Genocide, Karabagh, Elections Highlight Oskanian-Rice Meeting

(Foreign Ministry/RFE/RL)–Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday to discuss a variety of issues. Efforts to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, economic reforms, and upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia highlighted their meeting. Rice was firm to convey the US expects Armenia to conduct its May 12 elections according to international norms, backing up warning from US officials that a repeat of electoral fraud would call into question the disbursement of $235 million in additional economic assistance to Armenia under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program. The two, according to a statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry, agreed on the importance of the vote’s "conformity with international standards." Oskanian assured Rice that Armenia grasps the significance of the conduct of those elections and their impact on various assistance programs with the US and the EU. On the issue of Nagorno Karabagh, the Minister reiterated Armenia’s commitment to the principles currently being negotiated and expressed concerns that there may be attempts to deviate from this process, both in content and in procedure. Oskanian and Rice also discussed U.S. efforts to help improve strained Turkish-Armenian relations. The Minister repeated Armenia’s readiness to establish relations with Turkey, without preconditions, and said that open borders would spur regional cooperation and growth. The two also discussed the pending Genocide resolution in the US Congress. In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Oskanian said he specifically spoke with Rice about a draft U.S. congressional resolution that recognizes the Armenian massacres as genocide. He expressed concern at high-level Turkish government efforts to thwart its widely anticipated passage by the House of Representatives. "Governmen’s should stay away from meddling in these matters," he said. "But when topics of interest for Armenia are being discussed, we cannot remain as a government indifferent, particularly in light of Turkish lobbying at a government level." Oskanian also met with US Assistant Undersecretary of State and US Minsk Group co-chair Matt Bryza. The two discussed Nagorno Karabagh and the upcoming meeting of the ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Geneva, on March 14, together with the co-chairs of the Minsk Group. In a meeting with the co-chairs of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, Oskanian spoke of Turkey’s continued Genocide denial and human rights abuses. "The Armenian government, in contrast to the leadership in Ankara, does not seek to lecture elected American officials on this core human rights issue. Sadly, the Turkish government continues to export its policy of genocide denial, seeking to impose upon the US and other nations the very intolerance that inspired Section 301 and led to the murder of journalist Hrant Dink. This should not be tolerated by any individual or any country. The Armenian government has faith in the American democratic process and respects the integrity of US Congressional decision-making." The minister also met with members of the US administration, US Congress, and representatives of Washington based Armenian advocacy groups.

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