US Official Discusses Continued Aid to Armenia

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–A senior US official ended on Friday a three-day visit to Yerevan that focused on continued US economic assistance to Armenia, which Washington has threatened to freeze over post-election election unrest.
During his visit, Tom Adams, the US assistance coordinator for Europe and Eurasia, met President Serzh Sarkisian, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and other key members of the Armenian government. The US embassy in Yerevan described the talks as "fruitful."
"He learned about the status of democracy and human rights issues in Armenia, in light of the post-election political difficulties," the embassy said in a statement. "He urged Armenian authorities to take prompt action to heal the social divisions that have arisen as a result of the political conflict." Adams and Sarkisian specifically discussed the release of $236 million in US economic aid to Armenia promised under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program. According to the Armenian president’s press service, Adams said the US government has "concerns" about Yerevan’s fulfillment of "political criteria" tied to the program. He stressed the need for a "thorough investigation" into irregularities that marred Armenia’s recent presidential election and the unrest that followed it.
Sarkisian also stressed the importance of strengthening relations with the United States, especially in regards to economic development, and the strengthening of democracy and regional stability.
In a late March letter to Sarkisian’s predecessor Robert Kocharian, the head of a US government agency managing the MCA, John Danilovich, warned that the five-year aid package could be suspended or terminated altogether if the Armenian authorities continue restrict civil liberties. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza reaffirmed the warning last month, saying that Washington expects "dramatically positive steps" from the new Armenian leader.
But Kocharian responded to US threats to cut aid to Armenia’s rural development programs by reminding Washington that the MCC is not Armenia’s only option for continuing the development of its rural provinces. Russia can take on the funding of such programs, he said.
In a written statement released late Thursday, the presidential press service quoted Sarkisian stressing the need to correctly assess the situation.
The statement also quoted Adams as voicing US support for Sarkisian. "The US administration wants you to succeed," Adams said. "Washington has high hopes for your presidency and believes that you can be a strong leader and take important steps to move the country forward."

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