YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau member and a candidate in last month’s Armenia’s presidential elections met with US and EU representatives visiting Armenia.
During a meeting Friday with US Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, Hovannesian expressed his and his party’s position on the aftermath of the elections, reiterating the imperative for constructive dialogue between political forces, the need for guarantees for freedoms and reforms in the electoral process.
Hovanessian also met with the Observation Mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe John Prescott Friday.
During his meeting with Hovannesian, Prescott emphasized the need for dialogue between the authorities and opposition. All sides, regardless of whether or not they agree with it, must accept the Constitutional Courts verdict he said.
Prescott was in Armenia on the February 19 as a PACE observer for the presidential elections. Following post-election unrest, Prescott returned to Armenia to assist the authorities in diffusing the post-election tensions.
Bryza also met President Robert Kocharian and Armenian opposition leaders Friday on the second and final day of his visit to Armenia aimed at helping to ease tensions in the aftermath of the country’s disputed presidential election.
Bryza, who also met Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday, declined to talk to journalists during the trip, leaving it to the U.S. Embassy in Armenia to comment on his talks.
"Mr. Bryza appealed for calm on all sides and an end to violence," the embassy said in a statement. "He told his interlocutors that the State of Emergency should end and that the best way to ease tensions is through dialogue between all parties. He noted that, to encourage dialogue, restrictions on the press should be lifted and full media freedom restored."
The statement said Bryza also warned the Armenian authorities that their investigation into the bloody post-election unrest in Yerevan should not turn into "persecution of political opponents." But it did not specify if he called for the release of any of the several dozen opposition supporters arrested in the unprecedented government crackdown.
The European Union urged Yerevan on Tuesday to free "any citizens detained for exercising their right to peaceful assembly" and to lift the 20-day state of emergency, which Kocharian imposed during Saturday’s violent confrontation between security forces and thousands of supporters of former president Levon Ter-Petrosian. The EU also called for an "independent investigation" into the clashes that left at least eight people dead.
According to Kocharian’s press office, Bryza told the outgoing Armenian president that he "understands the government’s efforts to establish law and order in the country." Sarkisian’s press service likewise quoted Bryza as saying that the introduction of emergency rule in the Armenian capital was justified.
Some observers believe that the West and the U.S. in particular are treading carefully not least because of substantial progress made by Kocharian in his peace talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev. Bryza visited Yerevan and Baku together with the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in mid-January and reported further progress towards the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The US Embassy statement said that in his talks with the Armenian leaders Bryza "stressed the eagerness of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to finalize the Basic Principles for a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement."