Response to Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia Ashot Hovakimian

As delivered by Chargé d’Affaires Gary Robbins
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
November 1, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We welcome our former colleague, Deputy Foreign Minister Hovakimian, back to the Permanent Council.

The United States and Armenia share a strong partnership based on shared interests.  We want to help Armenia in its quest to become a prosperous democratic nation.

Regarding regional and global security, the United States appreciates Armenia’s contributions to our shared mission in Afghanistan and to peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.

Concerning economic reform, private sector investors look for an open business climate with predictable rules; an independent judiciary; and transparent regulations, taxes, and customs.  We recognize the progress Armenia has made in this direction, and note that in the World Bank’s recent “Ease of Doing Business Report,” Armenia moved up from 50th to 32nd place in the global ranking.  The United States looks forward to continued cooperation with Armenia to improve its business climate further.

We remain concerned about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.  As a co-chair of the Minsk Group, the United States is committed to working with all the parties to find a way forward to enable people of the region to live together in peace and dignity.  We appreciate Foreign Minister Nalbandian’s recent travel to Paris to participate in talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart and the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, and we look forward to further productive meetings in the region later this month.

Over twenty years of independence, Armenia has taken some positive steps in its transition to democracy.  We know from experience that democracy must be built over time; it is an ongoing project.  We are pleased to work with Armenia on strengthening its democratic institutions to promote transparency, advancing the right of free speech, including as exercised by the media, rooting out corruption, and respecting universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, and we are committed to working with Armenia to continue these efforts.  We urge the Government of Armenia to live up to its commitments to the systematic, fair, and transparent implementation of the rule of law.

We note that OSCE observers said of the May 6, 2012, parliamentary elections that while there were improvements “characterized by a competitive, vibrant and largely peaceful campaign,” there was “an unequal playing field due to violations of campaign provisions and cases of pressure on voters, as well as deficiencies in the complaints and appeals process….”  The OSCE further remarked that “the general lack of confidence among political parties and the general public in the integrity of the electoral process is an issue of great concern, despite all stakeholders underscoring their commitment to hold elections in accordance with international standards.”

We hope that Armenia will work with civil society, the OSCE, and other international partners to ensure that the conduct of the presidential elections in February 2013 will address these concerns.  To this end, we welcome the Government of Armenia’s formation of an Election Working Group, as well as the briefing given by the Working Group to OSCE participating States’ ambassadors in Yerevan on October 26.  We are pleased that the Working Group is striving to implement eighteen of ODIHR’s twenty-six recommendations after observing the May parliamentary elections.  We encourage the Working Group to work closely with ODIHR on the remaining eight recommendations in the run-up to the February 2013 presidential elections, and to pay special attention to those recommendations related to the voter registration list.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.