Response to the Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Andrey Sorokin

As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
July 19, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We welcome Ambassador Sorokin to the Permanent Council and thank him for his presentation.  The United States supports his work and that of the Office in Yerevan in all dimensions.  We appreciate the Office’s cross-dimensional programming approach, and we applaud its efforts to assist the Government of Armenia in electoral administration reform, promoting civic engagement on environmental matters, and pursuing economic, police, judicial and penitentiary reforms.

One important cross-dimensional program focuses on reforming the armed forces through improving the education system to strengthen the protection of human rights.  We understand that the Government has demonstrated openness to such programs and has agreed on a plan to improve human rights and leadership skills education in the armed forces.  This agreement is a positive step, and we encourage the Government to put the comprehensive action plan into effect in the near future.

We commend the Government of Armenia for welcoming large numbers of domestic and international observers to participate in the May 6 parliamentary elections.  We note that the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission found the election “characterized by a competitive, vibrant, and largely peaceful campaign,” as well as an “unequal playing field.”  We encourage the Government to continue working with the OSCE and the Office in Yerevan to strengthen the democratic process.  Upcoming projects including technical training support for elections commissions and police, support of media monitoring, and facilitation of domestic observation will help promote further compliance of elections in Armenia with international standards.  We hope the Government will act on the recommendations set forth in the most recent OSCE election report, as this would represent an important step forward prior to the 2013 presidential elections.

We applaud the media freedom improvements noted by Ambassador Sorokin and hope that this trend continues.  We encourage the Government of Armenia to continue working with the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media to review Armenia’s legal framework in order to ensure media pluralism in the digital era.  We note that progress on freedom of assembly is still lacking, and we urge the Government to address the ongoing shortcomings highlighted by Amb. Sorokin.

Finally, we agree with Ambassador Sorokin’s assessment that the domestic situation in Armenia is influenced by the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  As a Co-Chair of the Minsk Group, the United States remains deeply committed to working with the sides of the conflict to reach a lasting and peaceful settlement.  We remain concerned by the ceasefire violations that continue to claim lives along the frontlines, and we urge the sides to respect the 1994 ceasefire agreement, refrain from aggressive public rhetoric, and continue to work through the Minsk Group process to come to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Thank you again, Ambassador Sorokin, for your report.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.