear reference to ongoing streets protests in Yerevan and other parts of the country.

The massive protests were sparked by Sarkisian’s decision to stay in power after completing his second and final presidential term on April 9.

The EU reacted to the protests on April 18 with a joint statement released by its Delegation in Armenia and the Yerevan-based embassies of EU member states. They backed Armenians’ “legitimate right to exercise freedom of assembly in a peaceful manner.”

The statement also stressed: “State authorities have a duty to ensure public safety and health by applying the law in a fair and proportionate manner. It is important that all parties involved continue to show restraint and responsibility.”

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